Here are three possible storylines for the 2022 Toronto Raptors offseason. It’s an exciting time in Toronto sports; the Maple Leafs are lighting it up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blue Jays continue to hit an inordinate amount of dingers, and the Toronto Raptors have the opportunity to build upon their surprisingly successful season.
However, for all the Raptors progress this season, there are some glaring holes in the roster, they have limited cap flexibility, and don’t have a first-round pick for the 2022 NBA draft. Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster will have their work cut out for them.
2022 Toronto Raptors Offseason Moves
Go Big Game Hunting
In July 2018, the Raptors shocked the world when they traded DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a first-round pick for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The Raptors had been knocking on the door of championship contention up to that point and were just one piece away. Leonard was that one piece; they needed a player who could get their shot off in the direst situations and compete with the Giannis Antetokoumpo, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James of the world on the defensive end.
That’s asking for a lot, and these Raptors aren’t as good as those Raptors were. That championship team already had two centers, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas (the latter of which they traded to upgrade defensively for Marc Gasol), a proper ball-moving floor general in Kyle Lowry, and between Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Green, Gasol, Ibaka, and Norman Powell, they could cobble together enough shooting to stretch the floor consistently.
The 2021-22 Raptors don’t have a true point guard (FVV is better off-ball, Scottie Barnes is still green) and ranked dead last in assist%. They don’t have a true defensive center, ranking last in defensive rebounding and 25th in blocked shots. The Raptors were also between inconsistent and abysmal shooting the ball; 27th EFG%, 27th TS%, 25th FG%, and 20th 3P%.
That’s a lot of holes to fill for the 2022 Toronto Raptors this offseason. So even if you can package together some combination of VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent, Jr., or Khem Birch with some draft picks for a true superstar, you’ll never get enough pieces back to properly balance your roster, especially considering they’re already well over the cap without any realistic options to create much space.
Even if you dream big and assume Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Donovan Mitchell, De’Aaron Fox, or Rudy Gobert are available, none of them are good enough to put the Raptors over the top with everything Toronto would have to include to match salaries.
Unlike past seasons, hunting for that one last piece isn’t a realistic option for these Raptors yet. This offseason, the Raptors will need to find other options to build upon their roster.
Stay Put and Add Cheap Free Agents
Even though the Raptors are over the cap, they still have their Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, around $10 million, and two Trade Exceptions, each around $5 million. That’s not enough to make a splash, but it is enough to shore up some weaknesses.
Jusuf Nurkic, Victor Oladipo, Gary Harris, and T.J. Warren are probably out of the Raptor’s price range. However, the tier below, Ricky Rubio, Andre Drummond, Bryn Forbes, and Malik Monk types; the Raptors could realistically sign a couple of players on this level.
They don’t need to overhaul their roster, they just need guys to eat up rebounds, run half-court sets, and stabilize shooting for 10 to 20 minutes a game. You can find those players on the margins without breaking the bank. It’s not sexy, and the Raptors typically like to use guys they’ve developed in those roles, but if they had guys like that this season, the Philadelphia 76ers series could’ve been a different story.
This is the most intriguing and controversial of the 2022 Toronto Raptors offseason choices. The Raptors have the player of their future in Scottie Barnes, his athleticism, dynamic playmaking, and dogged defense was a delight to watch this past season. He’s only 20 years old, the Raptors have time to construct a versatile roster around him. So, who’s going to be his running partner?
Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet are 28, and OG Anunoby shares some redundancies with Siakam and Barnes. You could get a draft pick that puts you in the lottery this season with any one of those players, plus whatever pieces help match the salaries. I wouldn’t want to trade away Siakam; his aggressive and adaptable offense would be impossible to replace, and he’s the most consistent Raptor.
That leaves Anunoby or VanFleet. Anyone who followed the Raptors knows they love these long, 6’9″, switch everything guys. Anunoby is an integral part of those lineups and their most consistent three-point shooter and defender. I’m often underwhelmed with his lack of playmaking, and he’s not great at putting the ball on the floor either, but he’s only 23 and is on a valuable contract.
So that leaves FVV. This one hurts cause he’s taken the torch from Lowry as the heart and soul of this team. He’s a pit bull. The Raptors led the league in opponent turnover % and were 2nd in steals, FVV, and his willingness to hit the floor diving for balls has a lot to do with that. Unfortunately, everything he does on offense is replaceable. As a point guard, he’s not great at getting the ball to the roll man or finding the open guy on skip passes. He’s not overly athletic, has trouble finishing at the rim, and is getting older. He’s better off-ball, but the Raptors don’t currently have anyone to take lead ball-handling duties from him. He makes plays because he’s tenacious and unrelenting, but his skills are replaceable.
Because of his attitude and intangibles, I wouldn’t trade him for anyone just to shake things up, but if the Raptors see someone they love in the draft, it would be worth it to jump into the lottery. This year’s draft is forward and guard-heavy, and Toronto is in the market for a center or point guard. Masai Ujiri said himself he wasn’t going to rush the build job because the Raptors overachieved this season. The Raptors also have one of the best development programs in all of the NBA, almost any player they end up with will adjust to the league quickly. This means the inevitable step back from trading one of their top-three guys away could only take a season or less, whereas it often takes other teams multiple seasons to develop rookies into starting roles.
Trading away one of their larger salaries would also open up cap space going into the 2023 offseason, where they own all their draft picks going forward. Then you could make your move to go big game hunting after you’ve spent an offseason balancing the roster and the regular season developing your young guns for the NBA.
Siakam, Anunoby, and FVV are the core of this Raptors team and the last remnants from their 2019 championship. That’s not easy to move on from, however, if they see a guy they can pair with Scottie Barnes for the foreseeable future, it’s an opportunity they shouldn’t pass up.
What are the Options for the 2022 Toronto Raptors this Offseason
Nobody plays it as close to the vest as Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster. When all the usual suspects were being mentioned as a Kwahi Leonard trade destination, the Toronto Raptors swept in to unload him from the San Antonio Spurs. When every mock draft had Jalen Suggs heading to the Six, the Raptors selected Scottie Barnes. Anyone who says anything about the Raptors is speculating.
Reading the tea leaves, I wouldn’t expect the Raptors to do anything flashy, but any offseason moves the 2022 Toronto Raptors make will be focused on the future rather than the now. If that means giving up a core piece, don’t be surprised to see Masai pull the trigger.