Title: Norm Powell, Jakob Poeltl and the Young Raptors Primed for Bigger Roles
Date: May 31, 2017
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: For my latest at Vice, I wrote about the important offseason ahead for the Raptors’ young, developing players.
Over the last few seasons, the Toronto Raptors have dedicated the backend of their roster to young, developing players. While other contenders and pseudo-contenders will look for ring-chasers on veteran minimum deals or employ a less top-heavy salary structure, Masai Ujiri and company have opted to keep a handful, and sometimes more, of youthful pieces. This past year, the Raptors took that to the extreme, employing seven players who were on their first contracts.
The logic is strong, assuming the organization’s ability to identify and grow talent is as good as it believes. Operating this way accomplishes three main objectives: It increases upside, since at least some of the unproven prospects would ostensibly have higher ceilings than known veteran commodities; it provides an inexpensive source of minutes (the seven youngsters and the No. 23 pick will combine to make just $15.6 million next year, or an estimated 15.5 percent of the salary cap to take up 53.3 percent of the roster spots); and it provides a pivot foot if the Raptors opt to change course entirely and tear things down, creating a base of young talent to begin rebuilding with.
The different purposes the youth could serve can confuse just how important each piece may be in 2017-18. If the Raptors roll things back, most of the youngsters stand to provide inexpensive depth and continue on their individual development paths, some with D-League time with Raptors 905. If the Raptors go the other direction and take a step or two back, all seven—plus the No. 23 pick—could see heavy minutes in the rotation out of the gate. Yes, even Bruno Caboclo. Regardless of direction, this offseason stands to be a big one for the crop of development pieces.
That holds especially true for two who figure to be major pieces in either build-or-break scenario next year.