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Run It Back Odds: What are the chances the Raptors will be the same next year?

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With free agency looming, the Raptors have to answer some questions about their squad and figure out who will be back, who should be back, and who will be let go. Let’s review.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors had a total of 22 players appear for the team across 82 regular season games, plus an additional 24 playoff contests. After various transactions, they finished the season with 16 players on the roster, 15 full-timers, and one player on a two-way contract. That squad went 58-24 on the year, and, as we will never tire of noting, went on to win the 2019 NBA championship.

Obviously, there is a strong desire to have the entire squad, even those end-of-bench cheerleaders, return. This is almost always the case with a defending champion — and the Raptors are indeed defending champions. (Did we mention that already?) We here at HQ are firmly in the Run It Back camp.

But the realities of NBA business suggest this will not be the case. With free agency set to officially begin on June 30th at 6pm, the Raptors will have some decisions to make regarding some of their players. And some of their players will have their own calls to make, regardless of what Toronto wants to do.

So then, who will definitely be back in Toronto? What are the percentage odds everyone will be back? And, of most concern in some cases, who will not be back?

Locked In

Kyle Lowry

He’s the greatest Raptor of all time, the leader of the team, and is due to make $33 million next season, the final year of his three-year, $93 million deal. At 33 years old, Lowry also just won Toronto a championship while playing some of the best basketball of his career (despite having a broken thumb). Say it with me now: as he goes, so go the Raptors.

Even if Kawhi Leonard leaves (more on that later), it seems incredibly unlikely — impossible, even — that the Raptors would look to get rid of Lowry. Never mind the fact that it would be difficult to even find someone willing to take a chance on one year of Lowry (at, again, $33 mil), he’s the heart and soul of Toronto— and that heart is still beating furiously.

Run It Back Chances: Even

Marc Gasol

As reported a couple of days ago, we already have the answer to this one. Marc Gasol entered the off-season as a 34-year-old centre on the decline due one more year of money at $25.6 million — he just had to activate his player option.

While there is little doubt Gasol can still contribute to the Raptors, or some other team, it made sense to lock up that money, even if it is for just one more year. Gasol could very well earn himself one final sunset contract for 2-3 years to round out his career. But no team was going to offer him $25 million for a single season. Staying in Toronto, with a chance to go for the gold again, always made the most sense for Gasol.

Run It Back Chances: Even

Fred VanVleet

Mr. Bet On Yourself, Fred VanVleet (Senior) is still in charge of his destiny. He’s got $9.3 million coming to him for 2019-20, the final year of his two-year deal, which puts him right on the Raptors’ all-in or bust timetable. More importantly though, VanVleet made himself indispensable in the playoffs. This is a wild thing to write after watching FVV struggle for 2.5 rounds, looking for all the world like the undersized point guard he currently is.

Still, the 25-year-old VanVleet came through in the clutch, playing with extreme confidence on the offensive end while shooting the lights out, and doing the job of shutting down (such as it’s possible) Steph Curry to win the title. There’s no way the Raptors can even think about flipping him now.

Run It Back Chances: Even

Pascal Siakam

The facts on Siakam: he’s just finished his third year in the NBA, won the Most Improved Player award, and is 25 years of age. Oh yeah, he’s only played organized basketball for about eight years and seems hellbent on finding out just how good he can be.

The Raptors have Siakam on his rookie contract, which pays out $2.3 million next season with a qualifying offer of $3.5 million after that. Needless to say, Toronto will talk about a contract extension for Siakam as soon as they’re able — and Pascal will be due for a considerable raise. To my mind, there’s little doubt the Raptors and Siakam will come to an agreement soon.

Run It Back Chances: Even

OG Anunoby

The forgotten man of Toronto right now is OG Anunoby, but lest we forget: he’s still a guy with an upside. Thanks to his rookie scale deal, Anunoby will earn $2.3 million next year with a team option (that the Raptors will definitely pick up) for 2020-21. Unless some insane blockbuster deal emerges before then, OG will be in training camp with Toronto for next season.

Run It Back Chances: Even

Free Agent Question

Danny Green

Teams are going to try and pay Danny Green. That’s the reality. Green just turned 32, and is coming off one of the steadiest regular seasons of his career. He put in 10.3 points on 45.5 percent shooting from three, while playing solid defense across the board in 80 games. Yes, Green’s production fell off a cliff for the most part as the playoffs wore on, but his presence was always appreciated by Toronto. In short, Green was a comfort.

But now Green’s $10 million per year contract is done, and he’s still a sharpshooting veteran presence with defensive chops. The Raptors would like to have him (unless they’re ready to start Norm and his $10 million a year salary), but so would a half dozen other teams looking to shore up their championship aspirations. That’s what getting Green would mean for a squad — and the Raptors. My (common) take: it will all depend on Kawhi Leonard. Green will likely make enough time to see what Kawhi’s up to and then either stay in Toronto with him, or get paid by someone else.

Run It Back Chances: 2-to-1

Patrick McCaw

McCaw occupies a strange place in Toronto, and across the NBA as a whole. He’s a third year player and a three-time champion. He’s just 23 years old, with the physical tools needed to excel in the league. He has also shown a knack, or at least willingness, to do as much of the dirty work on defense as he can. The problem? McCaw hasn’t shown the ability to do much else.

As reported earlier this week, the Raptors extended their qualifying offer to McCaw which indicates some interest on their part to bring him back for next season. Is McCaw worth more than that $1.9 million? He might feel like he is — but my feeling is there’s more work to be done.

Run It Back Chances: 3-to-1

Kawhi Leonard

Sure, let’s just bury this entry here. In short: Lakers. Clippers. Nets. Whoever. Whatever — Kawhi Leonard is coming back to Toronto. Sorry, not sorry!

Run It Back Chances: 3-to-2

Trade Bait

Serge Ibaka

What a ride it has been for Serge Ibaka and Toronto. Over the past two seasons, Ibaka has gone from being a dominant starting power forward, to a statue, to a quality starting centre, to a dutiful back-up centre (and sometime power forward again). His quality of play has been all over the map during that time period too. Fortunately for the Raptors, Ibaka was huge in the playoffs at times, especially down the stretch in the NBA Finals.

Now the question: do the Raptors want to pay Ibaka, soon to be 30, the $23 million they owe him for the final year of his three-year deal they offered back in 2017? On the one hand: Ibaka was a playoff hero, and did all the things he needed to do — had to do — to win with the Raptors. On the other hand: surely there are cheaper replacement options for a backup centre, right?

Run It Back Chances: 5-to-1

Norman Powell

OK, so say Ibaka is staying, then maybe it’s Norman Powell who finds himself out of Toronto due to the team’s potential cap crunch? Powell had his moments of heroism in the Raptors’ run to the title — Milwaukee is still reeling — but, much like Ibaka, Norm was also all over the place. The issue here again, and even more so in Norm’s case, is that there are likely cheaper replacement options for Toronto given what Powell provides the team.

Toronto has invested in Powell, that’s clear. They made the trade to get that 46th pick, to bring him onto their G League team, to help shape him into the super-sub he’s become. At 26, Powell is set for two (or three, with his player option) seasons at $10-11 million per year. But at a certain point, especially if Toronto starts to get more top heavy with salary, he might also be the guy to sacrifice. In that case, we’d just have to hope he doesn’t become an All-Star player somewhere else and look for ways to destroy the Raptors down the line. (Seems unlikely, but with Norm you never know.)

Run It Back Chances: 8-to-1

End of Bench Hopefuls

Jeremy Lin

Sorry to all you Lin lovers out there, there’s just no way the Raptors can bring him back for next season. I do not delight in reporting this, I can assure you. When the Raptors picked up Lin, 31, off the buyout market, it was seen as a big win by all (including me). Here was a guy who’d been something of a sensation, and who’d also proven himself to be a useful, smart guard, someone who can play with and without the ball.

Unfortunately Lin looked, well, really bad while with Toronto. He couldn’t shoot, couldn’t run the team’s offense, couldn’t really do much on defense. I have no doubt Lin fit in with Toronto as a good locker room presence and all that, but there are guys out there who can fill that role — and who can actually still play.

Run It Back Chances: 50-to-1

Jodie Meeks

The strongest of strong Darrick Martin’ energies can only get a person so far. Meeks did his thing for eight games in Toronto — plus some generally inexplicable playoff appearances — and that’s it.

Run It Back Chances: 40-to-1

Eric Moreland

The Raptors needed one more emergency big man, and Moreland fit the bill for the end of the 2018-19 season and playoff roster. Did he do anything to stand out while in Toronto? Aside from yelling at TSN’s Josh Lewenberg in the locker room about a perceived slight, no, no he did not. At 27 years old, Moreland will likely find a place for himself in the NBA, but that place will not be Toronto.

Run It Back Chances: 25-to-1

Development Projects

Chris Boucher

Boucher still has the weird energy about him, where he’s both supremely confident but also not entirely aware. That’s not the worst mindset to have, especially if the Raptors can gradually pump up his situational awareness and ability.

Right now, Boucher is a 26-year-old string bean who has shown a propensity for bombing 3s and blocking shots — and is the reigning G League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Not the worst thing to keep around.

Run It Back Chances: 5-to-1

Malcolm Miller

Me personally, I think Miller may be the nicest — or at least the drollest — guy on the Raptors. What’s more, Toronto has gone through a lot with him and for him. Miller was one of their first two-way contract men, then he hurt his shoulder, then he rehabbed with Toronto, and now he’s worked his was back into both the G League (and NBA, sort of) rotation.

Admittedly, we still don’t quite know if Miller can be a full-time 3-and-D wing, which is clearly his career’s ideal trajectory. With most of the contract leverage in Toronto’s favour, the Raptors will likely give it some more time to find out.

Run It Back Chances: 6-to-1

Jordan Loyd

Ditto everything I just said for Miller, but transpose it to Loyd’s position as the team’s third point guard. Can Loyd play at an NBA level? In his modest garbage time appearances, the read would be: no. Does that mean the Raptors are ready to jettison him? Also, no.

Run It Back Chances: 3-to-1

*******

So, if you’re doing the math at home, this means the Raptors are likely to be down at least three or four names from this past season. The end of bench hopefuls are likely all set to move on, and one or two of the team’s rotation players could be out the door.

That is both a bummer — we love our defending champion Raptors! — and also something exciting. It means Toronto is set to welcome some new faces, which is a useful thing to do when you’re trying to reload to, yes, defend the 2019 NBA title. Hoo boy, it is impossible to get tired of saying that.