Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are off to Los Angeles to join the Clippers and, while the Toronto Raptors are the reigning NBA champions, the organization is in a strange place. In addition to losing Leonard, Masai Ujiri and company will be re-tooling without two-way role player Danny Green but, on Saturday, the Raptors reportedly made their first move with an eye toward in the future in agreeing to a two-year pact with former lottery pick Stanley Johnson.
At the moment, Toronto’s roster is still heavily loaded with highly-paid veterans, including Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. However, there is some future-facing momentum for the Raptors behind Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, with Johnson still presents some modicum of upside despite struggles in Detroit and New Orleans.
Johnson was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and, considering he was young when he arrived in Detroit, the former Arizona star is still only 23 years old. In theory, Johnson has two-way potential given his strong, athletic frame but he is a career 29.3 percent shooter from three-point distance and, on the offensive end, he has been badly inefficient in four NBA seasons.
As such, this contract represents a stronger investment than many believed Johnson would garner, particularly when factoring in the player option. Still, this seems to be Toronto buying low on a player with real talent and betting on the team’s fantastic culture to aid in Johnson’s development for the future.