It has been a strong decade for the Toronto Raptors; since the 2013-14 season, they have only missed the playoffs twice, even winning the NBA championship in 2019 as the culmination of years of roster building. However, the two times they have missed the playoffs have come in the past three seasons, which means that the franchise is on a downward trend. And following the departure of championship-winning coach Nick Nurse, more changes could be afoot for the Raptors.

Given the team's downward trajectory, there have been plenty of rumors swirling around regarding a potential Raptors rebuild. With the franchise going nowhere fast, it seems like trading Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby away is the easiest way for the Raptors to add to their draft pick warchest with an eye towards building their future around Scottie Barnes — the 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year.

They could always decide to run it back; perhaps re-signing Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, and Gary Trent Jr., in addition to bolstering the team's depth, could elevate the Raptors into more than just a play-in tournament-caliber team. However, will the Raptors front office find it the best use of resources to go deep into the luxury tax for a team that doesn't have quite enough weapons to mount a deep playoff run?

In the end, the Raptors might be better off prioritizing the franchise's long-term health at the cost of short-term wins. As a result, this way of thinking should inform the way they conduct business when NBA free agency kicks off at the beginning of next month.

With staying away from short-term free agency fixes in mind, here are two free agents the Raptors must avoid signing.

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Gary Trent Jr.

For a team that had its fair share of struggles with spacing the floor during the 2022-23 season, letting Gary Trent Jr. go for nothing seems extremely counterintuitive. Trent doesn't exactly have the deepest offensive arsenal, but he still averaged 17.4 points per game on 36 percent shooting from deep for a Raptors team that didn't exactly play like a coherent unit for much of the season.

Even with the Raptors potentially pivoting towards a rebuild, Trent should have a place on the roster simply due to his ability to shoot well from deep. He's only 24 years old after all; re-signing Trent can also give the Raptors another asset to dangle, as his skillset should make him an enticing target for teams with contending aspirations.

However, the price Gary Trent Jr. would command in free agency should give the Raptors some pause. Trent has an $18.8 million player option for next season; one would think that once he opts out of that (which many analysts think he would), he'd be looking for a heftier long-term contract starting at around $19 or $20 million.

But that contract should not come from the Raptors.

The values of players whose primary skillsets is their ability to space the floor have a tendency to crater; Joe Harris went from an indispensable part of the Brooklyn Nets to an untradeable contract in the span of one and a half years. Meanwhile, Duncan Robinson, as exceptional as he was in Game 2 of the 2023 NBA Finals, has made plenty of “worst contracts in the NBA” list for the past two years. The Miami Heat sharpshooter saw his minutes trend downward, losing most of his minutes to Max Strus in the process.

Trent is a helpful asset, there's no question about that. But he may not be the most shrewd investment; the Raptors will be better off letting another team take that risk with him.

Talen Horton-Tucker

Much like Gary Trent Jr., it's easy to forget that Talen Horton-Tucker is still so young. Horton-Tucker is only 22 years old, which means that he has plenty of time to expand his game. And to end the 2022-23 season with the Utah Jazz, Horton-Tucker showed flashes of what made him such a tantalizing prospect back when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers. His ballhandling and shot-creation skills came in handy for a team that didn't have too many lethal weapons on offense outside of Lauri Markkanen.

Horton-Tucker has a $10.2 million player option for next season, but he could very well decline that in search of greater financial security. But the Raptors may not be the best fit for the ascending youngster.

For starters, Talen Horton-Tucker doesn't exactly space the floor well; with the Raptors building their roster with Scottie Barnes in mind, the last thing they need is someone who struggles with that facet of the game. If the Raptors keep Pascal Siakam as well, they will need more of a three-and-D option at the point, a player in the mold of Fred VanVleet.

Make no mistake about it, Horton-Tucker is a talented player. But he's not exactly a hand-and-glove fit in the North.