Fans of the Toronto Raptors breathed a sigh of relief this week when Kyle Lowry decided to stay north of the border and sign a four-year, $48 million deal.
Patrick Patterson followed suit re-upping with Toronto for three-years and $18 million.
It looks like another mid-season acquisition from last year, Greivis Vasquez, may be also coming back next season.
Throw in the trade for Lou Williams, and it appears Masai Ujiri is having a solid start to the NBA offseason.
On the other hand, there were two key areas that Masai indicated needed to be addressed at the end of last season: size at the wing position and a rim protector.
Although the moves mentioned above were necessary to ensure roster continuity from a 48 win season, Ujiri now needs to either find some bargain deals in free agency, or pull of a trade to fill out these two remaining areas.
So what’s more important? What are his options?
I believe that size on the wing position is the next area that needs to be addressed. The Raptors don’t have the cap space to flat out sign the likes of Luol Deng, Gordon Hayward, or Chandler Parsons; and I believe that Ujiri is comfortable with going into next season having Terrence Ross as his starting small forward. Ross showed flashes last season that he could be a legit starter in the NBA, which will allow Masai to focus on acquiring a second tier talent to come off the bench next season.
So who is left on the market that fits this mold? Here are three wings that I would like to see the Raptors make a run at.
At 6’8” and 200 pounds, it would have been nice to have Ariza matched up against Joe Johnson in the playoffs. In Washington’s six game series with the Pacers, Ariza held Paul George to 19.6 points per game. Although George did put up a 39 point performance in game four, Ariza held George to 15 points or fewer three time in that series.
Ariza also was a contributor on the offensive end for the Wizards, averaging 14.4 points per game, and shooting 41% from three point land.
However, based on these numbers and with the type of money being thrown around this offseason (Jodie Meeks getting signing a 3 year, 19 million dollar deal), Ariza is probably out of Masai’s price range and will likely cash in on a strong contract year with either Washington or a championship contender.
It’s hard to imagine that Marvin Williams was drafted ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the 2005 NBA draft. Although Williams has been a solid NBA player, he has never quite lived up to being selected #2 overall, averaging 10.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
At the age of 27, and having two mediocre season in Utah, Williams may be just what the doctor ordered for the Raptors of the bench.
At 6’9”, Williams fits the mold of a big wing, who could guard both the small forward and power forward positions for the Raptors. Coming off a season where Williams averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds per game, the Raptors can offer Williams a chance to play (first wing off the bench) and a chance to play in the East where it’s easier to make the playoffs.
The only issue with Williams is that with Patterson now re-signed, there may be a little bit of redundancy up front. His numbers were slightly below Patterson’s, so the Raptors may be able to get him at a similar price, possibly around 5.5 million a year.
When you look at the Raptors cap situation, Masai would need to work some serious cap magic to sign either Ariza or Williams next season.
That’s were Al-Farouq Aminu may be a good option.
After being drafted 8th overall in 2009, Aminu has been somewhat inconsistent early in his career. However, at only 24 years of age, and his ability to guard multiple positions, Aminu could be had on the cheap and in a winning environment, he may develop into a solid option off the bench for Toronto.
After making 3.7 million last season, my guess is Aminu won’t demand any more than 3-4 million next season, which would make him an affordable option for Ujiri.