Expected to at least be in the running for the playoffs, the Toronto Raptors are 13-17 and tenth in the East. They’re surprisingly just six games ahead of last place Charlotte, and they’ve had a multitude of injuries and dysfunctionality in the young season. They are not an unskilled team, but they currently are a bad, unhealthy one. In this episode of trade gymnastics, Let’s take a look at some potential deals that accomplish these things: Build around Scottie Barnes, add a primary playmaker/shot creator, maintain the versatile defensive scheme under coach Nick Nurse.
Raptors Ready for a Retool? Potential Moves
Scottie Barnes, maybe OG Anunoby. Due to Barnes’ unrealized upside and Pascal Siakam‘s age, Barnes gets to call Toronto home in this theoretical universe. Either one you keep, it’s difficult to have such similar players on the floor at the same time. One of them needs to improve their shooting (and therefore spacing) or Toronto’s problems may not be alleviated.
Veterans that Contenders Could Use:
Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter Jr, Chris Boucher
Stars That Can Fetch You a Nice Return:
Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet. To a lesser extent, Gary Trent Jr
Young Guys I’d Rather Keep:
Christian Koloko. He gives them a rim-protecting center that they may need for some matchups. He also has shooting potential.
What do they lack?
Shot creation is a necessity when you have such a long team built around versatility. The Raptor’s half-court offense is bogged down right now. Slow passing, drives going nowhere, threes not falling. Things need to change, but they don’t need to be drastic. Fred VanVleet is a nice guard, but his age doesn’t quite line up with the Scottie Barnes timeline. We’ll look for someone to initiate some offense, although Barnes may take on more playmaking possessions.
Depth is a well-known issue for this team. Nurse often runs his starters into the ground, and injuries have illuminated the horrendous second and third units. Ideally, this team will be ten players deep, rather than the six-eight it is now.
With Kristaps Porzingis able to enter free agency after the season, he’s someone the Wizards may choose to move on from. A Siakam for Porzingis swap would give the Wizards someone to build around beyond this year, with the Raptors freeing up possessions and space for Barnes while supplying a capable defender in Porzingis. I’d project the official trade to be Siakam for a package of Porzingis and Deni Avdija. Avdija’s length, defense, and shooting make him a fine fit for the Nurse scheme. His addition would equal out to an excessive amount of so-called “3-and-D” players. The next trade features who Avdija would replace.
VanVleet is a fan favorite in Toronto, if not in the NBA as a whole. His journey to the NBA, followed up by an All-Star game appearance, is a feel-good story. He’s 28 now, and as far as I’m concerned, not untouchable. He’s a better defender than most fans may realize, and his value is high enough to make a trade worth investigating. One potential trade involves the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors would net Joe Ingles and two second-rounders from Milwaukee, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, and two first-rounders from Phoenix. The Suns would get the best player in the deal, Fred VanVleet, to go along with Wesley Matthews and a second-rounder from Milwaukee. Jae Crowder would finally get his peace and move to Milwaukee. Toronto would be able to draft around Barnes, so I’d consider it a feasible trade. Milwaukee gets a veteran for the playoffs, and Phoenix gets another star in order to make the most of the rest of Chris Paul‘s career.
Realistic, Minor Trades:
Gary Trent Jr can opt out of his contract next year. Nurse has been unimpressed with his decrease in deflections this season, and has been demoted to the second unit. A trade to the New Orleans Pelicans is foreseeable; although Trent’s services would be a luxury on a loaded roster. New Orleans’ Devonte’ Graham is hiding deep in the dark of the depth chart. He averaged 18-3-8 with the Charlotte Hornets just a few years ago, and his playmaking and shot creation would be welcomed to the length-obsessed Raptors lineup. A Trent for Graham swap could include Kira Lewis Jr to play backup point for the Raptors, as well as a future first-rounder that GM Masai Ujiri can work his magic on.
Speaking of magic, the Orlando Magic could be another destination for Trent. Mo Bamba‘s rim protection and spacing would fit seamlessly in Toronto. He’s versatile enough, and Orlando’s frontcourt is far too crowded. A swap for Trent would give them a scoring upgrade without damaging their core pieces.
Chris Boucher just inked a three-year deal over the summer worth more than $30 million. He can space the floor, but he’s 29. Getting a future first-rounder out of him would be a challenge, if any teams even do end up calling.
Otto Porter Jr fits the Raptors system, but retooling might see him repacking to help a team win a championship. The Knicks could be interested considering they refuse to give minutes to youngster Cam Reddish. Maybe they’d prefer a veteran, but they’re still not winning much in June.
Thaddeus Young is the oldest of this group at 34. The motivation for moving on from him has less to do with the team and more to do with his happiness. If the Raptors actually decide to retool and commit a bit more to losing, he may not want to be a part of it.
It Won’t Happen, but He’d be a Miata in the Driveway This Holiday Season:
If there’s any possibility they can wrangle in Shaedon Sharpe, attack it. I was high on Sharpe during the draft process. Equipped with elite length, strength, and athleticism, he profiled as a disruptor all over the defense. Deflections, paint help, switchability; he’s a lab-made Toronto Raptor. He’s score-first, but he’s displayed equally adept vision and a willingness to pass. He’d need to improve his ball handling and pick-and-roll game, but given time and reps, he could become an all-around superstar.
It’s almost impossible to get a Sharpe for Siakam swap done. The Blazers’ package would have to be something along these lines: Justise Winslow, Josh Hart, Nassir Little, and Keon Johnson along with Sharpe. Josh Hart may be a little too good for the Blazers to part ways, but Little and Johnson would be fun projects to acquire.
Damian Lillard is already 32 years old, and regardless of his contract, he may not be a difference-maker beyond age 35. With Anfernee Simons having already taken a leap to his next level, Sharpe is more of the odd man out than a necessity to have around. Adding an arguably top-25 overall player in Siakam could bolster an already succeeding Blazers team.
Sharpe would be a project, but one that can still excite immediately if given minutes (hence the Miata reference). It’s unlikely, but boy would he be a perfect present for the people of Toronto this winter.