Draft night is fast approaching and Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors are at the center of several trade rumors. Again. The front office has several decisions to make, not only for the draft, but perhaps for the team’s immediate future as well. Could we see a trade or two drop? Who knows? As usual, the Raptors keep things to their vest. Heck, they don’t even announce who they’ve been training with anymore.
What is hot?
Siakam and Anunoby Trade Rumors
The Raptors’ front office largely used the trade deadline to gauge the trade values of their players, including OG Anunoby. Getting overtures about Pascal Siakam shouldn’t be a surprise either. Given some of the teams with high lottery picks and a bunch of teams licking their wounds from a disappointing postseason run, Raptors president Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster find themselves at the epicenter of several trade talks heading into draft night.
Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers hold the 2nd and 3rd picks consecutively, and either team might not be too interested in waiting for the kids to develop. The Blazers are holding onto Dame Lillard’s closing window, while the Hornets may be looking to surround LaMelo Ball with better players. The Raptors have also talked to Houston about their 4th pick.
Some of the rumors floating around: You are being targeted by the Atlanta Hawks, while the Portland Trail Blazers have been frustrated in talking to the Raptors about Siakam and Anunoby. That frustration has likely been building since last year, as the Raptors won’t give up Siakam or Anunoby for a trade when the Blazers make this trade wayyyy more than the Raptors do. Anunoby and the Indiana Pacers have been connected for ages now, while Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies is also in the picture.
Anunoby isn’t worth a top-4 pick, but he should command a decent return. Siakam, on the other hand, to paraphrase our comrade Kenyon from Basketball rewind: When you give up an All-NBA/All-Star talent, you want multiple stabs at getting a future replacement player. Ideally, young players and multiple high draft picks, as the chances of any move matching what you’re giving up, matching or exceeding what you’ve given up are very slim.
Historically, this front office hasn’t paid off any of their core players, and a retool is much more convenient for this ownership’s wallet than going on a full rebuild. Cashing out on Anunoby would be understandable and will keep the Raptors in a position to rebuild. While trading Siakam could have many personnel implications as this move brings them closer to a rebuild than a retool. A rebuild is unlikely at any point, especially when Ujiri has been on the “there’s parity in the league” belief for a few years now.
A Siakam trade essentially throws away this team’s window of competition. It wouldn’t make sense to get Jakob Poeltl and retain Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet past the trade deadline only to potentially lose out on the future assets they could have gotten if a rebuild is something this franchise considers an immediate plan B. So a Siakam for a big move makes sense as the receiving team need him more than we need what quarter they give back and they also have to pay the team the “rebuilding tax”.
Bradley Beal trade
Hi there. Here you go; The Toronto Raptors were acquitted of making the worst trade in NBA history. The new Washington Wizards the front office had to go “hold my beer” and gave away Bradley Beal in exchange for cap space and a bunch of second round picks in two-way contract range. A ripple effect that could be felt as early as draft night is that Wizards don’t have to worry about the “floor” of their draft selection. I wouldn’t be surprised if they take a swing for someone like Bilal Coulibaly at #8.
There is also the potential effect on the VanVleet and Anunoby market. The Los Angeles Clippers are rumored to be interested in bringing back Chris Paul. If that happens, two possible VanVleet destinations are crossed off the list. Another team linked to the Chris Paul rumor is Golden State Warriorsand giving up young assets in exchange for Paul could take the Warriors out of Anunoby competitions.
Selection of 13th selection
The Raptors need backcourt help regardless of VanVleet and Trent Jr.’s situation. Fortunately, one of Cason Wallace, Kobe Bufkin and Keyonte George should be available when they are on the clock. Bufkin takes off among several mock drafts. Unfortunately, one thing is consistent with this front office: their ability to “zig” just when they’re expected to “zag.”
Last year, Bryce McGowens was the most popular mock pick for the Raptors until two days before the draft Christian Koloko became the front runner on several major mock sites. Unfortunately, the Raptors no longer announce their practice roster, so it’s a painful guessing game until draft night.
Gary Trent Jr.’s contract situation
Gary Trent Jr. has not yet signed in/out when this is written. We are only hours away from his deadline and there is very little talk of teams interested in him. By comparison, VanVleet opted out much earlier than his deadline. It’s a difficult situation, as his camp needs to make sure he has some options on the market, and there are only so many teams with cap space this upcoming free agency. A sign-and-trade could be available, but that’s if the receiving team sees him as someone worth giving up an asset for. Options also pose some risks. Next summer, more and better players will also be on the market.
Trent Jr.’s decision shouldn’t prevent the Raptors from potentially grabbing a guard like Kobe Bufkin, Jordan Hawkins, Cason Wallace or Keyonte George. That’s Darko Rajakovic’s problem with how to make it work.
Lottery pick value
Full disclosure – I like Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller. After the top three, though, the consensus next six picks are a bit underwhelming relative to their draft position. For example, I’m a little leery of the idea of trading Siakam for either the 2nd or 3rd pick, even in a vacuum. I even have a hard time evaluating,”Who is the worst ‘top player’ worth the 2nd pick?” It is not easy to assess this draft’s value at the top outside of Victor Wembanyama as many have questions about their play.
There aren’t any prospects considered generational talent outside of Victor, and what are Miller and Henderson from there? All-NBA or All-Star? And does it require them to have a “Fred VanVleet hitting all the best case scenario boxes” type to reach their max? The same can be said for the rest, like the Thompson twins, Cam Whitmore, Jarace Walker and Anthony Black. Are any of these prospects expected to be borderline all-stars if they reach 70% of their potential?
It feels like the value is in the mid-lottery and forward, where there are many good players whose floor is a good bench player, while not requiring much development (and development time) to be a good starter. With the new CBA looming, stocking up on such players may be worth it rather than taking on more long-term projects, and the Raptors should consider securing another pick.
Draft Pick Profits
Several teams in this draft have far more picks than they would likely want, so they can either consolidate or select those picks for future picks. With the Raptors surrendering their first-round pick next year via the Jakob Poeltl trade, they should consider getting another pick, whether in the first or early second round. As mentioned above, should the Raptors choose to trade either Anunoby or Siakam, it should at least give them another first-round pick. Just don’t tell the Washington Wizards this is possible.
However, it is also possible to get another pick without involving the two guys. If Gary Trent Jr. signs up, his contract and skill set could bring the Raptors something. Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young and Precious Achiuwa should have some value right from the end of 1st. to the middle of the 2nd round. Maybe Malachi Flynn can get you a mid-to-late second-rounder. The question here is, would Masai and Bobby pull the trigger?