The Raptors find themselves at a significant crossroads this offseason, with a variety of decisions to make about the direction of their roster in the short- and long-term.
Toronto’s first priority, of course, is finding a new head coach. The club let Nick Nurse go after a five-year run, during which he led the franchise to its first-ever NBA title in 2019. He was named the league’s Coach of the Year in 2020.
More recently, the team finished the 2022/23 season with a 41-41 record and the ninth seed in the East. The Raptors were quickly ousted from the postseason by the Bulls in a play-in game.
Toronto has already interviewed several candidates for the opening, and is pondering several others, per our tracker. The Raptors have spoken with – or is expected to talk to – Bucks assistant Charles Lee, Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez, Suns assistant Kevin Young, Spurs assistant Mitch Johnson, Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic, former Nets head coach Steve Nash, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, Heat assistant Chris Quinn, Nuggets assistant David Adelman, player-turned-ESPN analyst JJ Redick, and Virtus Bologna head coach Sergio Scariolo.
Toronto has also been linked to former Suns head coach Monty Williams, Williams’ former Phoenix assistant Patrick Mutombo, and Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse. While the club had informal conversations with Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon, it is unlikely Hammon is ready to move on from her current gig just yet. The Raptors also spoke with Nurse’s former assistant coach, Adrian Griffin, though it has been reported that the Bucks plan to hire Griffin as their new head coach.
Nurse, meanwhile, is currently in the running to fill the head coaching vacancies of the Sixers or Suns.
At present, the Raptors are still fielding several veteran players from their championship run, including All-Star power forward Pascal Siakam, 2022 All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet, and 3-and-D swingman OG Anunoby. The team’s most important player, however, might be 2022 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, who regressed a bit during his sophomore season. The 6’9″ forward out of Florida State didn’t evolve much as a ball-handler or scorer this year, while his defense plateaued.
In terms of potential free agents, center Jakob Poeltl will be unrestricted, while guards VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. both have player options for next season. Veteran reserve forward Thaddeus Young, who averaged just 14.7 MPG off the bench this year, has an $8MM contract for next season that is only partially guaranteed for $1MM. The direction the Raptors ultimately opt to take could dictate what the team decides to do with Young’s money, though he probably wouldn’t command nearly that much coin in free agency at this point.
Given that the NBA is poised to have a fairly light free agent class, especially in terms of guards, both VanVleet and Trent seem to be in line for lucrative new deals somewhere. VanVleet’s option for next season is worth $22.8MM, while Trent’s would pay a guaranteed $18.6MM, plus $250K in unlikely contract incentives. As an experienced championship playmaker in his NBA prime, VanVleet should have a robust market, while Trent is a solid veteran floor spacer. Would Toronto want to re-sign both players to new long-term contracts, or try to coordinate sign-and-trades for one or both?
The 29-year-old Siakam is in the final season of a four-year, $136.9MM maximum extension he signed with Toronto during the 2020 offseason, and is now eligible for his next extension.
Should Toronto opt to ultimately rebuild its roster and prioritize its youth, it would find plenty of suitors for the contracts of Siakam and Anunoby.
The Raptors have a late lottery pick, No. 13 in this year’s draft, at their disposal, with which team president Masai Ujiri can add more young talent under long-term team control. A deal to offload Siakam or Anunoby, or perhaps VanVleet in a sign-and-trade, could probably get Toronto an even better lottery selection this year.
Trying to simultaneously compete with veterans while also developing youth, in the form of Barnes and this new lottery pick, is a difficult line to thread. The Warriors have found some some success with their “two timelines” approach, though several of their young role players failed to take next steps in their growth this season. Toronto obviously has had mixed success thus far in this department. Would the club be open to trying again?
We want to know what you think. What should the Raptors do this offseason? Which head coach among their finalists should they hire? Should they build around Siakam and/or Barnes? Head to the comments section to share your thoughts.