By Devin Zanskas
Losing Kawhi Leonard in the summer of 2019 was a calculated risk that clearly paid off for the Raptors, but they also lost four key rotation players from the year that they won a ring for nothing. Along with Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green arrived in the 2018 offseason, and left the following summer in unrestricted free agency. The two main centers from the Raptors championship season, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, departed from the team in free agency after the Orlando Bubble. Besides Serge averaging 11.1 points during half of the 2021 season with the Clippers, he and Marc weren’t particularly impactful beyond their Raptors tenure, and neither are on a roster right now. A case could be made that those two big men wouldn’t have brought back much of a return in a trade. However, Fred VanVleet signed a 3-year maximum contract with the Rockets, so the Raptors could’ve got a large trade package back for him if they knew they weren’t willing to make such an offer.
On January 17th, The Athletic reported that the Magic and Suns were interested in VanVleet, and although the Suns acquired Beal, the Magic have lots of young talent that could’ve helped the Raptors. Via sign-and-trade, the Raptors received Precious Achiuwa and Goran Dragic in return for Kyle Lowry, but Dragic only played in five games for the Raptors. Before the Lowry sign-and-trade, there were rumors that the Raptors could’ve gotten Talen Horton-Tucker back in an exchange. Even if Horton-Tucker hasn’t blown fans away since his Laker days, he still would’ve filled a position of greater need than Achiuwa. These moves suggest that the Raptors are considering rebuilding, but they did trade a 2024 first round pick, that’s only protected for the first six selections, for Jakob Poeltl at the trade deadline. The addition of Poeltl helped the Raptors climb from 17th in defensive rating before the All-Star break, to being ranked fifth in the same statistic afterwards, according to nba.com. While Poeltl allowed Siakam, the Raptors best player last year, to move back to his most natural position, Poeltl reduces the spacing around Barnes.
Ideally, Barnes should be surrounded by shooters, so he can take advantage of his exceptional passing vision and his ability to break down a defender off the dribble. Per ESPN, the Raptors were one of just seven teams that didn’t average 11 or more three pointers made last season. Meanwhile, they let VanVleet, their most capable off the dribble three-point shooter, and one of the players that demanded the most attention on the perimeter, walk in free agency. Within 15 minutes of ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that VanVleet had signed with the Rockets, Wojnarowski tweeted the news that the Raptors had replaced VanVleet with Dennis Schröder. In eight seasons, VanVleet has averaged over 37% from beyond the arc, and Schröder only ever reached that percentage once over 11 years. That’s another example of the Raptors not prioritizing spacing around Barnes, but Pascal, OG, and Gary Trent Jr. could all be free agents this offseason.
Per Larry Coon, contracts that were previously extended may be extended again three years to the date after their extension was signed before, if the deal was extended to a five- or six-year contract. Contracts that aren’t expiring though may not be extended between the first day of the regular season and June 30th. Siakam signed his extension on October 21, 2019, and the opening night of the 2022 season was on October 18th. Therefore, Siakam became extension eligible this past summer, but the two-time All-Star is still going to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason as of now. Since Siakam is in his eighth season, his maximum contract would be 30% of the salary cap. Per Mike Vorkunov, cap smoothing has been added to the new CBA, by only letting the cap climb by up to 10% from the prior year, to help teams avoid giving out contracts like they did in 2016. Therefore, if the salary cap increases as much as possible, from $136 million to $149.6 million, then Siakam’s maximum deal would start at $44.9 million. Eric Koreen also pointed out that if he makes All-NBA again, Siakam would qualify for a supermax, which would make him eligible for a contract that’d be 35% of the cap in the first year, or $52.4 million. Meanwhile, the Raptors can’t offer Anunoby an extension at the same starting salary as Siakam’s maximum number.
Because Anunoby signed a more team-friendly contract compared to Siakam, Anunoby’s eligible for an extension that’s far less than 30% of the salary cap, which he could get in free agency. According to Woj, in the new CBA, maximum increases on extensions are growing from 120% to 140% of the previous season’s salary. That makes Anunoby’s potential extension $135.8 million over five years instead of $118.9 million over five years. On RealGM Radio, Danny Leroux asked PHLY’s Derek Bodner who the 76ers’ second or third best player would most likely be next season, besides Tyrese Maxey, and he said it would be OG Anunoby. Of note is that Bodner suggested that it’s even more likely that someone the fans aren’t considering right now will emerge as the 76ers’ second or third option next year due to the league’s parity. The fit between Anunoby and the 76ers probably wouldn’t be a major concern because he’s the ideal 3-and-D compliment to a contending team that hasn’t been an All-Star. However, Anunoby may be less intrigued by having even fewer opportunities to showcase his offensive skillset next to Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Similar to Anunoby’s desire to be featured more in the Raptors’ offense, Nick Nurse also telegraphed his departure from Toronto last April by stating that he’d “take a few weeks to see where I’m at”. If Anunoby’s displeasure would’ve been linked to Nurse at all, then that’s another reason to not be thrilled about joining the 76ers. Either way, at 26 years old, he’s definitely not far from Scottie’s timeline, so the Raptors can’t afford to lose him in the summer without receiving a substantial return.