On the eve of free agency, the Toronto Raptors made their first move. Sending John Salmons’ contract to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Lou Williams and the rights to Brazilian rookie Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira, the Raptors deepened their bench. Toronto also sent a 2015 second-round draft pick to the Hawks.
Bringing in Williams provides a scoring punch for a reserve unit that sometimes struggled to put points on the board. Williams is an undersized guard who is at his best when given the freedom to freestyle on the court. His shooting percentages were down in his first season back from ACL rehabilitation, but if Williams can return to pre-injury form the Raptors have gained an experienced and fearless player.
Gaining the rights to Nogueira essentially gives Toronto the 2013 first-round pick they never had. A 21 year-old seven-footer with shot-blocking ability and untapped potential, Nogueira was selected 16th overall in the 2013 draft by the Boston Celtics before being sent to the Hawks. He has played for Spain’s Asefa Estudiantes since 2009 and averaged 6.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 16 minutes per game during the 2013-2014 season. Playing for Atlanta’s 2013 Las Vegas Summer League entry, Nogueira averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in 21 minutes over five contests.
Salmons came to the Raptors in the seven-player deal that sent Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings in December. In 60 games with Toronto he averaged 5.0 points, 2.0 rebounds in 21 minutes per game.
Going into last week’s draft, general manager Masai Ujiri expressed his desire to add a rim protector to the roster. Nogueira is a young talent worth taking a chance on and adding another young Brazilian to the team will only aid rookie Bruno Caboclo’s transition to the NBA.
While the biggest question of free agency is if Kyle Lowry will re-sign with the Raptors, this is a pretty solid way to kick off the free-agency period.
The 27-year-old Williams was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers straight out of high school in 2005, the same draft class as Amir Johnson. Standing 6-foot-2, he averaged a career-high 14.9 points per game for the Sixers in 2011-2012, finishing as the runner up for the Sixth Man of the Year award. In the event that either Lowry or restricted free agent Greivis Vasquez do not come to terms with the Raptors, Williams will be able to immediately step into a bigger role for the team.
Ujiri has repeatedly spoken about improving the Raptors roster to help them advance beyond the first-round exit they had in the 2013-2014 season. Committed to developing young talent, Ujiri is solidifying the foundation of a franchise that will compete to win now while also stockpiling talent to ensure a bright future.