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With the initial buzz of the 2021 NBA Free Agency period fading away, the Toronto Raptors have been more conservative on the market in comparison to other seasons. The biggest move the Raptors’ pulled off was the sign-and-trade of Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat in exchange for Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa, a bittersweet deal for Toronto fans.
With most of the big names being signed right away, there still remains talent across various positions and ages left on the NBA free agent market. The Toronto Raptors have done well to address some of their positional needs this off-season, acquiring a number of good players at reasonable costs. However, some established NBA talent still remains on the market looking for a new home to play in for the upcoming season. So who are the best options for the Raptors right now and who could they pursue to help bolster the roster even more?
Let’s breakdown the Top 3 Free Agents the Raptors should consider:
- Frank Ntilikina
Frank Ntilikina is a solid guard option that the Raptors could take a chance on. The former eighth-overall pick in 2017 was waived by the New York Knicks two weeks ago, making him an unrestricted free agent. After entering the NBA and projected to have lots of potential, injuries and limited opportunity in New York have held him from developing to the level expected of him. With his potential and in need of a fresh start in his early career, he could find a home in Toronto to compliment the Raptors backcourt.
Ntilikina stands at 6’4 with a registered 7’0 wingspan, making him a suitable long guard in Toronto’s defensive focused system. He has the ability to match-up with multiple positions, and his length contributes to his ability to cut into passing lanes, transition out of screens in the pick-and-roll, and defend on the perimeter.
He has also showed his new development of a three-point shot, shooting 47.9% from deep last season in 33 games with the Knicks. His offensive game overall is a project the Raptors can work to develop. If he can grow his offensive game, he can add more depth to the Raptors offence at a guard or wing position, and become a reliable off-ball option in addition to scoring fast-break points.
Although Ntilikina’s career with the Knicks was limited with minutes and stats, he does have the potential to be a solid 3&D guard and compliment the Raptors backcourt with his defensive ability and shooting potential.
2. Harry Giles
Harry Giles may be another potential sleeper pickup option the Raptors can pursue to experiment with their frontcourt. Already boasting the likes of Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch and Precious Achiuwa, adding Harry Giles could be another young asset that adds to the front-court and addresses the need for a big body down low in the post.
Giles was another member of the 2017 draft class, and at just 23 years old, the power forward still remains on the free agent market as an unrestricted free agent after a lone season with the Portland Trail Blazers. He was widely regarded as a top prospect during his time in Duke University with great size, athleticism, rebounding ability and defensive ability. An unfortunate injury in his rookie season set him back in his early career, and he hasn’t had much opportunity, playing only 38 games with the Blazers in 2020-21. The Raptors can still take a chance on the young forward and try to unlock his potential after seeing flashes throughout his young career.
Giles provides a defensive spark and overall energy that fits right into the Raptors’ culture. He is a versatile big with good post-play down low and passing ability. He would be a great addition in different pick-and-roll situations that Toronto’s backcourt can leverage. It also gives Giles a chance to reunite with teammate Gary Trent Jr from their Portland and Duke days.
3. Jarred Vanderbilt
To address the depth at the wing position, a player like Jarred Vanderbilt can be another good option that the Raptors can pursue. Vanderbilt was a former Kentucky Wildcat and a second round pick in 2018 NBA Draft. After being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2020, Vanderbilt was able to play more consistently with the T-Wolves rotation after Karl-Anthony Towns was sidelined with an injury. Vanderbilt remained in the rotation for most of the rest of the 2021 season, starting 30 out of the 64 games he appeared in and averaged 5.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals.
Vanderbilt has the size, athleticism and high intensity defending ability that compliments the Raptors play style. With a 6’9 frame along with length and mobility, Vanderbilt has the ability to switch onto both mid-size and larger players in various defensive situations. His defensive ability can earn him a more prominent spot in the rotation off the bench alongside players like Yuta Watanabe. A combination like that can be versatile and deadly on the defensive end.
These three prospective free agents did not get many opportunities to grow in their early NBA careers yet. Perhaps in a new environment, these free agents could re-write their NBA careers with the Toronto Raptors next season. With the widely respected development and coaching of the Raptors organization, there is no doubt they can help unlock their potential and grow with the Raptors if they decide to take a chance on signing them.