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From Jak to TRoss: Toronto Raptors trade deadline speculation

The trade deadline is around the corner. Let’s play around with some trades!

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors look to be active heading into the upcoming trade deadline on February 10th. We took a look already at the detailed salary information in this post, now let’s have some fun and throw out some ideas on how to add to the team for the upcoming playoff run — and perhaps the years to come.

Fair warning: if you are here for trades that sell pieces for futures, or try to upgrade a current starter to a true blue superstar, this article is not for you. I don’t see either as particularly likely, both from a team direction and timing perspective, and from a scarcity of resource perspective. The Raptors I doubt have any interest in selling any core pieces, and it’s a little early in the competitive curve to be going all in on a superstar, if there was even one available.

We’re looking at ways to a) add a starter level player to add to the current core of players and b) if possible, also add some bench support in the same deal. We won’t be spending assets on veteran bench help alone though.

So. First off, let’s quickly recap the financial situation.

Trade Guidelines

As outlined in that previous post:

  • The Raptors are less than $20,000 clear of the tax line.
  • They have 14 players on the roster, which is the minimum.
  • They can accommodate adding about $25 million in excess salary next year before hitting the tax.
  • They will not want to pay the tax this year, and probably not next year either.

This means they will want to take back equal or lesser salary in any trade. The second point means that if they send out more players than they take in, they’ll need to take back even less salary, as they need the extra room to sign a 14th player to meet the minimum roster requirements. We should leave about $600,000 in space for each replacement player needing to be signed. The third point just means we have to be a little careful how many players with term on their contracts come back in a trade, but they have significant wiggle room there.

Now, on to the fun.

Trade target #1: Myles Turner

This one I outlined in the previous post. Quick refresher:

Myles Turner and Torrey Craig


Goran Dragic, Precious Achiuwa, Malachi Flynn, TOR 2022 1st

Maybe the 1st is lotto protected or something given Turner’s injury status, but that’s a pretty solid chunk of value and salary relief next season for Indiana.

The money is $24.2M heading to Indiana and $22.9M heading to Toronto. The Pacers move a little closer to the tax line but stay under it (they are about $2M clear right now). The Raptors clear enough room under the tax to add the 14th player they will need after this trade.

Whether this offer is enough in a market that likely has at least a few buyers in it, I’m not sure, but it’s about as good an offer as the Raptors will likely be willing to make.

Trade target #2: Jakob Poeltl

This is an interesting one. Seems multiple teams, including the Raptors, have been rumoured to be calling about Poeltl. The Spurs are not exactly competing right now, and Poeltl is locked in for next season but is an unrestricted free agent thereafter. So if the Spurs decide they will want to sell on him before he hits free agency, and don’t want to restrict themselves to the return a one year rental would get them, he could be on the move this deadline.

Meanwhile, Poeltl is quietly one of the best centers in the league, with significantly above average offensive and defensive impacts, great rim protection, great offensive rebounding, and impressive efficiency (in spite of a lack of outside shot and some pretty poor free throw shooting results). His defensive fit in particular is great with the current core, and adding him as a roll man and decent passing connector within the offence could unlock some more traditional pick and roll offensive looks to help carry a full 48 minutes of offensive production for the team.

The other interesting thing about the Spurs is they have multiple pieces they may be looking to move. Dejounte Murray is excellent and they’ve got him locked in for multiple years. They have a whole pile of rookie scale players with upside that they’ll be building around in the future. But they also have a few role player types with term and above mid-level salary.

Derrick White has four years left on his deal, which based on rumours last summer, may be a year too long for the Raptors’ taste. That leaves Doug McDermott, a bench shooter, which sounds like something the Raptors could use.

The good news is those two (Poeltl and McDermott) add up to a very similar salary ($22.8M, if we include McDermott’s incentive to make the playoffs, which we should) to what we looked at with the Pacers, so you can put together exactly the same offer.

Jakob Poeltl and Doug McDermott


Goran Dragic, Precious Achiuwa, Malachi Flynn, TOR 2022 1st

Again, lottery protection would be a matter of negotiation. Spurs get two prospects and a pick, and some salary relief over term, for Poeltl and a middling 30 year old bench piece.

Poeltl does however seem likely to have several interested teams, perhaps even more so than Turner, so if his market gets too crazy it is possible the Raptors’ offer will not be competitive. Still, centers just generally go for less in the NBA, so this is hardly an impossibility. Really comes down to how the Spurs view their short term chances and if they are really open to moving Poeltl.

Trade target #3: Mo Bamba and Terrence Ross

Those first two are the ideal options, established guys in their early prime who you can add as immediate contributors and also as longer term fits. There’s only so many of those even kind of available on any given trade deadline, so now we dip into guys who could fit longer term and are maybe good enough to help now.

Mo Bamba in Orlando is a great example. He’s barely played before this season, but is having a very solid season this year. Just in time for the Magic to probably have some doubts about whether they want to be the ones paying him this summer, as he’s a pending RFA.

He fits well with what the Raptors might need from any incoming C: he provides rim protection, rebounding and three point shooting. Whether he can hang in their defensive scheme we’d need to see, but they could also go a little more conservative if he is bringing enough else to the table.

They also rather conveniently have a couple of bench wing players who could be of interest for the Raptors to try to bolster their depth at the same time.

Terrence Ross is someone most Raptors fans will be familiar with. He’s having a terrible year, but it’s hard to say how much of that is veteran doldrums on a terrible team. Recall, Marc Gasol was in the midst of his worst season as a Grizzly when the Raptors traded for him mid-season and had a very sudden renaissance.

Ross is signed for this year and next, and the benefit of his deal is his salary adds up nicely with Bamba’s to match up with a Dragic-sized outgoing salary.

Bamba should carry less value than the other two players we’ve talked about, being a pending free agent with less of a track record, so the offer can likely be less. Maybe just the two prospects, or one of them and a pick. And Ross, with the year he is having, is not of any significant value in the trade. Taking his salary might actually be of value to the Magic more than the Raptors. One such deal:

Mo Bamba and Terrence Ross


Goran Dragic, Malachi Flynn, TOR 2022 1st

Bamba and Ross combine for $20.1M. Ross also has a $1M incentive for making the NBA finals, so they probably don’t need to worry about that but clearing room for $21.1M instead would be a good idea if it is easy.

Dragic and Flynn combine for $21.5M, so that works out nicely. Dragic and Precious would work as well. Sending both prospects along with Dragic is also fine, well within trade matching rules and leaves room for the Raptors to sign a 14th guy and stay under the tax, though that price is looking steep considering the return.

Orlando gets out of Ross’ money next year, gets value for Bamba and avoids paying him this summer, adds a prospect and a pick. The pick will need to be protected as Bamba is a less sure bet to improve the team for the rest of the season.

Toronto gets a maybe-starting-quality center and some bench wing depth with at least in theory some shooting from both players. They take on some risk with Ross’ deal next year, in case he’s just bad now, and maybe end up having to pay Bamba more than they would like in RFA this summer.

There’s another version of this deal they could pursue instead, with a little more win-now confidence and a little more flexibility next year as well.

Trade target #4: Mo Bamba and Gary Harris

Harris, unlike Ross, is having a decent season, and has always been a solid 3 and D option, and is at least measuring out as a roughly league average player in impact stats, unlike Ross who is measuring out as one of the worst players in the league by those numbers. So no need to bet on the bounce back effect on a new team.

Harris also has an expiring contract, so the Raptors would not be getting him for next season, but they would also not be locking themselves into the extra salary for next season, leaving them more flexibility to re-sign Bamba. They would still retain the ability to re-sign Harris if he wanted to stay (he’d be an unrestricted free agent with full Bird Rights), and I imagine he might be cheaper than Ross’ existing deal.

The issue here is he makes a lot more this year than Ross, so for the Raptors to be able to bring in both his salary and Bamba’s, they need to send out more salary. Harris makes $20.5M and on top of that has up to $2.6M in incentives tied to team success and individual awards. There’s no risk of the individual awards, but I’m not sure how much of those incentives are tied to what — incentive information is often not reported very well. But based on what I’ve read let’s assume $0.6M of those incentives become likely with the change to a team with playoff intentions.

Mo Bamba and Gary Harris


Goran Dragic, Chris Boucher, Malachi Flynn, Isaac Bonga, TOR 2022 1st

Harris and Bamba make $28.1M, and call that $28.7M with those incentives. Dragic and Boucher being sent as expirings amount to $26.5M. So the Raptors need to make up $2.2M in salary difference.

Sending out another salary (say, Precious at $2.7M) is not sufficient, as the Raptors then need to go sign a 14th player for $0.6M (leaving them slightly above the tax line if they have any playoff success to speak of). And I don’t know whether the Raptors would want to include a guy like Precious in a trade like this.

So I’ve included Bonga as well, as removing his minimum salary and replacing him with another $0.6M signing would clear enough room, even with Flynn outgoing instead of Precious. Ideally Orlando might take Svi in his place, to remove his player option from the Raptors’ books for next year, but I’m not sure how open they’d be to that.

The trick with sending 4 players for 2 is that Orlando has to have room on their roster to absorb the two extra bodies — they can’t do the trade then cut a guy like Dragic to get back down to the maximum of 15 players, they need to do cuts first to make room for the trade. They already have 15 players, so they’d need to cut two guys, which is a big ask.

They have E’Twaun Moore as a veteran minimum guy who has been hurt and hasn’t played for them, so that’s one. The other is tricky. Would they cut and re-sign (after buying out Dragic) Mo Wagner? He’s played a lot of minutes for them as a backup C. Or Robin Lopez, who is owed $5M for this year but has appeared in only 22 games for them.

Tricky, but there are ways around it. If the Raptors are willing to include Precious and take the risk of entering the tax if the team makes a deep playoff run (maybe then it’s less of a concern), then they can make it work with only Precious outgoing along with the two big expirings in Dragic and Boucher. Or maybe the Magic aren’t super attached to some expiring or another on their team and have no issues cutting guys to make room.

It will be interesting where the prospect/pick price falls on this sort of deal. The Raptors can send out as much as they like, the Magic will have no issue with matching salary and we are already asking them to cut players. So do they land on Flynn and a pick? Flynn and Precious? Precious and a pick? All three? Not sure where the value lands. I’d expect lower than the other two candidates I identified, but who knows?

That’s all I have for now.

What do you think of the trades above? Are the prices too high? Too low? Should the Raptors be heading in a different direction entirely, or do you have targets that fit better?

Let me know if you have trade proposals in mind and I can check the salary implications and trade rules to see if it works.

All salaries per