Every summer there is a plethora of films that hit theaters. Some good, some not so good. There are films that people have been waiting all year for, films that people could care less for, films that are surprise successes and films that are surprise (and sometimes not) stinkers.
This is how free agency works in the NBA.
Fans spend all season engaged with their team’s play (unless you’re a Milwaukee/Philly fan) but once summer hits and they’ve got more free time, they’re ready to see all the things they’ve been waiting for come true.
And just like going to see a movie, more often than not it turns out to be “meh” rather than “HOLYCRAPTHATWASAWESOME”.
For example, Raptors fans better not hope their offseason turns out like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, or they’ll be listening to the same stuff said over and over (“We need _ type of player!”) until the climax finally hits and everything is cool for five minutes until they understand what they really got.
Personally? I’m hoping for Masai Ujiri to pull off a Godzilla-type offseason. I’d be just fine with waiting a loooooong time for anything to happen if the last few moves he makes are incredible.
That said, I’ve got some ideas on what Masai might be aiming to do. And some ideas that he probably isn’t aiming to do at all but are still fun to talk about.
Thus, I’ve created two categories. Free agent moves that SHOULD happen and free agent moves that COULD happen. I’ll try not to get to ridiculous with the latter.
I’ve also taken the liberty of adding a Free Agent Meter that will range from 1-10 in order of importance of signing said player, one being “Signing Kwame Brown” and ten being “Signing a Top 10 NBA Player”, with everything else in between.
Let’s start with moves that SHOULD happen:
Re-signing Kyle Lowry
FA Meter: 9
This is one of the biggies. Obviously, Lowry was instrumental to this season’s Raptors squad and he seems to fit in perfectly with just about everything. He likes a coach who likes him, his teammates love him, he’d die trying to win a game and, perhaps most important of all, he loves the city of Toronto.
It hasn’t been easy getting free agents to even think about coming north of the border and since Lowry has already been here for two seasons and said that he loves the place, it’s even more incentive for Masai to bring him back.
Add in that he should have been an All-Star this season, his season-long heroics late in games, his out-playing of Deron Williams in the playoffs and his developing leadership skills, Lowry is a no brainer in that he needs to return to this team for them to have the same “oomph” that they’ve been missing in years prior.
Lowry put up 21/5/5 and shot nearly 40% from deep and nearly 90% from the charity stripe against Brooklyn in the first round.
Doesn’t seem like he’s asking for anything too crazy either, reportedly about $10-12 million for four years.
Re-Signing Patrick Patterson
FA Meter: 7
The fan-proclaimed, “Patman”, brought a whole new dimension to the Raptors when he came over in the Rudy Gay trade early on in the season. He is a reliable three-point shooter (36.4% for the season), solid defender and relatively young (25-years old).
Patterson opens up the floor tremendously for Toronto in an NBA where everyone is looking to go small. He spreads the floor as a stretch four, forcing opponents to respect the outside shot and opening up lanes for DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Lowry.
He’s not a vital player to keep on the roster, but his contributions during the regular season were good as a bench player at almost 9 points a game and 5 rebounds.
If Masai can keep him for the right price, he’ll be worth retaining.
Re-signing Grevis Vasquez
FA Meter: 5
General Greivis played fantastic ball in the playoffs coming off the bench. He averaged 10/4/5 and shot 37% from downtown.
He’s a player who can keep a low turnover ratio, drain threes, take opposing point guards to the hoop because of his size advantage and is a better confidence booster than Richard Simmons.
Why is his position on the meter so low you ask?
Well, there are some other solid free agent point guards up for grabs this summer. Vasquez is definitely one of the better ones, but he isn’t an absolute necessity for Masai. I’m sure his position on the team will be looked at and thought over before any re-signing happens.
That said, it’d be good to see Greivis back next season.
Letting go of John Salmons and Chuck Hayes
FA Meter: 7
The veterans provided some good moments, but these two positions are the ones most in need of improvement.
Salmons was used as a backup for Ross and Hayes for Jonas Valanciunas.
When Salmons was on the floor, he was able to defend pretty well, but he provided almost zero offense and is well past his prime. Casey needs a backup small forward that can come in and at the very least make some shots and help spread the floor, especially when Ross gets in foul trouble as he was wont to do this season.
Valanciunas also got into foul trouble often, and when he did it was Hayes who checked in for him when Patterson was already being utilized. Hayes is another past-his-prime player who really can’t do much of anything anymore, especially considering that he’s undersized. It should be a priority for Masai to try and find a backup center that can provide some rim protection when Jonas takes a seat.
Replacing these two spots with more capable players and adding a new layer of depth (even if the rest of the roster stayed exactly the same as it is now) could really push the Raptors even further next season, possibly to the second round and beyond.
Signing Gordan Hayward
FA Meter: 6
The Utah forward will be in high demand, so it’s unlikely the Raptors will be able to acquire him, but they would be foolish not to put any sort of bid in. He’s a very intelligent player who could be exactly what Toronto needs to back up Ross.
Hayward was a starter on a bad Jazz team though, so he may wish to go to another team that will allow him to stay a starter. Still, if he was willing to buy into what the Raptors are selling, he could be an invaluable asset to the club.
Also, he is on a restricted contract, so there’s that. No point in throwing the kitchen sink at him, but still worth a shot.
Signing Mike Miller
FA Meter: 7
What’s not to like? The guy is practically automatic from three-point range, can rebound, and is a veteran who would play for minimum cash and wouldn’t mind the role player job as a backup to T-Ross.
Also, I must admit I’m a big fan of Miller. Just a great guy. On and off the court.
He’d be good in the locker room, can provide championship experience and was healthier this past season than he has been for the previous couple years. Luring him might even be as easy as getting him away from the weirdness that is Memphis’ front office right now.
Signing Spencer Hawes
FA Meter: 7
Hawes would be smart to go after, at least until the offers start to get too high. He averaged 13/8 for Philadelphia this season and was one of their better players. He shouldn’t mind playing backup and he’d be very serviceable as Valanciunas’ partner in crime.
I swear I’m not trying to take anything more from you, Philly, really!
Now for the fun part. On to moves that COULD happen:
Signing Marcin Gortat
FA Meter: 8
Can you imagine what the current Wizards big man could do for the Raptors? Right now, he may be even slightly better than Jonas.
He had a monster postseason, helping the Wiz into the second round where they gave the first seeded Pacers one heck of a fight. Gortat averaged close to 13/10 in the regular season, blooming as one of the better centers in the East.
As a backup player, if he’d accept that role, it would almost be like Casey never has to take out his starting big. That’s a huge deal for any team. Gortat’s also not bad defensively, and is a presence inside that affects drivers.
Remember, the Raps had Chuck Hayes here. This would be a huge signing.
Signing Vince Carter
FA Meter: 4
Yes, Raps could sign him. Yes, he’d be probably just less than decent. Yes, he can still shoot. Yes, he’d bring the nostalgia levels up to a “seeing Chuck Norris in Expendables 2” degree.
No, I don’t think he’s something Toronto needs to look at at all. Lots of other, younger, better options.
Signing Patty Mills
FA Meter: 5
One of the point guards I was talking about before in regard to Vasquez. If Ujiri decides not to keep Greivis, then Mills would be a very suitable replacement.
A player who’s learned some things under Pop in San Antonio, Mills provided about 10 points off the bench this season. He’s flashy and isn’t afraid of taking any shot.
Another unlikely signing option, but something to keep on the back burner.
Signing Pau Gasol
FA Meter: 6
Amir Johnson and Patterson have done a very good job of manning the power forward spot, so finding someone to take over there isn’t really necessary. Pau would have been much easier to lure if Mike D’Antoni had decided to stay on board as Lakers head coach.
But with Kobe returning and a new coach to come, it might be hard to take Gasol away from L.A., even if the Lakers won’t be winning any championships for the next couple years.
Still, he’s there to offer something to. The 33-year old put up about 17/10 with the Lakers this season and, when healthy, can still ball with any other big man in the game. He brings championship experience and a strong desire to win and win now, which the Raptors (having gotten a taste of winning) will certainly be looking to do in a weak Eastern Conference.
Signing Luol Deng
FA Meter: 8
Something may have to change in the rotation since Deng likely doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Ross, but if that can be resolved he would be a stellar addition to Toronto.
He’s 6-8, the bigger wing that the Raptors need. He’s a great defender, can score the ball, rebounds pretty well for his size and would just be so, so much better than John Salmons.
So, so, so much.
Deng averaged around 16/6 for the Cavs this season and was a terrible fit there, so he may be looking to leave Cleveland despite the fact that they landed the number one overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Definitely a big “could possibly actually happen” thing.
Signing Eric Bledsoe
FA Meter: 9
This one is fun. This is the closest thing the Raptors could do this offseason in terms of getting a top-tier player.
Stay with me here.
Say Masai lets Lowry walk. Then he offers Bledsoe a max deal that Phoenix can’t or won’t match.
Bledsoe was hurt for a while this season, but he’s called the Mini-LeBron for a reason. He’s extremely athletic, a good rebounder for a point guard and showed he’s true blue starter talent for the Suns and anyone else.
Bledsoe’s season numbers are similar to Lowry’s, though he scored more and passed a bit better. He averaged close to 18/5/6 and shot about 48% from the field. He’s not a bad three-point shooter at nearly 36% and recorded 1.6 steals a night.
The best part about Bledsoe is that he is a rising talent. He’s only 24-years of age, while Lowry is currently 28.
This may be the most ludicrous of the signing options and one that would have to be meticulously thought over, but definitely the most rewarding and exciting.
So there you have it.
While many Raptors fans will be expecting a Hollywood blockbuster that knocks their socks off this summer, it seems much more likely that this built up movie will play out on a totally mediocre level.
But that’s okay. I, for one, would much rather pay my $9.00 for a fun and enjoyable viewing of Neighbors than sit down excitedly, only to be disappointed by a crappy fifteenth Iron Man film.