It has been a very good summer in Toronto for Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri. He landed the free agents he targeted to change the culture and the mood is decidedly upbeat around the team. With only a little salary cap space left with which to work and no playing time to offer the handful of interesting free agents still on the market, the Raptors are pretty much done with free agency. Only a few important loose ends remain to look after.
Ujiri’s roster has taken shape. All but two of the roster spots are spoken for and his second round pick Norman Powell is dominating the Las Vegas NBA Summer League and forcing his team’s hand. If the Raptors want to protect their bird right’s down the line with this promising young prospect, they’ll have to use some of their available salary cap space to secure Powell to a three-year deal for more than the minimum salary exception provides.
Players that have shown less than the outstanding athleticism and skill Powell has been able to demonstrate at Summer League get signed to guaranteed NBA contracts. Baring something unforeseen, Powell will be with the big club in October.
Ujiri likes a little competition at camp and in what probably becomes the first of two or three minor moves, it looks like Raptors Summer League power forward Ronald Roberts will be offered a partially guaranteed contract. This is anticipated to be a training camp invite and, like in past seasons, Ujiri should be expected to sign a couple more promising prospects to battle it out for the last remaining roster spot.
Roberts has jump out of the gym hops and played very well in the NBA D-League and overseas last season after a solid four-year college career at St. Joseph’s. He has done enough at Summer League to get another look.
The Raptors 2015-16 roster is shaping up like this:
PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, rookie Delon Wright
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, (rookie Norman Powell)
SF: DeMarre Carroll, James Johnson, Bruno Caboclo
PF: Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, (Ronald Roberts or someone else?)
C: Jonas Valanciunas, (Bismack Biyombo), Lucas Nogueira
With only a little over $2.2 million in cap space left, the Raptors have to decide how they will use it before signing Biyombo with their Room Exception. That’s also just enough space to retain their rights to guard Nando De Colo who is expected to stay in Europe and is a player Ujiri is likely keeping an eye on for next season, if only as a trade asset. A little patience in allowing everything to run its course will be required.
It’s still possible the Raptors find a free agent they like that fits into their available salary cap space and who’ll sign without a promise of playing time, however, that becomes more unlikely with each passing day. Powell is just too intriguing to risk losing at this point and Ujiri’s history suggests available money doesn’t burn a hole in his pocket. He’ll do what he’s done in the past. This free agency period looks like a wrap.
A couple of years ago the Toronto Raptors were mired in the NBA Lottery. They were soft and easy pickings for the rest of the league. In many ways comparing DeMarre Carroll to Lou Williams is the entire thrust of GM Masai Ujiri’s summer moves. Ujiri wanted a tougher team, better rebounding and defense, a team that was more in tune with the strengths of his head coach.