The Toronto Raptors have signed undrafted forward Jarrod Uthoff to a partially guaranteed two-year deal, according to a report from Shams Charania of The Vertical.
Similar to the Fred VanVleet deal, Uthoff’s will likely contain a guarantee in the $25,000-$75,000 range and means he’ll be in training camp with the team. As things stand now, it probably also means he’ll be competing with a handful of players for the team’s 15th roster spot, although plenty can change between now and camp, and the Raptors still have their $2.2-million bi-annual exception to use if there’s a more veteran name they like. As a reminder, the Raptors brought in four players on similar deals last year for a 19-man camp, and teams can go as high as 20 on the roster at any given time. The money is also mostly inconsequential to the Raptors, who are over the cap but aren’t threatening the luxury tax, barring a trade.
And like VanVleet, Uthoff’s a name the Raptors surely liked around draft time. He was among the 59 publicly named players the Raptors brought in to work out before the draft and was the fourth-highest ranked player on our Raptors Republic draft board to go undrafted. While we ranked him 54th, ESPN’s Chad Ford was even higher on him, ranking him 36th, while none of the prominent rankers had him outside of the top 60. In other words, this is a player most felt should have been drafted, even if it was late.
After going undrafted, Uthoff joined the Sacramento Kings for Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 4.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, and one steal, one block, and one assists in 17.4 minutes. That’s modest statistical production, to be sure, but the 23-year-old isn’t being brought in to try to fill the stat sheet up. The Raptors surely see him as a potential role player down the line, capable of coming in and spacing the floor while playing solid-to-plus defense. Whether that manifests at the NBA level this season is unclear, and the Raptors would probably be thrilled to have him as an affiliate player with Raptors 905 if he clears waivers and opts not to sign overseas (where his partial guarantee would help supplement the paltry D-League salary).
While he averaged 18.9 points as a senior at Iowa last season, it’s probably the 38.3-percent career mark from long-range and the 1.8 blocks per-game over three seasons as a Hawkeye that stand out to Toronto here. A 6-foot-10 combo-forward with an 6-foot-11.5 wingspan, Uthoff uses his size and athleticism well to guard the small forward position and may be able to rebound well enough to play the four if he can add some size this summer (he’s only 214 pounds). His steal and block rates were strong when adjusting for pace, usually a good harbinger of how defense will translate, and he reads plays intelligently on or off the ball. He could stand to be more physical, which may come with additional bulk, but for now he should be passable, if not solid at that end.
On offense, he has great size for the three-spot or great range for the four, and he has a pretty enough jumper that he could be a plus as a low-usage option. As his role grew at Iowa this year, he also got to work more as a cutter and creating for himself, showing potential to expand his game beyond a catch-and-shoot threat at the NBA level. His turnover rate was also exceptionally low for someone using as many possessions as he did, though again, it’s the 3-point stroke that stands out here, because his handle isn’t terrific and he’s not exceptionally quick.
A First-Team All-Big Ten player and consensus Second-Team All-American, Uthoff also brings the type of off-court maturity the Raptors appreciate (he was the Academic All-American of the Year and a member of the Big Ten All-Defensive team, too). His age is such that maybe his upside is limited relative to other names in the draft, but the Raptors may see a player who can contribute in a specific role in short order here, and it was once thought he might sniff the first round, so there’s value here as an undrafted free agent.
The question now becomes whether the Raptors can find a veteran to plug in at a forward spot using their bi-annual exception (or a veteran minimum). With six players already on the roster on their rookie deals, adding another inexperienced piece in Uthoff or VanVleet (or Drew Crawford or E.J. Singler, who I expect to be in camp if they don’t sign overseas) seems somewhat unlikely, but the available options on the wing or at the forward spot are pretty uninspiring. For now, the Raptors are pretty set at the guard and big spots, but unless they’re willing to go small-ish (Terrence Ross, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell) at the three for DeMarre Carroll insurance, they’re probably looking at forwards. Uthoff fits the bill, positionally and as a shooter who won’t hurt them (and may even help) on the defensive end.
Here’s how the roster stands today:
PG: Lowry, Joseph, Wright, VanVleet
SG: DeRozan, Powell
SF: Carroll, Ross, Caboclo, Uthoff
PF: Sullinger, Patterson, Siakam
C: Valanciunas, Nogueira, Poeltl