Ultimately, this is the goal of every team. Every franchise wants to be like the San Antonio Spurs in the 2000’s; transitioning from David Robinson to Tim Duncan, and what was hopefully going to be Kawhi Leonard, all while competing for championships along the way.
The Toronto Raptors were forced into it after superstar Kawhi Leonard opted to return home to Los Angeles after the 2019 championship, and what was eventually followed up by a rough season in Tampa Bay. A season which saw the Raptors finish 27-45 and miss the playoffs.
That season also however, put the Raptors in a prime position to draft Scottie Barnes. Even though this decision was contentious with Raptors fans due to the popular opinion that Jalen Suggs was better, it turned out to be a fantastic selection. Toronto looked to have drafted an absolute stud, a future All-Star, and the 2021-22 Rookie of the Year.
The Raptors surprised everyone by essentially reversing their record, and finishing in the fifth seed at 48-34. It looked as if the Raptors were ready to fulfill the desire of every organization. Compete in the present, with multiple key young players playing a major role.
They weren’t necessarily viewed as title contenders quite yet, but heading into this season, many expected them to build off last year’s first round exit to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Fast forward to today, and it’s safe to say that hasn’t exactly came to fruition. Toronto currently sits outside of the play-in tournament at 25-30, just three days away from the trade deadline.
However, following an impressive 4-3 West Coast road trip, that many people including myself thought was going to put the nail in the coffin for the Raptors, the team has shown just the slightest bit of life.
They currently stand just 0.5 games back of the Washington Wizards for the final play-in spot, and with still 27 games remaining, only five back of the Miami Heat for that highly coveted sixth seed, where you can avoid the play-in tournament entirely.
It makes you think what the motive is for Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster as the trade deadline inches closer and closer. Every report has suggested that the Raptors are going to wait until the last second to decide if they are going to become buyers or sellers.
Well, those final moments are approaching and we have still yet to see a budge. Reports and rumours have been flying everywhere, but as always, Ujiri and Webster remain cool as cucumbers.
I think everyone is on board with straying away from fully buying in. This team has too many holes, and hasn’t shown enough promise to constitute the push towards a title. In my opinion though, that completely flies out the window if they can get Kevin Durant. When you have the opportunity to obtain a top-five player in the league, you do it 10 times out of 10. Especially when that player is under contract up till 2026.
Aside from that one extremely specific scenario, I think it’s safe to say that the Raptors should lean towards mortgaging the future, and for lack of a better word “tank” this season, and plan ahead.
But, what if they can do both? Is there a way for the Raptors to have their cake and eat it too? Before I answer that question, can someone in the comments please tell me how that saying makes any sense. I understand what it means, but what is the benefit of having cake if you can’t eat it?
Also, I must preface this with two things. The first thing is that all of these scenarios involve the Raptors shipping out O.G. Anunoby. I think it is a fair assumption that if the Raptors are going to be trading away someone, he will be first on the chopping block. Secondly, I am terrible at fake trades and coming up with them is extremely difficult. Now that I have planned my escape route from the hate in the comments, we can move forward.
O.G. Anunoby for Isaiah Hartenstein, Cam Reddish, Quentin Grimes and two first round picks.
Maybe this point should have gone in the caveat above, but the two things that the Raptors are in desperate need of is size and depth. If they are going to make a trade which improves the roster as currently constructed, those issues have to be addressed.
Isaiah Hartenstein is the current backup center for the New York Knicks, and in the past couple of years for them and the Clippers, he has put up extremely effective numbers in roughly 20 minutes per game. Whether he starts or comes off the bench behind Precious Achiuwa, he would be a fantastic addition to the lack of size on this roster.
Pair that with a name in Cam Reddish who likely seems to be on the move, and their current starting shooting guard, Quentin Grimes, the Raptors also retain two young wings with a lot of upside. Two players who have strong 3-point and wing-defense upside, another couple of areas that the Raptors desperately need improvement in.
The two first round picks round this deal out, because the common report is that the Raptors could get three first round picks for OG Anunoby. Maybe Masai can pull off some magic, but I decided to chop one of those firsts, because the Raptors were getting back some fairly solid value back in the players returning to Toronto.
O.G. Anunoby, Khem Birch, Thaddeus Young for Harrison Barnes, Davion Mitchell, Richaun Holmes, and two first round picks
Before I dive into this one, I will say that I got the majority of this trade outline and the following reasoning from James Herbert, who presented this deal on The Raptors Show by Will Lou. If you are a Raptors fan, and don’t already listen to it, make sure you tune in!
We talk often about the Raptors surprising everyone this year, the Sacramento Kings themselves have been one of the league’s biggest surprises but in the opposite direction. They currently sit in the third spot in the West, and they need to capitalize on the chance they have in a wide open Western conference.
This deal would allow them to improve their roster, while not breaking the bank to go all in. They upgrade on Harrison Barnes with OG Anunoby, get Thaddeus Young who is still an effective veteran, and Khem Birch who can be a solid bench big man if one of their bigs needs rest.
The Raptors on the other hand, get their Anunoby replacement in Barnes. A guy who can still score and shoot the ball at a great rate, shooting just about 39% from deep on 4.5 attempts per game. They get a backup big in Richaun Holmes who has been linked to them forever, and a guard in Davion Mitchell who is a fantastic defender, but isn’t fully utilized in a competing situation like Sacramento. Wow, did that feel weird to say.
Just like before, one of the assumed three first round picks gets knocked off the board because of the value in players getting return to Toronto.
O.G. Anunoby for Devonte’ Graham, Jaxson Hayes, Trey Murphy III, and three first round picks
This one is definitely the weakest in terms of player return to Toronto, but Trey Murphy is extremely young, and has shown some serious promise with the Pelicans’ All Stars sitting out the majority of this season due to injury.
Jaxson Hayes and Devonte’ Graham are both expendable pieces for New Orleans that could fit right into Toronto’s rotation, at the exact positions they need, and O.G. would make the Pelicans an absolute problem next to Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Herbert Jones.
That team both offensively and defensively would take a big upgrade with the addition of Anunoby. They already possessed the first seed in the West before long term injuries to both Ingram and Williamson took place. Since then, they have dropped into ninth, but are still only 2.5 games back of the kings for the three-seed.
The trade deadline is approaching really soon, and the Raptors could make a move any second. Even writing this article, I was prepared to scrap it the entire time due to a Woj or Shams bomb. This Raptors team has a legitimate chance at being a play-in team, and an annoying-out to a playoff team, while also keeping their eyes and priorities set on the future. It is time to sit back, relax, and refresh Twitter every three seconds folks, because trade season is upon us.