The Toronto Raptors should trade for a rental (expiring contract) if the price is right. It’s clear the Raptors need help at the power forward position. It would be extremely difficult for the Raptors to acquire a star via free agency because they don’t have a lot of cap space to work with. Furthermore, there aren’t many stars available on the trade market with multiple years left on their contracts.
What is the price of a rental?
The price ultimately comes down to what the seller is willing to accept. What is the fair price? When trading for an expiring contract you have to assume that player will be gone at the end of the season. So, paying full price for a rental doesn’t really make sense. However, the seller probably isn’t expecting a dollar for dollar return. Keep in mind, the team selling this asset often believes they have to trade this player because they don't know if this player will re-sign or not . There are a lot of factors that affect the price of a rental. First being how valuable this player is perceived to be. Second, how many buyers in the market that are willing to submit competitive offers. Finally, character and fit are important to determine how easy a player can transition from one team to another. With all that being taken into account, the price of a rental should be in that 40%-60% range. Price isn’t the only benefit of acquiring a rental.
If you are adding a star chemistry is always a risk. For example, the Toronto Raptors have great chemistry and as a team and they are greater than the sum of their players. If the Raptors were to add a star to the core of their team there’s no guarantee the team gets significantly better. With a rental, the Raptors would be able to get a trial run before they invested heavily in keeping this player in the off-season. The real test is if this star makes the Raptors more competitive against the Cavs or not. If the Raptors were to get embarrassed by the Cavs, there is no way you can justify bringing the newly acquired player back. The Raptors organization (MLSE) isn’t going to want to spend money if they don’t think it will make the team better. If the Raptors got super competitive with the Cavs with this new found star they would have to bring him back to stay competitive.
Do the Raptors need to make a trade?
It's pretty clear the Raptors aren’t currently beating the Cavs in a seven game series. The Raptors goal should be to beat the Cavs and get to the finals. If they cannot currently do that they need to make a trade. Now a trade does not guarantee a finals appearance, but it gives the Raptors a chance. The Raptors have known they have needed a power forward for a few years now and haven’t done anything significant to address it. Jared Sullinger was meant as a one-year band-aid, but hasn’t played due to injury. In any case, Sullinger was never going to be the guy to put the Raptors over the top on the Cavs. Raptors GM, Masai Ujiri, has pretty much won every trade he’s made for the Raptors. He might not win this next trade, but he has to make it. The Raptors window is now. This is the best team the Raptors have ever had. Kyle Lowry is a free agent this summer. He will likely be back, but he will be another year older. It’s now or never for the Raptors. It’s time to make that trade and take a shot at the Cavs.