The Raptors played the entire 2020-21 season in Tampa Bay, lost six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry last offseason, and are currently playing with no fans due to Ontario’s COVID policy.
In 2018, Toronto had traded franchise face DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, who delivered a title — but immediately left for L.A., signaling what many thought would be a long-term rebuild.
Yet, on a three-game win streak following Tuesday’s win over the Heat, Toronto is the East’s 8-seed. Credit is due to president Masai Ujiri.
- Rather than reach for another “superstar,” Ujiri has continued to entrust Pascal Siakam (21 PPG) and stick with Fred VanVleet (21.5 PPG), who in Feb. 2021 became the highest-paid undrafted free agent in league history (four years, $85M).
- They traded Norman Powell for Gary Trent Jr. last season. On Tuesday, Trent Jr. became the fourth player ever to record 30+ points and 5+ threes in five straight games.
- They signed fourth-overall pick Scottie Barnes for four years, $33 million. He has the third-best odds to win Rookie of the Year (+550*).
Plus, Goran Dragic’s $19.4 million deal expires after this season, which will give the Raptors roughly $18 million in cap space.
It’s no surprise that Ujiri is the mastermind behind it all. The one-time Executive of the Year is paid an AAV of $15 million — more than nine players on the team’s payroll.
Even if they don’t make a deep playoff run, the organization has managed to balance continued success and roster regeneration.