We're technically still early into the NBA free agency period and off-season, which is hard to believe because holy shit a lot has happened. I won't (and can't) recap it all here--SB Nation has done that already--but suffice it to say, the Raptors and their GM Masai Ujiri have made moves.
Let's recount everything so far.
The surprising trade the Raptors made on Draft night set the tone for their off-season goals. Toronto agreed to trade Greivis Vasquez, he of peak swag, to the Milwaukee Bucks for Norman Powell (picked 46th) and a 2017 first round pick. Vasquez had a down year in 2014-15 (and how!), but he was still a guy who could make things happen (offensively) on the court. It was a clear signal: the Raptors were looking to remake their identity and move away from the gunning, free-wheeling team (that couldn't play defence) they were last year. (Letting Lou Williams walk also plays into this idea.) As for Powell and the pick, who knows what they become. Powell is an undersized but explosive two-guard who can defend, which is nice, but still second round picks are made in the second round for a reason. This trade was one of those addition-by-subtraction moves.
The same can obviously be said for the Luke Ridnour for Tomislav Zubcic trade. The latter will never see the NBA, and the former will never wear a Raptors uniform. That extra cap space certainly looks nice though.
The Raptors had the 20th pick in the Draft and used it on 23-year-old Delon Wright. The Raptors again made it clear that they were looking for defensive-minded and two-way players. Wright is regarded as one of the pre-eminent defensive players of the 2015 draft class with good instincts (and size to finish at the rim). While his ceiling is probably "back up point guard", Wright feels like a safe bet as a stout playmaker and defender. After taking a huge swing at no. 20 last year with Bruno Caboclo, this feels like the Raptors erring on the side of caution.
Let's not forget the coaches here. Despite retaining head coach Dwane Casey (everybody's favourite), the Raptors decided to remake the assistant coaching ranks around him. So, welcome Rex Kalamian from the Oklahoma City Thunder and Jerry Stackhouse from your worst nightmare. Kalamian arrives in Toronto having been around two of the best players in the league in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, so he brings a certain prestige to the position. (And any connection to Durant is good.) Stackhouse, meanwhile, is a veteran's veteran, a guy you do not want to cross and one of the legendary tough guys in NBA history. I'll miss Tom Sterner courtside interviews as much as the next guy, but Stack brings in a whole other dimension to the Raptors.
First came the big splash: DeMarre Carroll for $60 million over four years. If it wasn't already clear, this signing was the klaxon siren signal the Raptors were looking to strongly address their defensive woes of last season. Carroll comes with a well-earned pedigree as a strong defender everywhere on the court. He rebounds well for his position (5.3 per game last season), he shoots efficiently (49 percent from the field, 39.5 from three, 60 percent in true shooting last season). And he affords the Raptors some interesting roster flexibility at the wing and power forward positions. Yes, he turns 29 in a few weeks, but he's only played in 316 games since joining the league at 23 as the 27th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Next up came the reasonable bet: Bismack Biyombo for $6 million over two years. More defence! Biyombo, to put it politely, is who he is at this point in his career. That is, he's big, he's fast and he has two cinder blocks for hands. Like Tyler Hansbrough last year, Biyombo will fill a very specific role in limited minutes. In this case, he has to protect the rim, clean up the glass, and try not to do anything he can't do. There is a question as to how he'll fit into the Raptors lineup--presumably it will be dangerous to play him and Jonas Valanciunas together, and a James Johnson-Biyombo front line, while fearsome in ways, will have a scoring/spacing problem. But still, Bismack will be 23 when the season starts and the contract feels very right for what he brings to the Raptors.
Finally, the big gamble: Cory Joseph for $30 million over four years. First, there are a lot of positives here. Joseph turns 24 in August and has spent the last four years in the Spurs player development machine. He tracks as a smart player who can run the offence or play in two PG lineups; he can also shoot (50 percent from the field last year) and keep the ball moving. And sure, it's cool to have a Canadian on the team, too. So what's the downside? Well, the Raptors are betting that with increased usage--as the first guard off the bench, and presumably a spot starter--Joseph will increase his productivity (6.8 points and 2.4 assists per game last year) while also maintaining his efficiency. It's not impossible, but he is going from a team that featured three Hall of Famers to one anchored by DeMar DeRozan. (We'll also leave off the discussion on where this leaves Delon Wright.)
In Zach Lowe's free agency winners and losers piece today at Grantland, he notes that the Raptors' status is still TBD. (So happy he dropped the stupid "Drakes" moniker this one time.) That feels fair to say given that the team still has an obvious hole at power forward and tradeable assets. Is there a move out there that includes Terrence Ross? James Johnson? One or two of those future draft picks? That remains to be seen.
For now, let's go to the poll: What do you grade the Raptors off-season at so far? Put me down for an A minus.