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Rumour: Raptors expected to pursue Tristan Thompson in free agency

Could an old nemesis be a possible Serge Ibaka replacement for Toronto?

Toronto Raptors v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Did the free agency period sneak up on you too? Our feverish timeline takes its next big step forward at 6 p.m. today, as free agency opens across the league. The Raptors’ big question obviously surrounds Fred VanVleet, but are there other moves in their periphery?

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix thinks so, as he reports the Raptors have their eye on unrestricted free agent Tristan Thompson — who is finally finished a monster five-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, signed before their championship year in 2015-16.

The very-bad-Cavaliers were not in the bubble, so Thompson has been away from organized ball since the spring — which may be to his benefit. His 2019-20 play showed that rest matters, especially after four straight trips to the Finals wore down his productivity. In the 65 games before the hiatus, Thompson was averaging a career-high 12.0 points on 51.2% and 10.1 rebounds per game. His status with the Cavaliers was never a question though, as he made a trade demand before the deadline and Cleveland’s trade for Andre Drummond all but confirmed his heading out the door.

So, why would the Raptors have interest? There’s a strong chance that either Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol get signed by other teams in the next few days (more likely the former, in my opinion), which would leave a void for rebounding centres on the roster. It’s no question that the Raptors’ system works when they can get some clean up duty out of that five-spot, especially with Pascal Siakam as a do-it-all forward. And while Chris Boucher should show improvement and will be back on a qualifying offer, he’s so far struggled to match up to physical demands — as shown in the semi-final against Boston.

Of course, we are also obligated to point out that Thompson is Canadian, which would be a nice perk of him joining Toronto — even if they’re not playing in Toronto in the near future.

Does that all mean this is a home run report? Don’t be too hasty on that — there are obvious questions about how much money Thompson will command. He’s still only 29 years old, if you can believe it, and will probably look for something sizeable even if it doesn’t approach what he was making before. I have a hard time seeing the Raptors meeting that mark rather than just extending a similar offer to Ibaka.

We shall see, though. Perhaps in just over five hours.