Dwane Casey wasn’t kidding.
The Toronto Raptors head coach said Sunday that Ronald Roberts has a shot, which was an interesting comment. He’s the fifth-most notable Raptor on the Summer League team, sixth if DeAndre Daniels were playing, and he seemed more like LVSL roster filler than someone getting a legitimate opportunity.
But the Raptors apparently want a longer look.
Toronto Raptors finalizing a partial-guaranteed deal with forward Ronald Roberts, a source said.
— David Pick (@IAmDPick) July 13, 2015
A partially-guaranteed contract doesn’t really mean much here. Teams give out plenty of partial guarantees in the offseason, essentially securing the player for the summer and into the fall with a token salary. Will Cherry received a $25,000-guarantee last summer, for example, giving him an incentive to come to camp with the Raptors over another team but costing the Raptors little in the way of actual salary. The amount that gets guaranteed counts toward the salary cap and luxury tax calculations, but Roberts’ non-guaranteed amount is almost surely the $525,093 minimum and the guaranteed amount small – they matter, but with the team so far from the tax and unlikely to use their remaining cap space – they’re words, not mine – this doesn’t move the needle much.
Basically, this type of deal often stands as a sort of “offseason contract.” Roberts, who has clearly impressed in summer workouts and ingratiated himself to Casey and the rest of the staff with his motor, will play out the Vegas tournament and probably join the team for training camp in the fall. Which is awesome, but it seems unlikely this far out that Roberts makes the team. They don’t really need another big if James Johnson is being considered primarily a four now and, more importantly, Roberts may be a Quad-A player. That’s a baseball term for someone too good for Triple-A but not good enough for the majors, and I think it’s fitting for Roberts, who doesn’t strike me as an NBA player quite yet.
Roberts is an unbelievable athlete, helping him play power forward despite not being all that big. He’s 6-foot-7 and boasts a 7-foot wingspan and 9-foot standing reach, and his incredible bounce makes for terrific rebounding production. He averaged 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds as a senior at Saint Joseph’s in 2013-14 and averaged 17.5 points and 11.9 rebounds while shooting 69 percent (nice) in the D-League last season. He also got a preseason look from the Philadelphia 76ers but didn’t get enough run to really evaluate him (it was a similar deal to this – three years, $35,000 guaranteed, two non-guaranteed years after that).
Through two Summer League games, he’s played 44 minutes and been off of the ground for all of them. He can really get around the floor and is always jumping, either for a block or a pass or a rebound or a loose ball. His energy seems infectious, and he’s proven a great fit alongside the other high-energy Raptors 702 players. He’s also scored 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting and pulled in 20 rebounds, and shown a real willingness to bang inside, especially on Sunday against some larger Bulls players. He’s flashed a decent offensive arsenal, too, torching Doug McDermott for a few plays and making the most of opportunities underneath the basket.
He has passed the ball exactly zero times so far in Summer League, which may be a bit of a concern. Maybe now that he has a deal, he’ll be more amenable to letting some others shine. The more realistic scenario is that he’s not a particular heady offensive player, which is fine for the role he’d be expected to play if he made the team.
That role, by the way, would be as an energy big off the bench. Use your athleticism, work that unbelievable offensive rebounding talent, bang with opposing bigs, and use up your six fouls. There are a handful of guys each season who carve out that kind of role, and the Raptors generally like to employ one. He hasn’t shown a whole lot of skill, but a fifth or sixth big man doesn’t necessarily need to.
I’m not ruling out Roberts making the team, but I’d rate it as pretty unlikely. Assuming Norman Powell makes the squad, the Raptors already have 14 players, and Roberts would make three rookies to go along with Bruno Caboclo and Bebe Noguiera. That’s a lot of untested talent on one roster, and I’d guess the Raptors look at a few veteran journeymen type for that 15th spot in training camp, too.
In the meantime, hey, good for Roberts. He’s a lot of fun to watch, and it’ll be nice to get to keep an eye on his development a few months longer.