— OMG ANUNOBY (@IAmARaptorsFan) November 19, 2020
The big number: $41 million
The Raptors have about $45 million to spend before they’d hit the luxury tax line, before factoring in minimum contracts to fill out the roster. If they want to use the full MLE, then, they can go to about $35.7 million retaining their own players without a tax obligation. They could technically spend up to $52.3 million before hitting the luxury tax apron, but it seems likely they’ll want to stay a below-tax team in a non-title contention year.
Let’s assume the following roster, which would require Davis and Hernandez to guarantee and Harris to sign with a first-year salary at the league minimum.
PG: Lowry, Flynn
SG: Powell, McCaw, Thomas, Davis, Harris
SF: Anunoby, Johnson
2-way: Watson Jr.
RFA: Boucher, Brissett
UFA: VanVleet, Gasol, Ibaka, Hollis-Jefferson, Miller
In this scenario, the Raptors have $91.5 million committed to 12 players, with four main roster spots and one two-way spot left open. They could spend about $41 million before hitting the luxury tax line. For your personal scenario analysis, I would keep “$41 million for four roster spots” in mind as the rough budget for the offseason ahead. That’s for VanVleet, Ibaka/Gasol, Boucher/Brissett/Hollis-Jefferson/Miller and any MLE targets.
I’d expect the second two-way spot to be filled either by Brissett (a worst-case scenario for him) or the winner of a camp battle between Exhibit 10 guys. An Exhibit 10 deal allows the Raptors to designate a player for Raptors 905 if they’re cut and clear waivers, and that player receives a bonus to supplement their G League salary if they stay with the team long enough. In recent years, the Raptors have preferred to have a camp battle for at least one roster spot, and the second two-way slot makes sense if Harris is on a proper NBA deal.
The easy comparison for Flynn is VanVleet, and it’s not entirely lazy. Flynn is another polished and experienced guard who was overlooked by other teams due to his size and age. There are distinct differences in their games, but their general profiles are the same.
Flynn was one of the best guards in the NCAA last season. San Diego State went 30-2 before the season was called off due to COVID-19 and Flynn was the driving force behind their incredible success. Flynn led the team in scoring, assists, steals and 3-pointers made and collected a handful of honours, including Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the Mountain West conference.
The most developed part of Flynn’s game is his playmaking in the pick-and-roll, which accounted for 40 percent of his possessions. He is polished and poised in his approach, playing at his own tempo with a great feel for how to use the screen to his advantage. Flynn rarely forces his offence and shows a willingness to react to the defence before making his move. He scored 1.06 points per play in pick-and-roll, the third-highest rate of all players in the NCAA, and shows an ability to score at all three levels. Most importantly, he takes great care of the ball and doesn’t commit silly turnovers. He posted a turnover rate of just 10 percent despite using 27 percent of his team’s possessions.
Flynn’s proficiency with the pull-up jumper opens up most of his game. He confidently hits from the midrange and from 3, and has even shown some one-on-one ability. The threat of his scoring often drew double teams, which then allowed Flynn to use his playmaking. Flynn is particularly adept at either shedding his man on the screen to attack in a two-on-one, or drawing two defenders to him before feeding the roller with a bevy of interior passes.
Most of Flynn’s drawbacks come from being undersized. It’s difficult for Flynn to create separation at times without a screen, and finishing at the rim can be a challenge. Fortunately, he has a reliable floater to counter taller shot-blockers that he converted at 44 percent. That in-between game is one of the ways Flynn differs from VanVleet, as he also frequently uses the midrange pull-up. Flynn’s ability to score and counter in most scenarios is the main reason why he was so effective offensively.
To round it out, Flynn was also an excellent defender. Although his size (6-foot-1 in height with a 6-foot-3 wingspan) limits what he can do, Flynn fits the mould of VanVleet and Kyle Lowry in that he plays above his size. While he lacks the size and bulk of Toronto’s senior guards, Flynn has the same tendency to stay involved and surprise opponents with his ability to read the defence. He averaged 1.8 steals per game not only because he was a pest on the ball, but also because he was an effective help defender who would often catch bigger players by surprise with a double team to create a turnover. Despite being small, opponents shot just 34.5 percent against Flynn.
For those wondering what drafting a point guard means for the future of unrestricted free agent Fred VanVleet, there’s no reason to worry. The Raptors have had a guard-heavy roster for several years now and bringing Flynn on board provides them someone who can bide his time and learn from Kyle Lowry and VanVleet—hould the former re-sign. If anything, the team has bought themselves some insurance for Terence Davis, whose future is in doubt as he faces charges of third-degree assault and criminal mischief. For his part, Flynn is excited to learn from, hopefully, both Toronto’s star guards.
“I think it’s going to be great for me as a young guy coming into the league with two guys who have won a championship, who have put up great numbers, they’ve won,” Flynn said. “There’s not much bad you can say about those two guys and they’re similar size to me so I think it’ll be great for me to just be around them every day and just be able to learn.”
How quickly Flynn is able to take the lessons he receives and puts them into practice will be interesting to see. This rookie season for any player selected in the 2020 NBA Draft will prove an immense challenge due to COVID-19, as there will be no Summer League to get his feet wet, training camp will begin in just a couple weeks, and the regular season to follow just three weeks after that. Add the fact that the Raptors don’t even know where they’re playing right now, Flynn will be in especially unfamiliar territory as everyone looks to adjust. With all that being said, Webster believes the Raptors have someone who is built to play in today’s NBA.
“He’s a modern NBA point guard,” Webster said. “I think he can do it all on the offensive end. A lot of people are going to talk about pick-and-roll, shooting off the dribble, shoots the three-ball well, obviously defends at a high level as well. I wouldn’t say he necessarily fits for our development system. He’s just a guy we really liked and can come in and play a little bit for us but also develop under the leadership of Kyle and Fred. Those are two good guys for him to learn under.”
By now you’re probably acutely aware that the biggest piece of off-season business for the Raptors will be trying to re-sign Fred VanVleet.
You’re also probably aware of the fact VanVleet is looking for a big-time payday as one of the top free agents on the market — an understandable source of consternation for Raptors fans, who may be afraid that his big payday exists elsewhere.
If you’re worried about the Raptors possibly losing VanVleet, however, you may not be aware that it seems VanVleet’s market outside of Toronto could be shrinking.
Of the initially projected outside suitors for VanVleet’s services — the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks — there’s a chance that only the Knicks remain as serious competition for VanVleet.
That’s because earlier this week the Suns reportedly made a big trade for Chris Paul from the Oklahoma City Thunder, meaning the starting role VanVleet is likely desiring is off the table, as Paul will start alongside Devin Booker in Phoenix’s backcourt.
As for Detroit, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks reported, by acquiring Trevor Ariza from the Houston Rockets Wednesday night, they lost a good chunk of their cap space that could’ve been used to sign VanVleet in free agency.
That leaves the Knicks as the Raptors’ most realistic competitors for VanVleet, and if it comes down to a choice between New York and Toronto you have to think the Raptors have the edge. They know VanVleet well and have been far more successful of late (though the Knicks offer a big-market appeal).
And, as it turns out, there may not even be any competition from the Knicks as it’s been reported that New York’s been in hot pursuit of Gordon Hayward.
Should Hayward sign with New York that would potentially be another possible destination for VanVleet crossed off the list.
Granted, if VanVleet really wants to play in Phoenix, Detroit, New York or anywhere else, he will do that as it’s his earned the right to choose a team as an unrestricted free agent, but logically speaking, based off his own comments, the fact the Raptors have publicly stated they want him back and an apparent dwindling market for him, things are looking good for VanVleet to remain a Raptor for the foreseeable future.
By all accounts, the Raptors found a couple of talented young players in Flynn and Harris, who faced each other a couple times in the Mountain West Conference last season, with Flynn’s Aztecs winning both meetings (he scored a career-high 36 points in one of them).
Flynn is a well-rounded, two-way lead guard that should be able to step right in and fill a role early in his rookie season. At 6-foot-5, Harris is an elite athlete with a knack for scoring the ball.
However, in addition to their skill set and the physical tools that will determine whether they’re successful on the court, there are certain traits they both possess, qualities that the organization values highly and tends to look for in the prospects they bring in.
At 22, they both have a maturity and professionalism to them, which stood out to Toronto during the pre-draft interview process. They’re both confident in their ability and fiercely competitive.
These are the types of guys that fit their culture. You can see the similarities between them and some of the players that have already been successful in their program.
For Flynn, a tough undersized guard that plays bigger than his height, the comparisons to Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet are natural.
At his size and with his ability to get to the rim and score, Harris reminds you of a young Norman Powell. But it’s not just the talent that links them to these established Raptors stars. It’s also their mentality.
They’ve both been overlooked and underestimated, and they both play like they have something to prove – another quality that Toronto’s front office is fond of.
The backgrounds of Flynn and Jalen Harris, the Texas-raised guard the Raptors took with the 59th selection on Wednesday, are not dissimilar and they fit a Toronto mould of taking players with something to prove.
Flynn is small for a guard, just six-foot-one, and Harris suffered a broken back in high school and switched schools from Louisiana Tech to Nevada midway through his college career. Flynn went from Washington State to San Diego State.
Harris, a six-foot-five guard known for his astonishing athleticism, said his desire never wavered, even though he was hardly the most sought-after recruit following his broken back in high school in the Dallas area.
“What kept me going was honestly just my faith, I’m big on that,” he said. “It’s a big thing for me. Just sticking to it and my love for the game. I love the game, I love to play and I love the competition part, so for me it was just keep overcoming obstacles, keep pushing. That was my goal.”
Flynn and Harris are expected to meet their new teammates for an informal workout camp in the Los Angeles area next week to start their on-court path to the NBA. They might stick close to each other, seeing how they played against each a couple of times in college and then worked out together in the pre-draft process in Las Vegas.
There’s a familiarity there.
“Malachi is another competitor,” Harris said. “That’s one of the things I really like about him. He tries to do whatever he can to win so he’s going to bring that to the team as well as his IQ and the natural ability he has to score the ball and distribute the ball and do those things.”
Said Flynn of Harris: “I enjoyed playing against him. Well, I didn’t enjoy it, ‘cause he was killing us. But he’s a good competitor, good player, so I think that’ll be a good fit, too, someone who’s skilled, shoot it, super athletic. So I think that was a great pickup.”
Flynn’s resemblance to Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet is undeniable, three undersized, hard-playing guards who think the game as much as they play it.
Forget, for a moment, the fate of key free agents Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. Much of the league is convinced the Raptors will make an offer, in years and money, that will lead to VanVleet returning. That’s a huge plus and a must-do if they hope to remain legitimate contenders in the top half of the conference.
“(Our) biggest priority for the off-season is bringing him back,” general manager Bobby Webster said this week. “He had a great run four years, we fully expect that to continue, and everything’s been positive.”
That’s great. If they can get Ibaka back on a short-term deal, that’s even better. And an aging Gasol still has something in the tank but his loss would not be crippling. But even if we start at that jumping off point — VanVleet back and one of Ibaka and Gasol returning — it’s likely not enough.
That makes these next few days critical, and history does not suggest the Raptors will hit home runs. All of their tremendous growth over the past six seasons or so has come from their ability to find gems in the draft or after it (VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby) or in trades (Kawhi Leonard, Gasol) and not by buying talent. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a bit piece, Stanley Johnson was a sunk cost: Toronto’s pure free-agent moves have not been earth-shaking.
And the way the East is shaping up today — consider at least two of Toronto, Milwaukee, Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Miami will lose in the second round of the playoffs — something close to earth-shaking might be necessary.
There’s no reason to think that Webster and president Masai Ujiri won’t be up to the task but all their wonderful ability to find and nurture young players does not mean anything in the coming season. They need players. Good players. Players who can make a difference. It’s matter of the team’s leadership being able to pull it off.
With Harris, a lot of the draw is pure production and perceived developmental capacity. A non-prospect before this year after two seasons at Louisiana Tech with a redshirt transfer year, Harris took major strides with more opportunity in Nevada, becoming one of the better scorers in NCAA. He shot relatively well on 3s (36.2 percent), free throws (82.3 percent) and at the rim (61 percent) despite having to do a lot of the legwork to create those opportunities for himself. He is very strong attacking the defence, with a good handle, strong burst to get to the rim and improving decision-making. He even introduced some creative step-back and hesitation moves to his offensive package.
His 56-percent true-shooting rate was on monstrous 32.7-percent usage, and while it’s not very efficient, it helped drag a middling Nevada team to a 19-12 record and a top-50 adjusted offence, per KenPom. The Wolf Pack were 8.3 points per-100 possessions better with him on the court, and he played nearly 80 percent of their possessions. He’s not a lead-guard kind of playmaker right now, but he took on more of that responsibility as the season went on, and the improvement was noticeable going back to the tape from early in the year compared to later in the year.
Beyond scoring at a prolific rate, Harris also proved an above-average rebounder for the guard position.
Unlike with Flynn, though, I didn’t have a lot of support from my counterparts at The Athletic with Harris. Sam Vecenie ranked him outside of the top 70, and John Hollinger didn’t rank him at all. He’s not a high-impact defensive player, with pedestrian block and steal rates for a guard. Still, he’s very strong and he tries, which can go a long way when you’re the athlete Harris is.
And he’s a great one, by the way, testing as one of the better athletes at the combine. By bSPARQ, a composite score of publicly available NBA Draft Combine data, Harris was second to only Robert Woodard II among wings who participated. His strength comes despite weighing in at just 193 pounds, and if the Raptors can work with him to add additional size, his 6-foot-7 wingspan (against a 6-foot-4 height) should allow him to guard some wings instead of purely guards.
As serviceable as he could become as a team-level defender and secondary playmaker, Harris’ value lies in his ability to put pressure on a defence through scoring, something the Raptors have lacked.
By extending this offer, which comes in at around $2 million as mandated by the CBA (based on Boucher’s previous salary and years of service) the Raptors retain Boucher’s restricted free agency rights — which in turn means that the Raptors have the right to match any offer sheet Boucher signs with another team.
If Boucher were to sign this offer, he’d remain with the Raptors for the upcoming 2020-21 season and become an unrestricted free agent in the 2021 offseason. It seems more likely that Chris will play the market this summer and see what kind of offers he receives.
It’s not entirely clear what the market will be for Boucher, but his motor and shot-blocking are sure to have gotten notice around the league.
The Raptors have similar offers to make, if they choose, to Malcolm Miller and Oshae Brissett. It seems likely Brissett will receive one (and also not sign), but it sounds like Miller may not.
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