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The Toronto Raptors have a few glaring needs and could swing a deal if they wanted to. Imman Adan and Asad Alvi discuss what players could be on the move and who could be on their way to Toronto.
IMMAN ADAN: It is. And you know, you've said something. You seem a lot more optimistic than the people online are, specifically when it comes to the scoring options because of the bench, right? So we know that OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet are incredibly talented. You're adding in Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr., and you have a really potent starting-- starting lineup. You have a very potent starting lineup.
It comes to the bench. You mentioned it with that Phoenix game. All of the offense pretty much came from your top three guys. The Bucs game last week when I recorded with [? Yassmin, ?] the entirety of the scoring came from the starting lineup. So a lot of people are worried about the bench scoring. A lot of people are looking for trades to possibly make.
And I think the two most areas at Raptor fans are looking at is either a guy who can score off the bench or center to sort of shore up those lineups when the Raptors do get-- you know, maybe have to go up against a guy like Joel Embiid or something like that. And what are your thoughts? Do the Raptors need to make a trade? And if they do, are you looking at a center or are you looking at some scoring off the bench?
ASAD ALVI: So like, anything that-- again, like, it's kind of hard to balance. You've got this really young team and you've got all these assets. And like, realistic, the Raptors aren't going to win a championship this year. You know, like, maybe-- maybe they do. But most likely, they won't.
Really, it's like, you're building up for next year and the year after, right? That's when you're really going to make your push. And do you really want to waste assets on, like, a veteran shooting guard off the bench this year? Like, if you can get them for really cheap, sure. If not, it might not be worth it.
I think one of the things is it would help to have one more bench scorer, I think, or at least one more bench shooter. That would be nice for the Raptors. Really, a backup point guard would be great. Just in case ever Fred goes down or, you know-- fingers crossed that doesn't happen. Or you know, that-- you just need someone to give--
IMMAN ADAN: If Fred goes down, I'm sorry, you're done, OK? What is-- what is bench shooting going to do?
ASAD ALVI: Well, and-- and the other thing is like, do they need a center? I think they need somebody. Like, people talk about Mo Bamba. They talk about Terrence Ross's options, right, from Orlando.
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah.
ASAD ALVI: Again--
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah.
ASAD ALVI: --the Orlando Magic have not been a good team and those guys have been on those teams for a long time. The Magic aren't a great organization, sure. But if those guys are on your bench, they'd be great. But how much you have to give up to get them, right?
I think it would be cool if the Raptors made a move. I think that would show some belief in this team. But also, as a whole, I think we make a little bit too much about the Raptors' bench scoring being poor. Because again, the Raptors have five starters that average 15 points a game. Like, those guys need to get their shots somehow and a lot of those shots are coming when half of them are on the bench, right?
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah.
ASAD ALVI: So like, if you want three or four guys who are number one options playing like number one options, then that's what's going to happen. But yeah, it would really help to have one more guy to score off the bench.
IMMAN ADAN: One more guy to shoot. I think what most people are sort of looking at, even in those hybrid lineups, you mentioned those guys-- Khem, Boucher, who-- who else am I missing?
ASAD ALVI: Achiuwa.
IMMAN ADAN: Khem, Boucher, Precious. None of those guys are particularly great 3-point shooters or particularly good 3-point shooters. And so even in those hybrid lineups, you're really-- especially if they include a Pascal Siakam or a Scottie Barnes, your shooting is so limited in those lineups. And even a guy like Yuta, who you know, hopefully can just, like, maintain a 40% 3-point-- that's kind of what you hope for some of your bench guys.
But the Raptors don't really have that. So who, in your estimation-- who do you think needs to step up? Who do you think is going to be that guy that can be a consistent 3-point threat from the Raptors' sort of main guys that I just mentioned there that aren't particularly good shooters? Who does it have to be, or who do you think is most likely?
ASAD ALVI: So again, like, the hope that I think Nick has is, like, well one of those three guards on the bench, whether it's Yuta Watanabe, whether it's Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, or you know, Malachi Flynn, poor guy. He's been really rough this season, unfortunately.
If any of those three guys can kind of give you some sort of shooting off the bench, it kind of solves your issue. Unfortunately, that hasn't been really seen this season. Yuta has shown it in stretches, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. He's been fairly unlucky with health.
So if he can get healthy and stay healthy, I would say he's probably the best option. Because worst case is always giving you the defense. And that's, I think, all that really matters for the Raptors on the bench. But Yuta being able to kind of string some games together and be able to hit some shots, that would be fantastic. Svi has been, you know-- man.
There's only so much you can say about Svi on a day-to-day basis. Him and Precious, you know, kind of feel like they have a one-up challenge on who can make the more head-scratching play in a game. So it's kind of-- it's-- that's where I think, you know, where you're like, oh, man. If the Raptors could kind of like maybe trade two second-round picks for, like, a Terrence Ross or something. Maybe that's something you do, right?
You move Goran Dragic, get that guy off that contract, and you get someone who can kind of help you off the bench, a veteran guard. That could be helpful.
IMMAN ADAN: I wouldn't be mad at the Mo Bamba, Terrence Ross additions. I mean, Jeff Weltman is a friend of Masai Ujiri. He could do us a favor.
ASAD ALVI: It would take--
IMMAN ADAN: He could do us a favor.
ASAD ALVI: It would take a fair bit of the bench to get there, and the Magic would really have to believe in, like, who the Raptors have on their bench, which might be tough to do. The other thing is, hey, Chris Boucher, you know, he's known to get hot. He could easily get hot for the second half of the season and just be nailing 45% of his 3's. So we never know.
But what Chris has been doing as Dennis Rodman role, as he likes to say, has been pretty fantastic as well. So you're kind of just hoping for the best with that bench. Maybe they had a shooter at the deadline. That'd be cool.
IMMAN ADAN: What are your thoughts about the Bleds-- I've been hearing a lot of Raptor fans going for Bledsoe. Of course, Bledsoe is not going to help with any shooting. But he's also a good defender, which is something that, you know-- just bringing in a guy like Terrence Ross is not necessarily going to bring in any defense off the bench for us. I know Terrence has is of considered that as a Raptor, but really hasn't been that.
But Eric Bledsoe is. He's an elite defender. You bring him in. He's another sort of playmaker, a guy who can handle the ball at the very least. What are your thoughts about the Raptors making a move there? Because the Clippers-- poor Clippers. I feel like there's-- Raptor fans, if you've put a curse on them, I get it. I get it. I was hurt too.
But it's been so long. Like, things just never-- like, now we're hearing Paul George might be done for the season. And it's just like, it's too much. Give them a break. Enough is enough. But what are your thoughts about the Clippers maybe making that move knowing that their season is more than likely just finished?
ASAD ALVI: Well, I don't know. So the thing with Bledsoe is like, yeah, the salary matches. You get a veteran guard, whatever. He might be playable.
But again, it's kind of like, why would I play Eric Bledsoe? Like, what is he bringing me, right? Like--
IMMAN ADAN: Why would I play Eric Bledsoe? Period. Done. Next topic.
ASAD ALVI: It's the same reason, like, why would you play Goran Dragic, right, if he was healthy? It's like, well yeah, sure. He might help. But also, it's like, do I care about giving this guy minutes over, like, maybe Dalano Banton gets minutes. Maybe Malachi Flynn gets minutes. Maybe one of my young guys who I need to be able to grow into a role should get those minutes.
IMMAN ADAN: That's fair. That's fair.
ASAD ALVI: My bigger issue--
IMMAN ADAN: It's the argument--
ASAD ALVI: Yeah.
IMMAN ADAN: --between developing or contending this year.
ASAD ALVI: Yeah. And with Bledsoe in particular, like, one of the issues is like, do I really want a guy who I cannot plug in with my starters? Like, you can't play Bledsoe with most of the Raptors starters because, like, the spacing that he like doesn't provide kind of burns you there, right? So like, you can survive--
IMMAN ADAN: [INAUDIBLE] to the Bucs championship goals.
ASAD ALVI: If your choices are Eric Bledsoe or Terrence Ross, I think it's very clear that you would go for a Terrence Ross type, right? I don't think either of these are actually going to happen. I think Masai doesn't really make in-season trades. I doubt it's going to happen. But--
IMMAN ADAN: Masai makes in-season trades when-- like, the times that Masai has made in-season trades, just for Raptor fans who keep sort of harping on this. Because there's this notion of like, well, Masai is never going to do it. He does it when you have Kawhi Leonard on your team and you're trading for Marc Gasol.
Or he does it when the Raptors should be winning and contending because they put in time and time and time again. And you need to make a change because Patrick Patterson is just not doing for you what he's supposed to be doing for you. And you trade for Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker. He does it when it's time to blow things up and move Rudy Gay.
So in the past, Masai Ujiri has done it time and time again. He just does it when it's important. He doesn't do it to do it. No offense, but that's kind of the difference between a guy like Bryan Colangelo and a guy like Masai Ujiri. You're not just making a trade for Shawn Marion mid-season because you want a chance to make the playoffs.
It's not something Masai Ujiri is ever going to do because here's what happens when you trade for a Shawn Marion. You're too good to get Stephen Curry in the draft and you end up with DeMar DeRozan. And yeah, DeMar is great. But would we not have loved the opportunity to have drafted a guy like Stephen Curry? That's what happens.
So Raptor fans, it's OK that you're not going to go to the second round maybe this year. And maybe you will. Maybe you will with this team. But if you don't, that's OK because you're building to something better and longer and just, like, has way more to do with whatever happens this season. And I'm sorry, but it's just so frustrating that we keep hearing these narratives. And it's just not true about Masai Ujiri. And it just doesn't make sense for what the Raptors want to do this year. Like, let's dead the trade talks unless you're getting something for cheap.
ASAD ALVI: One of my favorite moves on this type of thing was, I think, two years ago when the Lakers were struggling when LeBron first got there that first season. And they decided to make a deadline trade to trade Ivica Zubac--
IMMAN ADAN: Here, when you have LeBron, you always make one, though.
ASAD ALVI: They traded Ivica Zubac-- "Uh-veek," I can't say his name right now. They traded Zubac--
IMMAN ADAN: Zubac, yeah.
ASAD ALVI: --for Mike Muscala at the deadline. LeBron tears his groin or hurts his groin a week later. That team wins, like, 27 games, doesn't make the playoffs. And they traded Zubac for nothing. There was no point in making that trade. They were an eight seed at best, even when they had LeBron because that was when they were trying to trade for AD but they weren't going to get AD at the deadline.
So quite frankly, even if they made the playoffs for that team, they weren't going to really do much. It was too young of a team. Wasn't going to do much. But you get Zubac for free--
IMMAN ADAN: I loved that season.
ASAD ALVI: --and then the Clippers just have Zubac, who's still playing a big role on their team. So that's the type of deals that kind of hurt you, where you're just kind of throwing away-- like, if you give up on young talent too early, and I know a lot of Raptor fans are not impressed with Malakai Flynn. I'll be honest, I was a big Malakai Flynn guy last season. This season, I've been pretty disappointed with what I've seen.
But also, it's like hey, guys, the growth isn't always linear. And maybe he doesn't have a role on this team, but throwing him away for, like, 30 games to like, Terrence Ross or like, Eric Gordon or to try and make like, one of these veterans come in to win an extra playoff game or two when your team is in its early prime seems kind of ridiculous. When, you know, Pascal and Fred are 30 and OG is 27 and you're making a run, and Scottie's like 23, that's what it's like, all right, let's make this deal and let's get these guys from vets to get you over the edge.
Right now, I don't think the Raptors are in that place. But you know, it's fun. It's always a good sign when people are thinking playoffs and thinking, how are we going to win? So at least that's a good sign that the Raptors are that good that they can be-- have a fan base in that mindset.
IMMAN ADAN: But sometimes I don't even think it's that. I think just people get antsy. And I get it. You kind of just like-- OK, well I'm bored. But he's not doing anything for me right now so let's just trade him for this other guy who's flailing on his other team because maybe there's just a change of scenery that needs to happen or some other random thing.
And it's just like, calm down. Like, what are your goals for this year? And like, is there a move that's not going to hurt you long-term and can make the-- because I don't-- I'm not opposed to the Raptors making a trade this season. I think you make a trade if something comes and you're just like, yeah, like, this is cheap. This is good. This is not going to hurt our long-term thing. It's OK.
But you don't make a deal just to make a deal to shake things up because you don't like who's on your roster right now. And I'm with you to the point of like, what's the point in maybe even getting a guy like Terrence Ross, who's what, 30 at this point? Terrence Ross has got to be 30 at this point. Bledsoe is, what, 31, 32 at this point?
And it's like, I'm fine getting, you know, Terrence if he's cheap. I like that Terrence Ross, Mo Bamba thing. I think it could be fun and interesting. I'm not opposed to it, especially because Mo Bamba is young and he does have a lot of sort of promising upside. But like, what's the end game here? I don't know.