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NBA Rumors: Raptors Could 'Set the Market' for Lakers, More at Trade Deadline

Adam WellsJanuary 4, 2023

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 30: Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors drives to the net against Torrey Craig #0 of the Phoenix Suns during the first half of their NBA game at Scotiabank Arena on December 30, 2022 in Toronto, 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. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Cole Burston/Getty Images

As the Toronto Raptors continue to fall further down the Eastern Conference standings, many teams are keeping an eye on what they are going to do leading up to the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

Per Michael Grange of SportsNet.ca, one NBA source said the Raptors will be the "first domino" that falls, and they "could set the market" for teams that could be seeking upgrades like the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns.

Toronto's 16-21 record is tied with the Chicago Bulls for the fourth-worst in the Eastern Conference. Head coach Nick Nurse's team has lost 12 of its past 17 games.

Despite their struggles, the Raptors are only percentage points behind the Washington Wizards for the final spot in the play-in tournament and 4.5 games behind the Indiana Pacers for the No. 6 seed.

Grange noted one problem for Toronto's front office is that "an obvious path forward hasn't materialized."

Fred VanVleet would be the most obvious trade candidate if the Raptors decide to sell before the deadline. He is in the final guaranteed season of a contract that has a $22.8 million player option for 2023-24.

The 28-year-old is averaging 18.1 points and 6.0 assists per game, but he's only shooting 37.6 percent from the field (32.7 percent from three-point range).

B/R's Eric Pincus reported last month that people around the league believe now would be the time to move Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby if the organization decides to make changes. Both players are signed through the 2023-24 season and hold more value now than they would if they were on expiring contracts.

Given how dire the trade market looks to be for wing players, Anunoby could potentially bring back a huge return to Toronto. He's averaging 18.6 points and an NBA-high 2.2 steals per game while shooting 35.3 percent from behind the arc.

But it can be hard for a front office to talk itself into trading a 25-year-old wing who can score and play elite defense, especially in a market like Toronto that doesn't generally attract premier free agents.

The Raptors came into this season with high expectations after making the playoffs with a 48-34 record in 2021-22.

Things haven't gone as planned for a variety of reasons, most notably a steep decline on defense. The Raptors finished 10th in defensive rating (110.5) and 14th in offensive rating (112.9) last season.

Scottie Barnes, the reigning Rookie of the Year, hasn't developed as expected. His scoring average of 14.8 points per game is in line with where he was last season (15.3), but his efficiency has dipped from a 49.2 field-goal percentage to 44.9 percent.

Through 37 games, the Raptors rank 13th in offensive rating (114.0). Their defensive rating has fallen to 19th with 114.2 points allowed per 100 possessions.