Stuck saying “I Hate My Life” about the Toronto Raptors offseason so far and hoping they’d Make Up Their Mind? Still Drown in sorrow from the Blow after thinking Nothing Could Come Between Us with Bismack Biyombo? Wish the free agent market didn’t have the Raptors saying Wait For Me and impatient to sign someone, even a Lowlife? That’s No Surprise. But The Truth Is, the Raptors are going to keep their Head Above Water even without a splash, and there’s not exactly a low-cost Angel out there. The offseason isn’t an All Or Nothing affair, and a big move was maybe Not Meant To Be. Still, get ready to be So Happy, because thanks to the Hurricane of Kevin Durant-to-the-Warriors fallout, there may room for a Little Smirk before the End of Summer, after all.
That’s because the Raptors have a theory about how to shore up their frontcourt depth. A Theory…of a Dedmon.
According to a report from Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports, the Raptors have “serious interest” in Dewayne Dedmon. Dedmon had originally hoped to land with the Warriors, but with Zaza Pachulia filling that role for the Room Exception, Dedmon has a market, with the Raptors and Houston Rockets the primary teams linked to him early on.
It would be a pretty interesting landing place for Dedmon, who had his qualifying offer from the Orlando Magic withdrawn, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Magic did so in large part because they were able to come to terms with Bismack Biyombo on a four-year, $72-million deal, and so Dedmon landing in Toronto would represent a de facto swap of backup centers (albeit with a hefty raise for Biyombo).
Dedmon is also sort of a poor man’s Biyombo, a lengthy rim protector who grades as an elite rebounder and who can struggle on the offensive end of the floor. While Dedmon shot 55.9 percent last season, the bulk of that scoring was around the rim and he took just 30 field-goal attempts outside of 10 feet. He’s essentially a lob threat only, with few ball skills, though his assist rate ticked upward and he posted the best true-shooting percentage of his career this year (60.6 percent, thanks in part to a surge to 75 percent from the line). He’s a high-energy player who subsists primarily on easy buckets, and he’s improved in each of his subsequent seasons.
Defensively, Dedmon allowed opponents to shoot just 45.7 percent at the rim when he was in defending distance and had a 34.6-percent contest rate, numbers nearly in line with Biyombo’s in a smaller sample, per Nylon Calculus. Advanced metrics and on-off numbers don’t show Dedmon’s impact being nearly as extreme at the team level, but his overall impact graded quite strong by DRE. Individual stats, particularly on the defensive end, need to be taken with the proper context, but Dedmon’s small-sample results are at least encouraging.
He’s not as good as Biyombo, and he doesn’t have Biyombo’s upside given he’ll turn 27 later this offseason. He also put up his numbers in much smaller minutes, though those minutes were equally as sheltered as Biyombo’s (3.1 average opponent starters on the floor for Dedmon, 2.9 for Biyombo, again per Nylon).
So yeah, Dedmon would be a downgrade in that role. He’ll also be much cheaper than the $18 million Biyombo’s set to earn annually (theoretically), and may even fit in to the estimated $5.7 million in cap space the Raptors have (or the $5.6-million Mid-Level Exception, if the Raptors choose to go that route). That would mean unlike names like Pau Gasol and Ryan Anderson that some liked, the Raptors wouldn’t have to shed any assets to clear the requisite space to land him.
As far as Biyombo replacements go, the Raptors could definitely do worse for a reasonably-priced flier.
The most interesting note here may be the Raptors being continually tied to centers on the market. Jonas Valanciunas is set for an increase in role and likely playing time, and while teams certainly need three centers over the course of the year, the Raptors also employ Lucas Nogueira and Jakob Poeltl. Not leaving yourself in a position to rely on Poeltl as a rookie is smart, because 20-year-old centers rarely contribute right away, with bigs in general possessing a slower development curve and a later peak.
The team’s reported interest in fives, though, may speak to their faith in Nogueira’s ability to man the backup role. Nogueira is set to turn 24 later this offseason, is entering his third NBA season, played a year in the world’s second-best league in Spain prior to that, and the team has to make a decision on their fourth-year, $2.95-million team option on his deal (for 2017-18) by Oct. 31. I had long presumed that Nogueira would man the backup role for this coming year, and his performances were occasionally encouraging this year. They were also up-and-down, and that inconsistency may have the Raptors feeling less confident in their center depth (and the only four they have who could conceivably play some five is a rookie in Pascal Siakam). I still maintain Nogueira has enough talent to be a capable backup center (yes, even this season), and if the Raptors don’t wind up making an addition, this is an enormous offseason for the Brazilian.
And if they do, well, it seems unlikely the Raptors would carry four centers. Nogueira played a bit of four in the D-League but that’s unlikely to be tenable at the NBA level, Poeltl probably isn’t suited to minutes at the four right now (if ever – I’m a little skeptical on this point), and Dedmon couldn’t play the four, either. Maybe nothing happens and Toronto goes with the status quo, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on the trade rumor mill if they add a center between now and the start of the season.
(Note: I’m sure it was made before, but William Lou was the first person I saw make the Theory of a Dedmon joke this season. Clearly, I took it to another level and should be banned from the internet.)