Part of being a modern NBA fan is to have a wandering eye. Player movement is constant, and silly things like “contracts” and “commitments” have become significantly devalued in recent years. If a player wants to be moved, he can often orchestrate it with an extended pout. Occasionally, he can even dictate the destination.
As a result, no scenario of movement can be ruled out, and fans will constantly size up opposing players as prospects for their favourite team. After watching the 29 other teams in the league play, fans will have enough information to create an essential “wish list” for their team. As a Raptors fan, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t pictured my fair share of opponents in a Raptors jersey. For a little quarantine fun, I decided to compile the players who would fit best with the Toronto Raptors, putting one from each team on this list.
Now, precedent in the NBA has proven that talent trumps fit, so obviously the most desirable player from each team would most often simply be their best player. That, however, would be a rather boring, obvious list. For the sake of creativity, fit with the Raptors will be the driving force of these decisions. Essentially, I’m looking for guys that would provide a positive impact to the team without entirely superseding the culture and identity of the team.
That identity, which has been formed and solidified this season, is one of toughness, versatility, selflessness, and high-IQ play. Plug-and-play type guys thrive with the Raptors. That is why you won’t see a LeBron, Harden, or Doncic, for example, on this list, as they are universes unto themselves. Their teams automatically assume their identity by virtue of their talent and play style.
A couple of other quick notes: no former Raptors (save for one essential exception). It’s just more fun that way. Also, I’m paying no mind to the process and complications of acquisition and assuming these players would just be dropped onto the current team.
Anyway, enough explanation, let’s get to Toronto’s ultimate wish list and consider each player along with the best and worst aspects of their fit with the Raptors.
Toronto’s Wish List
Atlanta Hawks: Vince Carter, SF
Best: Yes, this is the aforementioned exception. A Vince Carter signing, even if simply ceremonial so he could retire a Raptor, would complete the redemption narrative arc that he has underwent with Toronto.
Worst: Masai Ujiri doesn’t much go for sentimental.
Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum, SF
Best: There was a lot to choose from in Boston — I’m convinced you could redraft the rosters of Boston, Miami and Toronto and the teams would maintain their identity. Tatum is simply the best of a crop of talented, tough, and versatile Celtics.
Worst: Trying to argue that Siakam is better than him this season has created animosity towards Tatum amongst Raptors fans.
Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Durant, SF
Worst: He might demand bringing Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan with him. The Raptors would run the other way from both.
Charlotte Hornets: Terry Rozier, G
Best: Admittedly the only Hornets games I have watched this season were against the Raptors, so I went full “Doc Rivers the GM” on this one, picking the player who played the best against Toronto. He also was pretty good in those playoffs a couple years back. (Note: pickings are slim among the teams that start with C.)
Worst: Rozier was much better as the lead ballhandler in Boston with an injured Kyrie and struggled as more of a role player. He would not have that role in Toronto.
Chicago Bulls: Thaddeus Young, PF
Best: It’s possible that he’s an all time great.
This is still the greatest graphic to air during an NBA broadcast pic.twitter.com/MqyNsrDMhh— Dom2K (@Dom_2k) February 12, 2019
Worst: It’s also possible that this is the worst example of stat cherry-picking and is very misleading.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson, C
Best: He’s Canadian, and actually quite a good basketball fit. He’s an excellent rebounder and does not need any designed plays to make his mark offensively.
Worst: The Raptors excellent at avoiding off-court distractions. Thompson, uh, is not.
Dallas Mavericks: Dorian Finney-Smith, F
Best: Finney-Smith is a solid defender, improved shooter, and has the archetypal story of a Raptors role player. He went from undrafted rookie to essential cog on a solid Mavericks team by his fourth season.
Worst: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is kind of Toronto’s hyphen guy already.
Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic, C
Best: If you thought Gasol’s passing as a centre was good:
Plopping Jokic in the centre of Toronto’s army of cutters would be a beautiful sight to behold.
Worst: Although his passing surpasses Gasol, Jokic is not the defensive maestro the Spaniard is.
Detroit Pistons: Sekou Doumbouya, F
Best: Dwane Casey likened him to Pascal Siakam. Put him in the Raptors development system and we’ll have an All-Star in a jiffy.
Worst: Doumbouya and the Raptors are on different timelines. He is far from ready to make a consistent impact in the playoffs.
Golden State Warriors: Klay Thompson, SG
Good: Thompson has the skill set and versatility of a role player with the output of a star. Any team would take Thompson in a heartbeat.
Bad: Klay didn’t seem to enjoy the antics of Drake or the Raptors faithful during the Finals. I think he’d rather try and beat the Raptors than join them (that attitude, coincidentally, is another reason why he’d be a great Raptor).
Houston Rockets: Robert Covington, F
Best: If not for the restrictions I arbitrarily placed on myself, I would absolutely pick P.J. Tucker, my favourite half-season Raptor. I’ll settle for Covington, a 3-and-D player, and noted great teammate who could thrive in any ecosystem.
Worst: I think OG might already be better than Covington at Covington stuff, with a higher ceiling and smaller salary to go with it.
Indiana Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon, G
Best: Smart, tough, and efficient, Brogdon would slot right into the Raptors backcourt. He would help to spell the playmaking workload of VanVleet and Lowry.
Worst: Brogdon would have to change his nickname from “The President,” to “The Prime Minister.”
Los Angeles Clippers: Montrezl Harrell, C
Best: Harrell is a shit-talkin’, charge-takin’ ball of energy. Teams would lose their minds as Lowry and Harrell constantly baited them into offensive fouls, and he would give Lowry another pick-and-roll dance partner.
Worst: He may not be able to look Chris Boucher in the eye.
Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis, PF/C
Best: The best non ball-dominant player in the NBA with Defensive Player of the Year potential.
Worst: His unwillingness to play centre might lead to a rift between Davis and the organization. Nick Nurse would do everything he could to make Davis play the 5.
Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr. PF/C
Best: Jackson Jr. has the tools of the prototypical modern big and has flashed star potential in his role.
Worst: He makes the odd young player mistake on defense, getting overzealous at times and fouling at a high rate. Truth be told, however, there’s not much to dislike with Jackson.
Miami Heat: Bam Adebayo, C
Best: When I came up with this idea, Adebayo was the first player who came to mind. He’s the total package: he’s tough as nails, a gifted athlete, absurdly smart, and a player who is very easy to root for. Adebayo would be a perfect Raptor.
Worst: Adebayo is a non-shooter (for now), so it allows for slightly less lineup flexibility.
Milwaukee Bucks: Pat Connaughton, SG
Best: Giannis is coming in 2021 anyway, and we, as Raptors fans, are morally obligated to discount the ability of Khris Middleton (because of leftover spite about the SI Rankings that put him ahead of DeRozan) and Eric Bledsoe (because he took a dump on the floor in last year’s playoffs). That brings us to Connaughton, a versatile and athletic competitor who can shoot the ball.
Worst: Connaughton’s not actually that good, I just refused to select the aforementioned Bucks — or, say, Brook Lopez — on principle.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Beasley, SG/SF
Best: Beasley’s three-point shooting is outstanding. He is also one of the most efficient high-volume transition scorers in the NBA. Pairing him with the highest scoring team in transition, the Raptors, would be deadly.
Worst: Nick Nurse would bench Beasley for his first month with the team until he bought into the team’s defensive culture. The Stanley Johnson/RHJ treatment if you will.
New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, SF? PF? C?
Best: His athleticism/size combination is unprecedented and a serious weapon on the court. His time with both Duke and the Pelicans has also shown him to be a willing and unselfish teammate.
Worst: The plan that Alex McKechnie will come up with to keep him healthy would likely be both bizarre and frustrating (but probably still effective, nonetheless.)
New York Knicks: RJ Barrett, SG
Best: This one is definitely leaning on the Canadian end of things, but Barrett was the #1 college recruit just a couple years ago and still has star potential. Being in one of the worst basketball situations in the league has hampered his development, but it is very possible he would thrive in a better environment.
Worst: Barrett, at least thus far, is perhaps a little too DeRozan-esque for Masai. He’ll likely have good numbers, but his contributions to winning are still unclear.
Oklahoma City Thunder, Chris Paul, PG
Best: Every bit of logic points to SGA on this one, but I can’t get past how happy it would make me to watch two diminutive, ornery basketball Einsteins manipulate the rules on their way to wins night after night.
Worst: Taking on Paul’s contract at his age is not quite Masai’s tempo.
Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac, PF/C
Best: Good luck scoring on a frontcourt of Anunoby, Siakam, and Isaac. Limbs everywhere.
Worst: Isaac is coming off a devastating knee injury, and his offense is still quite inconsistent.
Philadelphia 76ers: Mike Scott, PF
Best: You can’t kill the Raptors if you’re on the Raptors.
Worst: Mike Scott is decidedly worse against non-Raptors teams.
Phoenix Suns: Jevon Carter, PG
Best: A great defensive point guard. He would make an excellent one to the rest of the team’s box-and. Opposing point guards would get no break with Carter and VanVleet constantly hounding them the point of attack.
Worst: The Raptors rely on playmaking from the point guard position. As of now, Carter does not provide enough of that.
Portland Trail Blazers: Jusuf Nurkic, C
Best: Beyond their star guards, who aren’t great fits for the Raptors in this exercise, there aren’t many great choices in Portland. Nurk is probably the best of the bad options.
Worst: Nurkic is coming off a pretty gruesome leg injury and it is fair to wonder how close he’ll be to his former self when he returns.
Sacramento Kings: Richaun Holmes, C
Best: A bouncy, energetic centre who would add some depth to the position.
Worst: Not a lot to dislike about Holmes. He’s a non-shooter, but as long as he’s not overextended in his role, he’d be a positive addition.
San Antonio Spurs: Derrick White, PG
Best: The Spurs roster is not exactly the rich tapestry of talent that it once was. White has come down after some moments in last years playoffs, but he is a good-to-great shooter from most spots on the floor and a heady defender.
Worst: I would not take White over the Raptors’ top three guards.
Utah Jazz: Joe Ingles, SF
Best: Ingles is an awesome fit. He’s smart, tough, scrappy, and skilled as a shooter and playmaker. The man who looked Paul George in the eye in the playoffs, told him he was better, and then proved it (in that series at least) fits wonderfully with the unafraid Raptors squad.
Worst: He’s on the wrong side of thirty, but other than that, Ingles is an ideal role player and Raptor.
Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal, SG
Best: Beal has long been on the wish list of Raptors fans, and rightfully so. He excels both as a lead ballhandler or off-ball scorer, with the size and athleticism to be a solid defender.
Worst: In John Wall’s absence, Beal has turned into somewhat of an empty calorie stats guy. He has also abandoned defense entirely. We’d need him to revert back to team basketball.