The Raptors don’t have a lot of (any?) cap space, and haven’t really popped up in any discussion regarding any top flight free agents. No, Toronto is not getting LeBron, and nabbing someone like Paul George also feels extremely unlikely — or just downright impossible due to the luxury tax crunch. Taken all together, this is the risk you run when you invest in your core (and that watch that core get swept in the playoffs in embarrassing fashion). Such is life.
But that’s not stopping the Raptors from putting it out there that, well, they’re available. This is the consolation prize of the league’s free agency bonanza — no specific chatter, just a general call out of the wilderness.
As mentioned earlier in the month, and now repeated here by David Aldridge of TNT, Toronto would like everyone to know they’re open for business.
Among the non-Kawhi bait players around the NBA who are available via trade, per league sources: Denver’s Wilson Chandler, New York’s Courtney Lee, Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore. And as @TheSteinLine reported, the Raptors have let it be known there are no untouchables on their roster.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) June 30, 2018
The question remains: what would that business actually entail?
Let’s set aside the notion that these sorts of broadcasts sound a little desperate, because, of course, there’s gamesmanship to consider here. It’s far more likely, for example, for these reports to be refracted through opposing GMs to make Toronto just look desperate. Maybe Masai Ujiri called up a couple of executives to see what was what, hardly a reckless move. I don’t know about you, but Masai doesn’t strike me as the type.
However, in the interests of depressing the market for any Raptors players, these same execs could go on to tell the world that Ujiri is standing out in the street, boombox over his head Lloyd Dobler-style, hoping someone will notice his fun and good cadre of assets — Serge Ibaka still has some miles left, C.J. Miles can hit from anywhere, DeMar DeRozan was All-NBA last year, have you seen Jonas Valanciunas shoot threes now??? (Please just keep OG Anunoby out of your mind.)
What’s been most surprising so far in Toronto is the deals they haven’t made yet. I had it as easy money that the Raps would look to offload Norman Powell’s contract — which is worth $1.4 million today, and $10 million tomorrow. As we’ve headed deeper and deeper into the summer, this contract (and situation) looked like the only move Toronto could make. They need to open up some salary space to re-sign Fred VanVleet, and while it’s not hard to believe management still believes in Norm: his past season was... bad.
Other than that low impact move though, the Raptors’ “open for business” mantra feels more empty than actionable. I can’t even say that I hope to be wrong about this, because if it turns out I am wrong about this, the question then is: how wrong? Ask yourself that question, and then the queries really start to tumble out: Who are the Raptors actually trading? What are they giving up? Who are they getting back?
It sounds like they’ve been swept out of the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes, most of the deals we’ve discussed (like these here), involve trading DeRozan and taking a presumptive step backwards — or dumping Ibaka (who may be washed) for someone like Joakim Noah (who is definitely washed).
Maybe it really is just a matter of seeing where LeBron James ends up. If he goes west, maybe it makes sense to just take your chances against the Sixers and Celtics. Maybe there is no grand move for the Raptors to make. Maybe we just have to accept that.