With training camps about to open, what did the Toronto Raptors do this summer to build on a franchise record setting 48-win season?
History hasn’t been kind to Toronto after a big season in the past. After Vince Carter helped the Raptors to a club record 47 wins in 2000-01, Toronto signed Hakeem Olajuwon to take them to the next level. However, the 39-year-old Olajuwon faded and injuries hit Carter and others to knock the Raptors back to 42 wins. The Raptors run ended as quickly as it began. In 2006-07 Chris Bosh lead the Raptors to 47 wins again, but injuries to Bosh and T.J. Ford held Toronto to just 41 wins the next season and Toronto stumbled through five consecutive years in the draft lottery.
Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri insisted he wasn’t going to do anything crazy this summer. He liked his team and he liked the chemistry they had. Ujiri acknowledged the higher expectations heading into the next season, but his initial focus would be the draft and then re-signing his own free agents.
Bruno Caboclo, 20th DeAndre Daniels, 37th
. 59th pick sold to the Nets
Lou Williams John Salmons to Atlanta
Own Free Agents
Kyle Lowry Nando DeColo to CSKA Moscow
. Steve Novak to the Jazz
. Julyan Stone
. Dwight Buycks
James Johnson (2-year deal)
Will Cherry (camp invite)
Jordan Hamilton (camp invite)
Greg Stiemsma (1-year deal)
Players Under Contract Prior
Amir Johnson – expiring
Landry Fields – expiring
Chuck Hayes – expiring
Tyler Hansbrough – expiring
The Raptors have a total of 17 players coming into camp with 15 guaranteed contracts.
Ujiri shocked the basketball world by taking an unknown forward from Brazil Bruno Caboclo with the 20th pick of the draft. Next he selected DeAndre Daniels at 37 and he sold the 59th pick to the Nets for cash.
Caboclo is 6’9 athletic freak with impossibly long arms and a surprisingly smooth jump shot for a kid that wouldn’t 19-years-old until September. An admitted project, the Raptors drafted future potential rather than someone they thought would end up as a role player at best. This kid is fun to watch, but is not expected to play much.
Almost from the moment Daniels was drafted, Ujiri had him slated for an overseas posting and the forward will be playing in Perth Australia this season.
There was no one else Ujiri wanted to invest in with the 59th pick, so he sold it. Ujiri had stated earlier he thought this draft was overrated.
Ujiri traded the 34-year-old Salmons for the 27-year-old Williams and the rights to center prospect ‘Bebe’ Nogueira. The move was a salary dump for the Hawks who immediately waived Salmons. The Raptors got a veteran sixth man in Williams to bring some scoring off the bench and another Brazilian big man to develop alongside Caboclo.
Novak was traded to the Jazz for a player to be immediately waived in a Raptors salary dump. Neither Salmons nor Novak had an apparent role on the Raptors going forward.
As promised, Ujiri focused on his own free agents and before the July Moratorium had ended, Lowry, Patterson and Vasquez had all decided Toronto was where they wanted to be. They all came back for less money than they were offered elsewhere.
For many people, the success or failure of the Raptors summer hung on return of Lowry and there were more than a few that believed the point guard would be gone. When Lowry re-signed, the rest of the summer just seemed to fall into place.
The Raptors re-acquired forward James Johnson as a free agent. They had had traded him away in 2012 for a second round draft pick. Johnson is one of those frustrating players with athleticism, size and talent that comes with some baggage and a seeming inability to live up to his natural gifts. At 27-years-old Johnson should be more mature than when he left and more willing to accept the role Head Coach Dwane Casey has always believed he could fill.
The Raptors lost free agent DeColo to a generous offer from CSKA Moscow and it would have been nice to have kept the versatile third string guard, but the addition of Williams more than offsets the loss.
Stone and Buycks were last season’s training camp invites and although they stuck, they couldn’t crack the rotation, so it was time to try someone new. Cherry and Hamilton are in a similar position, but with 15 guaranteed contracts already on the roster, the odds of them sticking around aren’t good.
Greg Stiemsma signed the final deal offered by Ujiri this summer and the beefy three-year NBA center got guaranteed money. Look for Stiemsma to reprise the role of Aaron Gray as he provides some defense and shot blocking in specialty situations.
Nothing Crazy At All
The Raptors have 10 players returning from last season including the entire starting lineup, their two top reserves in Vasquez and Patterson, backup big men Hayes and Hansbrough and the ever ready (when he’s not injured) utility player Landry Fields.
After this summer, putting together a rotation with a minimum of disruption shouldn’t be much of an issue for Coach Casey.