The Toronto Raptors are in a strange spot. They've won three in a row without their two supposed best players, are threatening to get out of the East's basement, but yet are a long ways off from the type of season most expected.
Should they make a trade?
We take a look...
Is your team a buyer, seller or both (please explain)?
Both. Based on President/GM Bryan Colangelo's pre-season comments, this year's edition of the Toronto Raptors was supposed to be fighting for a playoff spot.
Unfortunately, only a quarter of the way into the season, things came unravelled. Fast.
Now, a team that perhaps would have been looking to add a piece here or there to bolster a playoff run, finds itself a bit lost, even after winning its last three matches.
-Instead of being led by newcomers like Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields, the team is playing better without them on the court.
-The "13 game Bargnani" of last season that management hoped would return for a full season this year, indeed was the mirage many of us predicted.
-The team's defense that was such a pleasant surprise last season completely disappeared, and the offence has hardly improved to replace this drop-off.
So as a result, we're looking at a club sitting with seven wins, searching for answers, meaning the club is open to being a buyer and a seller in all likelihood.
If buyer, what are the needs?
Needs are aplenty but a wing that can defend, stretch opposing defences and facilitate an offense would be great. Easy right?
If seller, what are the objectives in potential moves?
As a seller, the main objective would be to move the sacred cow Andrea Bargnani (who is apparently on the trading block. It's beyond his play this season; Bargs just simply is the antithesis of what this new Raptors culture is supposed to represent. He has to go.
What are your top three trade ideas (please specify traded assets and briefly explain justification for each side)?
As a buyer, the team needs help on the wing. The return of Alan Anderson has helped, and hopefully Landry Fields can regain his moxy now that he's back from injury, but issues will likely remain. This is a team that sports a brutal PER of 7.9 from the small forward position.
The problem is, top wings aren't exactly a dime a dozen so there don't appear to be any easy fixes.
Nevertheless, here are three options the team might want to consider:
1) The Toronto Raptors trade Andrea Bargnani to the Chicago Bulls for Carlos Boozer.
This is simply two teams trying to swap problems. Boozer has fallen way out of favour in Chicago and Bargs, well, you read the first part of this piece. (You did right???) Toronto hopefully gets a boost to their enigmatic offense, and more importantly, Bargnani is no more.
This certainly doesn't lessen Toronto's financial situation though. Bargs is owed about $5M less per season over the next three, and could you really see Tom Thibodeau putting up with Bargs' spotty D?
2) The Toronto Raptors trade Andrea Bargnani to the Milwaukee Bucks for Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Dunleavy Jr.
This trade addresses two immediate needs for Toronto, moving Bargnani, and adding a legit small forward who can stretch the floor and facilitate an offense. After signing a massive extension this past off-season, Ilyasova has been one of the season's bigger disappointments and therefore fits into the Carlos Boozer "trading one problem for another" scenario. Ilyasova's style of play would also be a welcome addition to the Dwane Casey culture.
However problems abound with this scenario. For starters, Ilyasova can't be moved until Jan 15th. And the Raptors, with 15 players on their roster, would need to either waive someone, or move them to the Bucks.
And on the Bucks side, much like Thibodeau, would a hard-nosed defensive coach like Scott Skiles even consider obtaining a player like Bargnani? And with Mike Dunleavy playing great ball, why would the Bucks want to let him go, unless they really were keen to move Ilyasova's contract.
(Note - there are various versions of this trade that could make sense including swapping Jose Calderon and Beno Udrih as well, or adding a contract like that of Drew Gooden's to the mix as a penalty for taking on Bargs.)
3) The Toronto Raptors trade Andrea Bargnani to the Indiana Pacers for Danny Granger.
Here's an interesting one. The Pacers have been underachievers and have missed Granger's offensive traits. Would they be willing to move him and gamble on a player like Bargs, who could bolster their club now, using some of the same offensive skills?
Contractually this works, with the Raptors taking on about $3M more a season, but over two years, thus saving a year on Bargs' deal. And when healthy, Granger would give the Raptors some of the assets at the small forward position that it's been craving since Vince Carter left town.
However it's a bit of a risk. Granger's knees have never been exactly the sturdiest, and there's no telling when he'll be back at the level he was playing the past few seasons. (If ever - he's currently not expected back until February.) Toronto could ostensibly be moving Bargs for damaged goods. For a GM like Colangelo trying to win sooner rather than later, such a pill would be tough to swallow.
In all honesty, none of these trades though are great. The main problem facing Bryan Colangelo is that the bulk of these trades address issues that he thought he had addressed during the off-season, and due to a variety of factors, he's yet to see the fruits of said offseason work.
So I'm guessing he stands pat for now, sees how the club performs minus Bargs and Lowry, and then revisits trade options come the second-half trade deadline.