Examining potential buyout candidates for the Raptors

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It’s officially NBA buyout season, and after a brief post-trade deadline flurry of activity, it seems we’re going to ease into the rest of it from here. This is kind of unprecedented territory – the trade deadline was two weeks earlier than it normally is, meaning there are an additional two weeks for teams to negotiate buyouts with players.

Any player waived by March 1 is eligible for the playoffs, and with the All-Star break upcoming, players might not be highly motivated to be freed right this second and surrender a paycheck earlier than they need to. Greg Monroe was able to cash in because the Boston Celtics had a disabled player exception to dangle, but the three names that have already found new homes – Marco Belinelli, Joe Johnson, and Brandan Wright – all gave up between $300K and $1M for their early freedom, according to reports.

That those names have been scooped up seemed to cause Raptors fans some panic, especially since team president Masai Ujiri was adamant that the team believes they can land any buyout player they decide they want. They also have the prorated amount of their bi-annual exception to dangle, though a minimum contract would seem far more likely given their financial situation. The Raptors having faith in landing whomever probably didn’t apply to Wright, who is useful but redundant on this roster, or Johnson, who may not fit the culture and is shooting 27 percent on threes as he enters an overdue twilight. It’s less clear with Belinelli, who is probably the best offensive player who will become available in this period, as the Raptors were said to have interest. Still, Belinelli is borderline unplayable on defense, has a relationship with Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo, and may not have been partial to an 11th- or 12th-man role the Raptors were offering.

None of those players were going to shift the playoff outlook dramatically. It’s unlikely anybody who lands in Toronto, or anywhere, will. Buyout season is exciting because it’s found money, but for every 2016 Joe Johnson on the Miami Heat, there are a half-dozen Jason Thompsons. Depth is nice to have, adding experience helps, and the Raptors have likely cleared enough wiggle room beneath the tax to add a player. Just keep expectations for their impact reasonable.

In putting out a call for buyout market suggestions on Twitter the other day, I welcomed a hellstorm of the ridiculous. That’s my fault, I guess, for trying to make sure I had my bases covered. What follows is a look at all of the names thrown out there. You jerks.

Vince Carter

There’s not much sense in writing something here, as everyone has already dug in on either side. I thought Daniel Hackett did a really nice job of outlining the case for a Carter return, and I thought Tim Chisholm did a really nice job of outlining the case against it. Personally, I’d be for it, because I’m a sucker for a tidy ending and I maybe wouldn’t have found my way to basketball without Carter, and so while maybe he doesn’t “deserve” it or whatever, I think the fans do.

On the court, it doesn’t really matter – Carter can still shoot and can still defend – and still dunk – but he’d be playing a depth role here, not taking minutes from any of the players in the 10-man rotation. That’s the case for all of the names we’ll examine, anyway, and Carter’s legacy wouldn’t be enough to cut into the focus on the youths. What Carter would bring is a boatload of experience and a veteran presence, which isn’t entirely unimportant at this stage. He has a ton of perspective given his years in the league and the ups and downs he’s been through, and that steadiness, and ability to not shirk in the moment if needed in the playoffs (see his most recent playoff run), could be helpful. It’s probably a moot point, though – Sacramento wants to keep him, and while everyone is playing nice through the rumor mill, there’s a reason Carter chose Sacramento in the first place (money, yes, but also playing time). I’d be surprised if he’s actually bought out.

Chris Bosh

He teased a return on First Take today. If he’s medically capable of playing, a thousand times yes. Not only does he probably still have some juice in the tank, he brings championship experience and fits the good-guys-only mold. He’d be at the top of my list if I had the medical knowledge to know if this was actually a possibility.

Channing Frye

My dream addition so I can kick Will and Eric out as my podcast co-parts and bring Road Trippin to Toronto, it seems unlikely Frye will get bought out. Ramona Shelburne reported almost immediately after the trade that he’d stay put, and Frye is not only a west coast guy but has a relationship with Luke Walton. The young Lakers still need mentors and good examples, and there are few better than Frye, who would consistently earn All-NBA Good-Guy Team nods if such a thing existed.

He can also shoot the hell out of the ball, which the Raptors know all too well. He’s a 38.8-percent career 3-point shooter and hit 39.7 percent over the last three seasons before having a small down-turn (34.1 percent) this year. He’s a passable defensive rebounder, too, and has no problem moving the ball within an offense. He’s not much of a defender, especially on the perimeter, despite what Real Plus-Minus might try to tell you, but the Raptors would only be using him as a small-minute offensive spark, anyway. If at all. As far as late additions with serious experience who would fit the culture and system and are probably fine with small minutes go, Frye is among the better options. He’s just unlikely to be bought out.

Tony Allen

The Grindfather checks off a lot of boxes. He has tons of playoff experience at this point, having appeared in 112 playoff games over 10 postseason runs and having won a ring in 2008. He is familiar with playing a smaller role, averaging 12.4 minutes for New Orleans this year before being dealt. He’s a gritty, hard-nosed, high-effort defender who can still slot in at multiple positions. And, while that grit comes off a certain way when he’s an opponent, that’s a player type you usually want to go to war with. Allen can’t really shoot – 32.1 percent on 0.9 attempts per-36 minutes the last four years – and that would be a problem if he saw actual playing time. He probably wouldn’t, though. or at least not much. He’d be pushing Norman Powell for 11th-man minutes and maybe serving as a mentor to Powell. At 36, Allen’s most productive years are behind him, but “loads of experience” is usually not a bad thing to inject a team with, assuming the role and culture fit are there.

Ersan Ilyaosva

Honestly, this is probably the best-case scenario with the names who could become available. That availability is a question mark, even though he doesn’t seem a fit with the rebuilding Hawks, who just bought out Marco Belinelli. Bobby Marks of ESPN listed Ilyasova as an unlikely buyout candidate, and while he didn’t say why, it may be that the Hawks will see value in hanging on to Ilyasova’s Bird rights into a summer where few teams figure to have cap space. Maybe they can wrangle a pick in a sign-and-trade, or re-up Ilyasova to continue soaking up minutes while the younger players develop.

In any case, he’d be interesting if he became available. At 6-foot-10, Ilyaosva provides some nice spacing as a large power forward or even as a center, where he’s spent more and more time the last couple of years. A career 36.6-percent 3-point shooter, Ilyasova has maintained that touch even as he’s bounced around rosters, shooting 36.5 percent on 5.6 attempts per-36 minutes over the last four seasons (across six teams). He’s not a particularly strong defensive rebounder but does well on the offensive glass, draws fouls at a decent clip with his physicality, and can keep the ball moving on offense. Defensively, he’s mostly just size at this point, grading out as about average for the position by Real Plus-Minus.

The Hawks have been better with him on the floor than off of it, as all three of his teams were last year. He’s still just 30. He doesn’t have much playoff experience but has been there a handful of times. This is probably the best the Raptors can hope for, even if he’d still just be additional depth behind the young bigs. He’s still useful.

Gerald Henderson

Psychologically, this is similar to bringing Joe Johnson in. The guy who’s killed you for so long that The Gerald Henderson Award exists? Cathartic. And when he was last playing, he was still a moderately useful wing who had begun to knock down threes (35.3 percent over the last two seasons) with some reliability. The Raptors were even said to have interest in the summer. Instead, Henderson underwent hip surgery. Apparently, he’s been working out and is ready to go, but like with some of the names on this list, his utility might come down to health, information that I’m not privy to. I will say I thought he was a decent low-cost depth flier before news of his hip injury came down this summer, so if he’s anywhere close to form, there would be worse last-minute additions, especially since his situation dictates he might be fine playing an emergency role. (Whether you’d want a rusty player in said emergency role is a different question.)

Dewayne Dedmon

He’d be a useful piece for somebody if he hit the market, with two complicating factors here for Toronto. One, I doubt very much they’d give a buyout claim rotation minutes over Jakob Poeltl, and minutes at center are already going to be hard to come by in the postseason. Dedmon has added the 3-point shot to his game, is a quality rim protector, and a good defensive rebounder, but it’s not at all an area of need. Two, Dedmon has a player option for next season, which could make buyout terms pretty difficult to come to for the Hawks.

Boris Diaw

HEAR ME OUT. The Raptors were said to be interested in Diaw this summer, and while he’s out of the NBA, the 35-year-old is still playing professionally. He’s averaging 11.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.9 assists in the French League right now, and his passing from the frontcourt positions would be welcome. He’s even hit 37.3 percent of his threes! Diaw wouldn’t have much on-court utility to the Raptors at this point – he’s not exactly flush with NBA athleticism – but spiritually, he fits the culture’s new ethos, would be an excellent and experienced locker room presence, and would have an espresso machine in his locker so your boy can get his fix. Is my long-term wish for Diaw to land in Toronto entirely self-serving? Absolutely it is.

Nando de Colo

The Raptors still hold de Colo’s rights in restricted free agency, and de Colo is still very good. The issue, of course, is that he plays for CSKA Moscow on a healthy deal that runs two more years. CSKA is also atop the EuroLeague table, and that postseason doesn’t wrap up until late May if they make the run they could. The Raptors will once again tender him a qualifying offer this summer and retain his rights a while longer.

Luol Deng

Deng still has two years on his deal after this one at a hefty price tag, so any buyout negotiations would probably be very difficult. Even if he were to be freed, he’s played all of one game this year. He hasn’t been a terribly effective offensive player the last chunk of his career (he’s shot 32.8 percent on threes over his last six seasons) but he was still a passable defender the last we saw him, and sitting on the sidelines doesn’t make him any less 6-foot-9 or any less savvy. To be honest, though, so much of this would have to do with faith in his health and intel about his culture fit, neither of which I can speak to.

Corey Brewer

Not exactly the Laker people most want bought out, I realize, and Brewer can’t shoot a lick, with a career 28-percent mark from long-range that’s somehow declined the last few years. He’s long, can guard multiple positions (advanced metrics hate his offense but grade him as roughly neutral defensively), and is a good enough culture guy that the Lakers have kept him around their young core instead of banishing him. Again, these are the kind of low-impact guys you’re usually looking at in the buyout bin. He would at least bring championship experience (on the Dwane Casey-assisted Mavericks) and has appeared in the postseason on five different occasions, which isn’t nothing.

Shabazz Muhammad

I still think it would be weird for the Wolves to buy Muhammad out. I know he’s unhappy and out of the rotation, but are playoff teams really in the business of waiving guys who have been shown to be productive pieces in the past? Muhammad’s deal also has a player option for next year that Minnesota may have to buy out some of, and they’d surrender his Bird rights for the event that he declines the option (it’s possible someone would actually claim Muhammad on waivers, given his low salary). If he were to hit the market, I don’t see the fit – Muhammad can score, but he does so inefficiently and doesn’t bring much else to the table. I don’t mean to be negative about him, as I’ve been a fan of his since UCLA, I just think he’s destined to average 20 on a bad team, not play spot minutes for a good one.

Arron Afflalo

He would seem the likeliest buyout candidate from the mess in Orlando, and I understand why teams would be interested given his track record. He wouldn’t hurt or anything. But the years of Afflalo being a productive NBA player on a good team are behind him. His reputation as a defender has expired, the Magic have been much worse with him on the floor this year, his playmaking has declined, and he’d really just be a low-end 3-point specialist. By multi-year Player Impact Plus-Minus, he’s one of the worst players in the NBA right now. Again, it wouldn’t hurt if he’s not playing – Afflalo seems the type to accept a small role and be happy to just add leadership – this is just kind of the wing version of Thompson from two years ago.

Mario Hezonja

There’s no way the Magic are going to buy him out now that he’s finally assumed his form as the Swag God and is their best offensive weapon.

Anthony Morrow

There is one person on Twitter who has been obsessed with Morrow as a buyout candidate, something I would be in favor of if his Twitter handle were still BlackBoiPacino (his Instagram handle of yungfresh isn’t bad). My guess is that the logic is his 3-point shooting – Morrow has hit 41.7 percent of his career NBA threes over 564 games, ranking him in the top-20 all time. The issue, of course, is that Morrow never developed another NBA skill, and so while he saw heavy run early in his career and in his first season in Oklahoma City, the bulk of his last few seasons were spent as a specialist. It’s not a great individual stat in isolation, but it’s telling that Morrow owns one of the 50 worst career defensive ratings since the stat became available nearly 40 years ago.

On the bright side, Morrow is available. He’s not playing anywhere and, if he hasn’t decided to retire, he probably knows how to keep himself ready at 32 years old. If all the Raptors want in that 15th spot is someone who can come in and get hot in a hurry, Morrow isn’t a terrible fit. And it’s not like there’s a clear path to minutes outside of a specialist role, anyway.

Mo Speights

This could be a decent fit in terms of skill-set, though Speights would obviously have to be willing to accept a much smaller role than he has in Orlando, where he’s using 26.7 percent of possessions when he’s on the floor. The Raptors would probably only need him as a shooting specialist at the center position – hardly an area of need – where his 37.2-percent mark on 7.3 threes per-36 minutes over the last three years could help. A minor issue might be negotiating a buyout, since Speights already makes the minimum and might not be willing to concede much money to the Magic to join a contender. It would free up more playing time and a potential roster spot for a two-way conversion for Khem Birch, so maybe the Magic will be motivated to let the 30-year-old go. They don’t have Bird or Early Bird rights on him, anyway.

Isaiah Thomas

Only if Jesse Mermuys comes with him. (It doesn’t sound like the Lakers are going to buy Thomas out, I think he wants to be there, and even if he was bought out, I don’t think there’s any chance he’d go somewhere with a minimized role or anything but the green light to rehabilitate his value ahead of free agency.)

LeBron James

Smart. This is a good choice. Make it happen, Drake. If the Raptors can land LeBron for free at the veteran minimum, they’d be right there as a title favorite. Heck, give him the bi-annual and go into the tax if you need to.

Kyrie Irving

Pass. I don’t want my Instgaram “people you follow liked” feed being clogged with nothing but conspiracy memes.

P.J. Brown

While he’s a three-time All-Defense player and a former NBA champion, he’s been out of the league for a decade. If you’re going this route, Jamaal Magloire is already right there. Funny side-note: When Magloire was running the bigs through one of their pre-game workouts last week, he was shouting about trying to get a 10-day. So, you may not be far off here.

Jared Sullinger

He actually fits the current system a lot better than the one he tried to fit into last year, as he’s always shown decent playmaking ability in the frontcourt and is used to a more democratic offensive approach. He’s putting up 30 points, 17 rebounds, and four assists per-game in China right now and even shooting 36.2 percent on threes. I don’t think this was a serious suggestion, but Sullinger is still only 25. Some team might give him a look this summer.

Jimmer Fredette

This one actually isn’t as crazy as it sounds, only because Fredette probably has a good shot at getting a 10-day somewhere when the Chinese season ends. Yeah, he’s 28 and has already had a number of chances, but are you really gonna put it past the Knicks or a team in need of scoring to pass on a guy averaging 37 points on 60-percent true-shooting for a second year in a row? He wouldn’t at all fill any need for the Raptors as a one-way scoring punch, but it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to hear his name surface somewhere. I’m very curious to see what kind of numbers Brady Heslip could put up in China.

Aaron Gray

I’m skeptical the Pistons would be willing to give him up. Maybe in an offseason swap for Jamaal Magloire? Feels like a deal both sides say no to. Familiarity is important when it comes to the role of “that coach that will just hammer on bigs as they warm up.”

Rafael Araujo

As much as people dislike Araujo, he does have one big thing to his credit: In his college days, he elbowed the hell out of Andrew Bogut. Does that make up for two terrible seasons and a wasted lottery pick? Honestly, maybe, and had the Celtics signed Bogut, I would have advocated for an Araujo insurance policy. Fun fact: Araujo finished his professional career alongside Bruno Caboclo with Pinheiros/Sky in 2013-14. (From his Instagram, it really looks like Araujo is living his best life. Good for him.)

Pops Mensah-Bonsu

Played a career-high 19 games with the Raptors in 2008-09 and pops up every so often as a scout for the San Antonio Spurs. A very nice person, it seems unlikely he’s still in game shape after three years away from the pro game. If nothing else, he’d have some of the opponents well-scouted, if he’s good at his new job.

Solomon Alabi

Did all these suggestions just come from Sean Woodley burner accounts? Alabi is actually still just 29 and an active professional player, so this isn’t the most outlandish of the suggestions. I have no idea how his Japanese League stats might translate or what his buyout situation is. Maybe all he needs is more G League time? He was, after all, the Raptors’ fourth ever D-League assignment after Pape Sow, P.J. Tucker, and Nathan Jawai. The good ol’ days.

Jorge Garbajosa

The president of the Spanish Basketball Federation is probably too busy keeping Sergio Llull on lockdown to keep him from the Houston Rockets. That’s not unimportant to the Raptors – the Rockets signing Joe Johnson means the Raptors and Rockets are probably meeting in the NBA Finals, and Garbajosa locking down Llull lends a hand without tying up a roster spot.

Bruno Caboclo

Don’t think I didn’t have this conspiracy theory on my mind when the trade initially went down. The Raptors weren’t going to tender Caboclo a qualifying offer this summer anyway, so they haven’t lost much in dealing him as it pertains to retaining him for next year, if he’s open to a minimum deal. When it looked as if the Kings would waive him post-trade, I even figured that maybe he’d enter the G League player pool and Raptors 905 could work out a deal to secure his rights if they didn’t land him on waivers (his G League rights are unowned since he’s always been an assignment player, not a full-time G Leaguer). Alas, it looks like the Kings will hang on to him and we’ll have to revisit this on July 1.

All of the Plumlee brothers

If they’re going to sign a Plumlee, might I suggest Murphy plumLee? I could really use the 10-day payout.


I believe he’s set to be announced by another organization soon,

Mayor McCoy

Can’t afford the culture risk associated with someone who just resigned in disgrace.

Andrea Bargnani

I’m glad we cast such a wide net in our search, because we finally found the answer. If there’s a problem with the Raptors so far this year, it’s that they have too many good players they can’t find room for and want to fit into the lineup. Bringing in Bargnani, who was an on/off-court negative with Baskonia of the Spanish ACB League last year, solves that issue. Our man had negative win shares The Raptors have exactly zero players who have played more than 13 minutes and a negative net rating, and Bargnani fits the bill as someone who can come into blowouts, help make the games close again, and get the Raptors the reps they need closing out tight games.

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