This Thursday marks the NBA's trade deadline and in preparation, RaptorsHQ takes a quick look at some possible options for the Toronto Raptors...
Has another Western Conference arms race begun?
Late last night it was announced that as a follow-up to Dallas acquiring Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood from the Washington Wizards, the Portland Trailblazers had obtained the services of Marcus Camby, exchanging under-appreciated point guard Steve Blake and athletic wing Travis Outlaw.
So my question this morning then is, who's next?
You may recall that two seasons ago, the Lakers nabbed Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies for what at the time, seemed like nothing, setting off two more momentous Western Conference trades resulting in new homes for Jason Kidd, Shaq, Shawn Marion and Devin Harris.
Well, it looks like it might be happening again.
Only this time the East could be more prominently involved in this "one-upmanship."
Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat are believed to be pressing hard for the services of Amare Stoudemire, and the Boston Celtics sound like they're trying to add another key piece to their puzzle as well.
And this brings us to our Toronto Raptors; should this club be looking to make any upgrades and if so where?
To the former part of the question, I'm not sure they should. The team has been playing very well since mid-December, and hasn't really even had a chance to field a completely healthy roster yet this season. Last Wednesday's match against Philly was probably as close as they've come now that Reggie Evans is back. What Bryan Colangelo doesn't want to do is bring in a new face that disrupts the current chemistry and on-court success.
That's not to say that there aren't areas on this team that couldn't use a boost however.
Toronto's defence is still efficiency-wise, the worst in the league thanks to their historically porous start, and some additional rebounding and toughness wouldn't be a bad thing.
However if you were to point at the Dino's roster and identify any glaring holes in particular, they would probably come at the swing positions. We've discussed this before, but the Raptors have been one of the worst teams in the league in terms of getting production from the 2 and 3 spots. According to 82games.com, Toronto's combined PER at those two spots is 26.3 - the league averge is 32.2. Hedo has been the main culprit in this regard but until recently, Antoine Wright was even worse and rookie DeMar DeRozan hasn't exactly set the NBA ablaze as of yet. If Bryan Colangelo is looking for an upgrade in an area, it would be these two positions.
But can you actually move Hedo Turkoglu? He's on the books for another four years with $44M owing, and his production has hardly warranted those numbers. Not to mention that he hasn't even shown signs of being able to live up to those gaudy figures down the road. BC in the past has been quick to move pieces that just didn't fit, but in this case, I think he's stuck unless he's prepared to give up young assets like DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson.
And speaking of DeMar? Can you relegate him to the bench at this point in the season, and on the heels of what should be a confidence-boosting All-Star break, if you bring in a more experienced 2-guard? Statistically I'd argue that it makes sense, but as we know, the game of basketball isn't all about stats.
The reality is that I think Colangelo will sit this trade deadline out.
He's got a few spare parts that he could probably do without (Reggie Evans, Marcus Banks, definitely Patrick O'Bryant), but they're not going to fetch much more in return unless packaged with a bigger fish. And even non-essential pieces like Marco Belinelli and Sonny Weems have niche roles on this club, ones that are important enough that I'm not sure Colangelo wants to screw with them.
I'm expecting a quiet trade deadline on the Raptors' front this season, however that's not to say there aren't a few swingmen out there who I think would look great in a Raps' uniform. These include Leandro Barbosa, Ronnie Brewer, Corey Brewer, Anthony Morrow, Tayshaun Prince and Chris Douglas-Roberts among others.
Could Toronto steal a Prince or a Douglas-Roberts from a beleaguered team looking to cut costs or start over? What about making a play for someone like Mike Dunleavy Jr, hardly a star, but perhaps a player who could be had for relatively cheap and who sports some nice upside?
If you've spent any time with ESPN's Trade Machine or RealGM's Trade Checker over the past while, you know that any such deal is tough. Toronto has too many long-term locked-in deals that are probably unmoveable, and of their smaller contracts, many are important pieces to this team right now, or players who would fetch little value in return.
In fact I'd argue that Toronto is in the toughest "buyer" spot right now of nearly any team in the league; they're rolling so don't want to change too much, however haven't had enough tough games recently to determine if the record is more a product of the schedule, or of a team ready to take that proverbial next step.
So I'll end it on this.
If I'm Bryan Colangelo, I listen to offers over the next few days, but unless any blow me away, (aka get Hedo out the door), I'm not budging. However there is one call I'd have already placed, and that's to Memphis' GM Chris Wallace.
It's no secret that the Grizz haven't decided what to do with Rudy Gay as of yet and are loath to pay him big money next season. But if Colangelo called and offered Hedo and DeMar, for Gay, Steven Hunter and DeMarre Carroll, wouldn't Memphis have to do it? They'd grab a talented 3 with a guaranteed deal AND a great future replacement for Gay in DeMar!
For Toronto obviously Rudy would be a big upgrade at the 2 or 3, he'd be a better fit than Hedo, they'd be able to get his salary off the books, and make an even bigger pitch this way at retaining Bosh. A starting line-up of Jack, Gay, Wright, Bosh and Bargs would be pretty solid while Carroll is a nice Amir Johnson-esque type off the bench. Hunter would simply be a throw in to make the deal work financially.
The danger of course would be renting Gay as there's no guarantee he'd re-sign along with Bosh in the off-season. I think that's a chance I'd take however as at worst, Gay walks and Toronto has a good piece of cap room to use to go after someone else in next year's talented free-agent crop.
The Grizz are in town tomorrow night and we'll be taking in the game via media access.
I'm not getting my hopes up, but let's just say I'm hoping to catch Colangelo and Wallace in the middle of what looks like some serious negotiations...