The Raptors are in a tough spot financially this offseason. If they bring back free agents Fred VanVleet and Jakob Poeltl, they likely face luxury taxes, severely limiting their options this summer.
Even if VanVleet doesn’t return, the Raptors won’t have significant scope to sign top-tier free agents. They will likely operate as an over-the-cap team, with the $12 million mid-sized company exemption available to them, as well as some smaller company exemptions.
There are still some good players at this modest price tag of $12 million or less that could help make up for the Raptors’ biggest weaknesses from last season. They need more shots, more attack power and reinforcements on defense and in the center.
Here are the best candidates to fill those needs.
MORE: Will the Raptors’ Markquis Nowell follow Fred VanVleet’s unfinished plan?
The Raptors’ free agency goals for 2023: Backup guards
Carter was a solid role player for the Bucks, playing 39 games for them last season. He has developed into a very good marksman, shooting 40 percent of his 3-point shots in his career.
He’s much more restricted inside the arc, where he rarely shoots. He also has trouble landing on the rim, which has caused him to bounce around the league.
Carter is undersized at 6-1, but he’s trying hard defensively and won’t let that lack of size hold him back. It is a vermin that harass opponents at the point of attack.
Carter isn’t your typical point guard who can get to the edge, bring down defenses and snap shots for his teammates. Because of those limitations, he didn’t play much for the Bucks in the playoffs.
But he’s good at what he does and would make a good replacement for the Raptors.
Many Raptors fans will already know Joseph, who played for the team in 2015-16 and 2016-17. He’s a dependable veteran who will be strong on defense and organize offense. He was previously a gluer for the Raptors, and he might be able to return to that role.
One thing that has changed about Joseph since his last Toronto stint is his improved shooting ability. He was once a shaky 3-point threat, but over the past two seasons he has scored 40.1 percent of his attempts.
Nunn missed the entire 2021–22 season with a knee injury, becoming a forgotten player for the Lakers. He was in and out of their rotation before being dealt to the Wizards. After the 2023 trade deadline, he played better and shot an excellent 39.2 percent from long range.
Prior to that knee injury, Nunn was a terrific microwave scorer for the Heat, averaging 15 points per game in his first two seasons in the league. He combines his strong 3-pointer with a solid pull-up and a good finish on the edge.
Nunn isn’t a great defender, but perhaps the staff behind him could help the Raptors hide that weakness. It could be a nice short term addition while trying to restore its value.
The Raptors’ free agency goals for 2023: Cheap shooters
Could Watanabe return to Toronto? He struggled to break into the rotation in his first stint in the North, but he’s since become an even better shooter, shooting an absurd 44.4 percent of his 3-pointers for the Nets last season.
Raptors fans know what they’re getting at Watanabe. He’s not a great shot artist, but he will do his best on defense and catch open looks. For an offense that really needed someone to parry shots, Watanabe could be a lot more useful in his second through.
Lee was one of the top shooters in the league last season, hitting 44.5 percent of his 3-pointers for the Suns. In that regard, he’s essentially a one-trick pony. He’s not great on the edge or on mid-range shots, but he can shoot on the move.
Lee isn’t a great defender, but he’s quite competitive in that regard. He’s a flawless veteran who can be a good role player.
Curry saw his role in Brooklyn dwindle, but he can still shoot the ball. He’s a 43.5 percent career deep shooter who can play a little pick and roll as a secondary ball handler and execute shots in an emergency.
Curry’s short stature makes him a target on the defensive end, but the Raptors might have enough size to get him out of those bad matches.
The Raptors’ 2023 Free Agency Goals: Support Big Men
Bryant has been a very talented offensive player in recent seasons. He’s a career 36.6 percent 3-point shooter who averaged 19.3 points per 36 minutes last season.
Bryant wasn’t able to hit that 36-minute mark very often due to his defensive limitations. As a change from Poeltl, however, he could be a good situational center.
i am bamba
Bamba, the former No. 6 in the 2018 NBA draft, hasn’t developed as strongly as expected, but he has emerged as a viable substitute. He has a tremendous 7-10 wingspan that helps him protect the rim, and over the past two seasons he’s shot 38.3 percent from deep.
Bamba doesn’t have a great engine and he still lacks the feel of the game at times. However, he can be helpful in a specific role, which is exactly what the Raptors need.