clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What can the Raptors do at the trade deadline?

New, comments

After reviewing their current situation, it’s time to ask the obvious questions: what trades are out there for the Raptors? How should they approach any deal for Lowry or Powell? And what comes next?

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

As we discussed yesterday, the Toronto Raptors have some questions to consider with their current roster — and their two biggest potential free agents-to-be, Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell.

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork on everything that will drive a lot of what the Raptors do (or don’t do) at the trade deadline, let’s take a look at what they can do. To begin with, we’ve got to get a handle on their current salary situation, and then we can get to the fun stuff: potential trades.

Current Salary

The Raptors currently have 14 players signed. All of them are eligible to be traded.

Player | Salary | Years Remaining (incl. 2020-21)

Pascal Siakam: $30.6M, 4 years
Kyle Lowry: $30.5M, 1 year (UFA)
Fred VanVleet: $21.3M, 3 years (+ player option)
Norman Powell: $10.9M, 1 year (UFA, + player option)
Aron Baynes: $7.0M, 2 years (2nd non-guaranteed)
Chris Boucher: $6.5M, 2 years (2nd non-guaranteed)
Patrick McCaw: $4.0M, 1 year (UFA)
OG Anunoby: $3.9M, 4 years (+ player option)
Stanley Johnson: $3.8M, 1 year (UFA)
Malachi Flynn: $2.0M, 4 years
DeAndre’ Bembry: $1.7M, 2 years (2nd non-guaranteed)
Terence Davis: $1.5M, 1 year (RFA)
Matt Thomas: $1.5M, 2 years (2nd non-guaranteed)
Paul Watson: $1.4M, 2 years (2nd non-guaranteed)

As always, there are a few additional notes to the above list. The Raptors also have Jalen Harris and Yuta Watanabe on two-way contracts — those can be traded, though each team is limited to two of those sorts of contracts, and they count as no salary in a trade.

OG Anunoby signed an extension to his rookie scale deal, so although his salary is quite low still, in a trade he would count as a much higher incoming salary ($15.2M) for the team acquiring him for the purposes of salary matching. His outgoing salary for the Raptors’ salary matching is the low salary listed above.

The Raptors have all their first round picks moving forward, as well as their second round picks in 2023 and in the years 2025 and on.

What Should The Raptors Do?

Up to this point, we’ve mostly worked through the nuts and bolts of Toronto’s current roster, salary, and trade deadline position. This section, however, is entirely about my personal opinion on what I think the Raptors should do. And for me it boils down to these two things:

  • I do not want to be the team to pay Norman Powell the salary he is about to be paid; and
  • I want to cater to Kyle Lowry’s wishes as much as is reasonable.

With the team sliding down the standings due to their rough start, the unfortunate COVID diagnosis, and now their ongoing struggles, the likelihood that Lowry might ask for a chance to play for a contender seems to be getting higher. Without the insight that the Toronto front office surely has, it’s hard to know, of course.

But if the Raptors do move on from those two aforementioned players, there are two directions to move in. They either try to add as many raw prospects and picks as possible, or they try to bolster the rest of the core as much as possible for the next few seasons in which they are still guaranteed to be here. There’s also the option to do a little of both, but in my opinion the Raptors will likely lean more to the second option. Remember: Toronto likes Siakam, VanVleet, and Anunoby and adding to that core for the next few years is likely the goal. What that means is no short term rentals, but also not aiming at longer term adds. Expect established prospects or even a well-established young vet like the rest of the core to be the centre of any trade return. (Although, sure, trying to pry a pick or two as well would not be a bad idea.)

I could be way off there, but that is what I expect to be the goal.

Where to Trade Norm and Lowry?

The next question — assuming the Raptors want to trade Lowry and Powell — is who wants them? The Lowry part is trickier, we’ll get to him. But Powell should have a lot of suitors. While it is true there will be lots of teams with cap space next summer, having a half season to make a pitch and Bird Rights to offer a little more money is always a good advantage to have in free agency. And Powell’s cap hold is just low enough ($17 million) that if he ends up as $20 million or more player (which is easy to see happening), his new team, if they have enough cap room (and a lot will), could target another player with what is left over after his cap hold eats up some space, then re-sign him by going over the cap.

Of course, there are also teams that would project not to have the cap room to sign Powell, and for them his Bird Rights would be significantly more valuable. And any team that acquires Norm is also likely adding him for an upcoming playoff run — a playoff run that most teams in the league still have a shot at being involved in, with the play-in games and so much parity in the middle of each conference.

So the answer to who might trade for Powell is broad. Any team could use his shooting and scoring. The real question then becomes which teams would offer the most. For now, count basically any team in the playoffs as being a potential landing spot for Powell, and even some teams that aren’t, if they think adding a player like Norm helps them take a step in that direction moving forward.

Lowry is a much narrower field. Yes, he’s a player who can help any team, but at his age, potential salary number, and desire to compete at the highest level, the teams of interest for the Raptors and Lowry as trade destinations are the league’s top contenders. So, after looking at the top of each conference, we would start be assessing which teams most need shooting, veteran smarts, and playmaking.

Pretty quickly a list starts to form. Out West teams like the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks have the star power to think adding Lowry makes them a favourite. The Clippers could obviously use him and would likely give up basically anything outside of Leonard and George to make it happen. The Lakers would probably love to add another star-level player, even a waning one like Lowry, given the hit they will likely take in the standings over the next little while.

In the East, there are a few teams that have separated themselves and then the mushy middle of the conference. Overall, the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets don’t seem like fits in terms of being able to offer any value in return, so the obvious candidates are the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat.

So that’s a list of around six teams that would make some real sense in a Lowry trade. Which is good — too few candidates and you might not get the return you want. Meanwhile, the threat of him going to a direct competitor can make sure the offers you get are honest, which in turn will help the Raptors move Lowry to the destination of his choice — assuming he has a preference. (Though it’s hard to imagine a move to Philly, for example, being a hard sell for him.)

What Do the Raptors Get Back?

This is the great unknowable. Trade values are nearly impossible to predict and depend on so much more than the player. Personally, I think there is a robust enough market for both players that the Raptors could get a decent return for both — especially with Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster pulling the strings.. The question will be exactly what form that return comes in.

To begin with, the following are what I think are the best offers each of the six teams above can make for Lowry.

Philadelphia: Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, Danny Green, Michael Scott, a 2023 1st round pick — for Lowry, Davis, Johnson

Miami: Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa, Andre Iguodala, Moe Harkless — for Lowry, Davis, Johnso

Clippers: Ivica Zubac, Terance Mann, Patrick Beverley, Marcus Morris, Lou Williams — for Lowry, Davis, Thomas, Johnson, Baynes

Lakers: After much searching, couldn’t find one. Sorry, not sorry, LeBron.

Dallas: Jalen Brunson, Josh Green, Tim Hardaway Jr, Willie Cauley-Stein, a 2027 1st round pick — for Lowry, Davis, Thomas

Denver: Michael Porter Jr., Gary Harris, Will Barton, a 2021 1st — for Lowry, Davis, Johnson

Philadelphia and Miami have trade exceptions available to help them take back a little depth considering all the pieces they need to cobble together to match Lowry’s salary. Philadelphia has a pick in there (they could send their 2021 as well, but the Raptors may ask for a later pick with more upside to it even if it gets lottery protected). Miami has no picks to trade. These two deals seem the most likely to me, with Philly the leader.

Technically that Clippers trade just barely works. They are hard capped so it is really hard to make a deal work where (a) they send out enough salary to take back Lowry and (b) they don’t end up with so few players on their roster that they can’t fill it out under the hard cap and (c) the Raptors actually get something of value. The Clippers have no picks to trade, so the Raptors need at the very least Zubac and Mann back in the deal. Once you start with that, the deal becomes a monstrosity like the above. Not sure the Raptors are interested in getting stuck with Morris’ contract, or even the extra year of Beverley.

Couldn’t figure out a Lakers deal. They are hard capped as well, but way too much of their rotation is the guys they would need to trade to match Lowry, even more so than the Clippers.

Dallas is a couple of prospects in Jalen Brunson and Josh Green, a far future 1st round pick, and expiring contracts. Would require Cauley-Stein to waive his no-trade clause (yes, Willie Cauley-Stein has a no-trade clause). They would stay under the tax, but just barely.

Denver is similar, though they can trade their 2021 1st, and don’t have expiring contracts to offer. Porter Jr. is very good scoring prospect though. So much so, that I’m not sure Denver would give him up — and not sure Toronto accepts taking back the term on the other filler without him.

All of these are varying degrees of interesting, but I think the line where the Raptors are willing to pull the trigger is likely Philly, Miami, Dallas and Denver (if they include MPJ). The Clippers deal just doesn’t move the needle.

Norm deals are harder to nail down — he could go anywhere, the salary matching is much easier on his cheaper deal. But the return the Raptors would look for is likely something like a prospect and a pick (plus expiring contract filler), unless they can get a really good prospect or really good pick.

The real question that looms is whether the Raptors look to involve a third team in either of the deals to bring back an established but still young centre to add to the core, sending some of the assets they otherwise would have gotten to that third team. Or they could find a team that wants to swap established players to get Norm for their big, if they have a need on the wing.

Targets like Myles Turner if Indiana decides they are tired of paying two starting centres, or a Jonas Valanciunas return if Memphis decides to shift to their younger bigs full time. There are many other possible targets (does Chicago sell on Wendell Carter Jr.? Does Atlanta move John Collins?), but I thought I’d throw a few names out there to think about.

********

The Raptors may be in a position to still make a run to the playoffs if they leverage the trades they make (if, of course, they do) at this trade deadline, even while potentially improving the longer term prospects of the team.

Or they could be great by standing pat and hoping to lock in Lowry and Powell into longer term deals this summer — or even by trading picks or prospects with filler salary to add someone as buyers at the deadline! As fulsome as I’ve tried to be here, we never can predict the Raptors front office.

What do you think the team should do? Did I miss any obvious destinations for the pending free agents if they are moved? What do you think about the packages above — are they enough to move on from core pieces, even with the risk of unrestricted free agency looming?

If you have a trade to pitch, or questions about the packages above, let me know in the comments and I can try to check to see what works within the cap.

All salary information per basketballinsiders.com.