Since we’ve just taken our first steps into the month of August, that means two things: first, we can rest assured that very little NBA-related off-season action will actually transpire (though we will continue to talk as if it is imminent); and second, it’s time to review the off-season for the Raptors.
To that end, Professor Kevin Pelton of ESPN is on hand with grades for each and every team in the East, including Toronto. For the Raptors, he had this to say:
Toronto Raptors: B
Masai Ujiri resisted the desire to break up a successful roster that could contend in a post-LeBron James Eastern Conference. The Raptors re-signed point guard Kyle Lowry at a reasonable rate: three years, $93 million plus incentives. The value wasn't as strong with Serge Ibaka, who got $65 million over three years. Toronto was working under financial limitations with the luxury tax looming, which necessitated jettisoning Joseph and giving up a first-round pick so the Nets would take Carroll.
The money-saving moves allowed the Raptors to use their non-taxpayer midlevel exception on CJ Miles, a better shooter than Carroll but not the same kind of defender. My big concern is how Toronto will fill the minutes Ibaka doesn't play at power forward. Miles is dramatically undersized for the position, meaning Toronto might be counting on second-year player Pascal Siakam taking a big step forward. How well the Raptors fill those minutes might determine how much they drop off this season, if at all.
In truth, this is all relatively fair. With the Cleveland Cavaliers being driven towards a cliff by owner Dan Gilbert, it was wise of Masai Ujiri to re-load and keep the core of the Raptors together. The dollar amounts for both Lowry and Ibaka strike this particular writer as being in the vicinity of the market rate — if only because All-Star point guards and do-it-all forward-centres are not exactly in abundance at the moment. And yes, as that first paragraph suggests: all these moves were made while the luxury tax hung over Toronto like a guillotine blade. A B-grade confirms a positive conclusion to the entirety of the off-season. We made it.
But like Pelton, we’re left asking the same question regarding the power forward situation on the Raptors. Losing P.J. Tucker, who the Raps wanted back, and Patrick Patterson in free agency is tough. (That Toronto practically packed Patterson’s bags for him on his way out the door is a bit sad in retrospect, but I digress.) And while it’s fair to say everyone in Toronto had largely grown weary of Carroll’s struggle, replacing him with Miles is a step down in terms of just having size on the roster, i.e. Siakam is the only actual power forward on the roster right now.
So what will Toronto do? They’ve got four players who should play centre (Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl), and some new faces on the wing (Miles, Alfonzo McKinnie, the injured OG Anunoby), plus, of course, Bruno Caboclo. There’s a weird roster imbalance going on right now, and no obvious solutions as to how to fix it. It seems likely the Raps will return to the JV-Ibaka starting combo, and then figure out a way to stagger their minutes in combo with the Bebe/Jak pair. Or something.
Could Kennedy Meeks, a relatively unknown quantity, step in at the 4? Is there another move to be made? Are the Raps just going to go small and run other teams off the floor? I’m not ready to be nervous about it yet, but we’ll have to wait until October to really figure this out.