The Toronto Raptors' offseason was centred around retaining Kawhi Leonard for a title defence. With Leonard leaving the 6ix for L.A., Masai Ujiri's plan quickly pivoted towards filling out a roster that could replace the Finals MVP by committee.
Did he succeed? Let's take a look.
Defence wins championships. The Raptors know that first hand. The team got a lot of credit when the likes of Leonard, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet hit timely shots, but it was their stingy defence that allowed them to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy.
As NBA.com's Scott Rafferty points out , Johnson was among the best defensive small forwards in the league a season ago. You can't expect him to be the lockdown defender that the Klaw was, but he's not a significant drop-off.
At 6'7", Johnson has the length (7-foot wingspan) and athleticism to guard multiple positions. In the Raptors' switching defence, he'll fit right in on the wing next to Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka. His arrival will soften the blow of losing Leonard and Green.
Johnson's offence is a different story. In no way shape or form can Johnson fill the void that both Green and Leonard left on that side of the floor. We don't need to go into how great Leonard is offensively - that's a given - but Green's impact in spacing the floor will be missed. Green shot a career-high 46% from 3-point range last season. Johnson's career-high 3-point percentage? 31%.
Nick Nurse will have to find a way to use Johnson effectively on offence, otherwise he may do more harm than good on the floor for the Raptors this season.
Much like Johnson, RHJ brings a ton of defensive potential. His size (6'7") and length (7'1" wingspan) will make it tough for teams to score against.
Imagining a lineup of Lowry, Johnson, Anunoby, Siakam and Hollis-Jefferson could be fun in spurts for the Raptors next season. The five of them have the potential to turn games into a track meet with their ability to create turnovers and run the floor.
So there are positives that Hollis-Jefferson brings to the table, but he also brings much of the same negatives as Johnson. RHJ is simply not a shooter - in fact, he doesn't look comfortable even attempting 3-pointers. Last season in Brooklyn, he had his worst year from behind the arc, shooting just 18% from deep.
And it wasn't just his 3-point shot that didn't fall. His free throw shooting took a dip, down to a career-low 65%.
Raptors fans shouldn't expect much offensively from RHJ. That's just not his game. His hustle and energy, however, is contagious. Without having a jump shot to rely on, he'll still manage to find points in transition and offensive putbacks.
There's room for what he does, not only on the Raptors but all other teams as well.
To get an A, the Raptors needed to re-sign Kawhi Leonard - everyone knew that going into the free agency period. Without him, the team now has a ceiling of a middle of the conference playoff team.
The loss of Danny Green can't be understated either. In a league where 3-point shooting is becoming more and more essential, Green's departure leaves a hole Toronto failed to fill.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson are nice players. What they provide defensively could be intriguing for Nurse and his staff. Their ability to get out and run could hide a few of their deficiencies on offence, but it's hard to imagine a world where both can play on the floor together for extended stretches.
Keeping Marc Gasol should be seen as a positive. His ability to move the ball in the halfcourt should take the pressure off Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry to have to create everything off the dribble. As an expiring deal, he can also be a valuable trade asset for the team down the line.
Re-signing Patrick McCaw gives the team more time to work with him to see if there's breakthrough potential with the 23-year-old. And adding Matt Thomas and Terence Davis gives Toronto two guys they can continue to develop in the backcourt.
Ujiri and Bobby Webster acquired a lot of projects this offseason. Every player they've signed has had the potential label slapped on them at one point or another. But the Raptors have done well over the last couple of years of developing their in-house talent.
Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Siakam have all been put through the system and come out on the other end as quality NBA players. As the saying goes, trust in Masai. He has an eye for talent and the staff to maximize it.
The only issue is coming off a championship season, grabbing projects to replace superstars just isn't good enough.
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