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Toronto Raptors Free Agency: Who Will Stay And Who Will Leave

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Fadeaway World

Fadeaway World

In this upcoming offseason, the Toronto Raptors have a lot of decisions to make surrounding the current roster. Key rotational members that are free agents include starters Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol. Key bench players like Serge Ibaka and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are also free agents, making this offseason one that’s defined by tough decisions.

Who does Masai Ujiri keep on the roster to keep the team a successful one? Under Masai’s tenure, the Raptors have been contenders every year, and Nick Nurse has proven to be an adaptable coach who can coach to his players’ strengths. There are difficult choices to make. Here are some predictions on who stays and who says goodbye.

Marc Gasol - Leaves In Free Agency

Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol is a 12 season veteran who is earning $25,595,700 in the 2019-2020 season. Gasol is a capable 3 point shooter and inside defender, who can hold his own on the perimeter. He would be a welcome addition to any championship team that wants a 3 point shooting center who can also defend at a high level and distribute the ball to his teammates.

At this point in his career, he has resided to playing a smaller role on the Raptors in order to ultimately win a championship. His role, though small, is important to the team, without question... But as a 35-year-old player, he may choose to seek out one last payday on another contending team: a payday that the Raptors may not be willing to provide.

The reason that I believe that Marc Gasol will leave Toronto in the end is simple: the Raptors already have a center they can re-sign in Serge Ibaka, who is 5 years younger and is making headway for the team. Due to the Raptors having to pay other free agents, I believe that Marc Gasol will be on another team this coming offseason. If he decides to stay on a team-friendly deal it will be because he wishes to continue being part of a winning culture. As an older player, I believe that he will leave in order to get paid well one more time, most likely on a one year deal.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - 50/50

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

While Rondae Hollis-Jefferson may not be a household name, he is still a solid contributor to the team. While his splits of 7.4/4.7/1.8 may not initially pop off the stat sheet, he is a key player off the bench and provides hustle and rebounding.

He is an all-around defensive player, with the size and quickness to guard 1-4, and sometimes 5. A hard-working player like Hollis-Jefferson is always valuable to have on the roster, so I think that he could stay on the team: but only for the right price.

The reason that he’s 50/50 is that some teams might pay a premium for a tenacious defender who is also a hustle player. I would expect a deal of 4 years at around $5,000,000-$6,500,000. He is a younger defender entering his prime years in the league, and as such is a valuable role player.

However, other teams in need of a versatile player may pay a little extra, around $8,000,000 a year on a shorter deal. That extra money may be difficult to pass up, so where he ends after free agency is a toss-up.

Fred VanVleet - Stays On A 3-Year Deal

(via NBA.com)

(via NBA.com)

Fred VanVleet is an absolute priority for the Raptors. He is a good shooter from beyond the arc (39% on 7 attempts a game) who has gotten better at taking it inside over the offseason. VanVleet is also a capable scorer and playmaker, averaging 17.8 PPG with 6.7 AST per game. The assist number is particularly impressive, considering VanVleet is the secondary playmaker on the team behind Kyle Lowry, the team’s main ball handler and point guard.

VanVleet is a young guard entering his prime at the age of 26: his timeline aligns with the star of the team, Pascal Siakam. They came up together through the G-League and it is natural for the Raptors to want to preserve his chemistry.

I think the Raptors will extend VanVleet with a 3-year contract in the $20,000,000 to $25,000,000 range. It is a deal that is beneficial to both sides: The Raptors take less of a risk on a small guard getting injured (think Isaiah Thomas on the Celtics), and Fred himself has his contract end at the age of 29, allowing him to sign one last big contract through his prime. It seems like a straightforward deal for both sides.

Serge Ibaka - Stays On A 2-3 Year Deal

AP Photo/Nick Wass

AP Photo/Nick Wass

Serge Ibaka is a solid center, period. This year he has had 1 of his best offensive seasons ever, averaging 15.4 PPG along with shooting 38.5% from beyond the arc. He has been reinvented as a small ball C in the last few years, rather than playing the stretch 4 role which he has been asked to play most of his career. That change led to the most productive offensive seasons of his career.

However, he has been relegated into the bench role. Marc Gasol has taken over the starting position due to his ability to pass at a high level and shoot the 3, allowing the rest of his teammates to do the scoring. Though Gasol has taken over the starting position, I predict that Marc Gasol will leave soon. The starting role will be open again, and Serge Ibaka will provide more offensive punch as a starter. He can create his shot inside well, but it will be his complimentary abilities that will define the team’s futures.

When Ibaka plays with playmakers like VanVleet and Lowry, it brings out the best in him. VanVleet and Lowry can set him up off the pick-and-roll and the pick-and-pop. Ibaka’s midrange is absolute money and his 3 point shooting has improved this season as compared to the last. If he gets fed then he will feast, and it seems like a waste for the Raptors to give up a player like that, who has nights where he straight up doesn’t miss.

If he decides to stay, then I believe it will be on a short deal (2-3 years), but one that pays well so that his timeline aligns with the rest of the team. If I had to guess, it would be in the $13,000,000 - $17,000,000 range— paying that much for a winning vet seems reasonable. The Raptors value locker room culture and a passionate and hardworking player like Ibaka seems to fit right in.

The Raptors have decisions to make. I presume that the front office will be busy, trying to make it all work. People leaving to better their careers is normal in the age of player empowerment, and I expect the roster to be different by next year. There may be some other minor moves that Masai could make, but these 4 players are going to be the main focus of the Raptors free agency.

The Toronto Raptors have a solid team, but this offseason is going to be all about how the front office wants the team to grow and play moving forward: the decisions will be partly financial, but also motivated by winning. I look forward to seeing what’s in store.