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Raptors waive Bembry, Watson, Hood to clear cap space

As we continue to wait on a finalized Lowry deal, the Raptors made smaller cap moves on Tuesday.

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors might not be as flashy as some teams on the free agent market over the last 48 hours, but there are still moves happening on the margins. The team announced Tuesday they are waiving DeAndre’ Bembry, Rodney Hood, and Paul Watson. All three were on non-guaranteed deals heading into 2021-22.

While the other two wait in limbo — Hood is headed for a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Toronto had pushed back his guaranteed contract date last week to see if they could wheel and deal his $10.85-million team option into a trade. Obviously, that wasn’t meant to be.

The real bummers for many here, though, are DeAndre’ Bembry and Paul Watson. Bembry was a bright spot in a miserable season for Toronto, and with his motor and ability to create his own driving lanes, he looked to be a solid No. 8 guy in an NBA rotation. While it’s unfortunate that he missed out on the major money of free agency, the minimum contracts will start to rain down this weekend; no doubt, Bembry will be one of those who’s nabbed by a team looking for wing depth.

Watson, meanwhile, was another great story of building an NBA career from within. A G League sniper with the 905, he looked like he was finally going to get an extended opportunity through the morass of Raptors injuries this season. Instead, he was one of those who had to go through COVID-19, and unfortunately also missed the windows of opportunity he had to earn an end-of-rotation contract with Toronto. While his future in the league is on less solid footing than Bembry’s, it would be fantastic to see him get one good, healthy season on a minimum deal. He has the potential to find his spot.

From a business perspective, letting these three players go is all about cap flexibility for Toronto. The Raptors are simply waiting until the last minute on their non-guaranteed decisions in case they need to throw their contract money into a trade.

So far, nothing has materialized on that front, and Toronto has four more guys waiting in the wings in Aron Baynes (guarantees today), Chris Boucher (Sunday), Yuta Watanabe (Monday), and Freddie Gillespie (partial camp deal). One would expect that Boucher, Gillespie, and Watanabe get picked up and guaranteed — the latter two have already been announced as part of Toronto’s Summer League roster. One would also expect that Baynes is out the door and headed for international ball, or an NBA non-contender.

Bembry and Watson, meanwhile, could be available to be signed by the Raptors as free agents if the market dictates. We’ll see if that’s the direction Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster want to go in, or if they really want to pump more rotation minutes to Scottie Barnes, Dalano Banton, David Johnson, and Precious Achiuwa. If I was a betting man, I would lean towards the latter being the likely scenario at this point.