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Toronto Raptors

NBA Free Agency 2019: How early free agency signings impact the Toronto Raptors

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Horford and Celtics are two of the biggest names to move to Eastern contenders. (NBA Getty Images)

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): While the Toronto Raptors wait for the decision by Kawhi Leonard, the rest of the Eastern Conference has wasted no time in making major moves.

The 76ers added Al Horford, brought back Tobias Harris and said goodbye to Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick.

The Celtics swapped in Kemba Walker for Kyrie Irving while also breaking ties with the aforementioned Horford.

The Bucks spent big to bring back Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez before then losing Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers.

That's without getting into the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving who likely won't see the floor together for the Brooklyn Nets until 2020-21.

Whew. That's a lot.

Which brings it all back to the Raptors who so far have mostly stood pat. What stands out to you guys as the biggest way these moves impact the defending champs?

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): To me, it's that despite losing Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, the 76ers have somehow managed to remain as the biggest threat to the Raptors.

Al Horford is a huge pick up for them and if they can continue to fill out the roster with some role players, they'll be a tough out in the postseason. I know Milwaukee had the best record in the Conference a season ago and it very well might do it again, but in the playoffs, I think the 76ers would once again be a tougher matchup for the Raps due to their size and length.

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Philadelphia is definitely scary, some things need to fall in place for that to truly work out, though.

With that being said, I think the Celtics have made moves and are in the process of revamping their roster in a way that will make things difficult for the Raptors. Kemba Walker is the perfect blend of what Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving brought to this team, and he's surrounded by young talents like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum who have potential that's through the roof.

Boston nearly won 50 games with a number of issues last year and now I think many of those issues go away.

Adams: The road towards repeating just got much harder. It goes without saying that for the Raps to do that, they need Kawhi to stay. But even if he does, I'd go as far as saying the road through the East might not go through Toronto.

Gay: Come on...

McGregor: It's hard to say in July… but where does it run through now? Is there a head-and-shoulders best team among the East contenders?

Gay: It's not hard for me...they bring the same team back, they are the favourites period.

McGregor: I get that, but let's not act like last season's postseason run was a walk in the park. Toronto made it happen but its back was against the wall a few times

Adams: Horford going to the 76ers is a problem.

The fit is far from perfect, but that's suddenly a massive team. Josh Richardson is 6'6" and he's by far the smallest guy in that starting five. All of those triples that Lowry and VanVleet sunk during this ride would need to be over some really tall trees.

#RichardsonGay: No doubt, but the same problem that kept Philly from advancing would still be present.

Who's stopping Kawhi Leonard? The man who did the best job of slowing him down is now in South Beach.

The Celtics may have a dynamic guard in Kemba, but they replaced two great defenders inside (Horford, Baynes) with Enes Kanter and the Bucks got boat raced in four straight games and are now without their adult in the room Malcolm Brogdon.

Listen, I'm not saying it's a foregone conclusion that the Raptors win the East again but to sit here and say they aren't the favourite if they keep the same team is a joke.

Adams: Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez are two more adults in the room!

Gay: More like senior citizens in the room... Love Robin Lopez and Wes Matthews but they aren't buying green bananas.

Adams: Here's the thing with the Bucks: They were one missed 3 away from taking a 3-0 lead against the Raptors.

If Middleton sinks that 3 after those pair of missed free throws by Siakam at the end of regulation in Game 3, there's no championship parade in Toronto. That team was legit and if Giannis comes back with an actual, legitimate jump shot... it's suddenly a whole different ball game when it comes to stopping him.

Gay: One missed three turned into four straight losses.

Once the Raptors figured out how to guard Giannis there was nothing Milwaukee could do. Kawhi is the answer to Giannis and I don't think one summer is going to change that.

Listen, I'm with you in the biggest threat being the 76ers, I'll feel confident should the Raptors play the Bucks in a seven-game set.

Adams: Sure, but guarding the 2019 version of Giannis might be completely different than the 2020 version. That dude figures out how to shoot and he's a different animal.

Their biggest free agent signing might be the 500 hours of gym time he gets in over the summer.

McGregor: Giannis has developed his game in a major way year after year. I completely expect him to add another dynamic to his game.

Gay: Giannis will never be Kevin Durant in terms of shooting ability. IF Giannis gets a consistent jumper, which I truly do think he will get, teams will still allow him to take that shot.

The hardest version of Giannis to guard is the one coming downhill, not the 7-footer standing on the perimeter.

Adams: I don't disagree.

What about Boston? Does Kemba Walker plus another offseason of rehab for Gordon Hayward move the needle or does Horford leaving for Philly essentially take the Celtics out of the conversation?

Gay: No Horford and Baynes. How will Boston stop the downhill Giannis or Pascal Siakam - who by the way will also get better this summer.

McGregor: I don't know, there's something I like about the way this new Boston team is shaping up.

Adams: Losing Baynes is low-key a pretty big deal. Especially if Enes Kanter is the top big they end up with when the dust settles.

Gay: Y'all know I love Daniel Theis but he ain't it...

Adams: Theis is nice!

McGregor: Again, I really think they'll look a bit more like that 2017 team which definitely had a ceiling short of being a title contender. but was scrappy and could make things difficult for other teams.

The right matchups and I think a scrappy Celtics team could take any of the East favourites to seven. We saw this year that it takes a little luck.

Adams: To me, Boston is the great unknown. It took Paul George two years to really get back to being Paul George. Which means if Gordon Hayward is back to being Gordon Hayward now two years removed from that gruesome injury, they're suddenly far more dangerous.

Gay: Are we sure Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum are just going to work well together? Add in Jaylen Brown too - who's sacrificing there?

Adams: It's a major question mark. And one of them is probably going to have to play the four.

Gay: Which means Hayward isn't going back to the Hayward of old

Boston has too many guys who do the same things at that spot, and aside from Brown, the other two don't guard.

McGregor: We saw flashes of it this past year, though. From each of them.

If their team chemistry truly does have room to improve, I don't see why it couldn't breed improvement in performance across the board.

Adams: The entire world seemed to think that Jayson Tatum was on the verge of superstardom 14 months ago. While last season was underwhelming, have we collectively forgotten just how special the best version of him could be?

For him to get there he needs reps, which might be tough with Walker and Hayward and Brown, but there's a path.

I like his chances of doing it alongside Walker far more than I did Irving.

#TatumGay: The difference was that Hayward was in a suit while Tatum was flourishing, not standing next to him fighting over the same piece of the pie.

Adams: Totally valid.

Gay: I guess I'm talking myself into a trade if I'm Boston. If you had to move one of Hayward, Brown or Tatum who goes and why?

McGregor: Conventional wisdom tells me to part ways with the oldest of the three, but he also has the largest contract figure

Adams: It has to be Hayward, right? But at the same time, his stock isn't what it needs to be to get max value back.

Tatum gets you the most back without a doubt.

While there's a chance he becomes this star everyone thought he'd be, there's also the chance that this is simply who he is in which case there's no better time to sell high if another team fancies its chances. What if you could get back a legit two-way four?

Gay: I think I'd move Tatum...I think Hayward alongside Kemba is a better second option. However, you can talk me into keeping Tatum and moving Hayward but I wouldn't even dream about moving Brown.

McGregor: That's tough.

I agree with you on Brown, 100%.

Adams: I love Brown and it seems as if he can fit alongside anyone and play in almost any role in any system. Even if that ceiling may not be quite as high.

Gay: That's why I keep him. I also think Tatum is a scorer may not ever be much else. Hayward may be a little bit more willing and capable of being versatile.

Better passer/ball mover and in an offence that's going to depend on Kemba ISOs at times I'd want Hayward to keep the ball from sticking.

Adams: That conundrum points right back into the direction of the Raptors. I'm fascinated by the differences in these teams and what it means for Siakam.

Against the Celtics, he's got a massive advantage as we've seen he's a different player when guarded by smaller guys.

Against the 76ers, he's got to deal with Horford playing as a four against a team that's big everywhere.

Gay: Tougher to speed up the pace in the postseason, but you're right.

McGregor: Defensively, it's going to be really scary facing the size and length that the Sixers have, but there are two sides of the floor.

If they can't consistently knock down jumpers to replace what they've lost with Redick, they might not be able to produce enough offence to hang around.

Gay: Ben Simmons where art thou?

Adams: We're about to find out.

Gay: Maybe he can get locked into the gym for 500 hours with Giannis.

Adams: So are we all in agreement then that the team who made the most moves to indirectly impact the Raptors is the 76ers? With the Celtics next followed by a Bucks team relying on running it back with an improved Greek Freak?

McGregor: Sounds about right, which is wild considering the Bucks won 60 games last season.

Gay: I'm going 76ers, Bucks, Celtics...but none of this matters if Kawhi is in L.A.

Adams: Keep those alerts on.

McGregor: So, pretty much, each of these teams is too flawed for there to be a clear-cut best one?

Or rather, there are too many questions left to be answered.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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