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Wishful Thinking Episode 2 – Hmm…no more Billy King in Philly…I Wonder if…

"One AI down, one to go??"

However lately, we’ve been seeing GM’s suddenly perk up as if they had just chased a can of RedBull with a can of RockStar.

With the All-Star break around the corner, there could be even more conversation as the league’s GM’s look to tool up their rosters for the impending stretch drive. The Toronto Raptors right now aren’t exactly the model of consistency and while sporting a solid record, could of course use some of the aforementioned "tooling up."

The big hole on the court is in the rebounding area and a 3 who could both defend other high-scoring 3’s, rebound and get to the rim would be a perfect fit for this club…say someone like Andre Iguodala.

Iggy of course was the "Plan B" for Raptors fans when our three point guard choices in that draft (Shaun Livingston, Ben Gordon and Devin Harris) were all selected before Toronto was on the clock. However an unprepared Rob Babcock took some bad advice, went with Hoffa and as they say, the rest is history.

The interesting thing about this is that last month I caught NBA TV’s Peter Vescey commenting on Iguodala following some 76ers highlights. He remarked that Iggy was not worth the salary he was seeking as he was probably the third, maybe second best player on a good team. He also mentioned that the Raptors and Suns were two teams that have had interest in the former Arizona stand-out since he was drafted.

That of course made me scratch my head as the Raptors of course passed on Iggy in the draft to take Araujo. So unless as soon as Hoffa was selected Babcock realized what he had done, ran screaming out of the war-room yelling "WAAAAAAIT" and tried to get then Philly GM Billy King on the phone, I don’t think Vescey has his facts straight.

Does that mean Toronto hasn’t since shown interest? - I’m not sure.

But never the less it got me thinking; could this be Toronto’s best shot at Iggy? After all, Philly has new management, refused to pay their only current star what he wanted for an extension, and it’s hard to say if they’re in the "rebuilding" or "retooling" mode as Howland so eloquently put it in yesterday’s post.

So for sake of argument, what would it take to get this deal done?

Well financially it’s not going to be easy but here’s one that would work:

Philadelphia sends Kevin Ollie, Andre Iguodala, Herbert Hill and a second round pick to Toronto for Darrick Martin, Juan Dixon, Carlos Delfino and a first round pick.

The thinking here is that if Philly is going to rebuild, like the Dallas-Jersey near trade, they would want some prospect options, cap room and some solid current players. Well Martin and Dixon are obviously filler. Delfino is too perhaps, but could be a nice player in the 76ers system if they wanted to keep him around. The first round pick would be in the middle of this year’s draft, one that should net them another nice prospect. And by ditching Ollie they get a little extra salary breathing room.

For Toronto, Herbert Hill might be a prospect for Toronto to keep an eye on. Ollie would essentially replace Martin for the rest of the season, and I don’t think we need to get into what Iguodala could do to help. Losing Delfino and a top pick (which could be a decent player) might seem steep, but you gotta give to get. And currently with the near guarantee that Toronto will do whatever it needs to keep Jose, there may just not be enough money to go around for him and Carlos.

But here’s the main problem with this deal. While it works financially in the short-term, it doesn’t in the near future.

Right now the Raptors payroll is around $67 million. If you take off the contracts of Hill, Iggy and Ollie, this shaves $6,673,952 million off the cap, so about $7 million. With adjustments next year the Raps’ salary situation looks to be at about $60 million. That only gives the team about $7 or $8 million to work with depending on luxury tax. (In the past three years the luxury tax was $61.7 million, $65.42 million and $67.865 million. Even with a jump towards $70 million it still means Toronto would only have max about $9 million to play with.)

So right there is problem number one. The salary Iguodala is looking for is going to take up the majority of that money, even if somehow the Legomaster convinces him to take less considering he’ll finally be playing on a winning team.

And that bring us to problem number two; even if you do have room for Iguodala, that means no money for Jose without going into the luxury tax zone. Jose will probably command a salary similar to Devin Harris and a bit more than Jameer Nelson so close to $8 million. That means the Raps need to clear at least that much to be able to keep other teams at bay. And that friends, brings us to Rasho Nesterovic. Getting his salary off the books would enable Toronto to have substantial room to sign Jose but including him in any Iggy deal creates two problems:

1) The numbers financially don’t work. If Philly takes on an extra $8 million in the deal, they need to give that up somehow…and players with matching salaries like Andre Miller don’t make sense for Toronto and I doubt Sammy D is going anywhere. So that means Philly would need to send three or four guys together to make up Rasho’s salary bringing us to the next problem…

2) Roster numbers don’t work. The Raptors don’t have many "we don’t need him" guys on their squad. Maybe Martin, Baston and Dixon. However if Dixon and Martin go in the deal, that leaves Baston as the only possible "waiver" victim. So a six for three type deal to cover Rasho’s ginormous salary doesn’t work from a roster space perspective. To give you an idea of what it would take to match salaries in a deal involving Rasho, Philly would have to trade Iggy, Ollie, Reggie Evans, Louis Amundson, Calvin Booth and Shavlik Randolph to the Raptors for Rasho, Delfino, Martin and Dixon. That’s a lot of possible buy-outs and not something a team like Toronto, already pressed up against the luxury tax, would want to do.

There is one other option though. If the Raptors want to take on a bad contract like that of Willie Green or the aforementioned Evans, it might work.

Would acquiring Iggy mean taking on Ollie?  Gilbert Arenas would LOVE that!

Would acquiring Iggy mean taking on Ollie? Gilbert Arenas would LOVE that!

Evans has four years left on his deal but would be a rugged 4 off the bench for the Raps and give them the rebounding they need. Toronto would probably have to give up Humphries in this case but then a deal of Iggy, Evans, Ollie and Gordan Giricek for Hump, Rasho, Martin, Dixon and the Raps #1 works. That gives Philly a lot more financial flexibility, especially a year from now, another first-round pick, and a solid player in Hump.

But we’re not in the clear yet.

Sure we’ve addressed the present in that the salaries match, the near future in terms of clearing room for Jose AND Iguodala, but what about the long-term future?

The final hurdle is Andrea Bargnani. His deal expires in 2009-10 and Toronto will need to have cash on hand to re-sign him. Yep, being an NBA GM is no easy matter. It’s a constant evaluation process and as we’ve seen in the past few weeks, teams have to decide whether or not to sacrifice the long-term for potential short-term success. Both Phoenix and Dallas look like they’re willing to do this right now and only time will tell in terms of how this works out.

For the Raptors, if such a deal for Iguodala was available, would they risk future luxury tax implications by making this deal? I don’t know but a starting five of TJ, AP, Iggy, Bosh and Bargs, with Jose, Moon, Kapono, Evans and Delfino off the bench sounds pretty damn good, especially in the East.

But considering all of the stumbling blocks I’ve just thrown up on the board, I’m going to say that trading for Iguodala without giving up a major piece such as Bargs or Jose is a long-shot. Who knows if Philadelphia’s new management decides to keep Iggy come season’s end or if Iguodala will even want to re-sign with the Raptors if he was dealt to Toronto? There would have to be some assurances on that side of things for BC before he made any kind of deal.

No, there are just too many variables at play right now and therefore I think this is one player Raptors’ fans will have to leave on the "wishful thinking" side of the ledger.