FAQ (Rank Among FAs): 34.1 (10th)
Contract: One year, $6 million
Instead of bringing free-agent big man Bismack Biyombo back to Toronto (Biz signed a hefty four-year, $72 million deal with the Orlando Magic), the Raptors instead reloaded with two new big men on the cheap.
The first addition came by way of the NBA draft. The North opted to select University of Utah center Jakob Poeltl with the No. 9 overall pick acquired from the New York Knicks in the Andrea Bargnani trade. The other big added to the frontcourt was former Ohio State Buckeye Jared Sullinger.
Sullinger graded out very favorably by FAQ as the 10th-best free agent by the metric. His youth (he won’t turn 25 until March), win shares (he notched a career-best 4.8 last season) and newfound defensive prowess were the key factors driving up his value. Sullinger recorded a defensive box plus-minus of 2.3 a season ago. That was the best mark of his career and more than double his total from the season prior.
His ability to limit opponents to one offensive possession through improved defensive rebounding was a huge positive for Boston’s defense. Throughout a breakout year for the upstart Celtics, Sullinger grabbed 27% of available defensive rebounds when he was on the court — by far the best percentage of his career.
But as Laws pointed out earlier this off-season, Sullinger was overlooked by the media and, as it turned out, by the majority of NBA teams as well.
There’s limited risk here from the Raptors in terms of Sullinger’s past back and foot problems, because it’s only a one-year trial. In theory, Toronto will get a hyper-motivated player looking to cash a big payday next summer. He can play either power forward or center and provides the Raps with solid frontcourt depth.
Why not take a flyer on a young big man coming off arguably his best season in an NBA jersey?