Plan C

One of the favourite topics amongst sports fans is trade talk. What were some of the best, what were some of the worst, who needs to make a deal and who will make one too many?

For the Toronto Raptors and their fans, the team looked pretty set when the season began. There was depth in spades at each position, developing young talent and veteran leadership. All in all, what looked like a nice mix ready to defend the Atlantic Division crown and a plan B at every spot on the floor.

Unfortunately as we all now know, things haven’t exactly gone as planned. Injuries, inconsistent play, and more injuries have marred the season to date and the team just hasn't been able to put it together. They currently find themselves a game behind the resurgent New Jersey Nets for second in the Atlantic and with no sign of TJ Ford in the immediate future, is it time for the Legomaster to start thinking of bringing in some help? Is it time to go to a plan C?

Doug Smith kicked around a few names in his mailbag yesterday including Sergio Rodriguez of Portland, Sam Cassell and former Raptor, Damon Stoudamire. Looking at the numbers though, I'm not sure how much sense any of these names make.

"ME?? In Toronto?"

And both Cassell and Stoudamire have issues as well.

Cassell is in the final year of a deal that pays him over $6 million. Therefore Toronto would need to give up Delfino, Dixon and Graham just to make the trade work salary-wise. That's a hefty price for a player who would probably be used simply as a rental until TJ returned and who could walk or retire at the end of the season.

And Damon, well I agree that he'd probably rather be in Toronto than Memphis right now and would probably be a great fit in that second unit, but he's got two years left. This means that when TJ returns, Stoudamire would be in the exact same situation as Juan Dixon in terms of playing time. Juan's been a true pro about his lack of PT but Damon, not so sure. Furthermore, if championship calibre teams like Boston came-a-calling, Mighty Mouse would probably prefer to ply his trade there. But for discussion sake, Joey and Juan to Memphis for Damon would work financially.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I think BC should try and target other players instead. A promising young rookie or soph who could still develop would probably take better to less playing time than one of the aforementioned vets. And if he was more or a score-first 1, he could still get time playing at the 2 when Sam Mitchell decided to go small.

Houston right now looks ripe for the picking for instance. They have about five point guards too many on the club and are somewhat mired in mediocrity. B.C. wouldn't touch Rafer or Mike James with a 10 foot pole but what about Luther Head? Very reasonable contract, good leader, great long-range shooter, and stuck behind Alston, James and now Aaron Brooks. I'd love to see the Raptors land Brooks but I doubt he goes anywhere. The Rockets have been using him to back-up Alston of late and he may be their point guard of the future.

To get Luther Head, the Raptors could do a number of things as his salary is only about $1.5 million. Perhaps BC would even be willing to take a flyer on forever young shot-blocker Dikembe Mutumbo?

Could Luther Head bring his winning experience from Illinois to Toronto?

Could Luther Head bring his winning experience from Illinois to Toronto?

The other trade topic of course that has been bandied about is looking to acquire a swing-man who could attack the basket. Corey Maggette was a much-discussed name but breaking things down, it would tricky to reel him in.

According to the various sites I've seen, Corey is in the last year of the guaranteed portion of his contract. He has a player option for 2008-09 worth about $8.5 million. I can't see him passing that up and looking for $10 considering:

a) his history of injuries,

b) his lack of play for winning teams and

c) his reputation as a selfish player.

Josh Howard, a similar but much better all-around player, is making about $10 million on average over the next four seasons so who is going to pay Maggette based on a,b and c that kind of money? Ok, maybe Isiah Thomas.

So in all likelyhood Maggette will be taking his 08/09 option which means the Raptors would need to clear about that much space just for the deal to work financially.

Then of course you've gotta wonder if Maggette would be a good fit in Toronto. Would he want to play second fiddle to Bosh? Can he stay healthy? Is there too much Jalen Rose to his game?

And on the other side of things, would the Clippers be content to let go of their only real scoring option from the perimeter? Unless Al Thornton develops in a hurry or Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas take time machines back to their Houston and Milwaukee eras respectively, I'm not sure. Mobley for instance makes MORE than Maggette and is not nearly as effective.

And I guess that's the final point here.

Regardless of if the trade can work financially and if Maggette wants to come here, it depends on the Clippers philosophy.

If the Clippers think that a healthy Brand and Livingston make them a play-off team, with the emergence of Kaman and another good draft pick they may want to stay put for now. Bill Simmons once joked that GM Elgin Baylor's office phone was probably not even connected (due to his lack of activity on the trade front each year) and I still think that's quite true. Right now I think it would take an awful big offer from Colangelo to get through to the Clips.

That being said - one deal that works financially is Jamario Moon and Rasho for
Maggette and Paul Davis. Davis is a throw-in of course to make the deal work financially (although I always thought even he was a better center prospect than Hoffa when he came out of Michigan State) but Moon might interest the Clips enough to move Maggette, especially if he continues to improve. The Clippers have had a
fondness in the past for unknown athletic players (Quinton Ross, Von Wafer) and this way they’re not simply getting salary relief from Rasho. But do they need it? Well Brand has another two years left on his deal in all probability and unless Livingston makes an Amare-esque recovery, the best player the Clippers have to worry about re-signing is Thornton...and he’s got two years left to prove he’s worth it first!

So that’s what I mean. Like the Kings, this is an organization at the crossroads right now and it’s got to make some decisions about its future. The West is tough as is and of the current top 10 in the conference, it’s hard to see any of them except maybe Houston, sliding out. Seattle and Memphis are horrible now but with another draft they’ll have some nice pieces to rebuild with so both Sacramento and Los Angeles need to decide if they’re stuck in the past, or ready for the future.

Considering TJ might be out until after the All-Star break, I think we'll see a deal, and probably a 2 for 1 or 3 for 2. For BC to look at a plan C for the Raptors, be it at point or another position (hell, our center position, considering the rebounding fiasco Sunday, looks drastic now too), I think he'll look at teams that are trying to decide which direction to go. Perhaps he can help sway them in one direction or another sort of like what Danny Ainge did to Minnesota in the off-season.

In fact, if Minnesota had any decent point guard prospects besides Randy Foye, I'd bet the first call BC makes is to Kevin McHale...

FRANCHISE

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