It’s beginning to look a lot like... trade season!
With December 15 now in the rear-view mirror, players who were signed in the off-season are now trade eligible. So, the ridiculous trade ideas you’ve been concocting are about to get even more ridiculous! With trade season officially kicked off, I put together some hypothetical trades for each of this week’s opponents.
You’re not going to like most of them. You may not like any of them. I won’t pretend to know all the trade exceptions or salary cap rules. What I will try to do is (a) match salaries, (b) try to fill needs for all trade partners, and (c) remain somewhat reputable. Feel free to check out tradenba.com and you too can play the role of GM!
December 16 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Happy Tristan Thompson tribute video night!
Cleveland is wrapping a short, but very difficult three-game road trip. The Cavs started with a road win in San Antonio, followed by a loss in Milwaukee, and now a date with the defending, reigning, NBA champions in Toronto.
The Cavs surrendered 35 fast-break points to the Bucks. Now would be a good time to mention Milwaukee and Toronto are the top two in transition points per game. With the Raptors finding their fast-break mojo against Brooklyn on Saturday (32 total), this Cavs team would appear to be ripe for the picking.
Cleveland is #1 in the NBA in picking up fouls. That may sound worrisome to Raptors fans who constantly feel like referees let opponents get away with murder. However, the Cavaliers also rank last in blocks. That sounds a lot like a passive defense. One that can be bullied. One that probably doesn’t want to face a team that has scored 45.3% of their points in the paint over the last five games (6th in the NBA over that span).
Fact Trade That May Only Interest Me
Serge Ibaka to Cleveland for Tristan Thompson & Cedi Osman
Trading away a crowd (and team) favorite is never fun. Trading him away for someone with Kardashian ties doesn’t make the situation any better. (Besides, we’ve already gone through the Kris Humphries experiment) However, Thompson solves a long-standing Raptors problem — offensive rebounding. His offensive rebounding rate (14.0%) is on par with his career average and significantly higher than Ibaka’s (9.2%). He’s also two years younger, a few million dollars cheaper (hence, the Osman throw-in), and fits right in as Lowry’s new roll man. Although, he’d most likely roll to the rim than settle for the mid-range.
Before last Wednesday’s thrashing at the hands of the Clippers, the last time Toronto lost by 20 points or more was a 25-point loss on March 11... in Cleveland. Very odd loss, not because of the 30+ game gap between them in the standings, but because both teams were generally healthy. The only key Raptor missing was Fred VanVleet. This isn’t supposed to be any kind of scary premonition. Toronto can and will exploit Cleveland’s soft defense inside the arc (29th in opponent’s 2-pt FG%) and beyond the arc (29th in opponent’s 3-pt FG%). The Cavs are 0-for-9 on the road against teams above .500, with an average margin of defeat of 20.7. Toronto makes that an even 10, defeating the Cavs, 128-111.
December 18 @ Detroit Pistons
I hope the Raptors really take notice as they walk the halls of Little Caesar’s Arena. They need to take note of what it takes to become a champion and pay homage to the work Dwane Casey put towards — wait, what?
Imagine being Coach Casey and seeing this Toronto team now. When he coached the Raptors, Pascal Siakam didn’t have an outside shot, Fred VanVleet was indecisive and dribbled the air out of the ball, and Kyle Lowry was a bulldog who... okay, I guess not all things have changed.
Detroit may be without Blake Griffin, who re-aggravated the knee he had surgery on in the summer. That didn’t stop the Pistons from playing one of their best games of the season, defeating the Rockets in Houston. Detroit got 10 triples combined from Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, and Markieff Morris.
The Pistons’ outside shooting has been one of the few bright spots of the early season. Detroit ranks 1st in 3-pt FG%. In the teams’ only meeting this season, the Pistons drained 14-of-30 triples — Toronto’s worst 3-pt FG% allowed this season.
Fact Trade That May Only Interest Me
Serge Ibaka & Norm Powell to Detroit for Andre Drummond & Luke Kennard
Drummond has already indicated he’ll likely turn down his player option and enter free agency this summer. Losing a player of his caliber for nothing is never a good situation. With this trade, the Pistons double down on their league leading 3-pt shooting by adding a big who can shoot. Powell is a defensive upgrade over Kennard and is his equal offensively. Where Powell excels at scoring at the basket, Kennard is a better 3-pt and free throw shooter. For Toronto, Drummond is the best rebounder in the NBA and an elite shot-blocker. Kennard is the hidden gem, though. According to Synergy, Kennard is shooting 50.7% on PnR actions — good for second behind Doncic — and scoring 1.04 points per action as the PnR ball handler (6th in the NBA).
This has the makings of an upset. Griffin’s been in and out of the lineup all season, but Casey has found ways to maximize his team’s talent — outside shooting. Over the last 2 weeks, Toronto has given up 3-pt attempts at a ridiculously high rate. Houston shot 55 triples, while Chicago and Brooklyn each shot 46 times from beyond the arc. With Detroit’s hot shooting and Toronto’s propensity to give up those shots, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Raptors’ scrambling defense is caught out of position one too many times. Detroit upsets the Raptors 120-118.
December 20 vs. Washington Wizards
CJ Miles returns to Toronto as the first victim of the “should he have gotten a ring” debate. The case for him was always weak. He didn’t have the stats, tenure, or franchise impact to warrant getting a championship ring.
Scott Brooks read the tea leaves before the season and knew what he had to do. John Wall’s lost season and
bank back-breaking contract dictated that this would be a transition year. With nothing resembling a solid playoff team, Washington has gone on the offensive this season. Since joining Washington in 2016, Brooks has fielded an average-to-good offense, running at an average-to-good pace. This season, Brooks has cranked up the pace (2nd in the NBA) and the offense has followed (4th in scoring, 2nd in offensive rating).
It’s the defensive end where this team is really struggling. Washington is dead last in defensive rating, and it’s not even close. Their 117.3 rating is an errant Michael Ruffin toss length distance ahead of the second-worst Pelicans defensive rating (114.9).
Fact Trade That May Only Interest Me
Norm Powell & Chris Boucher to Washington for Davis Bertans & Moritz Wagner
You’ll notice Norm’s name on almost all trade ideas. It’s unfortunate, but the reality is that he’s on the books for $11.6 million in 2021-22 — you know, the off-season where the Raptors will need as much cap space as possible — and Powell’s recent play has boosted his trade value. Raptors fans are used to inconsistent Powell, so any streak of good play is often met with exclamations like, “now THIS is the Norm I’ve been waiting for.” Raptors fans have also seen enough to wait for the other shoe to drop. Whether or not that actually happens, the fact is Norm’s skill set is not that difficult to replace (and upgrade). Bertans and Wagner may not be able to create their own shot, but Powell isn’t that much better in doing so either. Powell’s damage is mainly done by finishing plays, either off screens or his cuts to the basket.
Enter Washington’s bigs. Bertans is a better shooter from distance and Wagner is among the league leaders in scoring efficiently. With minutes for bigs already at a premium, this hypothetical trade would also necessitate parting with Boucher.
Washington’s poor defensive figures bode well for a Raptors squad still trying to find their offensive footing. Toronto’s record against teams that are currently in the bottom-10 in defensive rating is a tidy 5-0 (6-0 if we assume they defeat Cleveland). This is also a great time to remind everyone about Nurse’s ability to shut down stars. Bradley Beal? Meet OG Anunoby and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Toronto out-gun Washington 119-108.
December 22 vs. Dallas Mavericks
Happy Dwight Powell tribute video night!
Alright, this week’s article is getting really long, so unfortunately, Dallas gets the short-end of the analytical stick.
Luka Doncic is going to miss this game after suffering an ankle injury. He has been a revelation this season and has justifiably risen to a front-runner for Most Improved Player, and a top-2 consideration for MVP. He’s the reason why Dallas is head-and-shoulders above every team in offensive rating (117.7 vs. 2nd-ranked Houston’s 114.9).
His absence takes away a lot of the allure of this matchup. But you play whoever the schedule says you play and Rick Carlisle’s hall-of-fame coaching chops will be put to the test.
Fact Trade That May Only Interest Me
Norm Powell to Dallas for Seth Curry & Dorian Finney-Smith
[Yawn] Yes, I know it’s not exciting. But let’s face it. Kristaps Porzingis still has five years and $122.2 million left. No, thank you. I’d rather keep the books clean for the Summer of ‘21. On the other side, you trade whatever you can for Luka Doncic. Dallas is simply not going to budge. His elite talent combined with the $25 million remaining over the next three seasons, makes Cool Hand Luka the most untradeable contract in the entire league. There’s no combination the Raptors could cook up to... ah, what the heck, this is all make-believe anyway.
Pascal Siakam & Norm Powell for Luka Doncic & Seth Curry
I repeat, Dallas is simply not going to budge. But I’d venture to guess Mark Cuban would at least raise an eyebrow. As for Masai, if he wasn’t willing to budge on Pascal in the Kawhi deal, why would he for Doncic? Because Luka is much younger with a higher ceiling and a dirt cheap contract, especially in the Summer of ‘21 where he’s only making $10 million through his team option. At least for one season, the Raptors would have an extra $15 million in cap space to fill the roster around a Luka/FVV/OG/Antetokounmpo (or other max player) starting unit. Toronto’s also willing to sacrifice the defensive versatility knowing they still have a strong defensive unit. Dallas banks their Doncic chip early in exchange for two proven champs with the right experience to elevate a young team. Also, two unicorns are better than one.
Thank you for reading this far! You either skipped straight to the predictions, or are part of the small percentage of readers who actually didn’t get enraged over my outlandish trade ideas. Let’s reward your readership with a happy ending. Doncic’s absence aside, the Raptors would have been hungry to avenge the early season loss to the Mavs. February 27, 2011 and November 28, 2014 were the only instances this decade where the Raptors fell at home to the Mavericks. Toronto ends the week on a high note, defeating Dallas, 114-109.