Most Toronto Raptors fans are not going to like this one bit. Bismack Biyombo was the heart and soul of the Raptors this season. He brought tremendous energy whether he was starting or coming off the bench, provided exciting dunks and blocked shots, and was certainly a fan favourite. He wants to be back in Toronto. However, unfortunately it seems clear that Biyombo is going to command 15+ million dollars on the market, and if that’s the case, his time with the Raptors should be finished.
There are several glaring reasons why Biyombo should not be brought back at that price, and fans should prepare for life without the electrifying centre. The rest of this article is going to assume that the Raptors will need to pay at least 15 million to bring Biyombo back – and here’s why it doesn’t make sense.
The most glaring reason that Biyombo shouldn’t be re-signed is the opportunity cost associated with a new contract. Yes, the Raptors could likely afford bringing Back Bis and maxing DeRozan with some creativity and salary dumping, but paying Biyombo 15 million dollars would essentially cripple the Raptors financially for years to come. He’s never going to be anything more than a back-up centre for this franchise, and paying a reserve player 15 million dollars only makes sense if he is a 6th man that will close games for you. Giving Biyombo that 15 million would disallow any potential free agent signings that would actually meet a need that the Raptors have. The type of team that would pay him 15+ million would want him to start and play major minutes. The fit just isn’t there.
Style over substance
The truth is, Biyombo isn’t actually as good as made out to be. He’s a strong rim protector, and a solid screen setter, but that’s about it. Basically, a more energetic and flashy Amir Johnson without the jumper, to be honest. His thunderous slams and incredible blocks make him a highlight reel player, but that doesn’t actually translate into a lot of utility. He finished with a PER of 14.91 in 2015-16 – seemingly his best season – which ranked him at 141st in the league. Offensively, he’s dreadful, and doesn’t really have a lot of upside. His rebounding isn’t as good as one would think either. According to SportVU player tracking, 52.1% of Bismack’s defensive rebounds were uncontested, suggesting some potential inflation in his rebounding rate. In comparison, Jonas Valanciunas’ was significantly lower at 44.6%. For the most part, the (somewhat limited) data shows that JV and Bis are basically on par on the glass, with Valanciunas having an edge in certain advanced stats.
In terms of defense, here’s the thing. Biyombo is a good rim protector. He’s not necessarily a great perimeter defender, and gets burned a lot more than people realize in PnR situations. The reality is, being an elite rim protector, may not actually be as valuable as people realize, as it’s apparent that having an elite vs average rim protector likely won’t yield you a significant point differential.
The biggest factor here is that the Raptors prized possession is Jonas Valanciunas, and he’s barely begun to scratch the surface. As we saw, when the Raptors actually decide to run offense through Valanciunas, they can be scary. The bottom line is that Bismack is going to continue to eat into JV’s playing time, when Valanciunas should be getting 30+ minutes a night. With the league heading towards smaller line-ups, it doesn’t seem sustainable to have two centers making more than 15 million dollars, nor does it make sense to pay a back-up so much when you have a stud in the making in front of him. It’s time to give JV full control over the center position, and to do that, you need to let Bismack go.