With the NBA trade deadline finally having passed, the hype for the buyout season is in full effect. Fans and teams alike look to add hungry players to their rosters to better their chances at contention. Seeing that some of the top competition in the East such as the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers bolstered their depth a bit via trade (while the Celtics themselves are reported buyout players), Toronto could look to address some of their needs through some of the best available players out there. Considering that the market is yet to be in full swing, there is only speculation and rumours surrounding possible candidates.
Personally, I would like to see Toronto bring in one new player. I feel as if the team could use more scoring/offence, especially against some of the stronger teams considering Pascal Siakam’s known struggles in those situations (thanks to adapting as a number one option and being the defensive focal point). At the same time, I want the player to be neutral on defence at the very least, someone who won’t make it unnecessarily difficult for our play on that end to continue. Today I want to gloss over three names that could help the Raptors.
Honourable Mentions: Maurice Harkless, Evan Turner, Denzel Valentine, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
This seems to be the most common name brought up in these sorts of talks. Though never truly living up to his draft status at number two overall in 2005, Marvin Williams had transformed himself into one of the more reliable 3&D forwards the league has to offer. Now in the last year of his contract, while averaging 19.7 MPG compared to the typical 27.9, Williams being bought out is as likely as ever. When it comes down to Williams, the #1 part of his game that comes to mind is efficient scoring from all over the court with an average true shooting of .577% over the last 3 seasons.
What I think is worth mentioning is his potential as a roll-man with Toronto. Ever since the NBA calculated and tracked efficiency for players running that role (since 2016), he has spent 3 seasons averaging a minimum of one whole roll-possession. In those seasons, respectively, he’s placed in the 79.5th, 47.2th, 52.3rd percentiles, which makes for a lot of intrigue in how he would run next to a player such as Kyle Lowry as the roll-handler. Alas, this is not the only aspect of Williams’ game that appeals to me.
His post-up game is very smooth. Though never being a high volume player in that play type, this season has been different. Executing 1.1 post-up possessions per game, he has ranked in the 94.6th percentile of players. He uses his size and strength to get himself where he needs to be, while also destabilizing whoever is trying to prevent him from scoring. Add in great touch around the basket and it all makes sense why he’s found so much success here. Factor in Toronto ranking 19 spots ahead of the Charlotte Hornets in 3P% and the spacing Williams would receive could greatly benefit him.
Marvin provides spacing himself and considering he would likely eat into the minutes of players like Patrick McCaw and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, that would definitely benefit our offence. Though most of his work comes off the ball, he is very smart and intelligent about it. I love this play where he hands the ball off on a screen, forcing two Indiana defenders onto an aggressive Terry Rozier. Instead of just standing where he is and hoping for a pass, he quickly runs over to a more open spot where Rozier can better see and distribute to him as well. These kinds of plays contribute to offensive fluidity greatly.
While I do view Williams as a positive defender statistically (+0.97 3-year luck-adjusted ORAPM & +0.36 multi-year DPIPM), I consider him to be better inside than out. He’s not the fastest player out there which makes him exploitable on the perimeter despite possessing good length, but he’s able to use what he has on the inside to make a fair impact. Though players shoot 2.1% better against him when shooting less than 6FT from the basket this year, you need context, and in this case, Devonte Graham and Malik Monk are damn well not making things easy on him, to say the least.
He has effort, timing, awareness, strength, length, and IQ. These are all amazing traits, and one that would benefit Toronto greatly. Nick Nurse’s defence is prone to allowing a high rate of efficient three-pointers, but making a two-point shot against his squad is legitimately impressive due to how lockdown they have been so far. With the primary interior defenders being Ibaka and Gasol, Marvin Williams adds a totally new dimension to the team concept of bringing ball handlers to the paint. He would, in theory, make it even more difficult for opponents. Against some of the bigger rivals, this could be a nice tool.
I expect this name to evoke a few different emotions out of the readers. Shock, confusion, disgust, curiosity, whatever it is, allow me to explain myself. Similar to Williams, he is in the last year of his contract on a Detroit Pistons team that seems to finally be embracing a bit of a rebuild. In the same sense of Christian Wood’s development benefiting from Andre Drummond’s forced departure, players such as Bruce Brown or Luke Kennard (when healthy) can have increased opportunities for growth. This is perhaps what’s behind Vincent Goodwill’s report that a buyout is an option for the team’s former franchise point guard, albeit far from a guaranteed reality.
It is far from an unpopular opinion that the Raptors would benefit from another floor general off the bench. With the starting backcourt of Kyle Lowry (36.6 MPG) & Fred VanVleet (35.9 MPG) receiving more minutes than what is ideal, it has been agreed upon that a reliever would be great – even if it was just for a measly 10 minutes a night. While I baselessly assume Jackson would probably log somewhere between 10-19 every game. So what could one expect from the former OKC player if his camp and ours came to an agreement with one another? As one may have guessed, it would be an offensive boost.
Reggie is a score-first point guard and one that struggles from inefficiency issues, having posted an average true shooting of .527% throughout six seasons as a Detroit Piston. This makes Jackson much more prone to boom or bust games, for better or worse, but as many other modern point guards have shown, you can still have a large impact despite that. Having posted a +2.35 luck-adjusted 3-year ORAPM, and a +1.13 multi-year OPIPM. These are some of the best all-in-one metrics to determine offensive impact, and with the stabilization of numerous years, Reggie is an easy plus.
Reggie is typically a good scorer from all around the floor, with his only weak spot being right at the rim where he seems to really struggle. Then you see his performance surrounding that spot, the mid-range, those deep shots (where he’s shooting a career-high 40% this season, though having only played 10 games), you can get a better idea of why his efficiency is as down as it is. Many of his shots come from right at the rim, and it’s far from uncommon to see him force them in such a manner like this.
Aside from that, his ability to score and create for himself from everywhere else is fairly impressive. Not only is he able to use his explosive athleticism or craftiness to catch a defender off guard and create some space for himself, but he’s also able at picking the defence apart off-ball too. I feel as if the play below can effectively encapsulate his scoring ability, as you can see him penetrate inside, dish the ball out to the perimeter where he then darts back to due to him having opened up a look for himself that he can make.
He is not limited to scoring, though. His passing ability is pretty impressive, actually. More than capable of finding what’s in front of him, while also fitting the ball into some of the tightest windows to give a teammate a look that they otherwise would not have, which has caught the defender off guard a good amount of times per my viewings. In Toronto, there would be many of those chances for him, maybe even more than there would be in Toronto. Finding what is there is a facet of the game Fred VanVleet excels at, and though Reggie is not as good, having someone to fill this skill with the former sixth-man now starting could go a long way.
Most of my preferred metrics tend to paint Reggie as a neutral defender when all are considered. He’s shown an ability to be a solid enough man-defender that is okay at getting past screens, but his team defence is inconsistent from what I’ve seen. His ability to rotate is not as fluid as one may hope, and there have been occasional lapses. Regardless, similar to many of our other players, I feel as if he can effectively guide ball handlers right to the post where they will face a readySerge Ibaka or Marc Gasol.
This addition may feel a little redundant and odd. “We have Matt Thomas, why add Ellington?” It is a fair and warranted skepticism. Both of them get their shots off by excellent off-ball movement and specialize off of getting said shots off from deep. The differences really come down to “versatility,” per se, as well as defence. However, let’s focus on the former of the two first. Ellington can increase his comfort in shooting through a variety of methods. While Thomas has been restricted to mere off-ball movement and occasional ball-handling, Ellington can angle himself forward, back, while also using impressive vertical to improve his look.
Of course, this is not meant to be a knock on Thomas, I love him. This is more so emphasized praise of what has made Ellington one of the best shooters over the past decade. “Well he’s shooting just under 33% this season, he’s kind of looking a little washed.” That is a fair point, as he is not shooting as well as usual, but there needs to be some context added to that. Last season he shot 36.6% off the catch and 38.1% off pull-ups. This season sees him sniping 40.7% off the catch and 16.7% off pull-ups. The change here is blatant and undeniably worth noting.
Regardless, his ability off the catch is still deadly and not to be ignored. Unlike Reggie, there is less offensively, to be examined here. Great off-ball energy, shoots off the dribble and catch with high confidence, crafty with his mechanics, and he chases after his shot very well. There are also moments of playmaking, though far from primary. If anything, a moment like this showcases his ability to pass the ball off to create the best opportunity available at times, though some of his shots at times may contradict that as a common habit at times.
When it comes to Ellington, I want to focus on defence more. Some of the aforementioned metrics such as (his +0.58 luck-adjusted 3-year) DRAPM and (-0.41 multi-year) DPIPM ultimately culminate together to paint him as a neutral defender. Personally, I see this as an adequate reflection of his contributions on that end of the court. He can make the proper rotations when needed, and do so pretty well too. This is something that would increase his fit as a Raptor, just check out the way he rotates off Jarrett Allen to get to Taurean Prince on the perimeter.
The primary issue I’ve seen is how easy it is for players with the ball to get past him. He always seems fairly easy to catch off guard in such situations which gives the opponent a very important edge upon him. While he’ll never stop trying, this is something that could be exploited in a few matchups on the occasional possession. There’s also an inconsistency with how he uses his hands to make himself bigger, but that’s not too much of a concern to me at the moment.
As a defender, Ellington is surely better than Thomas at the moment. Offensively, I would argue he is superior but can understand if one found it redundant regardless. This would not take Matt out of the rotation completely, as Basketball Reference estimates 45% of his minutes have come at point guard and considering most of those are in garbage time. What I can say, is that out of the listed prospects for buyout Ellington is my least favourite, and I likely would have put someone else here instead had I not felt that offence was so important to us and that shooting was not so important to beat the Milwaukee Bucks.
When it comes to buyout candidates, many people tend to look back at the success stories of Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Bellineli a few years ago for the Sixers. It’s always important to note that those are very rare exceptions and that you are more likely to get someone who turns out to be what Jeremy Lin was for us last year I’m relatively confident in these picks, and in the right fit, the honourable mentions as well. I am not trying to guarantee any of these players as a sure thing, nor am I trying to suggest we go out of their way to acquire one of them by any means necessary. Instead, I am portraying my belief that these are some potential names that could become available I think are worth considering.