When the Toronto Raptors entered this offseason, they had a variety of needs.
Top of the checklist was re-signing Kyle Lowry, and hopefully bringing back forward Patrick Patterson, and guard Greivis Vasquez. The first two players were inked to deals days ago, and the third, Vasquez, was crossed off the list late last night via a two-year, $13M deal.
Next then, was getting some help on the wings, preferably in the form of a physical defender, and finding some rim protection and back-up size up front.
About an hour ago, news broke via Gary Parrish at CBS Sports that Toronto had tackled a bit of both by bringing back former Raptor James Johnson on a two-year deal. A 6-9, 245 lb wing, Johnson definitely fits the bill as a physical defensive presence, and thanks to his size, length, and shot-blocking ability, he can also play the 4 spot in a pinch. The contract is said to be worth $5M over two seasons, which would be a bit more than Toronto's bi-annual exception, therefore meaning the club will eat into its mid-level amount to lock Johnson up.
Johnson inked a two-year deal, worth about $2.5 million US a season, slightly more than the $2.077 million bi-annual exception, since other teams were sniffing around him. Johnson revived his flagging NBA career with a strong 52 game stretch in Memphis last season.
In terms of on-court fit and price, it's pretty hard to argue with this deal. Scanning the NBA, there just aren't very many players with his size and ability, especially at a price tag like this, and available, on a short-term deal.
However, like the Vasquez deal, there are some legitimate concerns here. Johnson hasn't exactly been the most productive player over his NBA tenure, and he clashed with head coach Dwane Casey during his last stop in Toronto. He's also dealing with the aftermath of a domestic assault case.
However his wife did not show up in court, so this may be behind him now, and reports indicate that Casey is a-ok with bringing the MMA specialist back into his fold. As well, during his stint in Memphis last year, Johnson was actually a very productive player, posting a PER of 18.5 over his 52 games, a win share of 3, and averages of 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.6 steals, and 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes. He won't start on this club, but he automatically looks like an upgrade over both Landry Fields and John Salmons.
That means the Dinos roster is now set at 13 with yesterday's signing of BRUNO, and assuming Lucas Nogueira is brought in for this year, that will leave one final spot and only a tiny bit of cash, to completely round out the roster.