We are officially less than one month away from the trade deadline, and the Raptors sit second in the Eastern Conference at 28-16, with 3 games behind Cleveland of first. More often than not, this results in a mutual feeling of “Hey, that’s pretty good, right?”. Sure, that’s impressive, but “pretty good” gets stale in the NBA, and it does so quite quickly. The Raps’ have been in the top 4 of the Eastern conference for the past 4 seasons, and they will most likely have a 2nd consecutive finish behind Cleveland in the Eastern Conference.
Come playoff time, odds are the Raptors will be facing the Cavs at some point or another; most likely the ECF. If history repeats itself, as it usually does, the Raptors will struggle to dethrone the king, again.
If the Raptors are to defy the odds and take Cleveland down in the playoffs, they’re going to surely need some more firepower through a trade. The deadline is in less than a month, and time is running out for Masai and company to make a move. Before I discuss the three possible trades, let’s identify the needs of this Raptors team.
The depth chart for the Toronto Raptors looks as such, through 44 games this season:
Kyle Lowry - 37.2 MPG, Cory Joseph - 22.5 MPG, Fred VanVleet - 6.4 MPG
Demar Derozan - 35.3 MPG, Norman Powell - 14.9 MPG
Demarre Carroll - 26.4 MPG, Terrence Ross - 22.4 MPG, Bruno Caboclo - 2.9 MPG
Patrick Patterson - 28 MPG, Pascal Siakam - 17.5 MPG, Jared Sullinger - (returning from injury)
Jonas Valanciunas - 27 MPG, Lucas Nogueira - 20.6 MPG, Jakob Poeltl - 10.2 MPG
Before you freak out, I know that Terrence is technically a shooting guard. For the sake of the depth chart, however, it’s simpler to have him as the backup small forward.
Another topic that I need to cover, is Jared Sullinger. It’s quite difficult to predict his impact to the team right now. He’s obviously been hurt all season, and he appears to be out of game shape at the moment. For now, I regard him as a potential trade piece, with his stock a bit lower it could be.
In terms of team needs, there are three as to which I have identified;
1. Another role-playing wing.
2. A blockbuster deal for a Power Forward.
3. A strong, rim-protecting backup center.
Trade: Role Playing Wing
For the role playing wing, it would be crucial for the Raptors to pick up another rotation guy to use at the 2, or 3 spot. Casey continuously cycles through Demar-Powell, and Carroll-Ross, with no change at all, due to his lack of usable resources. Going forward, having another weapon at Casey’s disposal could do wonders for the rotation (a la James Johnson). If Powell is struggling, or Terrence is having an off shooting night, having another weapon on the wing could really help bolster the team and provide some consistency.
Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Beasley (1yr, 1.4 Million)
Toronto Raptors: Bruno Caboclo (2yrs, 1.6 Million per year), 2nd Round Pick 2017
At this point today, it’s safe to say that Bruno is quite far away from being an NBA player. That’s not to say he still doesn’t have the potential, but I struggle to see it coming full circle anytime soon.
Michael Beasley is a difficult NBA specimen to analyze. After coming into the league as one of the top College prospects (http://www.nbadraft.net/players/michael-beasley), he was somewhat of a bust for the Miami Heat when they drafted him 2nd overall in 2008. He’s bounced around the league quite a bit, as teams keep taking flyers on him. I mean, he’s still a pure scoring left-handed wing, and he can do great things with the ball in his hands. He can, however, appear to be quite lethargic at times while on the court. But if you can get the right rotations, and get Beasley into the right mindset, he can be a deadly weapon when used correctly.
Throwing Beasley into the mix of wings can truly bolster Casey’s firepower. Casey can give Ross, Powell, and Beasley a taste in the first half, and by the mid-third quarter, he’ll know which guy to go with during crunch time. To make things even better, Beasley doubles as a power forward, who can pose a devastating matchup for slow-footed big men, who are left out to dry when the Raptors go small. He can allow Casey to get a little more creative with some lineups, and experiment with some units to be used while they rest Derozan.
For the Bucks, they’re currently in 10th, at 20-23. Beasley plays about 15 minutes a game for them, but doesn’t seem to have a consistent impact. He’s definitely not part of Milwaukee’s long-term plan. Although Bruno is still far from NBA-ready, he could be their Thon Maker 2.0. If Bruno can piece his game together, he could be a valuable piece down the road for the Bucks, and he’d fit perfectly into their system of gangly bodies and freakish athletes.
Trade: A Blockbuster Deal for a Power Forward
Atlanta Hawks: Paul Millsap (2yrs, [opt-out at the end of this year], $20 Million), Tim Hardaway Jr. (1 year, $2.3 Million)
Toronto Raptors: Terrence Ross (3 yrs, $10 Million), Jared Sullinger (1 yr, $5.6 Million), Jakob Poeltl (4 yrs, $2.7 Million), 2017 Raptors 1st Round Pick.
In order to get a star like Millsap, you must come to terms with the fact that you’ll be giving up a hefty chunk of your roster. Ross is on a 3-year $30 Million deal, so he’ll help Atlanta for a few years, Sullinger can fill a gap for them for the rest of this year, Poeltl is a serviceable, NBA-ready big on a rookie contract for four more years, and the 2017 first rounder further sweetens the deal for the Hawks.
Most likely, Millsap will opt out of his final year of $20 million, in hopes of locking up a max deal. It makes perfect economic sense for him, and I will be blown away if he doesn’t do it. That being said, he has the tools to take this Raptors team over the hill. He can matchup with Lebron, he can space the floor, he can play the four, or the five, and he can do so much more for your team. Millsap is a world-class player, and even if it’s only a year, bringing him in could give the Raptors their much-needed firepower to usurp the Cavs from their Eastern Conference dominance.
Although Hardaway is also on his last year, he would be filling to gap that Ross leaves behind. Simply put, he’s not as polished as Ross, but he can fill his shoes as the scorer-in-a-pinch, that they will need off the bench.
It’s quite the “mortgage-of-the-future” move, but that’s okay. The Raptors will need to do something to get them over the hump of being “pretty good”.
Trade: A “Win-Now” Backup Center
Sacramento Kings: Kosta Koufos (3yrs, $8 Million), Ben McLemore (1 yr, $4 Million) Omri Casspi (1 yr, $2.9 Million)
Toronto Raptors: Terrence Ross (3 yrs, $10 Million), Delon Wright (3 yrs, $1.6 Million), 2017 first round pick
This is a trade that truly benefits both teams;
- The Kings have a surplus of big men, this trade gets rid of their oldest one, thus giving more play time to Willie Cauley-Stein and perhaps Papagiannis.
- Sacramento unloads two expiring wings for Ross and Delon both on 3-year deals. And with Gay being hurt, Ross will be their best player on the wing.
- McLemore and Casspi could be two weapons used on the wing for the Raps. Casey could experiment and cycle with the two, and hopefully develop some deadly offensive rotations come playoff time (ex. Lowry-Derozan-Casspi-Carroll-Valanciunas)
- For the Raptors, Koufos is the key piece in this deal. He is a rim-protector supreme, and he could play the “Biyombo” role off the bench. This would allow for Casey to try some really creative lineups, knowing you have a defensive stopper in your paint… (ex. Joseph-McLemore-Casspi-Nogueira-Koufos)
- Delon Wright and the first round pick make the deal feasible for the Kings. They give the Kings some trade bait for the draft, with a pick in the mid-to-high twenties, along with a point guard prospect who they could groom over time.
The Kings aren’t winning, or making the playoffs anytime soon. This could be a savvy move for them to dump a veteran to clear room, get rid of two expiring deals, and pick up strong wing player in Ross (on a three-year deal), along with a point guard prospect, and a first-round pick.
Obviously, there is a very low chance that any of these specific trades actually happen. However, in the Raptors best interest, it would make sense for them to pull the trigger on something before the deadline. They’re not going to beat this Cleveland team as they are now, and it’s going to take some extra firepower to give them a shot in a 7-game series. It’s all up to Masai now, and all of us Raptors fans are hoping for him to make a splash.