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Dragic for Thad: Breaking down the deadline day deal

The Raptors got another player that fits their prototype. Can he make a difference?

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Darren Carroll/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2022 NBA Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the Toronto Raptors are not a drastically different team today than they were yesterday.

The team made one move on deadline day, and as we all expected, it involved the team moving off of Goran Dragic’s expiring contract.

The particulars of the deal are as follows:

  • Toronto trades Goran Dragic and a lottery-protected first round pick (protected 1-14 in 2022, 1-13 in 2023, converts to two seconds after that) to the San Antonio Spurs
  • Toronto receives Thaddeus Young, Drew Eubanks and a 2022 second-round pick via Detroit.
  • Toronto also creates a trade exception of about $5 million.

Shortly after the deal became official, the Raptors waived Eubanks.

Those are the details. What does it all mean for the Raptors?

Where Thad Young fits on the 2021-22 Raptors

Overall the initial reaction to the deal appears to be pretty lukewarm. Yes, Young can play, and yes, at his size and playing style he seems to be a good fit with what the Raptors are doing.

But at the same time, he doesn’t fit either of their biggest needs (backup ballhandler/shot creator, or traditional big man). Sure, he’s a solid playmaker, and hopefully he can be dependable enough to allow for Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam to rest a few more minutes a night. But he’s not a point guard or pure scorer or rim-protecting centre. He’s just... more of the same.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. He can score in a variety of ways, including on the inside, and he’s a willing passer. He’s also pretty versatile; over the course of his career, his role has changed on the various teams he's been on, from being a pure inside scorer to being a playmaker out of the triple-threat position on the wing. Playing with a team full of other versatile offensive bigs/wings (bwings?), he’ll fit in well, and will fill any gaps whenever Siakam, Barnes or Anunoby go to the bench.

Unfortunately, Young isn’t a particularly reliable three-point shooter. We can ignore his numbers this year (he’s barely played and the Spurs don’t really shoot threes anyway), but tracking his three-point percentage and number of attempts per year is like tracking a yo-yo:

  • 2007-08: 0.3 attempts, 32%
  • 2008-09: 2.2 attempts, 34%
  • 2009-10: 2.1 attempts, 35%
  • 2010-11: 0.3 attempts, 27%
  • 2011-22: 0.1 attempts, 25%
  • 2012-13: 0.1 attempts, 13%
  • 2013-14: 3.7 attempts, 31%
  • 2014-15: 1.5 attempts, 33%
  • 2015-16: 0.4 attempts, 23%
  • 2016-17: 1.6 attempts, 38%
  • 2017-18: 2.2 attempts, 32%
  • 2018-19: 1.8 attempts, 35%
  • 2019-20: 3.5 attempts, 36%
  • 2020-21: 0.7 attempts, 27%

Are the Raptors getting the Thad who shoots 3+ three-pointers per game at a 36% clip? Or the one who shooting 0.4 threes at a 23% rate?

Also, that long list reveals another concern about the deal: At age 33, Young doesn’t exactly fit the Raptors’ timeline. And as a free agent after this year, he certainly doesn’t seem to be in the team’s long term plans.

What does the deal say about the 2021-22 Raptors?

I think this deal tells us that management really likes this team. They didn’t want to break up the core — a core that appears to include both Precious Achiuwa and Chris Boucher.

It also tells us that there probably wasn’t a lot of value to be had for Dragic. Everyone knew that the Raptors had to trade Dragic, and if they didn’t, they would buy him out. If a team really wanted Dragic, they could just wait. All that left was teams that wanted Dragic’s expiring contract, and no one is giving up a great player or prospect or draft pick just for an expiring $19 million.

To put it another way — I have 100% confidence that if Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri felt this was the best deal available... then this was the best deal available.

With this deal, they send out a player who wasn’t playing, and bring back a guy who can play, and might in fact be the sixth-best guy on the team. He’s certainly in the top-nine rotation, and if all Young does is push Yuta Watanabe and Svi Mykhailiuk down to the 10th and 11th spots, that’s OK. He’s also insurance for bad Achiuwa and Boucher nights.

It’s also, likely, a vote of confidence in Dalano Banton, maybe not for this year, but for next; not bringing in another playmaker on a longer-term deal gives Banton the opportunity, if he can seize it, to play that role next year.

Overall, the team is in good shape, and a player like Thad complements what they’re already doing nicely (as opposed to Dragic, who wasn’t doing anything).

This deal sucks, it’s only about the money!

Of course it’s about the money! It’s the NBA. If you’re not winning the title this year, and make no illusions, the Raptors are not winning the title this year, building a good team means staying below the tax line and maintaining as much financial flexibility as possible.

The team is now almost $4 million below the tax line, which gives them a little extra flexibility to sign a buy-out guy, if they want, over the next few weeks. It also gives them a little extra flexibility next summer.

Does MLSE care about saving the $4 mil? Yeah, probably! Are they happy they don’t have to pay a guaranteed salary to a low first round pick next year? Yeah, probably!

But none of this meaningfully changes the team’s future outlook.

But the first round pick!

The hand-wringing over the Raptors moving from what will likely be the 20th or 21st pick to the 31st or 32nd pick is a little much. Sam Presti has done a number on y’all! First round picks are nice. They’re not the be-all, end-all.

I also love people cherry-picking players who went 21st, like Tyrese Maxey, and saying “look what we’re giving up!” Why not take a look at all the players who went 21st (or higher!) that never turned into anything? ‘Cause that list is looooong, folks. And you know what happened the last time the Raptors had the 20th pick? They took Bruno Caboclo!

Besides which, this is one deal. Ujiri and Webster will have plenty of chances to acquire more first round picks if they want to.

The NBA draft is a crapshoot. Please don’t lose any sleep over the 21st pick!

What’s next for the Raptors?

Winners of eight straight games, the Raptors are coming back home to face the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night, and Young is expected to make his Raptors debut. I look forward to seeing what he looks like! Young wasn’t much of a fit in San Antonio, and wasn’t playing much, so I bet he’s eager to get back out there and play meaningful minutes, to show that he can still play, and to earn one more contract.

And hey! Never forget: