With the prospect of a lockout-ending deal taking place next week, there's no better time for the Raptors to prepare their annual roster makeover.
While the Raptors were actually rather quiet last season, I'm willing to bet that won't be the case again this year. Toronto's got a lot of talented pieces but still has a ways to go before it fills the holes on the roster. With a talent log jam at power forward, expiring contracts and plenty of cap space, Bryan Colangelo and Ed Stefanski have plenty of tools to help them renovate the team.
Toronto has already taken a head start in the offseason with the addition of general manager Stefanski, new head coach Dwane Casey and a number of other house cleaning duties such as picking up player options, drafting Valanciunas and retaining key guard Leandro Barbosa. Still, despite this the Raptors would do themselves a favor by being proactive in improving the roster instead of giving other teams an opportunity to grab the best free-agent/trade targets.
There are a number of possible trades for Toronto, but there are few which really stood out to me. Here I'll share these ideas and include a short summary for each, enjoy and remember to comment!
Scenario: Michael Beasley for Leandro Barbosa
The Minnesota T-Wolves have a log jam at the three slot with the addition of this June's second overall draftee, and since Wesley Johnson (last year's lottery prospect) struggled playing out of position as a two-guard last season. The Wolves' biggest hole in the roster is the shooting guard position, and Barbosa would be a perfect fit. The Wolves are hoping to put together a winning season next year, as Kevin Love could decide to leave the team for more attractive options next summer, and there's no use in holding onto Beasley, who will likely ask for a pay raise at season's end.
Leandro Barbosa averaged 13.3 points in only 24 minutes last season. Barbosa struggled with a nagging wrist injury and a shoulder injury all season, but his numbers were still very impressive. Barbosa averaged 20 points per game per 36 minutes and could have lead the Raptors in scoring had he seen the opportunities that Bargnani and DeRozan saw. Barbosa will be healthy next season and in his prime, with a contract year ahead you can count on Barbosa to put up career numbers starting next season.
While Barbosa is loved by Raptors fans, the team is lacking a true starting small forward. Michael Beasley would be a great fit for Toronto's young core. Beasley has had a number of off-court issues and confrontations, but there's no doubting he's got the swagger and talent that Toronto's been missing ever since losing Bosh. Both Barbosa and Beasley will be upcoming free agents and have similar salaries.
Overall this is a win-win scenario, and it could put both of these bottom-dwelling teams into the playoff race. The victory could be bitter sweet, as both players could leave their new teams if they're not offered a significant amount as season's end, however.
Scenario: Amir Johnson, Jerryd Bayless and a 2nd-Round Pick for Josh Smith
There have been rumors that the Atlanta Hawks are looking to move forward Josh Smith when the season starts. Josh Smith is a very talented player and has helped the Hawks establish themselves as a perennial 50-win NBA team. Still this may not be enough. While no one in Atlanta denies that Smith is an All-Star talent, the $25.6 million owed to him over the next two years might be too expensive for the small-market Hawks team. The Hawks already run the risk of losing Jamal Crawford this offseason while Joe Johnson and Al Horford have only just began to cash in on their bloated contract extensions.
In this trade the Hawks could replace Josh Smith with a surprisingly talented Amir Johnson. Johnson is athletic and a great defender, and while he might not replace Smith's 16.5 points, 1.6 blocks and 1.3 steals, he could still grab a double-double on a nightly basis with a starting role.
Jerryd Bayless showed signs of stardom last season and the young point guard averaged over 18 PPG as a starter. The Hawks have struggled to fill the void at point guard for years with no success, but Bayless could be the missing piece to the puzzle. The Hawks will save $4 million in salary and could be in good financial shape if they find a taker for Hinrich or possibly waiving Marvin Williams.
The Raptors will receive a leader and defensive monster whose presence alone could take them to the playoffs. Josh Smith is a perfect fit for Dwane Casey's coaching system, and if Toronto also manages to pick up a talented center in free agency, they could contend in the East starting next season.
Overall this scenario is a decent option for the Hawks and would instantly put an end to the "rebuilding" era here in Toronto. A gut feeling tells me the Hawks will want a little more star power in return for Smith.
Scenario: Jerryd Bayless and Ed Davis for Serge Ibaka and Nate Robinson
The OKC Thunder love Ibaka and for good reason. He's young, athletic and a defensive-minded big man who could really do good things for the Thunder. Even though they don't need to move him, the Thunder would benefit from more scoring from their big men.
Even though Ed Davis isn't a household name, one who looks deeper at his production will know that he's got the talent and potential to be just as productive as Ibaka. Per 36 minutes Ibaka averaged 13.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. Ed Davis averaged 11.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes. While Ibaka was clearly better last season, Ed Davis was also pretty solid as a rookie.
What sweetens the deal here for OKC is Jerryd Bayless. Last season the Thunder traded for Perkins and Nate Robinson hoping to receive a legitimate big man and a good backup PG. While Perkins was so-so, Nate Robinson proved to be a total bust averaging only 3.3 points and appearing in less than 10 games for OKC. Jerryd Bayless is an up-and-coming guard who averaged 18.1 points and 6.7 assists as a starter last season. Bayless would add some serious offensive punch to the Thunders' second unit, which will likely lose James Harden to the starting lineup.
The Raptors will be able to survive with Calderon at the point, and the addition of Ibaka will be a huge blessing for Toronto. Serge Ibaka was listed as a power forward last season, but he has the size and skill to bang with the centers of the NBA. With Ibaka in the lineup the Raptors could save over $6-8 million a year by choosing not to sign a big name free agent like Tyson Chandler or Nene. The Raptors will have the flexibility to add some serious hardware to the roster and won't have to worry about re-signing Bayless to a large extension at season's end.
While the trade could really benefit both teams, the hype and buzz surrounding Ibaka alone could be enough for OKC to turn down the trade. The deal would be great for Toronto, but the Thunder could probably slide Ibaka over to center while trading Perkins for a decent power forward instead.
Scenario: Andrea Bargnani for Corey Maggette and 2012 Unprotected 1st-Round Pick
The Charlotte Bobcats gave the team some direction when they drafted Kemba Walker and big man Bismack Biyombo, but they've still got a ways to go before they reach the playoffs once again. This offseason the Bucks dumped Corey Maggette to Charlotte after realizing signing him was a bad mistake. While the Bobcats should still welcome his scoring, Maggette is one of the league's many "bad contracts."
In this trade the Bobcats will receive a major upgrade over Maggette in Andrea Bargnani, who will likely lead the team in scoring. A Bargnani and Biyombo experiment could work out very well, as each player masks the other's weaknesses. Enter Kemba Walker, trade chips in Diaw and Augustine, then consider the Bobcats' cap situation; the Bobcats could have a pretty decent team after this trade.
The Raptors will lose a lot of talent by their leading scorer, Bargnani, for the 31-year-old Maggette, but this could really work out to their favour come next June. The trade would give the Raptors a unprotected lottery pick which could even turn out to be top five depending on how the Bobcats do.
The Raptors currently have a hole at the SF position, but Maggette will be a great fit. Last season Maggette averaged 12 points in only 20.9 minutes of play, if we adjust those numbers to 36 minutes per game, Maggette would have averaged 20.6 points a game. That sort of production won't be very far off from what Bargnani did last season, and the chance at a top prospect in next year's stacked draft class would make this trade a steal for Toronto. Ed Davis and Amir Johnson will enjoy a sharp rise in minutes and production with the departure of Bargnani and the team could still invest in free agency and contend for both a playoff spot and a lottery pick.
It's too good to be true unfortunately. GMs around the league are well aware of the upcoming draft class, and I doubt lottery picks will be thrown away as easily as they were last season (ahem, Clippers). Furthermore, the Bobcats are a team which looks like it will spend at least another year tanking it to develop and add more young talent following the OKC model; I don't know if Bargnani will be significant enough to make them change the direction of the entire team.
Raptors Receive: Al Jefferson, Mikael Pietrus, Jazz 2012 1st-Round Pick
Suns Receive: Andrea Bargnani, Linas Kleiza
Jazz Receive: Jared Dudley, Josh Childress, Suns 2012 2nd-Round Pick
The Utah Jazz currently have a log jam at the four and five position. With Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter, Mehmet Okur, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors all serviceable players, a trade involving at least one of them would be a smart move for the rebuilding Utah Jazz. Al Jefferson is a solid player but is overpaid, costing the Jazz $14 million next season, and they would love to move his contract if the chance presented itself.
The trade will allow the Jazz to shed $9 million in salary, and it will also receive a talented small forward in Jared Dudley who only averaged 26.1 minutes per game last season for the Suns. Had Dudley received 36 minutes per game, his averages would have been close to 15 PPG and over 1.5 steals per game. This trade could also result in roughly $15 million in extra cap space if you consider they will probably waive guard Josh Childress using the rumored amnesty clause.
The Suns will receive a major upgrade over Hakeem Warrick in Andrea Bargnani whose scoring production climbed to near All-Star levels last season. Bargnani's biggest flaw was the system he played in, and he will have a great backcourt partner playing next to the underrated Marcin Gortat. It's also worth mentioning that Kleiza, when healthy, could be a pleasant surprise for the Suns. The team could now focus on resigning Grant Hill and polishing the roster by moving trade chips Hakeem Warrick and Robin Lopez.
The Raptors will add a legitimate center in Al Jefferson and will also move Kleiza's undesirable contract. Mikael Pietrus will be a solid option at small forward and even start for stretches if James Johnson slips. The Raptors will be adding $6 million in salary, but the first-round pick from Utah could prove to be very beneficial come next June. This trade not only makes the Raptors better by addressing team needs, the team won't have to feel the financial sting for long as Pietrus comes off the books at season's end.
As a result of this trade the Suns will be in great position to make the playoffs. The Jazz will dramatically speed up the rebuilding process with the extra cap relief, and the Raptors could address their Roster needs and potentially land a lottery prospect from next year's highly-touted draft class.
Scenario: Leandro Barbosa for Mikael Pietrus and Robin Lopez
The Suns don't really need Pietrus as they're expected to resign Grant Hill and already have Jared Dudley and Josh Childress. The Suns currently need a shooting guard and Barbosa is a fan favourite who could help Steve Nash make it to the playoffs in his final seasons.
The Suns have no need for Lopez who was dwarfed by Marcin Gortat last season, and they should look to move him now as his contract will need renewal after this season. Barbosa averaged 13.3 PPG in only 24.1 minutes per game; adjusted to 36 minutes Barbosa could have averaged 20 PPG for the Raptors last season despite playing hurt all season.
The Raptors currently are without a center but fans are reluctant to sign a big name center which could create yet another log jam when Jonas Valanciunas comes in 2012. Robin Lopez is no Tyson Chandler but he will be cheap and could be surprisingly effective for Toronto.
Lopez is known for bad defense and for "being soft", but the 23 year old has a lot of plus side to him too. Last season he only averaged 14.8 minutes per game and his stats adjusted to 36 minutes per game would have been 15.6 PPG, 7.8 boards and nearly two blocks.
Toronto would also receive Mikael Pietrus who could provide solid defense and energy as a backup small forward. If James Johnson struggles Pietrus could even start for Toronto.
Just a good trade overall both teams would benefit. At first glance it may seem that Toronto is giving up more talent, but technically it's a fair deal since Lopez is relatively young and is expected to improve.