Without a doubt, the Raptors are going to lose players in free agency this offseason. With ten players eligible to become free agents when free agency opens on Friday November 20th (five unrestricted and five restricted), including three of the Raptors top six rotational pieces (Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol), the Raptors roster has the potential to look much different next year than it did this year. Although this year’s free agency class isn’t filled with superstars like next year’s is going to be, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t impactful players on the market that the Raptors could target to replace some of the value they may lose. In this article we’re going to look at four potential targets who could be impactful players for the Raptors in the 2020-21 season.
1. Montrezl Harrell, PF/C, Los Angeles Clippers (Unrestricted)
There has already been rumours of mutual interest between Harrell and the Raptors since the season ending. Shortly after the Clippers heartbreaking playoff elimination at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, Harrell unfollowed the Clippers on Instagram and followed the Raptors. Montrezl also posted the following picture on his Instagram story, showing his AAU team called the Team Trezz Raptors.
Montrezl has been an impact player off the bench for the Clippers, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award this past season while averaging 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks on 58% shooting from the field. The Raptors could look to keep him in his role as first man off the bench while signing another big that could start (Serge, Gasol, or another free agent we’ll talk about soon), or could slot him into the starting lineup. Montrezl is undersized for a center, listed at only 6’7, which could create issues starting him at center alongside Pascal making for a frontcourt without much rim protection. Of course there are advantages to an undersized frontcourt, Harrell’s speed and switch-ability could make for an absolutely terrorizing defensive small-ball lineup. Nick Nurse loves to press and play zone defense, and the speed of Harrell and Siakam in the front-court could cause teams all sorts of issues. Harrell would come in and make an immediate impact with the Raptors with his dynamic play, and I believe should be the top target for the Raptors this coming Friday.
2. Tristan Thompson, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers (Unrestricted)
Bring Tristan home. Thompson grew up in Brampton and deserves a chance to play for the only Canadian NBA team. Thompson would be a cheaper option on the market and would be more open to a one-year deal than Montrezl Harrell would be. This would be important if the Raptors planned to have cap space available next season to go after a big name free agent like Giannis Antetokounmpo. Another undersized big, Tristan is a much more traditional center than Harrell. Known for his elite rebounding, Thompson has proven he can excel within a role on a winning team (he played for Lebron’s Cavaliers), and is willing to do the dirty work needed to win games. This fits in perfectly with the Raptors culture and play style, and the Raptors would add another hard worker to the team that would boost not only the play on the court, but the team chemistry as well. Although not much of a shot blocker, averaging just less than one block per game this past season, Thompson plays very solid post defense, and would fit more into a Marc Gasol type of role in the Raptors defense. Thompson is one of the more realistic options for the Raptors this season, and would be ideal to keep cap space open for next offseason.
3. Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG, Sacramento Kings (Restricted)
Fred VanVleet on JJ Redick’s podcast said “I’ve won a championship and now it’s time to cash out”. That doesn’t sound like a quote that would come from a guy who’s committed to resigning with the team he’s been with his first four years in the NBA. That means the Raptors will be looking for a backcourt partner for Kyle Lowry. Bogdanovic fits that role better than anyone else in free agency this year. He brings the scoring the Raptors would miss in VanVleet, and he does it efficiently, averaging 15.1 points on over 44% from the field and 37% from three. Bogdan excels at playing off-ball, shooting over 40% from three on spot up opportunities, and would space the floor well for the Raptors. He could also fill the role of Terence Davis if the Raptors do resign VanVleet and Davis’ off the court problems don’t work out. Bogdan could be a strong scorer off the bench or as a starter, and has the versatility to guard 1-3. If the Raptors end up needing a guard in free agency, Bogdanovic would be the way to go.
4. Christian Wood, PF/C, Detroit Pistons (Unrestricted)
Christian Wood is one of the biggest unknown in free agency this year. After Drummond was traded to the Cavaliers and Wood became the primary front court player for the Pistons, Wood blossomed into a star. In his last 13 games he averaged 22.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists. The question with Wood is whether he can perform over a larger sample size. Somebody is going to give him a chance to prove that he can, and it very well may be the Raptors. Wood also fits the mold of floor-spacing big that the Raptors could lose in Marc Gasol, shooting over 38% from three this year on 2.3 attempts per game. Wood has the potential to be a one-time wonder (after all Jeremy Lin had a stretch where he seemed to be a star and he’s now out of the NBA) but it may be well worth the risk to see if he’s not. Wood is likely either going to be woefully overpaid or woefully underpaid this offseason, and that distinction won’t come until deep into the 2020-21 NBA season. If the Raptors are confident in Wood, he could well be one of the biggest splashes any team makes in free agency.
Bonus: Fred Vanvleet, PG/SG, Toronto Raptors, (Unrestricted)
I couldn’t help myself. All this talk of who the Raptors could land to replace VanVleet has me missing him already. VanVleet has been one of the best stories in the league the past few years. After going undrafted he became one of the Raptors’ strongest contributors, a go-to scorer in the clutch, and even stole a finals MVP vote from Kawhi Leonard in 2019 due to his play in the clinching game. I believe VanVleet has the potential to be the Raptors point guard of the future, and I also believe that resigning him should be their biggest priority this off-season. VanVleet is the best point guard on the market this offseason, and teams are going to be willing to throw big contracts at him. As I mentioned, Freddy did say he was looking to get paid and that he doesn’t believe he has anything left to prove. Another of Vanvleet’s quotes on JJ Redick’s podcast was “I feel like I’m on the verge of blossoming even more with more of a lead role and just taking more responsibility in my game”. Vanvleet could well be looking to lead a team, and there are a plethora of teams out there who need a good point guard and someone to lead their group (I hear the Knicks calling already). The time to make the decision between Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet may have come a lot quicker than expected.