With the Toronto Raptors holding three draft picks in this year’s draft, as well as generally seeming to prefer to churn their final few roster spots looking for gems, a variety of players have been cut from the roster in recent days.
On August 3, the Raptors announced that they waived Paul Watson, Rodney Hood, and DeAndre’ Bembry. Hood’s departure from the team was expected, with Toronto acquiring him more as salary ballast in the Gary Trent Jr. and Norman Powell swap. His age, injury history, and spotty shooting with Toronto meant that the Raptors were more likely to use the roster spot on someone with higher upside for the future. Bembry was a hard-nosed defender last season who passed well, but his limited individual scoring ability probably meant that he was destined for other pastures, like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson before him.
However, Watson’s departure was more surprising. Watson played well in the few minutes he received as a Raptors, even shooting 46.6 percent from deep over two seasons with the squad. He’s a long and rangy defender, and he even showed some nascent off-the-dribble game last season. He seemed to possibly fit the bill as one of those gems that Toronto wants to find at the bottom of the roster. However, with Toronto seeming to acquire multiple players in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade deal, and three incoming draft picks, Watson seems to be a victim of circumstance more than anything else.
Then today on August 4, the Toronto Raptors announced they waived Aron Baynes. His age seemed to catch up to him in his lone season with the Raptors, as he was overextended in Toronto’s aggressive defensive schemes. He had a solid stretch of play towards the ends of the year as a back-up center, and it’s likely he improves his play if his next team asks less of him.
All four players had non- or partially-guaranteed contracts for the 2021-22 season, meaning that depending on how Toronto times the Trent Jr. re-signing and works the Lowry sign-and-trade, the team could have up to approximately $20M of cap space with which to work. However, with a deal for Khem Birch rumoured to be in the works, and most of the major free agents already signed to other teams, don’t expect the Raptors to spend that possible money on anyone splashy this offseason. Instead they’ll likely parlay their current flexibility into future flexibility to take more swings at the free agency fences down the line.
Chris Boucher, Yuta Watanabe, and Freddie Gillespie all have dates coming up over the next few weeks after which their 2021-22 contracts will guarantee.