For all the rumors surrounding Kevin Durant and big moves for the Toronto Raptors this past summer, you'd be forgiven if the end result of the offseason left you a tad disappointed. Sure, Otto Porter Jr. is a quality bench player and development will come for this young roster, but considering how much better the Eastern Conference got, Toronto's stagnation could very well lead to a step back this year.
There was, however, one move that may have flown a little under the radar: The addition of Rico Hines.
The Raptors have long been forced to do things a little differently than most of the league. Toronto doesn't draw in top-tier free agents and superstar trades are few and far between. Instead, the Raptors have focused on growth internally and making their player development system the best in the league.
This summer, it just got even better.
"He's as good as there is in the business in player development," said Raptors coach Nick Nurse of Hines, echoing a sentiment felt by players throughout the NBA. "Guys, trust him. He can command an entire gym, not with just one player, but with 60 in it, sometimes, and he has a deep, deep passion for the game."
Nobody knows that better than Pascal Siakam, Toronto's once unheralded forward who broke out in 2018 working under the tutelage of Hines.
"I think he makes us better," Siakam told reporters regarding the addition of Hines to the staff. "He knows the game, he's been around great players over the years. And I think just for our young group, also, he just brings that swag, that energy that we all need. So having him every single day is a blessing, to be honest."
For Hines, joining the Raptors was an easy decision. He'd long been connected to Toronto, having mentored Siakam and DeMar DeRozan before, and the Raptors' reputation as a leader in player development seemed like an obvious fit, he said.
"I think it fits like a glove," Hines continued. "They believe in hard work. They believe in development, they believe in doing everything in-house and I'm a big fan of that."
Development can be a strange thing to dole out credit for. If Siakam takes another step forward this season, who deserves credit for it? Siakam for putting in the work? The coaches for helping him achieve his goals? It's complicated and Hines' impact on the team will be too. But having helped so many players in the past, Hines' track record speaks for itself. There's a reason players like Draymond Green, Trae Young, James Harden, and Paul George keep flocking to Los Angeles to train with Hines in Los Angeles every summer.
When Toronto's roster does get better this season thanks to the kind of internal development the Raptors have been talking about for years now, Hines' role on the team will certainly be part of the reason why.