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The Raptors’ NBA Trade Deadline 2020 Untouchability Rankings

The trade deadline is coming in hot. Using the fan’s perspective, we rank the Raptors in terms of who we’d least want to see shipped out of Toronto

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline approaching fast, Raptors fans and media alike have been speculating and ideating about moves that Toronto’s team could potentially do before Thursday at 3pm. While many south of the border predicted the Raptors to be sellers come this time, optimistic fans have been rewarded for keeping the faith. The Raptors currently sit at 36-14 with sole possession of the two-seed in the Eastern Conference, eliminating the option for the team to punt on the season in February.

Team president Masai Ujiri*, however, is a shark. If he smells blood in the water, he will attack. He does so with little sentimentality as well — remember that it was the opportunism of Ujiri that coldly sent franchise icon DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs in a move that led directly to the Larry OB.

(*Obviously, the recent Ujiri-to-Knicks reports are stress-inducing and have cast a dark cloud over the fun that typically comes with the trade deadline. More on Masai at the end of the list.)

As successful and likeable as this team is, if there is a move that Ujiri believes will improve the team, he will make that move. With that in mind, I decided to examine the current squad, and assess them in the Raptors Untouchability Rankings — a ranking through the lens of a fan of each player and their importance to the team. Essentially, how would the average fan react if I asked them if we should trade player X?

To do the rankings, two aspects of the player will be taken into account and rated on a scale of 1-10 to give a total score of 2-20.

1. Emotional Attachment: What is Toronto’s relationship with the player, and how important is he to the fanbase? A 10 will mean peak emotional attachment, and a 1 denotes emotional indifference.

2. Logical Untouchability: How untouchable is this player in a basketball and financial sense? Modern NBA fans are intelligent and knowledgeable about the importance of contracts and their impact on potential trades. That will reflect in the rankings. A 1 will mean that they make an extremely logical trade piece, and a 10 means this player is untouchable.

Obviously, it all depends on who these players are being traded for, but in general, this is an attempt to gauge the reaction to these players being exchanged at what most NBA folk would agree is fair value.

That all said, let’s dive in with the clear #1.

1. Pascal Siakam

Emotional Attachment: 9

Logical Untouchability: 9

Total: 18

This one was a no-brainer. Just about every aspect of Pascal Siakam’s existence as a Toronto Raptor works against him getting traded. He is the Raptors best and most important player in the present and future. His four-year extension does not even kick in until next season. He is homegrown, the shining example of the Raptors player development. Watching him grow as a player has provided a real connection between Siakam and the Toronto Raptors.

Siakam’s value amongst fans is the perfect blend of logic and emotional attachment.

2. Kyle Lowry

Emotional Attachment: 10

Logical Untouchability: 7

Total: 17

This season, Lowry’s emotional connection to the city has blossomed and reached an apex. He is the longest tenured Raptor and has delivered more joy to Toronto than any other player in franchise history. This season, Lowry’s veteran leadership has shined through the injuries, and his play as the only viable offensive option when the team was severely shorthanded was truly spectacular. Say something negative about Kyle Lowry on Twitter at your own risk — Raptors fans will close on you like hyenas, picking apart your argument with plus/minus and impact stats until there is nothing left but bones.

Few players inspire this much devotion, even suggesting trading Lowry will be treated as heresy by the fans who think with their hearts.

The Raptors success this season has made the dealing of their veteran players more difficult, and Lowry’s extension has pushed back any urgency on a possible trade. Speculation about a Lowry trade has cooled significantly since the beginning of the season, but they will no doubt resurface in the coming season. Lowry is an aging small point guard (smaller players do not have a history of aging gracefully), and the Raptors have a readymade heir in Fred VanVleet. For now, however, trading the All-Star point guard from the team with the third best record in the league is simply not an option.

We will get to enjoy at least one more playoff run with Kyle Lowry.

3. Fred VanVleet

Emotional Attachment: 8

Logical Untouchability: 7

Total: 15

Like Siakam, VanVleet gets the homegrown bump in the emotional attachment category. He also is another player who has far surpassed their career expectations already, endearing him even further to the fanbase. His performance in last year’s Conference Finals and NBA Finals is the stuff of legend, and the fact that it was spurred by the birth of his son makes Fred all the more likeable. Toronto loves VanVleet and his no BS approach, and his play — pretty close to an All-Star level when healthy — further cements him as an essential piece of this team.

VanVleet is a key player on this team currently and has potential to be the point guard of the future for the Toronto Raptors. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, but it certainly makes sense for both parties to continue this relationship.

4. OG Anunoby

Emotional Attachment: 7

Logical Untouchability: 7

Total: 14

OG Anunoby has some of the emotional factors working in his favour — he was drafted by the Raptors and has improved with them. He has had a frustrating year, and was absent from last year’s playoff run, removing some of the nostalgia that could have been associated with him. One week ago, his emotional attachment score would have been much lower. Perhaps we all have a small case of recency bias, but the clip of his banter with Serge Ibaka shot OG directly into the hearts of Raptors nation.

Anunoby’s logical untouchability is somewhat in a strange place at this point. At the start of the season, OG felt like a stopping point in most trade conversations. The way his offense has plateaued, however, puts him on the table for a win-now move to some extent. Obviously, it will depend on what the front office believes the ceiling of this current squad is. Masai does not mortgage the future for anything less than a real shot at the title, so odds are still that Anunoby stays with the squad and is given a chance to improve.

5. Marc Gasol

Emotional Attachment: 7

Logical Untouchability: 6

Total: 13

Though Gasol’s tenure with the team is much shorter than the bulk of the roster, he gets a significant bump for being a member of the championship rotation, and for the energy that he brought to the championship parade.

How one values Gasol is often a good barometer for how often they watch the Raptors. Casual fans comment on his lack of scoring and athleticism, but the grinders know that Gasol is essential. This has created a small but fierce group of fans who will defend Gasol’s impact tooth and nail.

Gasol was clearly one of the most tradeable pieces for the Raptors going into the season, being an aging veteran on an expiring contract. He is one of the best big men stoppers in the league, giving him clear playoff utility. It is clear now, however, that it is the Raptors that will be needing his services in the playoffs, making a trade much more illogical for the team. Gasol is one of the most important players on the team, with the stats to back it.

6. Serge Ibaka

Emotional Attachment: 8

Logical Untouchability: 4

Total: 12

Serge has been among the more likeable personalities on the roster for some time. His cooking exploits have made him a cult hero and he is also receiving a boost from the video with OG shown above. He has made big plays in the playoffs — Kawhi wouldn’t have been able to hit The Shot without the work of Ibaka — and clearly has taken a leadership role with the team. It would be tough for fans to watch Serge go.

Unfortunately, there is much about him that screams tradability. Like Gasol, he is an aging veteran on an expiring contract. He also is a backup, and his loss, though important, would be felt less than Gasol’s on the court. Nonetheless, Serge is having another great season, and his play has made him both more enticing as a trade piece, but harder to justify trading him for the Raptors.

7. Norman Powell

Emotional Attachment: 6

Logical Untouchability: 3

Total: 9

Powell’s career has been characterized by inconsistency. He has swung playoff series’ in the Raptors favour, he has also been played off the floor in the playoffs. He has shown the potential for an essential role with the team, but he has also been maddening and unpredictable with his play. Though he has had good moments, he does not have the spot in the heart of Raptors fans as some of the other players do.

His salary makes him a convenient trade piece, and though he had been playing spectacularly prior to his injury, the Raptors do not lose any key components of their identity without him. It is easy to see why his scoring ability would make him attractive to suitors, as well. Powell has been tossed in many a fake trade this season, and it would not be shocking to see him in a real one.

8. Terence Davis

Emotional Attachment: 4

Logical Untouchability: 3

Total: 7

Raptors fans take significant pride in the team’s player development program and ability to find talented young players in unconventional manners. Davis is the most recent iteration of that. With a VanVleet-esque “bet on yourself” mentality, Davis has shown that he belongs in the league, and has pleasantly surprised Toronto with some excellent games. His attitude and ability have energized fans, and the only reason he is not higher on this list is because of his short tenure.

He is a great trade piece to a team looking to accumulate young assets and rid themselves of veteran contracts. Any trade involving Davis would be a clear win now move. Unless the Raptors brass sees him as a future star, it is unlikely he would be too much of a sticking point in trade talks.

9. Chris Boucher

Emotional Attachment: 4

Logical Untouchability: 1

Total: 5

The remaining players are all ranked at a one on the logical untouchability scale. None of them are essential to the future of the team, and though they provide essential depth, their roles in a playoff series will likely be minimal.

Chris Boucher carries some emotional weight with fans. He is Canadian, always a good starting point. He is also a Raptors 905 product, and former G League MVP, making him a hero to some of the more dedicated fans. Factor in his wild, exciting style of play which has produced some memorable moments this season, and Boucher is a player on the fringes that fans would feel a pang of sadness for if we were to send him away.

10. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Emotional Attachment: 3

Logical Untouchability: 1

Total: 4

After seeing very little floor time in the early portion of the season, Hollis-Jefferson earned his way to consistent playing time with defense and hustle. Raptors fans are partial to grinders who are not necessarily offensively gifted, and Hollis-Jefferson fits that bill. Nonetheless, he has not had a significant amount of time with the team, nor has he had too many memorable moments. Sleep would not be lost over the departure of Hollis-Jefferson.

11. Matt Thomas

Emotional Attachment: 2

Logical Untouchability: 1

Total: 3

Raptors fans may have had more of an emotional connection with Matt Thomas before the season started. We had visions of heat checks and deep threes, but injuries and inconsistent playing time have prevented these dreams from becoming reality. While fans understand the utility of a player like Thomas, he just has not done enough for us to hold on to him too tightly.

12. Patrick McCaw

Emotional Attachment: 1

Logical Untouchability: 1

Total: 2

McCaw is one of the few (maybe only) Raptors that fans lack general feelings of positivity towards. His inexplicable floor time has been frustrating, and he has shown none of the personality that would soften the stances of fans. Fans have actively looked for ways to ship McCaw south so the opportunity he has received is given to other Raptors.

McCaw’s role as a rabbit’s foot may be the only reason that Raptors fans would want him to stay. Patrick McCaw has been in the NBA for three years. Patrick McCaw has won three NBA championships. Perhaps it is best not to tempt fate.

Players on the outskirts such as Stanley Johnson and Oshae Brissett were left off this list, as they have not factored into this season enough to be considered for this list. Obviously, there was a fair amount of subjectivity used in this exercise. If you disagree, feel free to let me know!

Of course, Masai must be mentioned once again.

∞. Masai Ujiri

Emotional attachment: 10

Logical untouchability: ?

Masai Ujiri is the most important figure in the history of the Raptors. His tenure directly correlates with the turnaround of the franchise as 2013 marks the beginning of the Raptors as a successful playoff team. The moves he has made over the years are the stuff of folklore, and he has rightfully earned blind faith from the fanbase.

He has been amazing in the front office, but equally amazing in the community and with the media. “Fuck Brooklyn” legitimately changed Toronto. The work he has done with Giants of Africa and Basketball without Borders far surpasses anything he has done in the NBA. I used the infinity symbol because Masai transcends this or any other possible list.

His logical untouchability, however, remains a question mark. This is not like a player being traded – this decision is in Masai’s hands. If he desires to leave the team, he will do so. If he wants to stay, everyone in and around the team will do all they can to ensure he is happy with that decision.

If nothing else, we cling desperately to this: