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An ideal candidate for the Raptors, Otto Porter Jr. leaves the Warriors, putting the NBA champions in a precarious spot

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Eleven months ago, Otto Porter Jr. entered free agency as something of a wild card. Every NBA executive knew what he could do when he was healthy, but no one could count on him being healthy. Due to foot and back injuries, he played 28 games in the 2020-21 season, and only half that number in the previous one. If you’ve already forgotten that he was ever a member of the Orlando Magic, that’s because, after they acquired him about 15 months ago, he only appeared in three games for them.

Porter signed with the Golden State Warriors last summer in hopes of getting his career back on track. It was a minimum contract and it was the best decision he could have made. He played in 63 regular season games, traded nearly all of his long 2s for 3s and won a championship, starting the last three games of the NBA Finals. Porter gave the Warriors some defensive versatility and some shooting up front. He was a perfect fit for their movement-oriented offense. He worked out so well that he’s not going back.

The 29-year-old forward agreed to a two-year deal with the Toronto Raptors on Friday, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. He will reportedly get a player option in season two. Salary has yet to be reported, but, according to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange, Toronto will use part of its $10.5 million non-contributing midlevel exception.

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For the Raptors, Porter is an ideal addition. He gives them more of the length, size and switchability they have up and down the list, plus the accuracy they desperately need. From 2020-21 to 2021-22, Toronto dropped from 5th to 22nd in 3-point frequency, according to Crystal Clearing, and its accuracy went from average (36.8 percent) to poor (34.9 percent). More specifically, the Raptors had the worst shooting bench in the NBA from long range: Their reserves shot 30.9 percent from deep, according to NBA.com, and they shot fewer 3-pointers per 100 possessions than all but one team. Porter will provide second-unit space and can slip into the starting lineup when Toronto is shorthanded.

Among analysts, the Raptors have been a popular destination for Kevin Durant in hypothetical trade scenarios. If they don’t make a trade, though, they’ve already put together a solid offseason: Before the Porter deal, they brought back Chris Boucher in a three-year, $35.3 million contract and Thaddeus Young on a two-year, $16 million deal. With some progression from Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes and a stronger bench, they should come back better than they were.

It’s less clear if the champions will be better or not. Now that Porter has followed Gary Payton II out the door, Golden State has lost two of the eight players still in the rotation at the end of the Finals. Nemanja Bjelica, another useful addition on a minimal contract, is reportedly set to leave for Fenerbahce. Juan Toscano-Anderson, who contributed during the regular season and played a big role in the Warriors’ 15-5 finish in 2020-21, is leaving for the Lakers.

Golden State retained big man Kevon Looney on a three-year, $25.5 million contract. by ESPN, a bargain for a player who was crucial to his championship run. Beyond that, with the front office seemingly constrained by the replay tax, free agency will be about finding the next Porter and the next Payton — high-end role players who are willing to sign for the bare minimum. If guys like that were easy to find, though, then the Warriors would have a long list of similar success stories.

It hasn’t even been 24 hours since teams were officially allowed to trade free agents, and The market it’s drying up. Could Juancho Hernangomez, fresh off his breakout role in “Hustle,” play the role of Porter? Could Caleb Martin give Golden State some of the perimeter defense it lost when Payton walked? The board cannot convince Marc Gasol to leave the team he founded in Spain, right?

Regardless of how the Warriors round out the roster, you can expect two words from the Bay Area: internal development. James Wiseman, drafted as the No. 2 overall in 2020, is 21 years old. Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, selected in the 2021 lottery, will be 20 years old when the 2022-23 regular season begins. In a perfect world, everyone will be ready to earn spots in the rotation and collectively make up for the talent the team has lost. Although Wiseman missed the entire championship season, Kuminga and Moody pitched in when asked. The rookies even had their moments in the playoffs.

It’s significant that Steve Kerr’s coaching staff felt comfortable putting Kuminga and Moody on the floor in certain playoff matchups. However, it’s another thing entirely to trust them, and Wiseman, who remains a huge question mark, night after night as he tries to defend the title. Golden State knows better than anyone that, at the top, the margin for error is minuscule. If the Warriors face a small, dynamic shooting guard in next year’s postseason, they’ll have to put someone other than Payton on him. If they need to go small, but no also small, they’ll need to play someone other than Porter at No. 4. Depth was one of the many virtues of the 2021 roster, but if it’s going to find strength in numbers again, the front office needs to get creative.

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