The 2018-19 NBA season belonged to the Toronto Raptors, who, behind the incredible play of Kawhi Leonard and healthy contributions of a deep cast of role players, dethroned the Golden State Warriors and became the new league champs. It was an incredible playoff run for Toronto, one that included a legendary Game-7 series-ending shot, beating a team that hadn’t lost four times in a row all year four times in a row, as well as taking down a dynasty that, albeit hobbled towards the end, was the team of the decade.
Leonard didn’t do it alone, of course. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam were instrumental to the title run, too, as was mid-season acquisition Marc Gasol, who made plays out of the frontcourt, spaced the floor and played excellent defense against opposing centers in the postseason.
Overall, general manager Masai Ujiri was able to build a monster, and his gamble of trading DeMar DeRozan for Leonard, even if it ends up being just a one-year rental, played out beautifully for the Raptors. Ujiri’s goal now, this summer, has to be making sure Leonard isn’t just a one-year rental. He’ll also have a few other important decisions to make, so as the championship hangover starts to kick in for the Raptors, there’s going to be a lot of work waiting for them ahead of a crucial summer.
GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
Kyle Lowry: $33,296,296
Serge Ibaka: $23,271,604
Norman Powell: $10,116,576
Fred VanVleet: $8,653,847
Pascal Siakam: $2,351,838
OG Anunoby: $2,281,800
NON-GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
Malcolm Miller: $1,588,231
Chris Boucher: $1,588,231
Marc Gasol: $25,595,700
Kawhi Leonard: $21,329,750
Patrick McCaw (Restricted)
By far, the most important thing the Raptors have to worry about this offseason is re-signing their best player, Kawhi Leonard. Although many thought winning an NBA title with Toronto would quiet the free-agent speculation surrounding the supremely talented forward, that hasn’t been the case, as the Los Angeles Clippers are still being heavily rumored as potential suitors for Leonard. Whether an actual move happens or not remains to be seen, but it appears, at the very least, Leonard will still hear out the Clippers, and maybe even a few other teams, this summer before making his final decision. That should concern the Raptors.
If Leonard were to walk this summer, Toronto’s chances of contending in the future would be in a world of trouble, as they wouldn’t have the cap space needed to land an adequate replacement for the two-time Finals MVP; questions remain about whether they’ll ever be legit players with major free agents anyway, since they historically haven’t been. With Leonard, as well as every other non-guaranteed deal and impending free agent the Raptors have, off the books, Toronto would still have just $21.5 million in cap space to use this offseason, nowhere near enough to find someone even near Leonard’s caliber and replace the solid role players they would be losing as well.
Of course, Leonard could make this all a moot point by committing to Toronto as soon as the moratorium opens up on June 30, which is also very possible.
If that does happen, Toronto’s next most pressing issue will be regarding Siakam, who is one of 20 players eligible for a rookie-scale extension this offseason. After the season he just had, and the playoff run he capped it with, Siakam is going to receive consideration for a max extension, one that his production and upside without a doubt merit. With or without Leonard in the fold, Siakam needs to be one of the players the Raptors continue to build around for the future.
Siakam isn’t the only player who can be extended this offseason, either. Lowry will also be up for one starting on July 8, so it’s possible we see the Raptors negotiate a new deal with their team leader this summer, too. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see them hold off on that and allow Lowry to hit free agency in the summer of 2020 instead, unless they can get him extended at a team-friendly price and not at the $33.3 million price tag he’s set to charge in 2019-20.
Then, there’s the issue of Gasol’s player option. The big Spaniard is owed $25.6 million next season if he opts in, a steep price for a 34-year-old center who is statistically starting to show signs of losing a step. Between Gasol, Lowry and Ibaka, Toronto would be paying over $70 million in salary, which could prove extremely burdensome with or without Leonard in the fold. Ujiri is known for his roster improvement-first, loyalty-second brand of management, so it’s possible we see Gasol shopped this offseason to gain some cap flexibility.
Finally, and more importantly than anything non-Leonard or -Siakam related, Toronto has to make sure to keep their general manager from joining a rival team this summer. As soon as the Raptors won the title, reports came out that the Washington Wizards, desperate to escape the rut of mediocrity they’ve been in for years, were willing to offer Toronto’s GM, Ujiri, a six-year deal worth $60 million. That’s a huge number, but one that Ujiri has already proven to be well worth, so the Raptors would be wise to pay up if that’s what their GM wants.
POTENTIAL FREE AGENCY TARGETS
Khris Middleton: In case Leonard leaves, Middleton would be a very interesting target for Toronto, though they probably won’t have the cap space to pry him from the Milwaukee Bucks.
JJ Redick: If Danny Green signs elsewhere this offseason, Redick could be a solid replacement. His defense isn’t as stingy as Green’s, but his offense is more well-rounded and consistent.
DeMarcus Cousins: Could probably be had for cheap, and if Gasol isn’t around next season, would be a good replacement in that play-making, floor-spacing big man role.
Reggie Bullock: Contenders could always use more shooting, and Bullock is one of the better marksmen set to come available this summer.
Wayne Ellington: An older version of what Bullock would provide.
James Ennis: A cheap 3-and-D option. If OG Anunoby continues to struggle to develop his game, Toronto might need another bench wing like Ennis.
POTENTIAL TRADE TARGETS
It’s too complicated to forecast trade targets for the Raptors at the moment since we have no idea what their roster will look like in a few weeks. Leonard is a flight risk, Gasol could opt out of the final year of his deal, Green might leave this summer, too.
As such, the type of trades Toronto might be interested in could change greatly depending on how their summer goes. If Leonard leaves, the Raptors will probably look at All-Star-level players on rebuilding teams to target. If he doesn’t, they may not look into trades at all, and be happier with just running back their title-winning squad.
2019 DRAFT ASSETS
The Raptors do not have a first-round pick in 2019. They owe it to the San Antonio Spurs as part of the Leonard trade.
They do, however, have their second-round pick available to use.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.