The Toronto Raptors have added some new faces to their roster this offseason.
Sure, those names aren’t Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, but they’re important additions nonetheless. With last season’s backup point guards, Sebastian Telfair and John Lucas III, no longer with the team, adding Augustin and Buycks was an important step for shoring up the team’s depth at that position.
Throw in a tough and talented player called "Psycho T," and you start to see the shape of the Raptors lineup next season.
Of course, the biggest news of the Raptors' offseason was the trade that finally sent Bargnani to the New York Knicks in exchange for draft picks and Steve Novak, via Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears. Yes, Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson were also part of the deal, but it looks like neither of them will be with the team going forward. More on that later.
No, these moves weren't the kind that determine a team’s fate for years to come, but nonetheless, they’re important steps in deciding what kind of team the Raptors want to be going into next season.
And any time you rid yourself of an underachieving No. 1 overall pick who has frustrated fans for far too long, it’s a big deal.
Signing Tyler Hansbrough
According to Yahoo!'s Spears, Hansbrough and the Raptors agreed to a two-year deal worth part of the mid-level exception. Coming off a year in which he helped the Indiana Pacers go all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, it was a tad surprising to see him leave.
However, he had his reasons.
His playing time was slowly decreasing year by year—and so was his production. He went from being a starter at the beginning of the 2010-11 season and averaging 11 points a game to backing up David West and playing just 16.9 minutes per contest this season.
Obviously, the Pacers had a fantastic year, so head coach Frank Vogel clearly knew what he was doing. But as far as Hansbrough was concerned, he was in danger of becoming a permanent backup, especially in light of West’s three-year extension with the team, as reported by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
So when he got the chance to play meaningful minutes for a team looking to make the playoffs for the first time in years, he took that opportunity.
And thank goodness he did.
First and foremost, Hansbrough immediately becomes Toronto’s strongest and most physical player. Weighing in at 250 pounds, he’ll be able to push around opposing big men, set hard screens for the Raptors' guards and be a force on the glass.
He’s undoubtedly a bruiser, but where he’s probably a bit underrated is in his offensive capabilities. It’s not that he can’t score, but it’s hard to justify taking a lot of shots when you have Paul George, Roy Hibbert, West and Danny Granger on your team.
With the Raptors, he’ll be a welcome scorer off the bench, given that the team’s other big man off the bench, Aaron Gray, is used primarily for his immense size on defense (7'0", 270 lbs).
If the Raptors bring on another quality big man, these numbers could change. But as it stands, Hansbrough should have no problem averaging 25 minutes a game with averages of nine points and six rebounds a game going into next season.
This is a good signing, but Hansbrough will need to consistently demonstrate his offensive capabilities before this deal can move into the A-range. This bench will need as much scoring as possible.
Signing D.J. Augustin and Dwight Buycks
When the Raptors chose to decline Lucas III’s option, via the team's Twitter account, the natural assumption was that the team was looking to upgrade its backup point guard position. After all, Lucas did struggle for a few stretches last season, but later on in the year, he started to heat up, especially from three-point range (he went 5-of-5 from distance on February 10 and followed it up by shooting 4-of-6 on February 12).
So when the team signed Augustin and Buycks, there was plenty of reason for fans to be skeptical.
However, when you take a closer look, you see that...fans should still be very skeptical.
Augustin? This guy averaged career lows in every single category last season (4.7 points, 2.2 assists per game) on a very good playoff team and failed to stay there for more than a season.
Several times throughout his stay with the Pacers, he was unable to initiate the offense and play effectively, as written about by Pace Miller of PacersPulse.com. Sure, he had some decent seasons in Charlotte, but at this point in his career, he should be better, not worse. George Hill isn't even an elite point guard, so it’s not like Augustin didn’t produce because he was stuck behind an All-Star.
If the Raptors really wanted an upgrade from Lucas III, they surely missed the boat here. Like Lucas III, Augustin is also undersized (6'0"), and if he couldn't flourish in a situation where his job was to help George, Hibbert and West get easier looks, it’s not crazy to be skeptical of this move.
Fortunately, Buycks looks like a solid pickup.
It’s only summer league, but he’s already had some big games. Against the Denver Nuggets, he posted a double-double with 18 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.
And in his D-League stint in 2011-12, he averaged 15.1 points with a 49.7 field-goal percentage, according to NBA.com
Obviously, none of those numbers were in the NBA, but they’re indicative of his scoring acumen. The Raptors need bench scoring, and if given the opportunity, Buycks should be able to put up some quick points. It remains to be seen if he’s capable of initiating the team’s offense, but given Kyle Lowry’s injury history and Augustin’s struggles, he’ll likely get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.
If the Raptors had kept Lucas III and then brought on Augustin to share minutes with him, this grade would be better. Buycks is an intriguing case and should be worth keeping an eye on next season, but in an offseason where so many others teams have made great moves, these signings can hardly be called an upgrade.
Trading Andrea Bargnani
Well, he did it.
When Masai Ujiri was hired to be the Raptors’ new general manager, it was reported by CBSSports.com's Matt Moore that trading Bargnani was his first priority.
It was looking far less likely as months went by and no team came to claim him. When the NBA draft came around, many hoped Toronto would trade into it while maybe ridding itself of Bargnani.
But that day passed too, and Bargnani was still a Raptor.
Then, one fateful day, June 30, 2013, it happened.
Bargnani was sent packing to the New York Knicks in exchange for a 2016 first-round pick, two future second-round picks, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson and Marcus Camby.
However, Camby was bought out by the team as per his request, according to the team's Twitter account, and Richardson is also unlikely to remain with the team, according to the Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat.
How Ujiri managed to secure a first-round pick alone is a testament to his basketball and business genius. The acquisition of Novak is just gravy. He’s a shooter and nothing more, but the threat of him making a couple big shots in a row will prove invaluable to the Raptors offense next year.
It’s a new era in Toronto, and it’s looking mighty good.
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