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Boozer and Hansbrough

Toronto Raptors Have Few Options Left In Free Agency

After getting Spurs free agent guard Cory Joseph to agree to come to Toronto, Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri has few options left in free agency and not many open roster spots. There should be some wiggle room left, however, it’s safe to say that most of the money the Raptors had available has been committed.

The final word on the NBA salary cap won’t be out until Wednesday, but it is expected to be in the $67 to $69 million range and leaning towards the high side. With the Raptors anticipated commitments to DeMarre Carroll, Bismack Biyombo, Joseph and their first round draft pick Delon Wright, the team has roughly $67.8 million committed to 12 players plus $2.75 million to Luke Ridnour who can be/should be waived by July 10th or traded. (Basketball Insiders team salary page)

With some imaginative timing on renouncing cap holds for players and exceptions, Ujiri can probably keep these 13 players if he so chooses, although Ridnour is likely gone.

There are no restrictions on signing free agent players to minimum salary contracts and until the official 2015-16 salary cap numbers are out, the Raptors don’t really know just how much flexibility they’ll have beyond that. It helps that Biyombo’s salary fits into the Raptors room exception that becomes available after renouncing their MLE and BAE.

The good news for the Raptors is if there is a free agent still out there that Ujiri would like to acquire, he probably has a shot at signing him with whatever he’s got left to work with.

Raptors Depth Chart

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Delon Wright, (Luke Ridnour)
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross
SF: DeMarre Carroll, James Johnson
PF: Patrick Patterson, Bruno Caboclo
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo, Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors have players that can play multiple positions and that helps – a lot.

Joseph and Wright can play both guard spots.

DeRozan and Ross can play both wing positions.

Carroll, Johnson and Caboclo can play both forward positions.

Biyombo can play power forward or center.

So, Ujiri has options. He could make do with what he already has for next season.

Power forward is the only position without at least both a starter and a decent backup.

If Ujiri slots in Patterson as his main guy at power forward, then he could bring back Casey-favorite Tyler Hansbrough to provide hustle and defense off the bench and maintain some continuity from last year. While Patterson has struggled in his few attempts at starting, he defended well on the perimeter and in the post as well as being an effective floor stretcher and game finisher for Coach Casey. He should be ready to start this season.

If Ujiri wants a player with proven starting ability, a low budget veteran like Carlos Boozer could fill the gap, especially if his minutes were kept modest. Boozer takes a knock for his defense, however, he still rebounds an impressive 25 percent of the available defensive boards and Toronto would benefit from his experience.

Toronto could use another wing player, but there aren’t any minutes available. Instead of sliding in a minimum salary free agent veteran, Ujiri could give second round pick Norman Powell a shot at third string shooting guard – assuming he earns it at practice and Summer League. Even though he’d be undersized at the three, Powell has the length to play both wing positions and he has a defensive-orientation, besides, Nogueira and Caboclo could use the company on the Raptors905.

Of course, there are always the prospects playing hard in the NBA Summer Leagues that could catch someone’s fancy.

As is normally the case, a week into free agency and the pickings and the available salary cap space get a little thin. Ujiri has options, there are players available, however, this isn’t often the time a GM makes or breaks his roster. Most of the heavy lifting in free agency has been done. If the Raptors want another player they can count on to have a significant impact next season, they’ll be looking at trades.

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




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