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It’s Time for the Raptors to be The Main Characters of the Trade Deadline

Category Is: Main Character Syndrome. The Toronto Raptors need to make this trade deadline about THEMSELVES.

Toronto Raptors Media Day Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Bring it to the Runway — Category Is: Trade Deadline Realness.

Okay, I’ve been watching way too many reruns of RuPaul’s Drag Race BUT if there is one thing the Toronto Raptors need to do this winter, it’s be the Main Character. That all begins on December 15th when free agents who signed with their teams in the NBA offseason are officially eligible to be traded. The NBA Trade Deadline itself is not until Thursday February 8th, but the 15th of December marks the “unofficial start” to trade season in the NBA.

This season, the Toronto Raptors are expected to be heavy players in the trade deadline... but we also said that last season too.

Trade Deadline 2023: Gooped and Shook

It feels like Deja Vu, and not the fun Beyonce kind, as we approach this trade deadline and the Raptors are in talks to be heavy sellers. One year ago, there were the same questions, the same mid-to-not-very-good season record, the same contract expirations approaching. The Raptors needed one thing in particular — a front court. Their “Vision 6’9” was coming to and end and a real center caliber player was desperately needed. On top of that, Fred VanVleet’s contract was winding down and the rumours of him leaving Toronto were spinning.

So there were two clear objectives: get some return for VanVleet, and get a starting center. Maybe toss in some other components and get some picks. There were many possibilities.

As the Trade Deadline crept closer the Raptors were in nearly every conversation regarding trades and scenarios. Yet when the clock stuck 3:00pm, the only move the Raptors made was to bring Jakob Poeltl back to Toronto. Fred VanVleet remained a Raptor.

Safe to say we were:

Months later, Fred VanVleet would sign with the Houston Rockets in free agency, and the Toronto Raptors would get nothing in return for the All-Star guard they drafted and developed. Ah, memories.

The Jakob Poeltl Deal: Girl, What?

The one positive of the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline for the Raptors was the acquisition of Jakob Poeltl — a center! Yet the joy was quickly turned to confusion when the details of the deal came out. Below is the trade:

Toronto Raptors get: Jakob Poeltl

San Antonio Spurs get: Khem Birch, a 2024 first round pick (protected), and two second round picks.

It’s all fine until you reach the 2024 protected first round pick. It’s top-six protected, which means that if the Raptors land in the top six in the upcoming draft lottery, they keep the pick. If they receive the 7th or higher pick, it goes to San Antonio. This same pattern continues until 2026 (!!), and if the Raptors keep getting top 6 picks until then, the pick turns into a second round pick.

Now, if the Toronto Raptors were in a full on rebuild and essentially tanking in order to get high draft picks, this wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Yet, we KNOW this team, and every sign leads to them not wanting to tank. So it’s likely that the Raptors will lose a first round pick this season unless the basketball gods do us a solid and land us in the top six.

Trade Deadline 2024: Good Luck... and DON’T F it Up!

So now we approach another trade deadline where the future of this Raptors team delicately hangs in the balance. You have Pascal Siakam, whose contract expires at the end of the season — and the Raptors have made no move to extend him. You have O.G. Anunoby, whose contract expires at the end of the season — and the Raptors have made no move to extend him. Gary Trent Jr. — same sitch. The likelihood of the Raptors getting that top six pick is slim. You already lost a high caliber player THIS offseason with no return because you didn’t deal him at the deadline. The stakes are high.

The Raptors need to be sellers at this trade deadline for a variety of reasons.

First, replaying the scenario of last season would make this front office lose whatever trust the fans still have in them. It’s already a little rocky right now, but letting Siakam AND/OR Anunoby walk for nothing would be extremely disheartening for fans.

Next, obviously something isn’t working. This team is currently at 9-14 on the season, are in the midst of a four-game losing streak, and just lost against the Charlotte Hornets, which (no tea no shade) is a little indicative that this team can’t go the distance. They lack cohesion, they lack identity, they lack literal shooting the basketball ability.

Individually, these players are fantastic — you have the 2021 Rookie of the Year, three NBA Champions, the reigning FIBA World Cup MVP... but together, something ain’t working. Their defence is non-existent at times, their shooting/offence is sometimes hard to watch, and they very often need to dig themselves out of double digit point deficits.

The Toronto Raptors need to be the MAIN CHARACTERS in this deadline because they currently have ALL the leverage. It’s clear Scottie Barnes is out of the question when it comes to trades — they plan to build around him. Okay so now you move to an All-NBA, Champion player, who is still only 29 years old — a GREAT piece to get some goods back with.

While I’m of the opinion to keep O.G. Anunoby and use him to build this team along with Barnes, I’m also not the General Manager of the Raptors. So, he’s another piece you could get HUGE return from.

Then, literally anyone else is on the table. They probably won’t move away from Poeltl after giving away so much for him, but there are other great options to choose from if you need to pad a trade scenario. Malachi Flynn has improved this year, Trent Jr is also on an expiring contract, there’s Thad Young and Otto Porter Jr., and Jalen McDaniels.

At this point, the Raptors need to shake it up. We are basically at the point of the season where RuPaul is about to announce that this episode is the Snatch Game and we’re gonna see a glimpse into how the rest of the season could turn out. Basically, it’s a make or break point for this franchise.

The next few months are going to determine what direction this Raptors team is headed in. They need to OWN where they are now, use what they have as leverage, and make this Trade Deadline ABOUT THEM. You are the Main Character girl! Give them something (positive) to talk about.

The alternative is going two years in a row of losing valuable assets (that you drafted and developed!) in free agency without getting anything in return. That would be bad.

It all starts on December 15th has we head purse-first into NBA trade season...