The Toronto Raptors lost their fourth game in their last five, falling to the Milwaukee Bucks 104-101 Wednesday night in overtime, managing to storm back down 21 points with 3:50 to play in the fourth quarter to force the extra period.
It was a valiant comeback effort that just couldn’t be completed, but a loss is still a loss and much of the online discourse around the possible end of this era, while the Raptors looked like they were sleepwalking to a listless loss, still holds true.
The Feb. 9 trade deadline is creeping up ever closer and with the Raptors looking like they’ll be fighting for a play-in spot at best with a talent-laden roster, there’s a very real possibility that the team could look to tear things down and try to acquire assets for some – maybe even all – of their core.
It’s a painful thought, but it’s a reality that must be considered.
So, here’s a look at what the market might look like for Toronto’s five biggest trade pieces, along with a few thoughts on other potential candidates.
The Raptors’ best player is also probably their best trade chip.
The 28-year-old is once again performing like an All-NBA player and with the rest of this season and next season left on his contract, with no player or team options coming at the end of it, Siakam could be a high-end long-term rental for a contender looking to push a window for this season and next.
If the Raptors do look to trade him around the deadline, he shouldn’t come cheap.
That is to say, the Raptors will want a boatload of first-round picks, first-round pick swaps and a promising young player or two from whoever might look to make this deal.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many teams out there with the kind of assets that could facilitate this type of deal, and the ones that likely can – such as the Oklahoma City Thunder or Memphis Grizzlies – are either not at a point yet in their team-building progression to add another star and make a run at a title or the opportunity cost in giving up key young rotation players may not be worth it for them.
Still, this is the NBA and you can never say never. If a Gobert or Mitchell-like deal comes around for Siakam around the deadline, it would behoove Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster to at least consider it.
Anunoby should be considered for at least an All-Defensive Team selection and has legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidacy, despite the lack of team success this season.
This alone makes him an attractive trade target for many teams, but when you also consider the fact he’s an above-average three-point shooter and is on a very team-friendly contract under $20-million a season that will run at least until the end of next season (he has a player option for the 2024-25 campaign) then you have a prime target that just about every team in the league that thinks itself a contender will be circling around on.
Should the Raptors decide to sell at the deadline, the potential leverage they could get for Anunoby can’t be overstated.
In the Eastern Conference, what would a team like the Brooklyn Nets or Milwaukee Bucks pay to have a player who can contain Jayson Tatum? Or, if you’re the Boston Celtics, wouldn’t you want to have a guy who can slow Tatum down on your side and take reps at the likes of Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo? And out West, Anunoby would be one of the only guys in the conference who would be able to handle the likes of Luka Doncic or Kawhi Leonard in one-on-one coverage.
For playoff contenders, Anunoby’s defensive abilities would be worth its weight in gold. That he’s on a cheap contract, has offensive skills and is still only 25 is the icing on the cake.
If they decide to trade him, the Raptors should look to extract as much value as possible, which is to say aim for that pie-in-the-sky Gobert or Mitchell deal like they’d have to demand for Siakam and then begin to come down from there. At the very least, Toronto should expect a combination of multiple first-round picks and pick swaps along with a promising young player for Anunoby.
VanVleet has a player option worth about $22.8-million for next season, and as things stand, it’s still unclear if he will opt into it or look to become a free agent this summer.
This complicates matters with his trade value a little, but considering the fact he was an All-Star last season, is still a plus defender and is a career 37.6 percent three-point shooter, finding a market for him – especially from teams who may want to use him coming off the bench – shouldn’t prove too difficult.
It’s been a down year for VanVleet shooting the ball this season, but that’s probably because he’s been logging too many minutes for the Raptors and has too much responsibility with neither Malachi Flynn nor Dalano Banton able to grab hold of any consistent backup point guard minutes this season to help spur him.
Put into another situation, however, VanVleet could thrive, particularly if he’s able to come off the ball and make use of his marksman-like shooting stroke to its full potential.
The Raptors are unlikely to get the same kind of haul for VanVleet that they might be looking at for Siakam and Anunoby because it’s uncertain if VanVleet will just be a rental for the remainder of this season or not, but looking at contenders around the league, just about all of them would benefit greatly from a steady, veteran point guard who can defend and shoot the ball well. Better yet, VanVleet is such a pro, if he were asked to come off the bench it’s unlikely he would kick up much of a fuss over the perceived demotion.
Armed with a player option for next season that he will likely opt out of because of the strides he’s taken as a member of the Raptors and will be due for a raise, Trent is among the most likely Raptors players to be traded – regardless if the team is looking to be a seller or not.
A soon-to-be 24-year-old microwave scorer with occasional defensive brilliance, Trent is the exact kind of bench gunner that a team like the Nets, Philadelphia 76ers or any other top-heavy team would be in the market for.
The prize in a Trent deal would be a first-round pick or two, along with a young, rotation-ready player.
Considering the fact Barnes is only 21-years-old and in just his second season after winning Rookie of the Year last season, the odds of him being dealt aren’t particularly high, but there’s no denying he would be a valuable trade piece in any transaction the Raptors may look to make.
He’s been going through a sophomore slump this season, as he hasn’t taken the kind of leap that both the team and observers expected out of him, but his potential to be a game-changer on both ends of the floor remains ever present.
If the Raptors were to trade Barnes, it would likely be made as a move as buyers. But if they do look to trade him and they’re selling, one would hope it would be with a team like the Thunder and the endless amount of draft picks they have at their disposal. Plucking a couple or, you know, a half dozen of those from Sam Presti’s hoard would really be something.
Other potentially enticing candidates
Here’s a quick rundown of four more potential Raptors trade candidates.
Precious Achiuwa: For all the talent and potential Achiuwa boasts, he may prove difficult to trade because he’s still on his rookie-scale contract and, thus, isn’t worth a whole lot when it comes to salary matching (Barnes has a similar problem). If he is traded, it’ll certainly be used to make the math work in a transaction.
Khem Birch: Birch is making a little under $7-million this season and is owed around the same next year. From a skills standpoint, he’s a pretty good rebounder and has an emerging three-point stroke. The money owed on his contract makes him more of a prime salary-matching trade piece, rather than his value on the floor.
Chris Boucher: Boucher can’t actually be traded until Jan. 15, but considering the fact he’s making a little over $12.5-million this season, he looks like he could be a key piece for any transaction the Raptors may look to make as far as salary matching goes. Additionally, the skills he’s honed while with the Raptors could help teams. He’s a good shot blocker, rim runner and can hit the occasional three. His shot selection still needs work, but as an energy guy coming off the bench you can do a lot worse.
Otto Porter Jr.: Porter’s barely been around the team after he was signed for two years in the summer. He’s owed $6-million this season and has a player option worth about $6.3-million next season, but if a contender is willing to take on that risk, then he could be a decent add as a reserve three-and-D player. There will be a lot of risk in trying to acquire him, however, as he’s only played eight games this season and is currently out indefinitely with a toe injury.
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