Can trading Jonas Valanciunas help the Raptors move up in the NBA draft?

Jonas Valanciunas has been whispered about being on the trade block for a little while now. It’s highly unlikely the Raptors just give him away for free. Could they move up in the draft if they were to trade Jonas?

Trading Up

The Raptors could potentially trade up in the NBA draft if they add a Jonas Valanciunas attached with the 23rd pick. Selecting at 23 is probably difficult for the Raptors. The player selected at this spot probably won’t have much impact next year on this really good Raptors team. If the Raptors could somehow trade up in the draft for a better shot at good prospect it’s definitely something they should explore.

Disclaimer: I really like Jonas Valanciunas, but I don’t think he can be successful under coach Dwane Casey.

Hypothetical Trade

The Raptors trade Jonas Valanciunas and pick 23 to the Hornets for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and pick 11.

Why Would the Hornets Consider it?

Even though the Hornets have a bunch of centers it’s probably their weakest position. Cody Zeller plays well in a 20-24 minute per game role, but what do they do with the other 20-24 minutes. Frank Kaminsky’s game seems like it’s best suited for playing power forward where he can stretch the floor without being obligated to be a rim protector. That leaves just Miles Plumlee and he’s not a viable backup in the NBA despite what his lucrative contract may suggest. MKG has had some injury issues over his career and hasn’t lived up to being the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft. So there is a chance they might be willing to move on from him. As for the pick, a lot of draft experts are speculating the Hornets could be interested in draft Zach Collins at pick 11. Collins might end up being a good player, but they might not want to wait a few years for him to develop when Kemba Walker is in his prime now. Jonas Valanciunas could be the boost they need to get them back into the playoffs. If the Hornets believe Valanciunas hasn’t been used correctly in Toronto and that they could better unleash him it could be an enticing offer. Plus, they still get a draft pick in a deep draft with the 23rd pick.

Why Would the Raptors Consider it?

Jonas Valaniunas has played roughly only 26 minutes per game over the last three seasons. I would speculate that the Raptors front office would have hoped he would be cracking 30 minutes and being a bigger part of the offense. Masai Ujiri said in his exit interview this season that the Raptors need to change their offensive system because it’s not working. This seemed to be alluding to a diversification of the offense, but at the same time, it was made known that Dwane Casey will still be the Raptors coach. Casey has done a good job getting the most out of Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan, but rarely runs plays or features Valanciunas in the offense. So, if Casey is still the coach it’s hard to imagine Valanciunas taking a leap forward. Therefore, if Valanciunas is unable to be in a situation to succeed on the Raptors and grow as a player it might be time to trade him. It would make even more sense if the rumors about bringing back Serge Ibaka are true who can play center. Plus, the Raptors have Jakob Poeltl who had a solid rookie campaign and should be seeing his role increase. And then there’s Bebe who played a major role pre-all star break before he fell out of the rotation.

“So the Raptors get back an injury prone Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and still only have one pick?”

Surprisingly MKG played 81 games this season so maybe there is hope he can stay healthy. Both MKG and the 11th pick can slot into the rotation right away.

“You know the Raptors need three-point shooting and your boy MKG can’t shoot, right?”

This is very true. However, MKG would still be an upgrade over DeMarre Carroll. Also, PJ Tucker is a free agent. It would be great if Tucker returns, but it’s far from a sure thing at this point.

“Valanciunas is clearly better than MKG. If the Raptors want to be a contender why would they take the lesser player in the deal?”

As I previously mentioned Valanciunas talents aren’t fully being utilized on the Raptors. The Raptors essentially use him as a role player when there’s a chance he could be much more. MKG is a role player who may never get a reliable jumper, but that’s okay. He is a good defender that the Raptors can put to use.

The real prize in the deal is swapping pick 23 for pick 11. Not only does it give the Raptors a bigger player pool to choose from at the draft table to pick from, but the Kings are picking at 10. If we have learned one thing about the Kings it is that they don’t always do what is best for their organization. So, if a player in this draft happens to slide to 10 and the Kings don’t take him the Raptors would be able to steal that guy at 11. Lauri Markkanen would fill a massive need at power forward for the Raptors and give the Raptors three-point shooting in the process. He might be the guy that slides or it could be someone like Frank Ntilikina or Dennis Smith. Kyle Lowry is no sure thing to be back especially if he demands a $200M+ contract from the Raptors. Cory Joseph and Delon Wright are good backups, but probably aren’t future star point guards in the NBA. Taking a point guard like Dennis or Frank would give the Raptors leverage in negotiating Kyle Lowry’s deal. So, if Lowry wasn’t willing to accept a reasonable contract the Raptors could let him walk knowing they feel confident long-term at point guard with either Dennis Smith or Frank Ntilikina. However, if Lowry did take a reasonable offer Dennis or Frank would be able to learn under Lowry. Delon Wright and Cory Joseph have shown they can play multiple positions, so there would still be minutes for them on the Raptors.

The Raptors are in a tough spot with Jonas Valanciunas. He had flashes of brilliance in the playoffs last year when he got touches, but didn’t develop this season and was a defensive liability at times. Valanciunas is an offensive scorer that is a very good rebounder, but when you take away his touches the offense disappears and he just becomes a rebounder. Masai isn’t going to give Valanciunas away just to get rid of his contract. However, if he can score a good return for Jonas Valanciunas he may be inclined to take it. Is pick 11 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist a fair return for Jonas Valanciunas and pick 23?


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