It wasn’t in the magnitude of a Marc Gasol trade, but oh boy, the Toronto Raptors front office made some major changes.
For a quick recap, the Raptors flipped Otto Porter Jr., Kira Lewis Jr., and a ‘24 first-round pick that will be the least favourable of Thunder/Clippers/Rockets/Jazz to Utah for Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji.
The Raptors quickly hit the newswire again with another deal, this time, dealing Dennis Schroder and Thad Young for Spencer Dinwiddie’s contract. I say contract, as the Raptors didn’t want any part of Dinwiddie, and he’s hitting the buyout market.
Both Raptors trades are now official. They've also waived Dinwiddie. They now have 2 open spots & will need to fill 1 to meet the minimum roster requirement. They can sign somebody to a regular NBA deal, a 10-day or convert 1 of their 2-way players (Jontay/Nowell/Freeman-Liberty)— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 8, 2024
These moves have some immediate and long-term repercussions, so let’s examine the winners and losers of the Raptors’ front office’s trade deadline activity.
Loser: Gary Trent Jr.
Webster points out that Olynyk is extension eligible, so they can have talks about contract expectations. Says GTJ's future is still TBD, but points out he's 25 and a 40% 3 pt shooter so .... https://t.co/3BY3STHjGd— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) February 8, 2024
It’s been a tough “bet on myself” play for Gary Trent Jr., who opted into the final year of his contract but did not get an extension from the Raptors. There wasn’t much interest in Trent Jr. despite shooting a career-high 42.5% from the perimeter. Worse, GM Bobby Webster’s post-trade-deadline presser didn’t exactly give any indication that he’s part of the team’s future. Heck, if anything, that presser sounded like, “Show me you’re worth the extension.”
Winner: Dennis Schroder
Dennis Schroder had aspirations of being a starting point guard again, and the way the season dovetailed for the Raptors, he knew that the writing was on the wall when the front office pivoted and went into rebuilding mode with the acquisition of Immanuel Quickley.
Dennis Schroder wasn't thrilled about coming off the bench for a rebuilding team, per @michaelgrange— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) February 9, 2024
“Schroder wasn’t exactly thrilled with being relegated to the bench on a rebuilding team after coming to the Raptors in the off-season with high hopes of starting on and leading… pic.twitter.com/gt4lfCLZCM
Schroder’s got a chance to fight for the starting point guard spot with the Brooklyn Nets as Ben Simmons is a part-time NBA player, while his defense should get him to coach Jacque Vaughn’s good graces. The Nets are 20-30, but they are just a couple of games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final play-in spot. At the bare minimum, Schroder will play more meaningful games with Brooklyn than in Toronto.
Loser: Coach Darko Rajakovic
darko on the dennis trade pic.twitter.com/rNFmCzNg6e— raptor moments (@raptormoments) February 8, 2024
Losing Dennis Schroder is a big blow for coach Darko Rajakovic, who relied heavily on the former to help steer his offense to start the season. Schroder starting was not the main issue earlier this season, although the lineup that included Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, and Jakob Poeltl could have used some more floor spacing. Schroder’s green light and hero ball tendency drew more criticism than warranted. Schroder was coach Rajakovic’s “comfort blankie” as a rookie coach, similar (but a better player) to former Raptors coach Kevin O’Neill’s trust in Raptor legend Michael Curry starting over Chris Bosh, Morris Peterson, and Lamond Murray. Rajakovic will have to get used to life without Schroder and figure out his point guard rotation, as he’s not comfortable letting Barnes bring the ball down full-time.
Winner: Darko Rajakovic’s Offensive Philosophy
The addition of Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbagi adds more dimension and versatility to coach Darko Rajakovic’s offense. Thaddeus Young was serviceable but was clearly on the decline, and Rajakovic’s asking too much of the 35-year-old to play center and facilitate. While Kelly Olynyk is not that much younger, he offers a similar skill set but with a more fluid game and much better perimeter shooting. Oh, and yes, Olynyk is taller. Ochai Agbaji is a young developmental project that can do a lot of things, albeit not at a high level. The Raptors don’t have a lot of players in the backcourt who can hit a corner three, cut to the basket, and be an above-the-rim finisher.
Loser: Bruce Brown
The Toronto Raptors are keeping Bruce Brown Jr., sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 8, 2024
I don’t know whose heart sunk the most when Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted at 2:59 PM ET that the Raptors are keeping Bruce Brown. After a few weeks of trade rumors surrounding Brown, the Raptors could not find the right return value. If we are to believe the rumors, the Raptors actively shopped Brown, and there was no shortage of suitors. Scratch that, Raptors GM Bobby Webster said during the presser that they would have done something for the right offer.
Webster on Brown: "Had we gotten the offers we wanted for Bruce we would've done something. At the same time Bruce is 27, he has a really interesting contract, he provides a professionalism and toughness that we value, and there's options with Bruce this summer."— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 8, 2024
Brown probably prefers to be in a contending situation rather than a messy rebuilding one, and he didn’t endear himself to the Raptors fanbase by saying that he’s a Tom Thibodeau kind of guy. He probably didn’t pack that much, thinking he’s only in Toronto for a few weeks, but he’ll have to start shopping for spring clothes as Brown and his contract will be sticking around for a while.
Winner: Pascal Siakam Trade Tree
Because one of the picks and one of the players they acquired in that trade were turned into Agbaji and Olynyk.— Joseph Casciaro (@JosephCasciaro) February 8, 2024
So instead of Siakam turning into Brown/Nwora/Lewis + three 1sts, it's actually Brown/Olynyk/Agbaji/Nwora + two 1sts.
SB Nation’s Harrison Faigen wrote about the “reverse paperclip” yesterday, and the Pascal Siakam trade is a good example of that. With the initial return of Bruce Brown, Jordan Nwora, Kira Lewis Jr., and the three 1st-round picks, the Raptors front office managed to improve that into Brown/Olynyk/Agbaji/Nwora + 2 firsts per the tweet above. Brown will likely be dealt with soon, whether in this coming draft or this summer, so stay tuned for the next iteration of the Siakam Trade Tree.
Loser: Chris Boucher
Chris Boucher probably thought he was on the move, as he’s been a healthy scratch in three of the last four games. If the team wasn’t embarrassing themselves against the New Orleans Pelicans, coach Darko Rajakovic might have also benched him that night. Boucher’s minutes and role definition have been inconsistent lately, but he’s remained professional. At 31 years old, a change of scenery and perhaps a role with a contender would be the ideal next move for Boucher. Instead, Boucher and his $10M contract next season will have to stick around for a while. What makes it worse is that the Raptors added more frontcourt depth in fellow Canadian Kelly Olynyk.
Winner: Scottie Barnes, PG
Scottie Barnes has long fancied himself as a point guard. Just look at his Instagram account, where it says 6’9” PG. Up until this season, we’ve only seen flashes of his playmaking, as the ball was mostly on Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam’s hands. Coach Darko Rajakovic stopped short of calling Barnes a point guard in training camp but teased us that he could definitely see him playing on the ball much more.
Webster said decision to waive Dinwiddie was made in the interest of playing their young guys down the stretch of the season and getting Barnes more reps at PG. He also said they intend to fill their 2 vacant roster spots.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 8, 2024
While the Immanuel Quickley trade made him the “point guard of the future,” the reality is Quickley is more of a combo guard who can play off-ball, and that makes him an ideal partner for Barnes. Schroder’s trade means more ball-handling duties for Barnes. Since the Siakam trade, he’s only logged 43 minutes of gameplay without at least one of Schroder or Quickley as a training wheel. Also, Raptors GM Bobby Webster said during the presser that they want more PG reps for Barnes, so I guess Barnes is a PG now?
Loser: Gradey Dick
The depth chart at the 2/3 is a little bit tricky, but the absence of a Gary Trent Jr. trade meant Gradey Dick’s minutes won’t be consistent. Gradey’s averaging almost 19 minutes per game since the Siakam trade, so it’s safe to say that he’s part of the rotation. However, coach Darko Rajakovic did not hesitate to sacrifice Gradey’s minutes whenever he felt like he needed to close out the game with a win. Gradey will need to compete with Bruce Brown and Ochai Agbaji, both players who are significantly better defenders than him at this point of his career.
Winner: Quick-rebuild around Scottie Barnes
It’s no secret that the Raptors are rebuilding around Scottie Barnes, and Raptors President Masai Ujiri said that they don’t have the appetite for a long rebuilding process. With RJ Barrett (23), Immanuel Quickley (24), Gradey Dick (20), and now Ochai Agbaji (23), the Raptors now have five players, including Scottie Barnes, who are under 25 years. These five players have varying levels of experience, and this might be better than having coach Darko Rajakovic babysit a bunch of 20/21-year-olds while praying that some of them would pan out.
The Raptors keep retooling their roster. The Nets are...well...I'm not sure. I broke down their PG swap for @spotrac:— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) February 9, 2024
-TOR clears some more salary for 2024 cap space
-BKN gets a veteran PG for this year and next
While Bruce Brown and Chris Boucher’s situation did not get resolved, the Raptors can still turn it around and trade them during draft night or this summer. The transactions yesterday also gave the Raptors a near-max cap space, according to Spotrac’s Keith Smith, so that’s an interesting development.