With a new general manager, front office staff and soon-to-be-named assistant coaches, it’s been a summer of change in Toronto.
While Masai Ujiri’s first order of business was sending Andrea Bargnani to New York in exchange for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson, there is still work to do. Picking up Novak in exchange for Bargnani worked. That Ujiri was also able to get the Knicks to include three future picks almost felt unfair. Even if Richardson and Camby never spend a second playing for the Raptors this season, Ujiri’s first move was a big one.
Signing little used back-up point guard Julyan Stone was an interesting move. With Stone spending his first two seasons in Denver, Ujiri has had the chance to watch him develop up close. While he could be a pleasant surprise in Toronto, the team still has a few holes to fill.
Although Ujiri still hasn’t shared his thoughts on which direction the team will take next season — lose games and re-tool or try to continue adding onto the group as is and push toward the postseason — the roster is likely to need a reserve big man. While Stone provides some insurance behind Kyle Lowry but they will probably need another more experienced guard to add to the mix as well. Particularly with the injury-plagued history Lowry has had throughout his career.
With an abundance of point guards still available through free agency, and a number of back-up bigs waiting to find their new home, Toronto still has some pretty solid options available.
Here’s a look of a few players that could end up in a Raptors uniform this season.
The six-year, 6-foot-10 big man was drafted eighth overall by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2007 draft. He has spent time with the Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets and most recently, the Dallas Mavericks. Posting career averages of 6.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, the 25-year-old is coming off his strongest season thus far, averaging 8.5 points and 4.1 boards in 18 minutes per game. While the beginning of his career was plagued by injuries, Wright appeared in 64 games last season and would provide the team with size off the bench as well as a veteran presence. Over his career he has shot better than 57 per cent from the field, including 60 per cent last season.
Yes, he’s a pain to watch. Tyler Hansbrough is that kind of player you loathe playing against and love having on your team. His ability to annoy opponents and get under their skin is one of his greatest attributes. Just ask Valanciunas. While the Raptors big man is no fan of Hansbrough’s after the former Pacer tossed him to the ground in a pretty sketchy play last season, having a big man on the bench to do the dirty work isn’t ever a bad thing. With career averages of 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds in under 20 minutes per game, Hansbrough is the guy you sign if you need someone to play the role of antagonist.
Yes, another Mavericks free agent here, but for just a moment, imagine Rodrigue Beaubois in a Raptors uniform. Like Wright, the French point guard has struggled through injuries in the first few years of his career, but has also shown flashes of brilliance. In addition to a career-high 40 points during his rookie season with the Mavericks, Beaubois is familiar with Dwane Casey, having played for him during Casey’s tenure as an assistant with the Mavs. A 6-foot-2 guard with an incredible 6-foot-9 wingspan, Beaubois has the sort of athleticism that makes you wonder what could become of him if given a real shot.
After taking a year off from the NBA during the lockout to play in China, it sort of feels like we’ve forgotten about Aaron Brooks. The 2009-2010 Most Improved Player award winner, Brooks split last season between Sacramento and Houston. With the Rockets having Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley under contract, Brooks became a free agent once again and is still looking for a team to pick him up. A lightning-quick guard who can put points on the board, Brooks would bring an element to the point-guard position that the Raptors haven’t had in some time. He would also be reunited with former teammate Lowry, whom he played with in Houston before being traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2011.
Undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft, Toronto native Myck Kabongo would be a good pick up for the Raptors. Kabongo’s draft stock suffered after an NCAA violation robbed him of all but 11 games in his sophomore season at the University of Texas, but could lead to the Raptors picking him up and adding a hometown guy to their roster for next season. Currently playing for the Miami Heat’s Summer League team in Orlando, Kabongo is an athletic guard who can see the floor well and has a knack for getting to the line while also being able to disrupt things on the defensive end of the floor.