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NBA Trade Rumors: 'Rival Executives' Watching Raptors 'Closely' If Struggles Continue

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 10, 2022

TORONTO, CANADA - DECEMBER 7: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 7, 2022 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

Other NBA teams are reportedly keeping an eye on the Toronto Raptors in case they decide to make some significant trades this season.

According to ESPN's Zach Lowe, rival executives are "watching Toronto closely" and "bracing for fireworks" if the Raptors continue to hover around the .500 mark for the next couple of months.

Lowe added that teams are wondering if the Raptors might be willing to move players such as Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby or even reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes.

Toronto has enjoyed a great deal of success in recent years, reaching the playoffs in eight of the past nine seasons, including winning a championship with Kawhi Leonard leading the way in 2019.

The Raptors fell off and finished 27-45 in a bizarre 2020-21 season that saw them play their home games in Tampa, Florida, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they bounced back last season.

Galvanized by the selection of Barnes with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, the Raptors returned to prominence and the playoffs with a 48-34 mark, although they were eliminated in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Still, there was a great deal of excitement surrounding the team entering the 2022-23 campaign, due largely to one of the deepest and most talented starting lineups in the NBA, made up of Siakam, Barnes, Anunoby, VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr.

The Raptors also put together a strong bench comprised of veterans Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter Jr., Chris Boucher and Juancho Hernangomez, as well as younger players like Precious Achiuwa, Christian Koloko, Dalano Banton and Malachi Flynn.

Despite that, Toronto is only 13-13 on the season, placing it in a three-way tie for seventh in the Eastern Conference.

Injuries have undoubtedly played a role in the Raptors' struggles, as Anunoby and Koloko are the only players to have appeared in all 26 games.

Barnes has missed three contests and clearly been less than 100 percent in several others, while Siakam missed 10 consecutive contests last month.

The Raptors undoubtedly have the talent to be players in the Eastern Conference, but even if they remain healthy, it is fair to wonder if the current roster is capable of taking down top teams like the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks come playoff time.

If Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri does decide to make a major change before the trade deadline, VanVleet and Trent are perhaps the top trade options since both can opt out after this season, while Siakam has only two years left on his deal.