Free Agency Update

Well, that was a rollercoaster of a day.

Retaining Fred VanVleet for $21.25 annually over the next 4-years is surely a success. As a proven next-level guard, I believe many teams offered him a bag. Yet thankfully, staying with Toronto appeared to be of mutual interest. The FVV contract is a hefty payout, but I did not consider any spillover effect on the Ibaka situation.

Upon hearing that Serge inked a 2-year $19M contract with the LA Clippers, I was utterly disgusted. Hypothetically, I would have understood leaving for the Nets, but I cannot quite stomach this. Ibaka has been outspoken about his desire to stay in Toronto, which he visibly pushed onto Kawhi Leonard during his Raptor tenure.

After leaving the champs, Serge was among the most openly critical of Kawhi’s reluctance to run it back. Without him, the Raptors still secured a better regular season record (53-19) than the Clippers (49-23), while both teams fell short in Game 7 of the second-round. The Clippers did so by blowing a 3-1 lead, which ultimately cost Doc Rivers his long-time head coaching position.

Let’s break-down the money aspect here. At the conclusion of this season, a collective $48,867,304 came off the books in Toronto for the expiring contracts of Ibaka and Gasol alone. In spite of VanVleet’s pay-day, the Raptors retained flexibility to bring back Serge at his price or higher. Currently, the Raptors have no big-men under contract. To think they didn’t prioritize Serge and were outbid is unlikely; even with the 2021 free agency class distantly approaching.

Of course, I recognize that Masai is forward-thinking and calculated, but I cannot wrap my head around this. Serge publicly seemed intent on returning, and I cannot imagine that interest was not returned. Beyond championship contention, I think Serge may have been partially swayed by media aspirations in Los Angeles. I felt this way about Danny Green as well, who also began publishing content in Toronto under the Canadian outlet of Yahoo Sports.

Perhaps this is a reach, considering Toronto is also a colorful media world. However, with such little details on the situation, Raptors Nation remains hurt and confused. The timing of this situation is equally hard to accept, as other big-man free agents such as Montrezl Harrell, Christian Wood, and Tristan Thompson are now off the board. For this reason, the Raptors must have felt in close contention for Serge late, leading me to believe it was not their prerogative to part ways with the veteran centre.

Let this be a subtle reminder of a lesson already too familiar to Raptor fans; nothing is promised and everything has to be earned. Over the past two seasons, despite winning a championship and finishing a top-3 seed both years, Toronto has lost three of their top-6 players to the city of Los Angeles. With all of this seemingly “out of their hands”, they have continued to push forward and find success, so let’s remain optimistic.

Masai could always have something up his sleeve, but in the meantime, we should thank Serge for his contributions and celebrate the signing of Fred VanVleet. This contract is dead-on value wise, and Fred is a personality that has become integral to winning. Also, with Serge departing, the opportunity for Chris Boucher to shine has finally arrived. Lastly, Aaron Baynes is a player who remains available in free agency that could fit with Toronto, and I pray we don't resort to Marc. The NBA off-season surely has more drama to come…   


Comment Section

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kylelowry November 23, 2020 3:27 a.m.

You called Aaron Baynes, I'd take him over Gasol

BENROGERSWHISPYHAIR November 23, 2020 12:09 p.m.

We'll miss you Ibaka

Ryker Richard November 23, 2020 9:14 p.m.

Great article Josh! Looking like we'll be breaking down Baynes + Len signings soon....

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