In a widely unexpected and gut-wrenching Instagram post that aired shortly after lunchtime on the East coast today, Giannis Antetokounmpo declared to the world that he will be dedicating the next five years of his basketball services to the Milwaukee Bucks. The announcement sent fans of the Toronto Raptors falling into a frenzy, trying to conceive contingency plans that might be able to elevate their team back to championship echelons. Among the most popular suggestions were to trade for James Harden, make a call for Bradley Beal, or go all-in on bringing back Kawhi Leonard next summer.
While the Raptors currently own the third highest odds of landing Harden according to Canadian online casinos, kneejerk reactions are anything but a hallmark of Toronto’s front office. That being said, contingency plans certainly are. As soon as news broke during free agency that Marc Gasol would be joining the Los Angeles Lakers, it was revealed in a matter of minutes that Aron Baynes was on his way to Toronto. This is not to imply that Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster will make franchise altering moves within the same week of their pipedream evaporating, but it provides solace knowing that Toronto’s front office moguls assuredly have more options.
Earlier this month, Jordan Moore broke down three hypothetical pathways that the Raptors could travel down if Giannis were to sign his extension. With hypothecy having turned to reality, it’s time for Ujiri and Webster to do some exploring.
Even if nothing on the trade market presents itself desirably to the Raptors, a day like today is just another drop in the bucket for the North side. During the 26 years of this team’s existence, the largest free agent signings that the Raptors have had are Hedo Turkoglu, and DeMarre Carroll – neither of which are household names to a casual NBA fan. By not landing Giannis, the Raptors are continuing down the only road that they know.
It will be interesting to see whether Giannis’ decision has any effect on the ongoing contract extensions of Masai Ujiri. The two have a long lasting relationship, which is part of what made a union between Giannis and the Raptors seem so plausible in the first place. Though the Raptors president has said that he is not holding out from extending his contract, and rather has just been too busy to get around to his own extension negotiations yet, this latest complication standing in the way of another Raptors championship could induce him to begin looking elsewhere.
Regardless of what happens on the trade market, the Toronto Raptors will be just fine of for the next few years at minimum. With Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet still just 26-years-old, Terence Davis and OG Anunoby only 23, and the Raptors standout rookie Malachi Flynn a mere 22 years-old, the Raptors have a wide window ahead, and haste shouldn’t force their hand at doing anything drastic just yet.