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The Rap-Up: Games of the Week for Jan. 21-27

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The NBA trade deadline is fast approaching, so let’s make some ridiculous deals for the Raptors (while looking ahead to this week’s slate of games).

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

At what age is it too old to daydream?

In my many daydreams about the Raptors hoisting the franchise’s first championship, the setting has always been in the future (and specifically against the Warriors). The other day, however, I started thinking of the past and how previous championships were won.

The most interesting flashback/daydream was a remix of the 2013 Finals, with the Raptors replacing the Heat, and Spurs replacing the... umm... Spurs. It’s late in Game 6 with the Spurs leading the series 3-2 and leading the Raptors by two with 20 seconds remaining. League officials have brought out the yellow tape to cordon off the floor for the Larry O’Brien Trophy presentation — much to the chagrin of the Scotiabank Arena crowd (yes, I realize this would mean San Antonio would host Game 7, which would also mean they’d hypothetically end the season with a better record than Toronto; highly unlikely, but this is my dream, not yours — so play along!). Kawhi Leonard (James) misses a three-pointer. Pascal Siakam (Bosh) is able to corral the offensive rebound and pass to a back-pedalling Danny Green (Allen), who drains a game-tying triple with 5.2 seconds remaining. You know how the rest plays out. Parade down Bay Street!

Another form of daydreaming is taking place at a high volume across the NBA involving trade ideas. ESPN’s Trade Machine has been my favourite tool for many years. As mentioned on fellow Raptors HQ-er Sean Woodley’s Locked On Raptors podcast, I use it not so much for creating ridiculous trades, but to quiet the loudmouths that call for “Miles-for-JR-Smith” trades. I’ve never heard anyone actually call for that, but it’s just to illustrate a point that while Smith is healthy yet purposely sitting out, he’s still more expensive and salaries don’t match enough to be traded for Miles straight up.

That was a long-winded way of saying this week’s Rap-Up will focus on hypothetical trades with each of this week’s opponents. But first, a couple of caveats before you destroy me in the comments.

  1. Try to realistically make the trade beneficial to both teams — financially and structurally
  2. I do NOT endorse any of these trades — at least for the Raptors.

With Jonas Valanciunas’ return drawing near, Norman Powell providing a great spark off the bench, and C.J. Miles finally/maybe/sorta relieving himself of the Go Daddy curse, Toronto’s lineup is the most balanced in the entire NBA. Any lineup changes could disrupt the chemistry that has been improving with each passing game.

While I may not fully support these, I still had fun dreaming up some Raptor trades. Care to daydream with me? Or at least make some picks for the week?

January 22 vs. Sacramento Kings

Who says no? Vlade Divac (Oh boy, I already regret this exercise). Buddy Hield is quickly proving a lot of haters wrong. While Kings owner Vivek Ranadive probably spoke too much in claiming Hield could be the next Curry, Buddy has been shooting lights out for the playoff-contending Kings. Only three players are averaging 45/40/85 (FG%/3PT FG%/FT%) while hitting at least 100 triples: Bryn Forbes, Hield, and, of course, Steph Curry.

Most Raptor fans could easily make the case that Masai Ujiri would be the one to say no. Siakam is a leading candidate for Most Improved Player, defends all five positions, and has the court vision of a point guard, in addition to being the fastest man on the court. With all this talk about acquiring Bradley Beal, why not go after a shooting guard with comparable (if not better) stats, but $22 million cheaper each season? FYI, this trade also works if you swap OG Anunoby instead of Siakam.

Prediction

Sacramento defended their home court as well as they could when Toronto paid a visit on November 7. While their comeback bid fell short, the Kings showed why they rank second in creating turnovers by forcing the Raptors to cough the ball up 20 times — one of only four games this season where Toronto had that many turnovers. Sacramento will have to do the same if they hope to pull off the upset. The Kings rank 26th in points allowed, 25th in free throws allowed, and 29th in threes allowed. That does not bode well against a Raptors team that ranks 7th in points, 4th in FT%, and 6th in threes made. Toronto crowns the Kings, 115-101.

January 23 @ Indiana Pacers

Who says no? Kevin Pritchard. Domantas Sabonis has been a revelation this season. All-Star? Most Improved? Sixth Man of the Year? All of these are on the table for the 22-year-old son of hall-of-famer Arvydas. He’s averaging JV-like numbers off the bench — 15 points and 9.7 boards on 62.2% FG%.

Whenever Kawhi sits out a game — as he probably will here — the Raptors have a plethora of capable wings who can collectively make up for his absence. JV’s injury and subsequent missed time, however, has exposed Toronto’s lack of frontcourt depth. Swapping a wing with huge potential for a big with huge potential would solve the depth issue, while also bringing in some much-needed help on the boards.

Prediction

Indiana should win this, right? Granted, Toronto is 8-1 on the back-end of back-to-backs, but this Pacers squad will have two extra days of rest, plus two more rest days after this game. The Pacers have no significant injuries and have won 11 of their last 14 games. However, the league’s 2nd-ranked defense looked bad in each of those three losses, giving up at least 120 points to Philadelphia, Boston, and, obviously, Toronto. I foresee something similar to the Celtics game last week. Toronto visited TD Garden to face a Boston team that was border-line desperate. The Celtics “wanted it more” and willed themselves to victory... much like this Pacers squad that’s fighting to stay relevant. The Pacers claw the Raptors, 107-99.

January 25 @ Houston Rockets

Who says no? Both fan bases. Houston gets rid of ‘Melo’s contract, along with the high-flying Gerald Green. Toronto provides Houston with an excellent big who can help solve their rebounding issues.

In reality, the Raptors are one of only three teams in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating. The addition of two defensive sieves is not ideal. For Houston, receiving Malachi Richardson and Moose for the future hall-of-famer is not what Daryl Morey foresaw when he signed Anthony in August.

The realization that Malachi has the largest salary in this fake trade is astonishing.

Prediction

Can anybody name Houston’s starting five? Me neither. With Chris Paul and Clint Capela out for a while, Harden has become a one-man show, scoring at least 30 points in 19 straight games. Watching Leonard guard Harden is must-see TV. Without Capela’s rebounding presence inside, Raptor defenders can focus their defensive attention on closing out on any 3-point attempts. Toronto-Houston was one of the most exciting games at Scotiabank Arena last season. This time shouldn’t be any different. Raptors blast off on the Rockets, 124-119.

January 27 @ Dallas Mavericks

Who says no? Donnie Nelson. Even if DSJ really wants to leave the Mavs, they can probably do better on the trade market. Dallas would be giving up the more promising point guard and the better Powell. On the other hand, Delon could really flourish feeding off of Cool Hand Luka’s dominance.

Prediction

While everyone is going gaga over Luka, his Mavs squad has lost ground in the playoff race. This Dallas team has a recipe that could give Toronto fits. DeAndre Jordan will feast on the boards with JV still out. Harrison Barnes, Doncic, and Wesley Matthews all average at least 13 points and two triples per game. The Mavericks rank third in fouls called and third in free throw attempts allowed. I can already see multiple Raptors complaining about non-calls. Dallas frustrates the Raptors, winning 109-105.

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Season Record for Predictions (Last Week): 32 - 16 (2 - 1)