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Raptors HQ Roundtable: Trades, MVPs, All-Stars and The Raptor’s newest homie

The HQ Staff grade a mostly healthy Raptors team, wonder if “Freddy All-Star” will be a thing, handicap a Devin Booker/The Raptor fight, and more!

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Each week the RaptorsHQ staff puts their heads together to talk about the most important stories for the Raptors and the NBA. Let us know what you want the roundtable to discuss by leaving a note in the comments!

[Editor’s note: This week’s Roundtable was completed before Dwane Casey did his thing on Friday night.]

1) We finally had a chance to watch a fairly healthy Toronto Raptors team. What’s your Grade and review?

Conor McCreery: Grade: B

Toronto is getting back to generating massive shot attempt advantages through offensive rebounding and forcing turnovers, but a lack of shooting, some struggles guarding the perimeter, and the weak competition (hi, COVID!), means I can’t put them any higher... yet.

Jay Rosales: Grade: A-

The offense was overachieving and above league average BEFORE the team got healthy. They have the 2nd-best offense over the last two weeks. We’re approaching the halfway point of the season, so it’s fair to say the offense has greatly exceeded expectations. The defense is what has really seen a spike (#7) over the last 2 weeks. As their chemistry grows, it’s mind-boggling to think the Raps could end the season in top-10 in both offense and defense!

Josh Kern: Grade: B

Things look good, but I’m worried about long-term sustainability. VanVleet and Siakam are carrying a heavy offensive load and there’s a lot of inconsistency around them — especially from the bench (and “inconsistent” is a pretty generous description of the bench of late). And the defense is still a work in progress, although the effort against Phoenix was promising.

I guess “cautiously optimistic” sums up my thoughts.

J.D. Quirante: Grade B+

The top 6 (core players)’s potential is enticing, but the bench is disappointing; otherwise, this current iteration would be at least A-

2. Will Freddie “All-Star” actually get a nod into the big game?

Mitch Orsati: This is solely going to come down to the coach vote and I really can’t see how they don’t vote him in with how he’s torching every team — and subsequently, every coach — that is under-prepared for him. Darius Garland is Fred’s obvious competitor for what might shape up to be the final All-Star spot on the roster, but with the torrid pace VanVleet’s been on over the last handful of weeks, recency bias tells me Freddy will get the nod in the end.

Jay: Fred’s getting an All-Star nod. Full stop. The counting stats and advanced stats are all in his favour. He’s got a couple of highlight-worthy performances to entice voters. The final piece was always going to be the team’s record. With upcoming games against Wizards, Blazers, and Hornets - none of which have guards that can stay in front of Fred - the Raptors should be able to stay in the top-8 when the teams are announced.

Conor: I wouldn’t have about a week ago, but FVV’s recent run of 30-pieces has U.S. media talking up his candidacy. He’s got a game coaches love, and the narrative (as a tool coaches can use to push their own teams), SHOULD be enough to get him a reserve spot.

J.D.: He should be, but the Raps’ record plays a big factor. It would also help if he can “pop” a few more times, and maybe win the POTM

3. Should the Raps look at adding at the trade deadline? If so, what assets are you willing to give up, and what would you target? (i.e. a minor move, or a bigger swing).

J.D.: The Raps should shake up the bench. Toronto needs a shooter and/or a bucket getter because Svi is not cutting it, Dalano is a project, and Yuta is a good 10-12th man on the roster.

Mitch: Should the Raptors look to add at the deadline? Yes. What asset would I be willing to give up in order to facilitate that addition? Oh, I don’t know, HOW ABOUT GORAN DRAGIC!?! Enough with this song and dance already. Send Goran wherever he doesn’t want to go and get yourself a nice little end of the rotation, steady PG or serviceable big man.

Josh: I’m with Mitch. This team needs a backup ballhandler who can hit shots, despite the fact that they have one on the dang roster. Please just move Dragic so we don’t have to keep writing his name on the injury report for every preview and game thread, an ongoing and painful reminder of how perfect his game would be for this Raptors team.

Jay: Every tradeable asset is a double-edged sword. Dragic’s contract opens the possibility of getting a big name, but at this point, rival teams are waiting for a buyout. Boucher’s recent play has surely caught other teams’ attention, but doesn’t it also mean he’s found his perfect role within Toronto’s system? Flynn has been mostly disappointing, despite playing in development system that’s renowned for improving anyone that goes through it. So, how much trade value does he really have, if any?

Let’s also not forget that every GM is wary of trade talks with Masai. The Raps should look to add — if anything, to break free from the 5-12 logjam — but keep expectations low that anything will actually happen.

Conor: Maybe a minor move. I don’t see the value in moving off a first, or Trent Jr. or, in a bigger deal, Siakam. But the core has played well enough that if Flynn and/or future 2nds and/or Dragic’s contract can get you another back-court player who can shoot, the Raps should consider it.

Eric Gordon is probably too spicy — in terms of assets it will take — but he’d be good here. Maybe a rejuvenated Gary Harris makes sense in purple throwbacks?

4. The Sixers apparently want to add Tobias Harris to a Ben Simmons deal. What the heck should we make of that?

Jay: I’m going to chalk this latest bit of Sixers news to “who’s leaking this and what do they have to gain from it?” With that in mind, wouldn’t the answer be Morey? Trade talks surrounding Simmons hit a stalemate some time in 2021. By adding Harris’ name, he’s at least getting usage of his phone again.

Mitch: In MY mind — Daryl Morey is a lunatic. The Ben Simmons saga has been preposterous at almost every turn and Morey continues to add to the sideshow by throwing more of his players under the bus. #FreeEmbiid

Conor: And MY mind is going: whaaaaa? Sure, Harris is unfairly maligned — he’s legit really good — but with that contract how much of a positive asset is he? I also wonder, if this report is accurate, how this effects Harris? He’s an excellent team guy by all accounts, but this has to sting.

It also makes it harder to figure out who the Sixers target(s) are now — that’s $73m combined. Is Morey trying to get Dame AND McCollum back? Does anyone want to pay that money (and assets) to get the second and third best players of a team that hasn’t got past Round Two?

J.D.: I have a feeling that Morey is just stalling. My theory is his main target is to pair Harden with Embiid, and he’s just buying time until then, which is next summer.

5. Curry is in a shooting slump. The Nuggets and Lakers are treading water - who are your MVP faves right now?

Josh: It’s Giannis then Jokic for me, although if Curry has even an average second half and the Warriors end up with the best record, it’s probably his to lose. But, in addition to his usual incredible numbers, I am just really enjoying the vibe around Giannis this season, this restrained calmness and confidence that he’s just figured it all out. It looks like the title lifted a literal weight off his shoulders.

J.D.: I really wanna say DeMar, but it’s Giannis for me too. The Bucks are playing well regardless of who they have, and Giannis is basically playing C all the time now - which is an impossible matchup for Milwaukee’s opponents.

Jay: If Devin Booker falls off the rails and the Suns follow suit, the MVP is The Raptor.

I’ve currently got Giannis creeping back above Jokic. Similar to Fred’s All-Star case, Nikola is dependent on his team’s record. As spectacular as his numbers are, the barely-above .500 record will deter voters. Keep an eye on Utah (Gobert) and Memphis (Ja) in the second half of the season. Their teams are knocking on the door for the best record in the NBA and will generate more buzz if that remains the case in March/April.

Mitch: I beat this drum on a far more regular basis than I ever thought would be possible, but please, do the right thing and crown Nikola Jokic as the MVP. He’s leading the league in almost every important advanced statistic and is by many of those same statistics, having the best season of all time.

Even if you take away the advanced stats argument — which you shouldn’t — Denver is still in the playoff picture despite missing two of their three best players for the entire or large swaths of the season. When Jokic sits, the Nuggets are one of the worst teams in history. So, if the MVP award comes down to the usual argument of “are they the most valuable player to their team” or “did they have an insane statistical year”, Jokic will, when all is said and done, be the categorical and definitive ‘yes’ to both.

Conor: I’m still on the Jokic train as well - his numbers are historic, and he got better at something in the off-season - defense - so this isn’t a “run it back” situation.

I’m currently sitting: 1. Jokic, 2. Giannis, 3. LeBron, 4. Curry and 5. Durant - but two weeks ago Steph was probably my #2. Regardless, these names are at the top of almost every advanced stat you can think of.

6) Devin Booker and The Raptor get stranded on Toronto Island - who makes it off alive? (we’ll ignore all the infrastructure on the Island for the purposes of this hypothetical).

Jay: I imagine everyone will choose The Raptor (and they wouldn’t be wrong), so I’ll be contrarian and say Booker. Would it surprise you at all if he cheated by throwing sand in The Raptor’s eyes then sucker-punching him? That would give Booker enough of an advantage to make it off alive......only for the giant inflatable Raptor to emerge from Lake Ontario and devour Booker. Devin spends the rest of his days playing Euchre with Jakob Poeltl in the Raptor’s belly!

[Editor’s Note: That is an all-time Raps reference, Mr. Rosales!]

Josh: The Raptor has been doing his thing longer than Devin Booker has been alive, I’m not betting against him.

Conor: Ha. Trick question! Booker already said they hashed it out... and the talk went better than you thought. The Toronto trip is actually the Lake Ontario version of the banana boat recruiting drive -and when the two finish paddling into Pier 4 it’ll be with a secret deal for Booker to sign a max contract to come ply his trade with FVV, Pascal and Barnes in 2024.

(and if you think I wrote that after realizing I didn’t know how to put Booker’s face into the ‘Clever Girl’ GIF from JURASSIC PARK - you know me too well...

But also, if anyone wants to put Devin Booker’s face into the ‘Clever Girl’ GIF from JURASSIC PARK I am totally here for it.)