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Report: Former Raptor Nando De Colo eyes return to the NBA

Why does this matter to the Raptors? Well, despite it being something of a joke for the past five years, Toronto still owns De Colo’s rights. Let’s discuss what that means now.

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images

The timing of this is latest news is almost too good to be true. For the past five years, Nando De Colo, a 6’5” guard from France, has been playing for CSKW Moscow, and winning a EuroLeague MVP and two EuroLeague titles for his efforts. Why we’re here right now in this moment is because of a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on De Colo and his plans for a return to the NBA.

But this only goes a small part of the way towards explaining why you’re reading this post on a Raptors blog. The reason for that is because the last NBA team De Colo played for was, a-ha, the Toronto Raptors! Yes, in the 2013-14 season, the beginning of the whole We the North era — which, as you’ll recall, has culminated in the 2019 NBA championship — De Colo was a bit player on the Raptors. At 26 years old during the ‘13-14 season, De Colo appeared in 21 games for the team, averaging 3.1 points and 1.6 assists in 9.2 minutes per game, while shooting 37 percent from the field (and 36 percent from three). He even appeared for a few minutes in Game 1 of Toronto’s playoff series against the Nets.

As those numbers suggest, there was a significant reason for De Colo to decide to play overseas: he got to be an out-and-out star in the EuroLeague, instead of having to deal with sitting at the end of some NBA squad’s bench — even if they happen to be the defending champion Raptors (or San Antonio Spurs, the one other team he played for).

Ah, but there’s the rub: as many, including our friend Blake Murphy, have written over those past five years, the Raptors have always made sure to extend De Colo a qualifying offer each and every year just to maintain his free agent rights. What that means is that he would essentially enter the league as a restricted free agent, with the Raptors potentially matching any offer sheet he signed. Does De Colo, at 32 and fresh off of conquering the EuroLeague for the second time in 2019, now want to join the defending champions of the NBA as they go for title number two? Or is he hoping the Raptors will simply renounce his rights and let him join whichever team will have him (and pay him)?

Now, this is all conjecture at this point. Just because De Colo has plans to return to the NBA does not mean any team would want him. He’s shown over the past five years that he can be an elite shooter from deep, and he is 6’5” in the guard spot, which counts for something. But De Colo would still likely only be a bench option for some team looking to shore up its guard/wing rotation. The Raptors could use that, but I suspect they could use a true power forward more.

Either way, I suspect team president Masai Ujiri, having held on this long to De Colo’s rights, knows exactly what he’ll do now.