Ever since the Toronto Raptors let James Johnson walk away in free agency a year ago, they’ve needed a cheap reliable veteran forward that can play both positions and doesn’t mind (too much) that he could lose his job to some young guy who isn’t better than him yet.
The Raptors have two All-Star guards with solid young backups, two really good forwards and way too many centers, but as the center market for trades is looking kind of iffy, they may have to sort through the bargain bin of remaining free agents to fill that obvious forward hole in the rotation until one or both of Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are ready to take it.
If president Masai Ujiri is swinging for the fences, he could take a run at Grizzlies restricted free agent power forward/center JaMychal Green with a sign-and-trade offer in the four-years $50-60 million range. Memphis loves him, but doesn’t want to pay him and so maybe there’s a chance, a slim chance they’d take the younger Jonas Valanciunas in return.
The 27-year-old Green is the big mobile type defender that fits the current NBA as is his developing three-point shot (33.3% 3FG on 45 attempts in 2015-16, 37.9% 3FG on 145 attempts last season.) He’d look really good in a Raptors uniform.
But it’s probably going to be tough to trade Valanciunas and get reasonable value back, so maybe one of the handful of overlooked free agent forwards could fit the bill.
The Pelicans 30-year-old forward Dante Cunningham gave up $3.1 million to become a free agent this summer and it’s starting to get late in the game. Considered a versatile defender with limited offense who developed a three-point shot over the last two seasons (39.2% 3FG on 181 attempts last year), he’s already been passed by the secondary tier of free agents who signed on the cheap.
Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will be 31 in September and he declined a $2.3 million player option with the Clippers in June. It’s previously been suggested by Rogers Michael Grange that the Raptors have shown some interest. Just like Cunningham, Mbah a Moute is considered a versatile defender with limited offense who has also been working on his three-point shot (39.1% 3FG on 110 attempts last year.)
As long as the price and the term are right, either Cunningham or Mbah a Moute could be a good fit on the Raptors.
Then there’s the 35-year-old Boris Diaw who was just waived by the Jazz because his numbers have fallen off a cliff and they could save $7 million by cutting him. There are still several players available that could provide a veteran presence if that’s all Ujiri wants? But the pickings are getting thin.
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.