In a strategic move that kick-started the 2024 NBA trade deadline, the Toronto Raptors orchestrated a multi-player exchange with the Utah Jazz, fortifying their roster with key acquisitions while implementing cost-cutting measures.
Confirming earlier speculations, the Raptors successfully brought versatile Canadian forward Kelly Olynyk back home, creating a significant moment for the skilled player with local roots.
The trade package also included the promising talent of former NCAA champion and Final Four most outstanding player, Ochai Agbaji, the 14th pick in the 2022 NBA draft. This addition injects depth and potential into the Raptors’ lineup. In exchange for these acquisitions, the Raptors bid farewell to guard Kira Lewis Jr., forward Otto Porter Jr., and a coveted 2024 first-round pick.
This mid-season acquisition marks Olynyk’s return to his Toronto-born and Kamloops, BC-raised origins, and with the recent trade for RJ Barrett, it adds a sentimental touch to the roster shake-up for the second time in four weeks.
With an extensive NBA career now spanning eleven seasons and including stints with teams like the Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, and Utah Jazz, Olynyk’s arrival enriches the Raptors’ lineup with a wealth of skills and a well-rounded game, aligning seamlessly with the pass-first playing style of first-year head coach Darko Rajaković.
Olynyk’s impressive season averages of 8.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and a career-best 4.4 assists, along with Agbaji’s developing talents, contribute to the Raptors’ ongoing pursuit of rebuilding but not fully tanking in the 2024 NBA season.
“We did our heavy lifting about a month ago. At this trade deadline, we cleaned up a lot of things,” said GM Bobby Webster as he discussed the planned move to acquire Olynyk’s expiring $12 million dollar contract and turn one of the ’24 picks into Agbaji.
This move not only bolsters the team’s roster but also resonates with the city’s basketball roots, as Olynyk returns to where it all began before his remarkable NBA journey.
Discussing the team’s recent approach to signing Canadian players, Webster stated, “When it comes to identifying potential Canadian NBA talent, I always emphasize that it’s our duty to thoroughly understand and have a keen awareness of any emerging young Canadian players.”
Standing at six-foot-eleven, Olynyk’s basketball journey commenced in his youth, where he played alongside future NBA player Cory Joseph for the Scarborough Blues in the Scarborough Basketball Association.
Under the coaching guidance of his father, Ken Olynyk, a former U Sports player turned lifelong coach, who later served as an observing coach for the Raptors during the Lenny Wilkens era, and with his mother, Arlene, contributing as a scorekeeper, Olynyk developed his skills and passion for the game.
Playing for the Raptors, Olynyk’s signing holds significant implications for Canada’s senior men’s national team. Among the core NBA players committed and guaranteed a roster spot in the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics, he is the only one with an expiring contract and not signed long-term.
It’s expected that the Raptors will re-sign the soon-to-be 33-year-old, thus avoiding any offseason negotiations dragging on to the start of the Olympics.
Olynyk now joins an elite group of only nine Canadians who have proudly donned the Raptors jersey, including Jamaal Magloire, Cory Joseph, former number one-pick Anthony Bennett, undrafted standout Chris Boucher, Oshae Brissett, Khem Birch, second-rounder Dalano Banton, and the talented RJ Barrett.
This exclusive assembly highlights the diverse and impactful contributions of Canadian talent to the Raptors’ legacy.