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Looking For a Fit: Potential buyout and free agent centres for the Raptors

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ATTN: Toronto Raptors front office. Tank or no, you need a centre! Lucky for you, we’ve got some candidates.

Santa Cruz Warriors v Raptors 905 Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors have a massive sinkhole in the middle. Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are trying to keep it in check as it tries to swallow the whole team every game, but they need help.

Unfortunately, the trade deadline has passed, and a few days into the buyout season, most of the buyout options in the middle gone, with those remaining either unattractive or a poor fit.

Is there anyone left to answer the giant “C” signal in the sky?

Let’s look around the league and perhaps everywhere to help Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster find some potential candidates.

Hard Pass

Some centres may yet be bought out, including Kelly Olynyk, Frank Kaminsky, Hassan Whiteside, and Ed Davis, but their fit is debatable, and their salary demands likely high, so we won’t go into the maybes and ifs with them.

There’s also Marc Gasol, should the Lakers release him. Do the Raptors miss him? Absolutely. Does he move the needle? Probably not. Making a move for him only makes sense if it’s a purely sentimental move, allowing him to retire with grace, rather than left in the dumpster.

Potential Buyout Candidates

(These players’ situation makes them a buyout candidate, but there’s no guarantee that teams would buy them out.)

Khem Birch

  • Age: 28 years old (29)
  • Tape: Height — 6’7.5” / Wingspan — 7’1”
  • Draft Year: 2014 Undrafted

Given how they pushed the reset button at the trade deadline, it’s a bit surprising that Birch is still with the Orlando Magic. He turns 29 this year, but his defense, physicality, and mobility should be enough for a look this season to see if he fits the system. He is also someone that’s not going to command a lot of money in the market, so his range should be somewhere between the minimum and what he’s making right now.

Willy Hernangomez

  • Age: 26 (27)
  • Tape: Height — 6’10” / Wingspan — 7’1.5”
  • Draft Year: 2015 Round 2 35th pick

Willy Hernangomez hasn’t been playing much for the New Orleans Pelicans, with their stacked frontcourt. He’s turning 27 this year, and his combination of size, mobility, and IQ makes him a good fit on both ends of the court. Sometimes he shows flashes of Marc Gasol’s vision, but sometimes there’s a bit of bad Alex Len or Enes Kanter in his game. Perhaps he’s a version of Alex Len with a better IQ on both ends of the court.

905 Farm

Henry Ellenson

  • Age: 24
  • Tape: Height — 6’10” / Wingspan — 7’2.25”
  • Draft Year: 2016 18th pick
  • Last Seen: Raptors 905/10-day with the Raptors

Henry Ellenson had an excellent Raptors 905 tenure, averaging 21.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and shooting 42.7% behind the arc on eight attempts per game. He was rewarded with a 10-day contract, and he looked better than Aron Baynes when he was on the court. He’s also the best shooting big available. Ellenson’s familiarity with the Raptors’ system offers the team an accelerated ramp-up period. Giving him a contract for the rest of the season would be good PR for the 905 development program.

Donta Hall

  • Age: 23 (24)
  • Tape: Height (listed) — 6’10” / Wingspan — 7’5”
  • Draft Year: 2019 Undrafted
  • Last Seen: G League Ignite / Raptors 905 / Raptors 10-day contract

The pandemic ruined Donta Hall’s 10-day call-up after a strong showing with the G League Ignite and the Raptors 905. He did not get the chance to flash what made him look good in the Gubble - rim protection, mobility, length, and a PnR/lob threat. Perhaps the Raptors should bring Hall back for another look?

The Rest - Free Agents/G-League/Europe

Noah Vonleh

  • Age: 25 (26)
  • Tape: Height — 6’8” / Wingspan — 7’4.25”
  • Draft Year: 2014 9th pick
  • Last Seen: Waived by the Brooklyn Nets last February (2021)

Noah Vonleh is undersized to be a full-time centre, but his length, strength, and the fluidity of his game make him an attractive target. Anyone who can keep up with Giannis Antetokounmpo defensively should be worth a look. His offensive game is definitely lightyears better than Aron Baynes. He’s another candidate for the Stanley Johnson Reclamation Project.

Damian Jones

  • Age: 25 (26)
  • Tape: Height — 6’10.25” / Wingspan — 7’3.75”
  • Draft Year: 2016 30th pick
  • Last Seen: His 2nd 10-day contract from the Lakers expired recently (2021)

Damian Jones had a couple of 10-day contracts with the Los Angeles Lakers, and he looked impressive overall. His motor, rim protection, and athleticism — he’s a constant lob threat — should make him one of the top targets for teams that are looking for a big man.

Kyle Alexander

  • Age: 24 (25)
  • Tape: Height — 6’10” / Wingspan — 7’5.5”
  • Draft Year: 2019 Undrafted
  • Last Seen: Miami Heat renounced his two-way rights before the start of the season / Fuenlabrada of the Spanish Liga ACB

There is plenty to like about Kyle Alexander’s game. He’s a mobile big with a really long wingspan. He offers rim protection, he’s lob/PnR threat, and he’s got a nice touch in the midrange. Bonus points for being from Scarborough. He also worked out for the Raptors two years ago. Alexander is currently playing in Spain right now, but his team is bad and out of contention. Perhaps Masai or Bobby can help him get out of his contract?

Amida Brimah

  • Age: 27
  • Tape: Height — 6’9.5” / Wingspan — 7’6.5”
  • Draft Year: 2017 Undrafted
  • Last Seen: Gubble — Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Amida Brimah looks like he’s recovered well from his ACL injury over a year ago, and there doesn’t seem to be any lingering effect. Brimah’s strengths come from his length and interior presence. He gets up quickly to block shots, and if someone drives on him, it feels like it’s an automatic block if the shooter or a teammate does not put a body on him. At the very least, he looks like he can absorb contact way better than Chris Boucher.

Norvel Pelle

  • Age: 28
  • Tape: Height — 6’9.5” / Wingspan — 7’2.5”
  • Draft Year: 2014 Undrafted
  • Last Seen: 10-day contract with Sacramento Kings (2021)

The last time I saw Norvel Pelle, he looked bigger than Dwight Howard while playing for the Brooklyn Nets. That he’s able to rebound in traffic against Howard, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris makes my mouth water. He’s mobile, athletic, and long, but his game is limited. Still, if blocking shots and corralling rebounds are the only two things he can do on the floor, that two more than what Aron Baynes can do right now.

Skal Labissiere

  • Age: 25
  • Tape: Height — 6’10.5” / Wingspan — 7’2.5”
  • Draft Year: 2016
  • Last Seen: Gubble — Westchester Knicks

Skal Labissiere probably has the most complete package offensively on this list, and perhaps a higher ceiling as a prospect. He’s got a wing-like fluidity to his game compared to traditional bigs who are stiff. Labissiere’s perimeter shooting can be developed. He’s got a decent face-up game, thanks to his handles. He’s got some tools around the basket and around the midrange area as well.

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Stats are from stats.nba.com and euroleague.net. The listed height is based on their combine measurements w/o shoes.