As July comes to a close, the bulk of the NBA free agency signings that we will see this summer have already taken place.
The biggest move involved LeBron James, the league’s marquee player, opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat to return home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade also opted out of their lucrative deals with the Heat. The hope was that there would be a way to free up enough salary cap space to assemble a supporting cast that gave James the confidence to stay on for another run at the championship.
Even when it became apparent that James had a one-track mind about where he wanted to play next season, Bosh and Wade still made the decision to stay put in South Beach.
For the Toronto Raptors, meanwhile, there was a brief, but very real, concern that Kyle Lowry might have been that missing piece capable of enticing James to continue the prime of his career in a Miami uniform.
Despite reported interest from the Heat as well as the Houston Rockets, Lowry decided it was more appealing to continue what he had started with the Raptors and accepted the team’s four-year, $48 million offer.
From there, the pieces quickly fell into place for the Raptors with what seemed like relative ease for general manager Masai Ujiri.
Restricted free agents Patrick Patterson (three years, $18 million) and Greivis Vasquez (two years, $13 million) both reached agreements to remain with the club, assuring that the core group will remain intact for another playoff run.
The Raptors also made a couple savvy moves in acquiring Louis Williams and Lucas Nogueira from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for John Salmons and by signing veteran forward James Johnson to a two year, $5 million contract.
Williams will provide scoring from the shooting guard position off the bench and will hopefully replace some of the three-point shooting lost when Steve Novak was traded to the Utah Jazz, while James Johnson addresses the need for a rugged, defensive-minded wing player.
The Raptors are expected to reach a buyout agreement with Nogueira’s club team in Spain to bring the 7-footer to Toronto. According to DraftExpress.com, the 22-year-old is compared at best to Marcus Camby and at worst to Hassan Whiteside. Either way, Nogueira has no NBA experience and I wouldn’t expect him to be a rotation player in 2014-15.
All in all, the Raptors have had a very successful offseason. Yet, with 13 players committed to the team for next season, that means there are still two roster spots available.
Sign a backup PG
Lowry and Vasquez can provide the Raptors with a full 48 minutes of security at the point guard position. Williams, a combo guard, could provide minutes at the No. 1 spot if necessary, but he might be more suited for a scoring role as opposed to facilitating the offense.
This leaves the Raptors with a likely need for a third-string point guard and there are several routes the Raptors could take to fill this need.
The easiest option would be to sign one of the remaining free agents to a guaranteed contract.
Unfortunately Brooks is no longer an option because the Chicago Bulls have signed him on for next season.
One intriguing possibility, although he is really more of a guard-forward, is Chris Douglas-Roberts, who spent the 2013-14 season with Charlotte and has also played for the Nets, Bucks, and Mavs, as well as in Europe and the D-League. The 27-year-old was selected in Round 2 of the 2008 draft and has career averages of 7.4 points and 1.2 assists per game.
Douglas might be looking for more playing time at this point in his career, but perhaps he would benefit from the change of scenery in Toronto.
Add a veteran big man
Moving on, I also think the Raptors have a remaining need for another forward or center to provide minutes behind starter Jonas Valanciunas.
Elton Brand is a name that I have mentioned on several occasions as an option. He may be 35-years-old, but last year with the Hawks, he appeared in 73 games and in 19.4 minutes per contest he averaged 5.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and an impressive 1.2 blocks.
Brand would be a welcomed addition as both a post player and as a veteran leader. He might also embrace the opportunity to play for a team aiming to repeat as Atlantic Division champs.
It was also reported that the Raptors might have some interest in Andray Blatche. This rumor never gained much traction, but that doesn’t negate the possibility of Blatche being a good fit for the team. The lanky, athletic 6’11” forward averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds, while also shooting 47.6 percent from the field in just over 22 minutes per game for the Nets last season. He would certainly provide an offensive spark off the bench and would be extremely valuable if he were to make the same commitment on defense.
The last option would be for the Raptors to stick with 13 players for now, or 14 if/when Nogeuira’s buyout is completed. This would give them the flexibility to have a job or two still available for camp invitees, to take on an extra player in a trade, or to address unexpected needs that might arise during the season due to injuries.
At this point, any free agent signing of this sort would only serve to add even more depth to a Raptors’ roster that has plenty of talent to compete with in 2014-15.