Kyle Lowry, and to a lesser extent Serge Ibaka, are appropriately receiving most of the attention from media and Raptors fans in the opening hours of free agency. Toronto’s future will pivot based on where those two choose to play next season and beyond.
But also dipping their toes in the open market’s waters are P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson, both of whom were intrinsic to Toronto’s success this season. In an ideal world in which money is no object, the Raptors would bring both of them back. Luxury tax concerns, however, make that almost an impossibility.
Patterson was for a time the Raptors’ third-most important player this year. When his health went down the tubes in January, so did Toronto’s 60-win pace. Patterson is one of the team’s smartest and most pliable players, and the only big man on the team that has a shot of creating offense with the ball in his hands. Streaky as his three-point stroke might seem, he finished the year with a 37.2 percent mark from deep. Yes, in the playoffs his play deteriorated into borderline uselessness (no one is ever going to forget that open three-turned-travel in Game 1 against Cleveland), but still, the Raptors are almost universally better when he is on the floor. Losing him would be a blow.
Tucker superseded Patterson in crunch time lineups down the stretch with his multi-positional shutdown defense and some outstanding rebounding at the power forward spot. He hit 40 percent of his threes (and a shit load of long twos with his foot on the line) and was the living embodiment of Toronto’s defense-first identity while Lowry missed time after the All-Star break. He was a Biyombo-level fan favourite.
If the Raptors are forced to choose between one of Patterson or Tucker, you can make compelling arguments from both sides. Patterson’s a more proven shooter and play maker than Tucker. Tucker might cost less and can play the three and four effectively. Keeping both and jettisoning the $30+ million owed to DeMarre Caroll and Jonas Valanciunas would probably be the dream scenario, a way to best maximize the roster however complex the machinations might be.
Of course, this is free agency, and the desires of a team are only one half of the equation. In Tucker’s case, it seems the Raptors are hoping to retain him. ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported last night that Tucker would be meeting with Raptors brass in Philadelphia after midnight on July 1 — although we haven’t heard anything about that proposed meeting since then. Michael Grange of Sportsnet reported about an hour ago that the Raptors would have competition to hang on to their one-time second round draft pick.
Per Haynes, the Sacramento Kings are going to be one of those teams bumping shoulders with the Raptors over Tucker’s services — he reportedly has a meeting scheduled with the Kings this weekend. A lottery-bound team with literal children making up most of the roster? Tucker has some experience with that kind of situation.
Also familiar with what the Kings are about is Patterson, who according to USA Today’s Sam Amick, met with his former team last night.
Kings free agency meetings tonight, I'm told: Andre Iguodala and Patrick Patterson.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) July 1, 2017
Unlike with Tucker, there hasn’t been any noise hinting at a return to Toronto for Patterson. Maybe that isn’t shocking considering Patterson’s decreased role after the trade deadline and his no-show to locker clean-out day following Raptors’ second-round sweep. Toronto could definitely use Patterson’s bag of tools. If he doesn’t want to lend it anymore, that’s out of the Raptors’ control.
Whether the Raptors can convince one of, both or neither of Patterson and Tucker to stick around won’t exactly dictate Toronto’s long-term sustainability. But losing assets for nothing is always a blow.
Who do you think the Raptors should try to keep? Patterson? Tucker? Both?