With the NBA Draft coming up tonight, I’d normally write my Final Pre-Draft Thoughts column, regarding the Raptors, like I did last year and the year before. This year, the Raptors are without a draft pick (at least for the moment), so I thought I would do a quick Pre-Draft Thoughts part and focus more on moves I think the Raptors should, and possibly could, make.

PRE-DRAFT THOUGHTS

In all honesty, I know less about most of the draft prospects this year than most years. I’ve been looking forward to next year’s draft too much, I suppose. But that’s not to say I don’t have any opinions about this one. While I agree with many who say that this draft is a particularly weak one, I do think there is some talent. Just not any elite talent.

You’ll notice that I haven’t listed all the players, but these are the ones I’m looking at, for various reasons.

Sure-Fire All Stars

None

Potential All-Stars

Otto Porter

Nerlens Noel

More likely, neither of these guys will be All Stars, but very good role players. Porter has the best chance, because he should be a good two way player.  Noel should be an impact player on the offensive end, but how his offense develops will decide what his ceiling is.

Could Go Either Way

Trey Burke

Anthony Bennett

Kelly Olynyk

All three of these players have major flaws that could prevent them from making an impact in the NBA, but they all have talent. Coincidentally, two of these three are Canadians.

anthony-bennett-nba-draft-2013-underrated

Safe Picks

Ben McLemore

Victor Oladipo

Reggie Bullock

These are players that should help any team, but especially playoff teams. Both McLemore and Oladipo should become very good starters, while Bullock’s future is most likely as a bench player.

Avoid At All Costs

Shabazz Muhammad

There are just too many red flags with this guy for me to be comfortable with drafting him. He’s got talent, but talent is only part of it.

Sleepers

Shane Larkin

Rudy Gobert

Myck Kabongo

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Larkin might be drafted a little too high to be a sleeper, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the best PG from this draft. Gobert has fantastic physical tools, but is VERY raw. Kabongo desperately needs to get a jumper, but he’s a pass-first PG, has the potential to be a good defender and has an unreal FTA/FGA ratio of .700, which is amazing. He’s a project, but he’s someone the Raptors should try and grab in the second round, especially since DraftExpress currently has him going third last in the draft.

Caldwell-Pope is a sleeper, but he’s also on here because he’s got one of the best names in the draft.

TRADES, TRADES, TRADES

It’s no secret that I’m in favour of blowing up this roster, and considering the house-clearing that has been happening in the Raptors organization, I wouldn’t be surprised if Masai Ujuri has a similar opinion. I’ve always been vague when asked about what particular moves I’d make mostly because it’s really hard to know what other GMs would agree to.

That said, I’ve come up with a number of trade options that I think could realistically happen, and will change the direction of the team, getting some young prospects, and help them go into next year’s draft with a good chance of getting a top pick.

Keep in mind, some of these trades would not be able to be completed until after July 1st (for salary reasons), so if there is a draft pick involved, the original team would have to make the pick for Toronto, then make the trade officially later.

Last season, I came up with a bunch of trade proposals for the Raptors to move up in last year’s draft that they obviously didn’t do. Maybe this year will be different…

RUDY GAY

Rudy Gay

There are quite a number of people who have said that Rudy Gay is untradeable because of his contract, but I don’t agree. I think there are a few teams that might be interested in him.

Trade #1
Toronto trades:
Rudy Gay to Cleveland

Cleveland trades
Alonzo Gee and their first pick to Toronto

Cleveland has been rumoured to be interested in trading for guys like Luol Deng, Shawn Marion and even Paul Pierce, and have been apparently turned down by Portland and Minnesota, in trades for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, respectively. They seem to want to grab an established player who can help them win now, and might be interested in taking on Gay and his contract.

I think it’s unlikely that the Raptors would be able to grab the number one pick, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Keep in mind, because Cleveland would have to basically absorb Gay’s salary, they would have to choose for Toronto and then make the trade after July 1st.

Trade #2
Toronto trades:
Rudy Gay to Cleveland

Cleveland trades
Anderson Varejao to Oklahoma City
2013 19th pick to Toronto

Oklahoma City trades:
Kendrick Perkins and their 2013 12th pick (from Toronto) to Toronto

A more likely option, especially if Cleveland decides to move Varejao, who is 30 years old and has been unable to stay healthy. Turning Perkins and the 12th pick into Varejao should immediately make them a better team.

Perkins’ contract is bad, although he’s only got two more years left on it, but he’d be a good mentor for Valanciunas and a good locker room guy.
Trade #3
Toronto trades:
Rudy Gay to Cleveland

Cleveland trades:
Anderson Varejao to Brooklyn
Alonzo Gee and their 2013 19th pick to Toronto

Brooklyn trades:
Kris Humphries and their 2014 1st round pick to Toronto

Similar to Trade #3, but with Brooklyn instead of Oklahoma. Varejao would be a perfect fit for Brooklyn and a huge upgrade over Humphries, although I’m not sure they even can give up their 2014 pick.
Trade #4
Toronto trades:
Rudy Gay and Linas Kleiza to Golden State

Golden State trades:
Harrison Barnes, Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and 2015 lottery protected 1st round pick

Golden State probably doesn’t want to part with Barnes, but if Toronto takes on Golden State’s bad contracts, they might do it. Both Jefferson and Biedrins contracts expire next summer, so Golden State might want to hold onto them.
Trade #5
Toronto trades:
Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson to Washington

Washington trades:
Emeka Okafor, Jan Vesley, Trevor Ariza, 3rd pick to Toronto

While I’d hate to trade Amir, if the Raptors want to try for a top pick in 2014, it might be necessary to trade him. Washington wants to win right now, and I think would do this trade.
DEMAR DEROZAN

derozan_newst1

I know he’s still got a lot of fans among Raptor faithful, but with his poor defense and lack of three point shooting, it’s hard to envision a role for him on a good team. And his new contract kicks in this summer. The Raptors should sell high, with DeRozan, instead of making the same mistake they made with Bargnani, holding onto him too long.

Trade #1
Toronto trades:
DeMar DeRozan to Minnesota

Minnesota trades:
Derrick Williams, Luke Ridnour and Minnesota’s 26th pick to Toronto

Minnesota has coveted DeRozan in the past, but with new management, and DeRozan’s new contract, it’s difficult to say whether they would still want him. I think Williams is a good low risk gamble that could end up paying off and Ridnour is a decent PG.
Trade #2
Toronto trades:
DeMar DeRozan to Detroit

Detroit trades:
Rodney Stuckey and their 2013 8th pick and 2014 2nd round pick to Toronto

Ironically, Raptor fans used to clamour for Stuckey, someone I was never high on. In this trade, Stuckey would mostly be included for salaries. If Detroit wants to win sooner, rather than later, they might opt for a young veteran like DeRozan over a rookie.

KYLE LOWRY

Kyle Lowry

Lowry was never the player most fans (and Colangelo) hoped. It’s easy to blame different things, but the fact is that he’s had a bit of a checkered history and he’s only got one more year left on his contract, so if the Raptors are rebuilding, I don’t think they want to give him the raise he’ll probably be asking for.

Lowry’s contract is one of the few good ones on the Raptors, so if the Raptors are going to try and move Andrea Bargnani, it will most likely have to be with Lowry.

Trade #1
Toronto trades:
Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani to Utah

Utah signs and trades:
Al Jefferson to Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City trades:
Kendrick Perkins and their 2013 12th pick (from Toronto) to Toronto

Utah doesn’t have a PG under contract, after July 1st, and will probably be losing Jefferson either way. Getting something for him might make sense. And, on paper, Bargnani would be the perfect type of player to play behind Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, both of whom will probably move into the starting lineup.

If the playoffs told Oklahoma anything, it’s that they need inside scoring. Jefferson has his weaknesses, but he’s one of the best post players in the game and is an excellent rebounder.

Trade #2
Toronto Trades:
Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani to Sacramento

Sacramento trades:
John Salmons, Jason Thompson and their 2013 7th pick to Toronto

Salmons’ contract is almost as bad as Bargnani’s (maybe worse), but taking it back would be worth it if the Raptors can move Bargnani, get a good, solid big man who can play both front court positions and grab the 7th pick in the draft.
If the Raptors are indeed looking to blow things up, I think these are the types of trades they would be looking at. It’s possible they could do better than what I have here, but I think these are, at least, mostly realistic. For me, the idea is to try and grab either draft picks or young prospects, understanding that the Raptors not only won’t be able to clear cap space, but would have little use for it in the next year or two.

Agree?  Disagree? Let’s hear what you have to say in the comments section.