OG Anunoby

Who Should The Raptors Target at the Trade Deadline?

Source: The Big Lead

Source: The Big Lead

Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you have heard that Anthony Davis requested a trade out of New Orleans. Who can blame him? He’s been patient enough and had given the organization enough time to build a contender around him. Seeing no promise or progress thus far, the request was not necessarily a surprise, but the timing caught some off-guard.

While AD is the biggest name on the trade block, there are other names that I feel could bolster the Raptors bench unit. Let’s take a look at a few of these names, starting with the big fish in the sea.

*Note: All trade packages proposed were approved by the ESPN Trade Machine.

Anthony Davis

Source: Sportsnet

Source: Sportsnet

So here’s what we know so far. AD’s agent Rich Paul publicly announced his client’s desire to be traded. Paul also stated that Davis wants to play for a contender. This narrows down the potential destinations to the following: Raptors, Lakers, Bucks, with longshots being the 76ers, Knicks and Rockets. Where are the Celtics you might ask? Well, the Celtics can’t trade for Davis unless they include Kyrie in the trade package. This is due to the Rose Rule, which is way too long to explain here. Unless the Pelicans wait until the offseason to move him (which is a real possibility), then the Celtics would be in the fold. However, the Pelicans have already removed Davis from their intro hype video and now, rumours that AD would potentially sit out for the year if not traded only accelerate this process. Another rumour is that the Pelicans GM does not want to negotiate with the Lakers. All of these facts and rumours can only be great news for the Raptors.

To get a player of Davis’ calibre, you need to bring together a top-tier package. If you don’t, you might lose your chance to get him, and the Celtics have the best assets to bring him in. The time to act is now for the Raptors. Not only to contend for a title, but to convince Kawhi to stay for even one more year, to match his contract length with AD’s. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and when these opportunities present themselves, you have to go all in.

Saying this, here’s what I feel would be a fair trade package for Anthony Davis:

Raptors Receive: Anthony Davis

Pelicans Receive: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Delon Wright, Jonas Valanciunas, 2021 First Round Pick

I initially didn’t want to include Delon Wright in the trade and have a 2019 Second Round Pick, but the salaries needed to match up more and not put the Raptors over the luxury tax threshold, so adding Delon was out of necessity. Will these assets be missed? Absolutely. A guy like Siakam is a rising star in this league. OG has a high ceiling. JV is a solid center that can mentor the young players. The 2021 pick might be a low first round pick, or it could be a lottery pick, all depends on what happens with Kawhi and AD. It’s a lot for the Raptors to give up, but a trade that makes the most sense to get someone of AD’s calibre.

TJ Warren

Source: NBA

Source: NBA

Now we get into the bench depth. Last year’s “bench mob” has been a shell of its former self, most notably due to injuries, Poeltl’s departure and Siakam’s promotion to the starting unit. Another hole in the Raptor’s game this year has been three point shooting. While they have been shooting better as a team lately (39.4% over their last three games) they still sit at 34.8% for the year, 18th in the league. The concerning part is that the Raptors are 9th in the league in three pointers attempted at 33.3 per game. Bringing in a guy like Warren would help alleviate both concerns. Those that listen to me on the South of the 6ix podcast know that I have been a pioneer in the TJ Warren to Toronto movement, and I hope it picks up traction. Warren is currently 11th in the NBA in three point percentage (42.8%) while averaging 18 PPG. That three point percentage would be the highest on the team, eclipsing Danny Green who sits 14th in the NBA at 42.3%. It would be interesting to see if the Suns are even interesting in dealing away Warren, as he is a young developing player who has shown flashes of being a key contributor.

Here’s what I would offer to the Suns if I was Masai Ujiri:

Raptors Receive: TJ Warren

Suns Receive: CJ Miles, Delon Wright, 2019 and 2020 Second Round Picks

E’Twaun Moore & Julius Randle

Source: SLAM

Source: SLAM

Well if you are 100% certain that the Pelicans will not trade you AD, then why not ask for their other players? The Pelicans have a guard in E’Twaun Moore who has been shooting the ball well from three, ranked 19th in the league at 41.7%. He’s averaging just over 12 PPG on approximately 29 minutes. Also, Julius Randle has had a great rebound year since moving from the Lakers to the Pelicans. He’s averaging almost 20 PPG and just over 9 rebounds on over 54% shooting. He’s efficient and provides the bench with mobility and a true scoring option.

Here’s the following trade package:

Raptors receive: Julius Randle and E’Twaun Moore

Pelicans receive: Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, 2019 and 2020 Second Round Picks

Think of any trade ideas that I might have missed? Agree or disagree with any of the packages that I put together? Follow me on Twitter @TO_SportsViews to interact and debate!

Raptors 2017 Offseason Gradebook

Source: Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Source: Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Masai said it best himself following a sweep by the hands of the Cavs. "We need a culture reset." Well, did he hit the self proclaimed "reset" button?

Somewhat.

Here's my gradebook on the Toronto Raptors 2017 Offseason (so far) and what we can expect from Ujiri and Webster in the future. All categories are listed in sequential order.

We are going to hold everybody accountable because we need to. We need to figure it out.
— Masai Ujiri

Coach

Source: Raptors Republic

Source: Raptors Republic

Masai's first pressing offseason decision came in the form of his head coach Dwane Casey. Just one year into a three-year contract extension, speculation about Casey came after Masai's comments regarding the coach and the play style of the team.

"Because we’ve done what we’ve done so many times and it hasn’t worked. It’s easy to defend in my opinion when you play one-on-one. It’s predictable, we feel we have to go in another direction. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it will be the new thing in the league that wins." Masai also added "I think there are times that I think coach did a great job and I think there are times that we struggled."

It wasn't exactly a 'vote of confidence' for the winningest coach in Raptors history, but Masai didn't give anything away regarding his thoughts on the coach's future. Remember that even though Masai gave Casey an extension last season, this still isn't the coach he hired, but rather inherited from the previous regime. Both Masai and Casey acknowledged that changes needed to be made in playing style, and that the hero ISO ball that every Raptors fan hates needs to be eliminated.

A few weeks later, Casey confirmed to media outlets that he would in fact be returning as the head coach of the Raptors squad. This move puzzled many who follow the Dinos considering Masai's remarks. 

I really like Casey. Not only is he a character guy, but he's done incredible things for the Toronto Raptors, and the team may not be in the position its in today if it were not for him. Saying this, the ISO-ball style clearly isn't working, and it will be interesting to see if Casey can adapt. When times get tough, can the team stick to the new style of play, or will the coach and his squad revert back to the old ISO ways? Only time will tell.

GRADE: C

Draft

Source: Sports Illustrated

Source: Sports Illustrated

They say that across any sport, most deals begin to take shape on draft night. With all the GM's focused on one particular aspect, many use that time to "hotline bling" opposing GM's and try to work something out. There's always deals that get done, as NBA players and current draft picks alike are often shipped across various teams, some more surprising than others (looking at you Timberwolves).

Insert the Toronto Raptors. There were reports circulating on Twitter at the beginning of the night that Masai was actively shopping Itty Bitty Baller Jonas Valanciunas along with the 23rd overall pick as a way to shed some salary off the cap. This became a very intriguing prospect to most, as getting rid of JV would be a nice way to create some room in the salary cap.

Midway through the draft the rumour was still being floated about Masai actively shopping this duo together. As the draft board inched closer and closer to the 23rd overall pick, this rumour began to die off as one intriguing name remained on the board; OG Anunoby. The tantalizing prospect out of Indiana was a projected lottery pick on every mock draft until he sustained a season ending knee injury on January 20th.

While many expected Anunoby to drop out of the lottery as a result of the injury, experts did not predict him to drop too much lower than that. As the numbers kept increasing, the "true OG" was still in his seat, and the Raptors began to realize that this might actually be a possibility. Once it was the Raptors turn to make a pick and OG was still available, it was impossible not to make that selection.

What many experts deem to be "the steal of the draft", the Raptors literally had this young phenom fall right into their laps. While Anunoby still has to work on his offensive game (averaged 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game), he is credited as the one of the best defenders in the draft, if not the best. He hasn't played a game since his season ending knee surgery in January. OG is working towards a return in November-December.

When people ask me for NBA comparables, I give them a floor and ceiling of the type of player I believe that Anunoby can become. His floor is a PJ Tucker, and his ceiling is a Kawhi Leonard. I'm not saying he's going to be the next Kawhi, but do expect him to be the best defender on the floor who can lock down the opposition's star player and give you consistent offence.

GRADE: A

Free Agency/Trades

Source: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Source: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Once the calendar turned over to July, the Raptors roster really began to take shape. Once the signings of Ibaka and Lowry were made official, it was clear the road they would travel on.

Here's a list of who the Raptors have added/retained and who they have traded away/let walk in free agency.

Added:
Kyle Lowry
Serge Ibaka
Justin Hamilton (waived)
C.J. Miles

Subtracted:
PJ Tucker
Patrick Patterson
DeMarre Carroll
2018 First Round Pick (lottery protected)
2018 Second Round Pick
Cory Joseph

I have been on the fence all offseason about the direction the Raptors should take this team. I'm pretty sure I was more indecisive than my girlfriend trying to choose what to eat for dinner. However, once I saw the details of the Ibaka and Lowry signings, I was all abord the compete train.

It’s our job to try and get Kyle to come back and do it the best way that we possibly can. We want him back, he has been a huge part of the success here.
— Masai Ujiri

Masai handed out three-year contracts to both Ibaka and Lowry, which matches up with the expiry of DeRozan's contract. Masai is giving this core three years to compete. In an incredibly weak Eastern Conference that has seen superstars Jimmy Butler and Paul George head out to the incredibly stacked West, it only makes sense for the Raptors to at least remain competitive and allow their talented youth to develop and grow with the team. Bringing back these two players was essential, as they both boast impressive three-point numbers for their respective positions, aligning with the culture reset that Masai referred to.

Anybody with a brain would know that Masai and Co. would have constructed a methodical plan of action to carry out once they re-secured their own free agents. With the core signings completed, this pushed the Raptors into tax territory, giving them virtually no room to add any complimentary pieces unless a trade was completed.

So Masai went to work.

Step 1 of the master plan? Get rid of the one bad free agent contract on the books. The true JUNK yard dog DeMarre Carroll was shipped off to hell (aka Brooklyn) along with a future 2018 lottery protected 1st and 2nd round pick in exchange for a heaping pile of dog shit in Justin Hamilton. The trade was purely a cap relief scenario, and it cost the Raps a couple of draft picks. With the promising young talent this roster has already, I'm okay with the price of this necessary move.

Step 2 almost mirrored step 1. Nearly 12 hours after trading away DeMarre Carroll, the Raptors traded away backup point guard and fellow Canadian Cory Joseph to the Pacers in order to make room in the cap to sign C.J. Miles. "I get a ring and I bring it home like I'm Cory Joe." Drake embodied the feelings of Raptors fans everywhere when Cory Joe signed in Toronto as a free agent a few years ago, and we will forever be grateful to him. However, with young promising talent like Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet knocking at the door, it just made sense to move CoJo and his salary. This allowed the Raps to go out and sign DeMarre's replacement in C.J. Miles. Coming off a three-point field goal percentage of 42% last season, Miles is the perfect addition to a team in desperate need of that asset. He also provides solid defence and is one of the most underrated two-way forwards in the game.

The one aspect of Free Agency that sucks is that you can lose your players for nothing. Due to the Raptors tight cap crunch, they lost free agents PJ Tucker to the Houston Rockets and Patrick Patterson to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The one that really stings for me is the loss of Tucker. I was hoping that Masai would do whatever it took to keep the team's best defender and leader, but was ultimately swayed by the idea of playing alongside fellow friend Chris Paul and MVP nominee James Harden. His loss of presence will be felt on the court, and hopefully players like Miles and Norman Powell can help eliminate the pain.

Overall it was a fairly productive free agency period for Masai. I don't believe he's done yet, however I believe he would be content with starting the year with the current roster he has constructed. Kudos on keeping our star free agents and moving the players that needed to be moved. The grade would have had the letter A in it if not for the loss of PJ Tucker, which will hurt the Raptors more than most expect.

GRADE: B+

Remaining Offseason Predictions and Overall Grade

Source: Raptors Republic

Source: Raptors Republic

Like I said before, I don't believe that Masai is done just yet. There's a step 3 in his master plan, but it just hasn't been revealed to us. So what could that step 3 be, you might ask?

Great question.

Let's circle back to draft night. Remember when the Raps were trying hard to shop JV? Where there's smoke, there's fire, and that means that the Raps were looking to shed his salary. I believe that they still are, and if the right trade partner and offer comes along, I believe the Raps will take it. This could allow for a solid trade deadline acquisition without creeping into the tax, and allowing for more room next offseason to make one big splash.

Masai is a god. He will play some mind trick on a poor soul and force them to agree to whatever trade he wants. Let's all bow down to him.

The Raptors have done a good job (so far) this offseason. They have positioned themselves well to compete now, as well as not be locked in to any ridiculous contracts three years from now. They are only one injury away from actually having a chance to win the East, and that's all fans can ask for.

Overall Grade: B+