Raptors’ ‘Plan B’ options now that Giannis is off the market for 2021

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, right, drives to the basket while Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges defends during the second half an NBA basketball game. (Kelvin Kuo/AP)

A much-discussed theme of the Toronto Raptors’ off-season was that they’d prioritized flexibility for the 2021 off-season in pursuit of one Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It was a great-sounding plan. But now it’s moot.

Antetokounmpo has announced that he’s signing a five-year extension with the Milwaukee Bucks, putting an end to any talk of the two-time MVP coming to Toronto in the summer of 2021.

Still, though, the Raptors should be sitting on a ton of cap room. So what can they do with it?

As it turns out, there’s a lot of potential “Plan B” options that the Raptors, or any other team for that matter, can explore.

Here’s a quick look at a few of these superb options that you can feel free to dream about now that the Greek Freak is off the table.

Kawhi Leonard (Player Option)

If things don’t work out for the Clippers this season, there could be a chance Leonard will be looking to move on to a different situation that’ll allow him to compete — and win — another title.

So why not try to run that all back with Toronto?

Barring Kawhi’s preference for playing somewhere close to home, the reunion would make sense on paper. After all, each side knows what the other is about, there’s actual title-winning proof that shows how well players like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet work alongside Leonard, and it would seem as if Leonard and Raptors president Masai Ujiri still have a friendly relationship with each other.

Leonard and the Raptors were a match made in heaven before, so why couldn’t the pairing work out just as well again?

Rudy Gobert (UFA)

A devastating interior defender capable of changing games with his shot-blocking and rim protection alone, Gobert would look great anchoring Toronto’s defence and, while on offence, rolling to the basket and catching lobs.

We’ve seen what Nurse can do with an aging Marc Gasol on the back end of the Raptors’ defence — now imagine imagine a player like Gasol, but one who is a lot more athletic, is a legitimate shot-blocking threat and is younger.

The only fault to be found with Gobert is the fact he has no three-point game to speak of. But do you really need one when you’re a career 64 per cent shooter and all your work is done on the inside, anyway?

Victor Oladipo (UFA)

After the 2017–18 season, Oladipo was a veritable lock to become a max-contract player when he become available.

At his best, Oladipo is an elite scorer, capable of taking games over with his athleticism and shot-making ability, but the knee injury he suffered in Nov. 2018 essentially robbed him of the past two seasons. Even when he was able to get back on the floor, the two-time all-star looked like only a shadow of himself.

He’ll hopefully be fully healthy this coming season to prove himself a max guy once again, and if he is he’ll have plenty of suitors.

The Raptors’ style of play leans more heavily on getting everyone involved, but having a player who can just go out and get you a crunch-time bucket is always something teams need — especially in the playoffs. Toronto would be no exception to this rule.

Jrue Holiday (Player Option)

Holiday is one of the best two-way guards in the league, and his stat-sheet-stuffing style of play is one that any team would welcome — despite the fact he isn’t the most reliable three-point shooter.

The only question with Holiday is if he can stay on the floor enough to be truly as valuable as his statistics indicate he is.

Over the span of his 11-season career, Holiday has played a full 82 games only once, and managed to play 70 or more just four times.

Within the last two seasons, Holiday has played 67 and 61 games, respectively, and will likely have to use this coming season in Milwaukee to prove himself durable enough for a max contract.

If he manages to do that, the Raptors should be interested as there’s little denying his talent.

DeMar DeRozan (UFA)

Because of both his reticence and seeming inability to shoot threes at the wing spot, DeRozan probably won’t command a max contract. But, money aside for a second, this would be a lovely reunion between the Raptors and DeRozan.

It’s hard to point to an athlete who more whole-heartedly embraced Toronto and the role of being a sports icon within it than DeRozan did, and bringing him back would likely go over very well among fans and the media, alike.

And aside from the sentimental value of a DeRozan return, he’s still one of the league’s elite scorers, having averaged more than 21 points per game in each of the last seven seasons. Last year in San Antonio, he shot 54 per cent from two-point range, including an excellent 45.8 per cent on mid-range attempts from 10-19 feet out.

So, even though DeRozan doesn’t have what is probably the most important offensive weapon in his arsenal, he’s managed to sharpen the blades he does have to a deadly, assassin level.

Kyle Lowry (UFA)

The undisputed greatest player in the history of the Raptors franchise, Lowry will be 35 by the time next off-season rolls around. But given what he’s done all his career, it would be foolish to count him out now.

Lowry’s number will one day hang in the Scotiabank Arena rafters, and his value to the franchise seems nearly incalculable. Seeing him retire a Raptor would be very cool, no matter the price.

Other notable names

LaMarcus Aldridge (UFA), Will Barton (Player Option), Nicolas Batum (UFA), Mike Conley (UFA), Spencer Dinwiddie (Player Option), Andre Drummond (UFA), Evan Fournier (UFA), Rudy Gay (UFA), Danny Green (UFA), Tim Hardaway Jr. (UFA), Kelly Olynyk (UFA), Chris Paul (Player Option), Otto Porter Jr. (UFA), JJ Redick (UFA), Josh Richardson (Player Option), Dennis Schroder (UFA).

This story has been updated from an earlier version.

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