It’s no secret that Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors are still in the hunt for a new offensive star that can replace the hole that was left by Kawhi Leonard’s free agency departure back in 2019. Throughout this offseason, we’ve already seen the Raptors heavily involved in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes as one of the teams most interested in acquiring the superstar forward from the Brooklyn Nets. But with the recent reports that the Boston Celtics are willing to give up 25-year-old All-Star Jaylen Brown in a trade package for Durant, it appears the Raptors may have been outbid. This is what makes the most recent update regarding the Donovan Mitchell trade saga so interesting. The Raptors have been reported to be one of six new teams interested in acquiring the 25-year-old All-Star. This comes after the Utah Jazz’s trade talks with the New York Knicks stalled recently over the Jazz’s high asking price. Now, let’s get one thing clear. Mitchell is not the caliber of player that Durant is. However, the Raptors should still do everything they can to get a deal done for Mitchell.
The Toronto Raptors Should Go All in for Donovan Mitchell
A Quality Roster
Ujiri and the Raptors currently find themselves in a similar situation to the year before they traded for Leonard and won the championship in 2019. They have a lot of quality pieces on their roster. Five of their players averaged at least 15 points per game last season. However, they still lack that one true offensive star that can take their roster to the next level. Yes, the Raptors may be coming off a very impressive season where they surprised everyone by winning 48 games and finishing fifth in the East. However, when it came to their first-round playoff matchup vs the Philadelphia 76ers, they were clearly missing that “it factor”. As a result, they lost the series 4-2 after falling down 0-3 and almost getting swept early on. Their leading scorer in six playoff games was Pascal Siakam at just 22.8 points per game. That’s a pretty solid scoring average, but not quite first-option-level production. Outside of Siakam, their next leading playoff scorer was OG Anunoby at just 17.3PPG. Unfortunately, this just doesn’t get it done in the NBA.
Do the Toronto Raptors Already Have a Future Superstar on Their Roster?
The one player on the Raptors roster that has a chance to develop into a true superstar is Scottie Barnes. Barnes did a bit of everything as a versatile point forward during his Rookie of the Year campaign. He finished with averages of 15.3 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, 3.5 assists per game, 1.1 steals per game, and 0.7 blocks per game on 49.2 percent shooting from the field. So, he should only continue to get better in every aspect of the game moving forward. But there’s still that question mark of if Barnes will ever develop into that 25-30 points per game type scorer. Luckily for the Raptors though, the emergence of Barnes has at least opened up some new trade opportunities. This gives the Raptors the chance to get more competitive now without ruining their future.
How Mitchell Would Make the Toronto Raptors Better
The Raptors now have the ability to package one of their top forwards in Anunoby, along with starting shooting guard Gary Trent. Jr. and picks for Mitchell. This would allow the Raptors to add a scoring boost to their backcourt without losing much depth in their frontcourt. Despite his young age, Mitchell already has a proven track record of elite scoring come playoff time. He currently has a career playoff scoring average of 28.3 points per game through 39 playoff games. This includes 19 games with at least 30 points, four games with at least 40 points, and two games with at least 50 points in his playoff career. His playoff career-high of 57 points scored in Game 1 of the first round versus the Denver Nuggets back in 2020 is seven points higher than the most points scored in a playoff game by a Raptor player all-time. This beats out Vince Carter’s record of 50 points in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals versus the 76ers back in 2001. So simply put Mitchell is exactly the type of scorer the Raptors are missing.
Does Mitchell Fit the Team’s Long-Term Vision?
Now some people might point to the fact that Mitchell is undersized for a shooting guard at only six-foot-one. He seemingly does not fit the Raptor’s vision of building a roster of long, athletic, versatile defensive players. Mitchell would also be paired with another undersized six-foot-one guard in Fred VanVleet in the Raptor’s backcourt. However, that wouldn’t change the fact that the Raptor’s roster would still be filled with versatile two-way players with size. Even without Anunoby and Trent Jr., they would still have Siakam, Barnes, Precious Achiuwa, Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young, and Chris Boucher, as two-way forwards six-foot-seven or taller among their key rotation players. Plus, VanVleet has already proven that he can thrive alongside a smaller guard in Kyle Lowry anyways. This includes the Raptor’s 2019 championship run where the two undersized guards often closed games together. So, the Raptors should just find a way to get Mitchell and then figure the rest out later.
What’s in It for the Jazz?
On the Jazz’s end, they would be getting some key young pieces back from the Raptors. Trent Jr. would give them a 23-year-old 3-and-D shooting guard coming off a career-best scoring average of 18.3PPG last season. The Jazz also reportedly had an interest in Trent Jr. earlier this offseason so now’s their chance to land him. Anunoby is still only 25 and already one of the top 3-and-D forwards in the league. He would provide the Jazz with some coveted wing defense. Anunoby is continuing to expand his shot creation as well and is coming off a career-high 17.1PPG last season. So, both players could easily take another offensive leap with the Jazz. The Raptors would have to throw in at least three or four future first-round picks in the deal as well. But it would probably be worth it and it would be tough for the Jazz to turn that deal down.
It’s Time for the Toronto Raptors to Take Another Risk
Overall, it’s pretty clear that the opportunity for a franchise-altering trade is once again there for Ujiri and the Raptors. They have a chance to add a proven elite playoff scorer who has yet to enter his prime. They might even be able to do this without giving up their prized young star in Barnes or their All-NBA forward in Siakam. A core of VanVleet, Mitchell, Barnes, Siakam, and Achiuwa could help the Raptors contend in the Eastern Conference for a long time. Now it’s just a matter of if the Raptors are willing to take the risk and throw in the necessary draft compensation required to get the deal done.