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Looking ahead to 2020-21: Which Raptors free agents will be returning?

If the NBA season is over, then we may have seen several players play their last game in a Raptors uniform. Who are we waving goodbye to, and who's coming back?

NBA Free Agency 2020: Which Toronto Raptors free agents will be returning? Serge Ibaka Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

On Monday, I wrote about what makes losing this season (potentially! There’s still hope!) so upsetting for Raptors fans, and how much it stinks to have our title defense taken away from us.

One of the reasons that a premature end to the season sucks is that we have a bunch of free agents on the team, and we could lose some (or all!?) of these players in the summer... er, “the offseason”, whenever that is.

Players leave in free agency all the time of course — one need only look to last summer, when the Raptors lost two key members of their title team to free agency. But right now, because of the situation we find ourselves in, it feels different; these players wouldn’t just be leaving, they’d be leaving without having the opportunity to finish what was a fun and memorable season. In effect, we wouldn’t get a chance to say goodbye!

So let’s take a quick look at each of these potential offseason departures and determine their likelihood of coming back. I’ll let someone smarter than me take a deep dive into the actual cap ramifications and possible contracts (and/or likelihood of trades) for these players; for now I’ll look at this mainly from a fit-on-the-floor side, and an emotional side, rather than the salary side.

Who’s coming back, and who — should the season be canceled — have we seen play their last game in a Raptors uniform?

Terence Davis, Dewan Hernandez, Matt Thomas

According to Hoopshype, both Terence Davis and Dewan Hernandez are under contract for the 2020-21 season, but the Raptors can waive them before July 1 (a date that will surely change) without penalty; Matt Thomas is in the same boat, only with a $725,000 guarantee. I can’t see any reason the Raptors would waive any of these players before the cut-off date and full expect all three to return next season.

Stanley Johnson

Status: $3.8 million player option for 2020-21

How badly do the Raptors want him? 1/10

The “1” there might be generous. Johnson came the Raptors with the reputation of being a good defender who needed to refine his offensive game. But that rep seems to have been overstated; he couldn’t keep up with Nick Nurse’s schemes and has been in the doghouse from day one. I think the team would much rather have that $3.8 million back in their pockets.

How badly does the fanbase want him? 0/10

Poor Stanley didn’t hit any positive notes all season, and I don’t think he did one single thing to endear himself to the fanbase. He did show up to Serge Ibaka’s movie premiere in sweats, which was entertaining at least.

How badly does he want to come back? 5/10

Johnson wants to keep making the money the Raptors owe him, no doubt, and I’m sure he appreciates being part of a winning culture. But I’m sure he’d love to go somewhere with more minutes available, where he’d be able to contribute more.

Will Stanley Johnson be on the 2020-2021 Raptors? 10/10

Take it to the bank: Stanley Johnson is opting in and coming back next year. And he should! I don’t begrudge any NBA player getting their money. Unfortunately Johnson just isn’t a good fit here.

Chris Boucher

Status: Restricted free agent

How badly do the Raptors want him? 6/10

I think the Raptors would like to have Boucher back; while his fit isn’t entirely ideal, his energy and rim protection are definitely beneficial, and the team has invested two years of development in him — an investment that has been rewarded with steady growth.

How badly does the fanbase want him? 7/10

Boucher is a fan-favourite, thanks to the aforementioned energy and rim-protection, not to mention the occasional high-flying dunk — and of course, his having grown up right here in Canada. (Although we could probably do with a touch less aggression from three-point range, yeah?) I actually like his fit as a third centre/change-of-pace guy, and it’s always nice to have a Canadian on the team.

How badly does he want to come back? 7/10

I suspect Chris enjoys playing in Canada, and I think he has a lot of trust in, and respect for, the organization. And like any big man, I’m sure he loves playing with Kyle Lowry. But, the Raptors will likely only want Chris on a short-term, team-friendly contract as they look to maintain 2021 flexibility. If Chris can find a suitor with deeper pockets and more playing time, I wouldn’t blame him for leaving.

Will Chris Boucher be on the 2020-2021 Raptors? 5/10

As a restricted free agent, the Raptors have the right to match any offers made to Boucher. There will likely be some teams looking him, not at a high number, but, probably higher than what the Raptors want to pay. The RFA market is usually kinda cold, though, with teams not wanting to tie up space waiting for the incumbent team to make up their mind. So: there’s a possibility that, if a multi-year offer sheet doesn’t materialize, Boucher takes the one-year qualifying offer, comes back to Toronto, and enters a much more open market in 2021.

Malcolm Miller

Status: Restricted free agent

How badly do the Raptors want him back? 1/10

Like Boucher, the Raptors have invested significant time into Malcom Miller’s development. Unfortunately, he hasn’t rewarded them with any sort of meaningful contribution. It might be time for the team to cut him loose.

How badly does the fanbase want him back? 1/10

I think the fanbase has been rooting for Malcolm to succeed — he seems like a good guy, and he has all the tools. But, if he hasn’t put it together by now, it seems unlikely that he ever will.

How badly does he want to come back? 4/10

I get the vibe that Miller loves being part of the organization, but at this point I think he just wants to play, and that opportunity doesn’t seem likely with the Raptors. I’m not certain another NBA contract is in the cards, but I suspect Malcolm would thrive overseas.

Will Malcolm Miller be on the 2020-2021 Raptors? 0/10

Miller’s been here a long time and it’s sad to see him go, but, I think his time with the Raptors is up.

Serge Ibaka

Status: Unrestricted free agent, full bird rights

How badly do the Raptors want him back? 8/10

Thanks to his contributions in last year’s playoff run and his impressive play this year, it’s pretty clear that Serge Ibaka still has a lot to offer on the court. His chemistry with Kyle Lowry is off the charts, and his chemistry with Fred VanVleet is coming along as well. He’s adapted extremely well to playing centre full-time, and he’s taken to his bench role like a good soldier. He’s got a lot of miles on his body and is likely exiting his prime, but nevertheless, I suspect the organization would love to have him back at the right number.

How badly does the fanbase want him back? 8/10

Ibaka wasn’t exactly beloved two years ago; he came over from the Magic and the Raptors got swept by LeBron, then he signed a huge contract... and the Raptors got swept by LeBron again. But his solid play since, including in the title run (what’s up Ben Simmons), plus Serge’s off-court personality — exhibited in his incredibly fun and engaging videos — have made him beloved amongst Raptors fans. If there’s a way to re-sign Serge without screwing up the 2021 books, we all want him back.

How badly does he want to come back? 7/10

By all accounts, Serge loves it here; he clearly enjoys the team and his teammates, and has a good relationship with Nick Nurse and Masai Ujiri. I don’t think he wants to go anywhere — but, with his play this season, he's likely earned a fatter deal than what the Raptors want to pay. If the market allows for it, teams will come knocking, and he’ll be very tempted to leave. If he can get a good, long-term payday — which may be his last — he should take it.

Will Serge Ibaka be on the 2020-2021 Raptors? 4/10

I think Serge has priced himself out of the Raptors 2020 salary range. I’m happy for him, but bummed for the Raptors. The only thing that might keep Serge here is the fact that the market will be in flux thanks to the pandemic, and not many other teams have cap space this summer as most teams — like the Raptors — focus on 2021. If the market isn’t there, then, there’s a chance we see Serge back in a Raptors uniform, even if it’s just for a year, to re-enter the market in 2021.

Fred VanVleet

Status: Unrestricted free agent, full bird rights

How badly do the Raptors want him back? 10/10

I think the Raptors want VanVleet back more than any other player on this list, and I think they’ll be willing to pay for him. Again, I’m no cap genius, but I suspect that Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster can find a way to retain Fred at his market value while still maintaining a max salary slot for 2021; with Ibaka and Marc Gasol coming off the books this year, and Kyle Lowry coming off in 2021, there should be available room for Pascal Siakam, Fred and player-to-be-named-later (cough-Giannis-cough).

How badly does the fanbase want him back? 9/10

Fred has a scrappy style of play and has that underdog story that everyone loves. The team probably doesn’t win the title without him, and he came back from that championship run an even better player. Sure, we all wish he were a little taller and maybe that he wasn’t banged up all the time, but he’s proven to be a great complement to Kyle Lowry despite it being a tiny backcourt, and he seems like a perfect successor for whenever Lowry leaves.

How badly does he want to come back? 8/10

I can’t see any reason Fred would want to leave, other than money. There was some worry when Lowry signed his extension last fall that Fred wouldn’t want to hang around as Kyle’s backup, but Nick Nurse ended that worry by just starting them together, and that worked out pretty darn well. Still, if there’s a sense that there’s a max-money market for his services, and the Raptors can’t make that work with their 2021 plans, then I can see Fred shopping around — especially since, with the cap declining, his maximum possible salary is now less than what it would have been. He may want to maximize what he can get.

Will Fred VanVleet be on the 2020-2021 Raptors? 8/10

Unless someone like the Knicks ponies up a maximum contract — which is a possibility! — I trust the organization to get this one done.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Status: Unrestricted free agent, non-bird rights

How badly do the Raptors want him back? 6/10

Rondae is the ideal 8th man, a guy who plays hard every minute, doesn’t mind doing the dirty work and doesn’t need the ball to make an impact on the game. Thing is, guys like that aren’t that hard to find, and I suspect the Raptors can replace him fairly easily.

How badly does the fanbase want him back? 7/10

Raptors fans love a blue-collar hard worker, and RHJ fits that bill — he’s from the same mold as a Jerome Williams, PJ Tucker or Chuck Hayes. He’s also a great quote, who seems to give honest, thoughtful answers to every question asked of him.

How badly does he want to come back? 6/10

Rondae is a smart guy and I’m sure he realizes the value in being part of a winning organization. But, he’s also in the prime of his career and undoubtedly will be looking for some longer-term security — and I’m not sure he’ll find anything more than a one-year deal with the Raptors.

Will Rondae Hollis-Jefferson be on the 2020-2021 Raptors? 3/10

Hollis-Jefferson might not have any big contact offers coming, but I suspect there’ll be teams willing to offer at least a two-year deal that the Raptors won’t want to do.

Marc Gasol

Status: Unrestricted free agent, full bird rights

How badly do the Raptors want him back? 7/10

Marc Gasol fits perfectly as the anchor of Nick Nurse’s defense, and his ability to keep the ball moving and see the angles on offense makes him a great fit on that end too. I’m sure the Raptors would love to see a little more scoring punch from Gasol, but, as long as the rotations are right, they have enough scorers to make up for it. All that said, Gasol is on the downside of his career, and big men often have difficulty staying healthy as their careers wind down — and that may well be the case with Marc, as this season has shown. Still: If Gasol is willing to play on a one-year contract, which he may, given the market, then I’m sure the team would love to have him.

How badly does the fanbase want him back? 6/10

Raptors fans know and value what Marc brings to the team, and he certainly endeared himself to us during the championship parade! But there isn’t the same kind of love with Marc as with Serge or Fred; he hasn’t been here very long, and he’s missed so many games this season, that it almost feels like he wouldn’t even be missed if he were gone.

How badly does he want to come back? 6/10

I don’t really have a great vibe on how Marc Gasol feels about being part of the Raptors organization; he seems to fit in really well, but then I get the feeling that he’s the type of guy that fits in anywhere. I think the market will largely dictate how Gasol feels about coming back; if there’s a winning organization out there willing to give him a two- or three-year deal, I have to assume he’d rather take that than a one-year deal with Toronto.

Will Marc Gasol be on the 2020-2021 Raptors? 8/10

Given the market instability and the lack of teams with cap space, I think there’s a very high chance that Gasol and the Raptors come to terms on a one-year deal. That might even be at an above-market salary, because I don’t think the Raptors really care about overpaying anyone for this one season, as long as they keep that room available for 2021. And for Gasol, the market will likely be better for him at that point, as more teams will have space and the salary cap will hopefully have stabilized.


There you have it: I think both Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol will be back; I’d put Serge Ibaka and Chris Boucher firmly in the “maybe” category; and I think we’ve said farewell to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Malcolm Miller.

What do you think the 2020-21 Toronto Raptors will look like?