With the departure of Chris Bosh, many predicted that the Raptors would be one of the worst teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA) this season.
So far, that has pretty well been the case as with Wednesday's 104-95 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Raptors have now dropped five consecutive games and are now 13-29. Even though their record is nowhere near the .500 mark, the Raptors still have an OK chance of making the playoffs in what is a ridiculously weak Eastern Conference.
The Toronto Raptors have put themselves in a position to be a big player come the trade deadline. Whether they are buyers or sellers, there is no doubt that they will be busy.
Even though I am not a member of the Toronto Raptors organization, I would like to believe that I have some idea as to what BC and the Raps front office will look to do come the trade deadline.
So, without further ado, here are ten things I believe the Raptors will look to do before the trade deadline.
Amid fears that the Raptors would lose their five-time all-star to the Miami Heat and receive nothing in return, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo (BC) facilitated a sign-and-trade with Miami last summer that saw them receive some compensation. In return for Bosh, the Raps received two draft picks and a $14.5 million trade exception.
The trade exception allows the Raptors to acquire a player or players with salaries up to, but not exceeding $14.5 million, without having to give up any players. Teams are required to use the TPE within one year of the transaction in which they acquired it.
In the Raptors case, the TPE would expire sometime in early July. In my mind, it seems only logical that the Raps would try and use the exception before the deadline. As far as who the Raptors could use it on, only two players come to mind. Andray Blatche is one of the ideas that has been floated around lately as the Wizards appear to want to part ways with the often lazy and childish power forward. His teammate, JaVale McGee is also an option as the Wizards could part ways with their shot-blocking center and package him with Blatche. It seems unlikely that the Raps would pick up a distraction like Blatche, but there is no denying he has a talent and is a legitimate possibility.
The Toronto Raptors acquired Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless from the New Orleans Hornets earlier this season for Jarrett Jack, David Andersen, and Marcus Banks. The deal worked well for both teams as the New Orleans Hornets got a solid backup point guard in Jack and added some much needed depth up front in Andersen. The Raptors meanwhile, got an excellent young point guard with potential and received the veteran Peja Stojakovic.
Peja Stojakovic is one of the best three-point shooters in the history of the NBA. He is among the career leaders in three's made and has had a great career. Coming into the trade deadline, Peja will be a very hot commodity. But, it is not because of his play, it is because his contract. Stojakovic has a $16.5 million contract that expires after this season. Many teams will be interested in Peja because of the potential salary relief and because of the uncertain CBA. I have absolutely no idea what the Raps could get in return for him, but it would probably be a nice little package.
Jose Calderon has been a Toronto Raptor since he came to the NBA in 2005. He is loved by the fans as he plays with passion and enthusiasm. Every game he gives his all and he has been one of the most consistent point guards in the NBA during the last few years. Calderon has one of the best Assists/Turnover ratios in the NBA and is a great free-throw shooter who can shoot the three with consistency.
Jose has three-years left on his contract and is set to be paid $27 million in total over the next three years. Jose's trade value hasn't been extremely high over the past few seasons, but it has recently skyrocketed. Since the departure of Jarrett Jack, Jose has been spectacular as he is now averaging just over 10 ppg and about 8.5 apg. The Raptors would probably be better off not trading Calderon, but it is likely that several teams will inquire. The Raps have the advantage in negotiations as they don't have to trade Calderon and would want to be blown away before they consider shipping him off.
The Toronto Raptors have been searching for a legitimate defensive center for the longest time. The Raptors would really like to be able to acquire a center so that they can switch Andrea Bargniani to the power forward position where he would do better. The Raps need interior rebounding, shot-blocking ability, and just toughness. Essentially, they need a taller, healthier, and less expensive Reggie Evans.
At the present time there are only two centers who standout in my mind as viable options. The first is of course JaVale McGee who I mentioned earlier. McGee is an incredible shot-blocker, a good rebounder, and has enormous potential. The second, is Grizzlies backup center Hasheem Thabeet who because of Marc Gasol, hasn't really had much of an opportunity. The Grizzlies have been reportedly interested in ridding themselves of Thabeet and the Raps could be interested. The Raps have the resources to acquire a young center like Hasheem.
Like the center position, the Raptors haven't had a true shooting guard since the departure of Anthony Parker. Some might say DeMar DeRozan, but in my mind he is a small forward. What the Raps need is a really good shooter who can actually make three-pointers and hit open shots. Aside from Jose Calderon, the Raps really don't have a lot of good shooters.
With the Raps looking to acquire good young talent, they could once again look at Memphis to solve their problems. O.J. Mayo was phenomenal in his first little while with the Grizzlies, but has recently fallen out of favor. Mayo is a good shooter with tremendous talent. The Raps will almost certainly kick the tires on someone like Mayo. Perhaps a package of Reggie Evans, Leandro Barbosa, and one of the draft picks from the Miami Heat deal.
Reggie Evans had a phenomenal start to the regular season with the Toronto Raptors. Through the first 15 games Reggie played in he averaged a jaw-dropping 12.1 rpg and a sub-par 4.0ppg. Reggie was among the league leaders in rebounds through the first few weeks. He was in tremendous shape and was just having a great overall season. But like every Toronto player, Reggie suffered an injury that has kept him out for quite a while. Reggie is still not back, but is said to be nearing a return.
If Reggie returns relatively quickly and performs at a high level once again, he could be a very popular player come the trade deadline. Reggie is an attractive option, not just because of his play, but because he like Peja, has an expiring contract. Put together solid, hardworking play and an expiring deal and you have yourselves a very popular player. Whether or not Colangelo wants to trade Reggie is the big question though as Evans provides the team with leadership and passion. Not to mention the fact that Evans is a fan favorite either.
The Toronto Raptors have been in a rebuilding stage since Bosh's departure, but have yet to accumulate a large amount of draft picks. Looking into next year, the Raps have their own first round pick as well as the first round pick of the Miami Heat. Other than that, the Raps have no draft picks for 2011, not even in the second round. So, it is safe to say that Bryan Colangelo will be looking to grab a few picks before the draft.
The Raptors have a ton of players who could be traded to get picks. Whether it be Peja Stojakovic, Reggie Evans, Sonny Weems, Leandro Barbosa, or many other Raps. I believe now is the time to tear down the team, limp to the finishing line of the season and get a really high draft pick. Some may disagree, but as far as the future is concerned, it is probably best that they start over completely.
Leandro Barbosa was acquired in the offseason by the Raps in the deal that saw Hedo Turkoglu end up in Phoenix. So far, the move appears to have been a success., Barbosa has been consistent for the Raps so far and has really kept them in games as well as won them late. Leandro has fit in well with the team and Toronto loves him, but I feel it is time for him to go.
Barbosa has a $7 million player option for next season that he could exercise. Because I don't think Barbosa would fetch that much money on the open market, I think he would accept the option. Leandro would be a very valuable asset for a contending team where he can come off the bench and be a superb sixth man. I expect to draw some ire from fans for this idea.
If you haven't noticed, Sonny Weems isn't the same Sonny Weems he was last season. Last season, Sonny Weems knew his role on the team and thrived. He didn't really force anything and wasn't very selfish. With the departure of Chris Bosh, Weems has suddenly gotten a little more selfish and is not the same player he was last year.
It is time for Sonny Weems to go. In my mind, if he isn't traded at the deadline, the Raps certainly won't re-sign him. Sonny's value isn't that high and at the moment he is injured. But, a healthy Weems could at least get you a second round pick, which is better than nothing.
And Finally, the Toronto Raptors have to be aggressive.
As Matt Devlin put it, "Come the deadline, the competitive teams will be circling around the Toronto Raptors like vultures". Come the deadline, the Raptors really don't want to be the prey. The Raps need to be assertive and not take less for their assets because they are a losing team. Bryan Colangelo should be making demands for the players he wants. He shouldn't allow other teams to bully them so to speak.
Thanks for reading my article.