Ranking Players Most Likely to Be Traded by Toronto Raptors This Season
We won't know for quite a while whether any of the following Raptors will be finding a new home during the 2013-14 season, but if things go south, they'll certainly be at the top of list of players likely to be traded at some point in time.
Reigning NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri is no stranger to making bold and momentous trades. He's the man who dealt Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks in 2011, acquiring a package of players and draft picks that kept the team in the Western Conference playoff picture, despite losing one of the biggest stars in the league.
He's also responsible for sending the polarizing Andrea Bargnani to the Big Apple for a king's ransom that included sharpshooter Steve Novak and two first-round draft picks.
As presently constructed, the Toronto Raptors are a middle-of-the-pack basketball team that's good enough to compete for one of the bottom three or four seeds in the Eastern Conference, but not good enough to make any real noise against the likes of the Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls.
There's going to be a honeymoon period where Ujiri allows his team to show their stuff on the court while he evaluates the roster, so he should have a better idea as to where things stand after the first month or so.
Player contracts, statistics and market value were all taken into account while devising this list
Again, this is in no way, shape or form an indication that any of the following names are on the outs. Simply take this as a warning and pray that the upcoming season isn't so depressing that we bring this topic up again in the winter months.
*All statistics and salary information courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and HoopsHype.com
Follow Toronto Raptors Featured Columnist Christopher Walder on Twitter @WalderSports
5) Aaron Gray, C
2012-13 statistics: 42 games, 12.2 minutes, 2.8 points, 53.3 percent from the field, 3.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, 0.9 turnovers, 9.0 PER
2013-14 salary: $2,612,500
Aaron Gray sits somewhere near the bottom of the proverbial Raptors food chain in terms of importance and priority on the court and in the rotation.
However, his $2.6 million expiring contract could attract some attention on the trade market.
Gray is a serviceable backup center who can clog the lane and alter shots around the basket. You don't want him playing heavy minutes, but he has proven in the past that he can hold down the fort when his number is called.
In 16 starts last season, Gray averaged 5.0 points and 5.4 rebounds on 53.3 percent shooting from the field. The six-year veteran also averaged a double-double of 11.3 points and 10.0 rebounds when playing over 30 minutes.
If Masai Ujiri wanted to make a move with one of the more noteworthy names on the roster, perhaps packaging said player(s) with an expiring deal like Aaron Gray could sweeten the pot.
4) Terrence Ross, SG
2012-13 statistics: 73 games, 17.0 minutes, 6.4 points, 40.7 percent from the field, 2.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 0.7 turnovers, 10.4 PER
2013-14 salary: $2,678,640
Patience is a virtue.
So how much patience does Masai Ujiri have? This Terrence Ross experiment may take longer than previously expected, so the light at the end of the tunnel might not appear in 2013-14.
The preseason didn't put any doubts to rest about the 22-year-old sophomore, as Ross remained fairly inconsistent with his shooting and shot selection, hitting just 43.8 percent from the field. Racking up 27 points against the New York Knicks on Oct. 21st offered a glimmer of hope, but for the most part, the bad outweighed the good over those seven outings.
It still seems so early to be giving up completely on Terrence Ross, but maybe this isn't the right environment for him. As long as DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay are on this roster, Ross is never going to have the appropriate time to develop his skills in-game. His mediocre play doesn't help matters either, on top of the fact that other wings like Steve Novak and Landry Fields are also in the loop for PT.
As a young athletic shooting guard with an entire career still in front of him, Ross would without question attract numerous offers from teams looking to shore up their bench depth. The jury is still out on the former Washington Husky ever becoming a full-time starter in this league, but hey, I've been wrong before.
Management can take the wait-and-see approach, or they can go ahead and pawn him off on another team before he completely decimates his market worth.
3) Kyle Lowry, PG
2012-13 statistics: 68 games, 29.7 minutes, 11.6 points, 40.1 percent from the field, 4.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.4 blocks, 2.3 turnovers, 17.51 PER
2013-14 salary: $6,210,000
The Toronto Raptors would need to get a credible starting point guard in a deal for Kyle Lowry if that's the route the team decides to go.
There are still huge question marks surrounding the depth at the position with D.J. Augustin and Dwight Buycks as the backups. If the Raptors decide to throw in the towel during the final months of the regular season, perhaps it won't matter who's taking the ball up the court.
Lowry has $6.2 million left on the final year of his deal. There's no guarantee that he's going to re-sign with the Raptors over the offseason, so there's always a chance Masai Ujiri could move him before the trade deadline to garner some sort of compensation.
His numbers fell across the board after coming over from the Houston Rockets, although injuries, a mismanaged relationship with Dwane Casey and poor conditioning certainly played a factor. Just by looking at his appearance, you can tell that he's been stringent with his workouts over the summer and getting himself into the best shape he's ever been in.
If by the grace of the good lord, the Boston Celtics were to throw a name like Rajon Rondo on the table in a deal involving Kyle Lowry, you would take that deal and run because an upgrade is presented to you at arguably the most important position in the sport. It's all hypothetical, but you see what I'm getting at.
The last thing this team needs is an unproven or inconsistent commodity in Augustin or Buycks running the offense. I would think Lowry will be hanging around for the time being because of that, but I also wouldn't be surprised to hear his name arise in trade discussions weeks before the deadline.
2) DeMar DeRozan, SG
2012-13 statistics: 82 games, 36.7 minutes, 18.1 points, 44.5 percent from the field, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks, 1.8 turnovers, 14.81 PER
2013-14 salary: $9,500,000
How could Masai Ujiri possibly consider trading DeMar DeRozan? He's one of the longest-tenured Raptors, beloved by the fanbase and loyal to a fault.
What if that's not good enough? What if the new general manager doesn't feel this team can win with DeRozan as its second-best player? Would you resent him if he pulled the trigger and made the move?
Ujiri wasn't the one who signed DeRozan to a four-year deal worth $9.5 million every season until 2016-17. That was a move made by the Bryan Colangelo regime. It was a signing that was impulsive, hasty and desperate. Bidding against yourself is never a wise decision, yet here we are .
Very rarely do you see a player donning the red and white commit so easily to a franchise with an unfortunate history of losing. Entering his fifth season as a Raptor, DeRozan has yet to see his hard work pay off in the form of playoff minutes. He wants to be part of a change for the better in Toronto, but sometimes in life, what you want and what you get are two entirely different things.
DeRozan looked extremely dominant in the preseason, attacking the basket with a newfound sense of confidence on route to 54.3 percent shooting and 15.3 points. His value is soaring game by game, and other teams around the league are starting to take notice.
If Ujiri could find a suitor for DeRozan's expensive contract and be fairly reimbursed for the benefit of the roster, he would do that deal in a heartbeat. That decision becomes all the easier to make if the Raptors find themselves at the bottom of the standings.
I doubt a trade would be made just for the sake of making a trade, but if the right offer arrives at your doorstep, you'd be silly not to consider all options.
1) Rudy Gay, SF
2012-13 statistics: 75 games, 35.8 minutes, 18.2 points, 41.6 percent from the field, 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks, 2.6 turnovers, 15.66 PER
2013-14 salary: $17,888,932
Rudy Gay is going to be the fall guy if the Toronto Raptors come out of the gates slow for the second-straight season. If this team struggles to win games early on, which they did last season winning just four of their first 23 games, Masai Ujiri won't hesitate to pick up the phone and shop his best player.
For the most part, Gay's future with the franchise will depend heavily on his on-court success. The Raptors went 19-18 after the trade that brought him to Toronto back in February, so this was clearly a better basketball team once he was made the focal point of the offense. Can that success carry over to Gay's first full season with the team, or was it simply too short of a window to have complete faith?
The over $37 million he's owed for the next two seasons is a tad bit burdensome. Gay has a player option worth over $19 million in 2014-15 that he would be out of his mind not to take. I'm sure Ujiri would love nothing more then to shed the books of his contract to give himself more flexibility to make further moves to improve this roster.
Ujiri has worked miracles before, but the chances of landing equal value for a guy like Gay, who is brutally overpaid and has seen his shooting percentages drop in recent years, may be asking too much of him. There's nothing wrong with expiring contracts and picks either down the road or even in the stacked 2014 NBA draft, but what that does is signify a continued rebuild, which fans are all too familiar with.
Of course, none of this will matter if the team is thriving in the win column. If the Raptors find themselves right in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference, no one is getting sent anywhere. At the end of the day, it's all about making the playoffs. An exit in the first round would be more than likely, but it would help re-establish the franchise as a destination where winning is taken seriously.
If Gay can help take Toronto back to the promised land, he will have proven that he's worth the money and possibly worth building around long-term.
If not, he'll be out of town faster than you can say "Marcus Banks."