Toronto Raptors appear to remain at center of trade market

After Kyrie Irving was finally traded to the Dallas Mavericks, the road through the NBA trade deadline appears to run primarily through Toronto. The Raptors’ undetermined roster plans have been top of mind among opposing front offices since team executives flocked to Las Vegas for the G League Showcase in December, and that has not changed in the lead-up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. While league personnel continue to downplay the likelihood that Toronto moves All-Star forward Pascal Siakam — despite plenty of interest around the league — O.G. Anunoby, Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. remain buzzy names on the trade market, league sources told Yahoo Sports, two days before this transaction window closes.

The Pelicans, Grizzlies, Knicks, Pacers, Trail Blazers, Lakers, Suns and Nets have all been linked to Anunoby in recent days, though the Raptors, sources said, have communicated asking prices that rival front offices think quite steep. There appears to be varying interest in the talented, 25-year-old wing, who emerged as an early-season Defensive Player of the Year candidate. But officials from multiple teams also told Yahoo Sports that they expect that the number of front offices quietly preparing for Kevin Durant to become available via trade this offseason will likely dampen the Raptors’ bidding war for Anunoby’s services, at least to some degree. Why would Phoenix, for example, mortgage multiple first-round picks for Toronto’s swingman and eliminate itself from any potential Durant sweepstakes come July?

There has been no indication that a Durant trade request is coming soon. And until that day comes, the Nets — as they did last offseason, even after Durant asked to be moved elsewhere — will continue to try to upgrade Brooklyn’s supporting cast around their MVP candidate. Durant has three-plus seasons, with no options, remaining on his contract. The Nets searched for avenues to expand the Irving-to-Dallas three-team framework on Monday, sources said, before completing their blockbuster deal with the Mavericks on a trade call in the early evening.

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) plays in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
A number of teams are interested in Raptors guard Fred VanVleet. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Point guard shuffle?

Several opposing executives have since labeled VanVleet as the most likely Raptor to be traded ahead of Thursday's deadline. A pair of Western Conference contenders in the LA Clippers and Phoenix Suns have been often mentioned as VanVleet suitors. The Lakers, Magic and Timberwolves have also registered interest in VanVleet, sources said. VanVleet is expected to decline his $22 million option for the 2023-24 season in search of a pay raise that approaches a maximum salary and certainly north of $30 million.

The Clippers have been categorized as the franchise most inclined to land one of the veteran point guards currently on the block. Former All-Star ball-handler John Wall has been sidelined due to an abdominal strain, and that was after Los Angeles began scouring the market for backcourt reinforcements. The Clippers have a stable of rotation-caliber players on movable salaries, and fourth-year forward Terance Mann has no shortage of suitors around the league, sources said.

Along with VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Terry Rozier and D’Angelo Russell have all been connected to the Clippers and Suns. Phoenix has gauged the trade market with an eye toward finding ball-handlers who could both relieve Chris Paul during this season’s playoff push and potentially replace him in the future, sources said. Both the Clippers and the Suns held talks with the Nets regarding Irving, sources said.

In Miami, after initial resistance to the idea of moving Lowry, the Heat are said to be willing to part with the 36-year-old point guard, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Lowry has missed multiple games this season due to lingering left knee soreness. His efficiency has also declined, as he’s connecting on just 33.3% of his triples — his worst mark since the 2009-10 campaign. Finding a deal structure that benefits both Miami and any trade partner, while Lowry is still owed $29.6 million next season, will prove to be a difficult task in this final stretch of conversation around the league.

Charlotte players on the market

Rozier’s name has been mentioned in various concepts, particularly with the Lakers and Timberwolves, and Hornets forward P.J. Washington has his share of interested teams, such as the Miami Heat, sources said, after Charlotte did not find an extension for the 24-year-old last fall. However, the Hornets have been averse to significant midseason deals in recent seasons.

Veteran center Mason Plumlee projects as the Hornets’ most likely trade candidate. Plumlee is in the final season of a three-year contract, making $8.5 million this season. Sacramento continues to be the team most often connected to Plumlee by league personnel. The Kings have made reserve center Richaun Holmes available for trade, sources told Yahoo Sports, and Charlotte had interest in Holmes during the 2021 offseason, before the Hornets acquired Plumlee from the Pistons in a draft-night trade.

JaVale McGee is another center available

Dallas has looked for ways to move JaVale McGee ahead of the deadline, sources said, after signing the rim protector to a three-year, $17 million contract this summer. The Mavericks initially planned to start McGee for this 2022-23 campaign, but the journeyman shot-blocker has since fallen out of head coach Jason Kidd’s rotation.

Cavs wing search

Cleveland has actively explored shooters on the wing market to slot in between the Cavaliers’ backcourt of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell and the team’s fearsome frontcourt pairing of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. While Cleveland has been connected by league personnel to various players such as Portland’s Josh Hart and Atlanta’s Bogdan Bogdanovic, at this juncture, the Cavs seem content to move forward with Caris LeVert, who is set to become a free agent this offseason.

Atlanta’s order of operations

Bogdanovic has been a consistent name mentioned by league executives in this final stretch before the trade deadline. He is another player who can opt out of his contract prior to the 2023-24 season, though Atlanta’s top order of business still appears to be moving forward John Collins. The Hawks have held firm that they won’t trade Collins just for the sake of trading him, sources said, and will part with the 25-year-old forward only in a deal that brings back equal value. Collins is in the second season of a five-year, $125 million contract, with that final year a player option for the 2025-26 campaign.

Teams interested in Collins have clearly indicated that his long-term salary has lowered his value as a trade candidate. Utah has been the team most connected to Collins, sources said, as the Jazz and Hawks have continued to discuss various frameworks that would send guard Malik Beasley and forward Jarred Vanderbilt to Atlanta in exchange for Collins.

What about Bojan Bogdanovic?

Rival teams are still under the impression that Detroit plans to hold on to veteran sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic. The Pistons signed Bogdanovic to a two-year, $39 million extension earlier this season, which has Detroit in position to start the long-range marksman next season with a healthy Cade Cunningham, another expected top lottery draft choice and the Pistons’ collection of other young early selections, such as Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren.

Milwaukee has been a team recently linked to Bogdanovic, as the Bucks have been unable to strike a deal to land Suns forward Jae Crowder. For any team to land Bogdanovic, sources said, Detroit has set an asking price of at least an unprotected first-round pick, which Milwaukee could not trade until 2029.