The Toronto Raptors have a significant amount of youth and young players on their roster. When I hear Raptors’ fans tell me they don’t want to trade Pascal Siakam for anything, it drives me up a wall. Yes, Pascal Siakam has been good for a rookie, but to say he’s too valuable to trade is insane. And it’s not just Siakam I’m hearing this for. I’ve heard this for Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira, and even Bruno Caboclo. The odds any of these guys ever become all-star level talent is extremely low. Norman Powell probably has the highest odds of those players and I wouldn’t think his future all-star odds are greater than 25%. Now if you are more optimistic than me or like ¼ odds then I can understand why you might want to keep Powell, but why would you be against trading Siakam, Wright, Poeltl, Nogueira, or Caboclo?
For the record, I really like Jakob Poeltl and believe he can develop into a starter eventually. However, the Raptors are currently electing to give those backup center minutes to Nogueira. It’s going to be really difficult for the Raptors to develop a player like Poeltl if he continually gets cut out of the rotation. When Jared Sullinger returns, he will cut into their minutes as well as Siakam’s minutes at power forward. So why do some Raptor fans not want the Raptors to use these young players in combination with picks to land a more talented player? Are they drinking the Raptors kool-aid? Do they see endless potential for these young players? I believe it to be the latter. They see a blank slate for these young prospects and imagine that there is no ceiling to their potential. I like new shiny toys as much as the next person, but I’d rather have an older better toy. The Raptors currently have the best team they have ever had in franchise history. There is no guarantee in the next 20 years the Raptors get as close to as title as they are right now. The Raptors need to be buyers at the trade deadline. Does trading for talent ensure the Raptors win a title? No, of course not, but for the Raptors to sit on their hands and enter the playoffs with this current roster is admitting defeat. We have seen the Raptors not be able to get over the hump with the Cavs. To expect a different result come playoff time with the same grouping of guys is the definition of insanity.
The Likely Outcome
The likely outcome for a player is NOT their ceiling. It is somewhere between their floor and ceiling. Let’s examine the ceiling for Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira, and Bruno Caboclo.
Delon Wright – His listed strengths are passing and defense and listed weakness is shooting. However, he shot an impressive 45/39/74 last season in 27 games as a rookie and only averaged 1.1apg in 8.5 minutes per game without demonstrating above average defense. What would his assist numbers look like if he played roughly 30 minutes per game? If you multiply by 3.5 you get 29.75mpg (or 29:45 minutes) and 3.85 assists. Less than 4apg in starter's minutes for a point guard generally isn’t good unless the point guard in question is a primary scorer. Wright averaged 3.8ppg and when you multiply out by 3.5 again you get 13.3ppg. 13.3/3.8 look okay, but that is clearly not an all-star caliber player’s line. Darren Collison is averaging 13.4ppg and 4.7apg while shooting 48/36/88. That’s probably Delon Wright’s ceiling and most people don’t get overly excited about Collison. Delon Wright’s stats from last season come against mostly bench players, so a more likely outcome for Wright is probably someone like Monta Ellis. Ellis is averaging 10.1ppg and 3.7apg while shooting 44/32/84. Those stats might look okay on paper, but Ellis has a deplorable box score plus/minus of -2.2.
Norman Powell – Without Norman Powell, the Raptors probably don’t beat the Pacers in the playoffs last season, so he’s earned 6ix God status. Powell is averaging 5.8ppg, 1.9rpg, 1.1apg, 0.4spg, 0.5tpg while shooting 48/44/78 in just 13.75mpg. That’s super-efficient and you might not think that 44% three-point shooting is legit, but consider last season post all-star when Powell started to get legit minutes he averaged 45.5% from 3. Let’s multiply his numbers by 2.15 to get numbers based on roughly 29.56mpg (or 29:34 minutes). You get a line of 12.5ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.4apg, 0.9spg, and 1.1tpg. A comparable player could be Trevor Ariza who averages 12.6ppg, 5rpg, 2apg, 2spg, 0.9tpg and shoots 44/38/79. Ariza is not an all-star player, but he’s a very useful piece in fantasy or reality. If the Rockets were able to land an all-star player using Ariza they would surely do it. It would definitely be difficult to trade Powell from an emotional perspective, but business-wise you have to do it if it nets you an all-star caliber player.
Jakob Poeltl – He’s a good mobile defender who doesn’t have much shooting range. The sample size for stats is very small, so let’s put that aside for now. Poeltl’s ceiling (not likely outcome) based on the way he plays is comparable to Tristan Thompson. Thompson is averaging 6.5ppg, 10.3rpg, 1.5bpg and shooting 60% from the field this season. Thompson clearly isn’t an all-star, but he’s a very useful piece. Again, if the Raptors could package Poeltl to return an all-star they have to do it.
Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira – Nogueira has shown he can be a good rim protector, but is a liability on offense. He is averaging 5.2ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.9bpg while shooting 79% from the field in 18.6mpg. Most of his shots have been dunks or lay-ins so it’s hard to seriously read into the ridiculous FG%. Let’s multiply by 1.6 to get his numbers based on 29.76mpg or (29:46 minutes). 8.3ppg, 7rpg, 3bpg. There is no player in the NBA currently averaging more than 2.8bpg, so it’s hard to imagine Bebe as being the best shot blocker in the NBA. Nogueira probably compares best to Bismack Biyombo whom last season with the Raptors averaged 5.5ppg, 8rpg, 1.6bpg on 54% shooting from the field in just 22mpg. We all love Biyombo and were sad to see him go, but he’s no all-star.
Pascal Siakam – He’s done a nice job filling taking over Luis Scola’s minutes this season. Siakam has averaged 6.1ppg, 3.7rpg, 0.6spg, 0.6bpg, 0.7tpg on 58% shooting from the field in 19.25mpg. As always let’s multiply that out to get close to 30mpg (by 1.55 this time). In 29.8mpg, he would project to have 9.5ppg, 5.7rpg, 0.9spg, 0.9bpg, and 1.1tpg. The ceiling for Siakam is probably someone like Thaddeus Young who is averaging 11.7ppg, 6rpg, 1.1spg, 0.5bpg, and 1.4tpg on 53% shooting from the field. Young has never been an all-star and never will be one.
Bruno Caboclo – He’s not getting minutes because he’s not an NBA talent. Bruno’s ceiling is staying in the NBA and being given the privilege of sitting on the bench.
None of these young players on the Raptors project to be an all-star based on starters minutes. Odds are many of them won’t even be good enough to ever earn starter’s minutes anyways. So, if you can package 2-3 them together with picks for a current all-star or fringe all-star player why wouldn’t you do it? “The picks are valuable.” The Raptors hold their own pick and the Clippers 1st round pick this coming draft. Both picks project to be in the 20-30 range. Sure sometimes you can find a gem, but the odds are extremely low.
Do the Toronto Raptors need to make a trade?