Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)
With the 2018 NBA off-season beginning, I thought I’d look back at last year’s off-season and give my thoughts on the moves that the Raptors made, now that we’ve had time to see how they panned out. The Raptors weren’t exactly the most notable team last off-season, but they did make some moves that were important to how the team turned out this year. I think that based on recent reports from around the league, we can all expect the team to be a bit more active this year, but at the end of the day, you’ve really just got to wait and see.
1st move: Re-Signed PG Kyle Lowry for 3 years/$100 million.
This deal came off of Lowry’s best statistical season as a Raptor, and for his entire career for that matter (22.4 PPG, 7.0 AST). He played at a career level in 2016-17, and that’s what got him this contract from the team. Now, looking back, the team obviously wanted to keep the core group of players together, and that’s why they signed Lowry to this massive deal. But at this point, it looks like a bad deal for the Raptors. First of all, It looks like they overpaid him, since they’re giving him a similar contract to some of the elite level players in the league. But after seeing how well Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet played this season, it looks like the Raptors might have overvalued his importance to the team. Obviously, Lowry was still valuable to the Raptors’ success this past year, but was it really worth $33 million to have a guy only play 32 minutes a night and average 16.2 PPG, while others contributed a lot in lesser roles?
2nd move: Re-Signed PF Serge Ibaka for 3 years, and $65 million.
Ibaka came to the Raptors at the 2016-17 trade deadline and only played with the team in 23 regular season games that year. He wasn’t necessarily bad in that time frame, but I wouldn’t say he put the whole league on notice either. He was a nice piece to the puzzle for sure, but I don’t think it was smart to put this much money into a guy who was already in the declining stages of his career and likely wouldn’t give you any more upside than you’d already seen from him. This year’s stats tell the story for Ibaka; he averaged 12.6 points per game, with 6.3 rebounds per game, both of which were below his totals from the previous two seasons. Ibaka also had a hard time defending this year, most notably in the playoffs against Cleveland. This didn’t look like an awful deal at the time, but looking back, it would’ve been much better for the Raptors if they put Ibaka’s money into 2-3 cheaper players that can defend well (i.e P.J. Tucker, who they almost signed anyway).
3rd Move: Raptors trade SF DeMarre Carroll, a 2018 1st round pick, and a 2018 2nd round pick to the Nets in exchange for C Justin Hamilton
This trade came after another disappointing season for Carroll in Toronto. He was not only hurt for a while, but he wasn’t very effective even when he played. This trade was clearly made to dump off Carroll’s $14.8 million salary for the 2017-18 season, and $15.4 million for the 2018-19 season. He just wasn’t worth that contract, so the Raptors had to get rid of him, and they needed to package 2 draft picks to do so. The Raptors got no return in this deal, since they immediately waived Justin Hamilton. But they got out of the deal what they wanted to, and that was cap space. Now, since we’re currenly around the NBA Draft, it’s easy to wish that the Raptors had their picks - who knows - they might trade into the draft. But when you look back at this trade, it was probably the right move for the team, since they were able to get rid of Carroll’s contract.
4th Move: Raptors trade PG Cory Joseph to the Pacers in exchange for SG/SF CJ Miles (Miles signs a 3 year, $25 million deal with the Raptors)
This deal ended up working out very well for the Raptors for a few reasons. First, they were able to address a key need on their team, which was 3-point shooting. Miles was on and off throughout the year, but he ended up being a great addition to the team, especially in the playoffs where he shot 42% from 3-point range. Another way that this trade helped the Raptors is how it allowed Fred VanVleet to move into a more prominent role. VanVleet was at the end of the bench and didn’t play much in 2016-17, but with Joseph leaving, it allowed VanVleet to play more, and he thrived in that playing time, becoming a 6th man of the year candidate for the 2017-18 season.
5th Move: Raptors select OG Anunoby with the 23rd pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
This pick was a huge success for the Raptors, and when you look back at the entire thing, OG was definitely one of the steals of this draft. Due to injury, Anunoby’s draft stock fell a lot, and that caused him to fall to #23, where the Raptors happily selected him. He played the majority of the season in the starting small forward role, and he put up a great rookie season. Anunoby had 5.9 points per game, with 2.5 rebounds a game (keep in mind he was the 5th option in the starting unit), and he was also stellar on the defensive end. Most picks that come late in rounds are hit or miss, and I think it’s safe to say that the Raptors hit on this pick.
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