With the Raptors at 14 players on the roster, there's a good chance it will come down to five names (six if you count Brady Heslip, the longest of long shots) to fill the final spot. As we've reported over the summer, those names are Fred VanVleet, Jarrod Uthoff, E.J. Singler, Yanick Moreira and Drew Crawford, who are all signed to non-guaranteed deals heading into training camp.
It will be a interesting camp battle, with the possibility of one of these players making the Raptors, and the other four going down to the Raptors 905 in the D-league or possibly Europe. Let's take a look at the names.
Fred VanVleet, PG
VanVleet, an undrafted point guard out of Wichita State University, impressed Masai Ujiri and the Raptors when he suited up for the club in the Las Vegas Summer League. After four years with Wichita State, in which he led the team to the NCAA tournament each year, VanVleet averaged over 10 points per game. Last season in college VanVleet played 29 minutes per game and also shot 38.1% from 3. Those are solid numbers which could translate to the NBA level. VanVleet also averaged 1.8 steals per game showing that the Raptors could trust him with his defensive ability.
VanVleet may end up being a nice developmental piece with the Raptors if he sticks with the 905 to continue to develop. He's a heady player and a solid rebounder, despite being just 5'11'', who doesn't shy away from contact, which will help at the NBA level. The knock on VanVleet, aside from his height, is the presence of three players in front of him: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph and injured Delon Wright. It's that injury to Wright that may sneak VanVleet onto the Raptors roster for a spell.
Jarrod Uthoff, PF
Uthoff, like VanVleet, went undrafted as a four-year player (out of Iowa). Uthoff, however, does have a leg up on VanVleet due to the position he plays at power forward (a spot of need for the Raptors). He averaged 13 points per game in college, and 4.5 points per game in the Summer League for the Sacramento Kings. Uthoff can be a very needed stretch four for the Raptors with Uthoff converting on 38.2% of his threes in college. Uthoff also can be reliable defensively as he averaged 2.5 blocks per game in college along with one steal per game.
Uthoff projects as a good rebounder and a defensive player in the NBA, but like VanVleet could benefit from time with the Raptors 905. In his favour is the aforementioned need at the power (or even small) forward spots for the Raptors. Of all the names here, it was a modest surprise that Uthoff was did not get drafted in this past NBA Draft.
E.J. Singler, SG
Singler is the lone player on this list who actually played for the Raptors 905 last season after a trade brought him over. Singler was a sharp shooter for the 905 last season and a cool player off the bench. Singler can also help on rebounds as in the D-League last season he averaged 3.3 defensive rebounds per game and 4.1 rebounds per game. Singler also averages just below two assists per game in the D-League but will need to pass more to succeed at the NBA level as a complementary player.
The Raptors could always use more shooting, but obviously -- with the ascendant Norman Powell, Terrence Ross and, of course, DeMar DeRozan -- have a lot of solid options at those 2-3 swing spots. Still, Singler is a steady player who could provide a boost off the bench, and has a modest upper hand since he knows the Raptors' system the best by now.
Yanick Moreira, C
Moreira, an overseas player unknown to many, is projected as a depth centre in the NBA. Since the Raptors depth at centre is a modest concern behind Jonas Valanciunas -- with only young Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira on the roster -- Moreira could get a look.
Like Singler and VanVleet, Moreira played with the Raptors in the Summer League, but only put up 2.4 points per game. He did however average four rebounds and one block per game. He also was the player who got called for the phantom foul to end the tournament for the Raptors. In addition, Moreira averaged over 17 points per game in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. (Moreira's home country of Angola did not qualify for the Olympics.) At the very least, Moreira's chances for filling the starting centre with the 905 this season seem like a lock.
Drew Crawford, SG/SF
Crawford is a interesting name on this list due to the ability to play forward and guard. Crawford spent the 2014-15 season in the D-League with the Erie BayHawks. There he was averaging 16 points per game, with a astounding 5.1 defensive rebounds per game. He was also shooting 35 percent from three in the D-League. Crawford then went overseas to play in Israel where he put up 16.2 points and five rebounds per game. Crawford also shot 36.4% from the three there, which starts to indicate a trend. Based on that performance Crawford got a look with the Raptors in the Summer League, where he put up 8 points, 2.8 rebounds and one assist per game, while shooting 33 percent from the three.
Crawford will need to work on his shooting and continue to play well on defense to have a shot at this Raptors team. He projects as a swing man off the (deep) bench, assuming he gains the trust of the coaching staff. Owing to his skill set, Crawford could see time with the Raptors this season, but may also bounce up between the 905 and main squad, or tread on to the Euro Leagues.
So what do you guys think? Are the Raptors going to bring one of these four players up to the big club or will they seek a different player for the 15th spot?