Additions: OG Anunoby, Lorenzo Brown, K.J. McDaniels, Alfonzo McKinnie, C.J. Miles, Malcolm Miller
Subtractions: DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson, P.J. Tucker
2016-17 Cap Space: None. Above Salary Floor. Right at Luxury Tax.
2017-18 Maximum Cap Space: None. $13.5 million over
Analysis: Facing incredible luxury tax concerns with two starters and three key reserves hitting free agency at the same time, the Toronto Raptors were almost in a no-win situation. Instead they came away with better than expected deals for the two starters and committed to a youth movement for their bench.
Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka both re-signed for three years, which is a win in and of itself given their age. That they got both for less than the max is an additional win. Lowry got $93 million and Ibaka $65 million. While neither is checking into the poor house anytime soon, both took less than their respective max amount to remain in Toronto. All around, this is a win for the Raptors. Both are productive and fit in great with DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas in the starting lineup.
Filling out the opening squad is likely to be C.J. Miles or Norman Powell. Miles replaces DeMarre Carroll, who was traded to the Nets in a salary dump designed around avoiding the luxury tax. Miles brings shooting and defensive versatility, both things the Raps hoped to get from Carroll, but all too often didn’t.
Powell has had an interesting run in Toronto. He’s either started or he’s barely seen time, especially last year. He’s a good defender and decent shooter and ball handler. He’s arguably the most athletic player of the Raptors regulars and plays extremely hard. If he doesn’t start, he’s likely to fill the sixth man role this year.
Beyond the Miles/Powell starter/sixth man decision, the rest of the Raptors rotation seems reasonably set. They gave up Carroll and Cory Joseph in trade and let productive reserves Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker walk. There was no reasonable way to retain all of them, as the luxury tax bill to do so would have hit unprecedented territory for the franchise. By letting each go, the Raptors not only saved money, but also freed up time for younger players, with whom the team needs to figure out exactly what they have.
Delon Wright will take Joseph’s spot as the primary backup behind Lowry. Given Lowry’s sketchy health history recently, Wright may be called upon to give Toronto quality minutes on a regular basis. Joseph, while he has his flaws, was steady playing behind or next to Lowry. Wright has a lot of potential, but hasn’t shown much in his limited playing time to date.
Patterson’s minutes will largely go to last year’s lottery pick Jakob Poeltl. He flashed at times and is an interesting contrast to Jonas Valanciunas, with his offensive game. There has occasionally been buzz that the two can play together, but that screams defensive deficiencies that can’t be overcome. More likely is that Poeltl continues to develop behind Valanciunas and one or the other eventually becomes a tradable piece.
Offseason Grade: C+. Toronto has been a playoff team for four straight seasons, but the question has to be asked: Did they peak in 2016 with 56 wins and an Eastern Conference Finals appearance? The Raptors weren’t in a position to rebuild, not when they’ve been this good for a while now. They also didn’t want to lock in for four to five years with this group. They did a good job of straddling both, by signing Lowry and Ibaka, but not crippling the franchise by signing everyone. That said, this team still has major holes on the bench. Only Miles/Powell, Poeltl and Wright seem ready to contribute and the Raptors are about out of tradable assets. They need someone else to step forward or injuries and lack of depth could sink them.
Long-term Grade: C-. While they avoided the pitfall of being capped out forever, Toronto still has considerable money tied up for the next three seasons in players who are all in their post-prime years in Lowry, DeRozan and Ibaka. They also don’t have any surefire young talent on the roster. The best hope is that OG Anunoby develops into a 3&D plus player or Powell takes a major step forward. And hey, maybe Bruno Caboclo really is now just a year away!