The one consensus among Raptor fans (and media) about what to do with the roster this summer is that there is no consensus. Ask one fan and they’ll tell you to trade the entire roster. Ask another person and they’ll tell you the Raptors just need a coaching change, and they’ll be alright. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between.
Trading the team’s two leading scorers might seem counterproductive for a team that had just won a franchise record 49 games, but the goal isn’t to win 49, or so, games and possibly get to the second round if everything goes right. And when your two best players make poor decisions, aren’t efficient scorers and are not great defenders, then mediocrity is basically the most you can hope for.
If the Raptors hope to build a team that strives to be more than what we’ve seen so far in their 20 year history, they need to get high IQ players who score efficiently, pass the ball and play defense. So the idea is to trade away players that either don’t fit the mould, or are more valuable as trade bait, and acquire players who do fit the mould.
Unfortunately, most of these types of players can be difficult to find, and harder to pry away. Ultimately, it would be nice to try and find a James Harden-type player that will immediately make your team a near-contender, but I’m not sure there’s anyone out there like that right now. And there are no real superstars, or near superstars, available for a trade.
That does NOT mean I’m suggesting the Raptors tank and go after a superstar in the draft. The chance for that has likely come and gone, for now. What they need to do is try and find some young talent that may be still be struggling finding their NBA legs, but has the talent and desire to overcome it, or one that is losing out in a numbers game (either sitting behind more experienced and talented players or in a team salary crunch). There are a few players that fit this description out there, and these are the players I will look at.
Just to be clear (and to head of one complaint), I am not suggesting the Raptor make the trades I list. I am simply including these trade possibilities to give an idea of what might be required to trade for each player. I’ll leave it up to each of you to decide whether it’s worth it.
TYLER ENNIS (Milwaukee)
The Raptors were famously set to draft Ennis last year at 20 before Phoenix snatched him up two spots before that. Ennis was basically an insurance policy if Eric Bledsoe ended up not re-signing, but then the Suns went out and signed another insurance policy in Isiaah Thomas, pushing Ennis even farther down the depth chart.
A trade to Milwaukee at mid-season did give Ennis a little more playing time, but he was still stuck behind a young point guard who was entrenched in the starting lineup, as well as the more experienced Jerryd Bayless. It didn’t help that Ennis struggled.
To be honest, there’s not a whole lot in his advanced stats to point to in order to make a case for Ennis. He shot poorly, turned the ball over a lot and struggled adjusting to the speed of the NBA. You really have to go back to what you saw before this season to see why Ennis might be a good gamble.
When Ennis started his season at Syracuse, he was not a heralded prospect and not a whole lot was expected of him. But despite being a freshman, Ennis lead Syracuse to a 28-6 record, which included a 25-0 start to the season, and was a semi-finalist for the Naismith College Player of the Year. He plays with a maturity beyond his years (his father is a coach) and is the rare pass-first point guard who understands how to make his teammates better.
Ennis would be a good gamble because he likely wouldn’t cost a whole lot (maybe Terrence Ross, who would be insurance for restricted free agent, Khris Middleton), and chances are good he will make big improvements once he adjusts to the league.
Terrence Ross for Tyler Ennis (and possibly Miles Plumlee)
DENNIS SCHRODER (Atlanta)
Just to add fuel to the fire that is hating Bryant Colangelo, the year he traded the Raptors’ draft pick for Kyle Lowry, they were drafting 12th. Oklahoma (who ended up getting the pick from Houston) selected Steven Adams, who is looking like a very good pick, but they could have also chosen Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th), Gorgui Dieng (21st), Rudy Golbert (27th) or Dennis Schroder (17th)1. This is why it’s always dangerous to trade away first round draft picks. Too many times they come back to haunt you.[aside]1. Don’t feel too bad, though. Boston selected Lucas Nogueira at 16, ahead of Schroder, Dieng and Golbert. Nogueira has played fewer minutes (and games) than any other player drafted in the first round, save one. A guy San Antonio drafted to stash overseas.[/aside]
Coming into the draft, Schroder was called the German Rajon Rondo for his pass-first and defensive mentality. He had a horrible first year (similar to Ennis) that saw him unable to hit the basket and struggle adjusting the the speed of the NBA. This year saw marked improvement in every area, and he became a big part of Atlanta’s success this year, backing up All Star Jeff Teague.
Prying Schroder away from Atlanta might be difficult, but their struggles in the playoffs and what happens in the offseason might have a huge bearing on how open they are to making moves. They struggled more than they should against the 8th seeded Brooklyn Nets and are currently tied 2-2 with the Wizards, who finished 14 games behind them in the regular season.
If Atlanta loses Millsap to free agency, they might be in the market for a player like Patrick Patterson. Otherwise, DeMar DeRozan might be a possible asset to use.
Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez for Dennis Schroder, Thabo Sefolosha and Mike Scott
DeMar DeRozan for Dennis Schroder, Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Scott and Brooklyn’s first round pick
DANTE EXUM (Utah)
Exum might possibly be the most polarizing player on this list. People either love his potential or see him as a bust. He came into the league with very little experience and a whole lot to live up to. It shouldn’t be a surprise at all that he struggled in his rookie season. And boy did he struggle. Exum, the fourth pick in the draft, shot just .349 from the field, had a horrible assist-to-turnover ratio and finished the season with a PER of just 5.6 (less than half of Terrence Ross).
Considering his experience, I would have been shocked if he hadn’t struggled, though. Bruno Caboclo might have more experience than Exum (okay, not really, but there isn’t a huge amount of difference). Exum was rated so high based on potential, not on his play. He’s very athletic, has good instincts on both ends of the court and has the physical attributes to be a great defensive player.
Exum is the perfect example of gambling on potential. Exum still has a good chance of becoming a star, but he could also never adjust to the massive leap in talent and speed he’s used to and be a bust. I think it will be closer to the latter, and a chance to grab a player like Exum is appealing.
Utah has some nice young pieces and ended up with a much better record than most people expected. They’ve got a great defensive front court, but lack scoring punch, so might be very interested in someone like DeMar DeRozan.
DeMar DeRozan for Dante Exum, Alec Burks, Trevor Booker and swapping of first round picks.
NIK STAUSKAS (Sacramento)
Nik Stauskas was a nice player during his freshman season at Michigan, but wasn’t a guy who most would have pegged as a future lottery pick. Then he went out and made over his body, worked on his weaknesses and came back as Michigan’s best player.
Stauskas is never going to win a dunk contest (like Terrence Ross) but he’s a cerebral player who is a gym rat, is much more athletic than he appears and has a great shot that seemed to be missing for most of his rookie season.
The Kings are in an hurry to compete and may not have time to wait for Stauskas, who was a bad fit to begin with (at one point they were talking about turning him into a point guard). Given some time to develop, Stauskas is the perfect shooting guard for the new NBA, and has a lot of similarities to Klay Thompson.
The Kings are in need of upgrading at several positions, one of which is point guard. Darren Collison played better than many expected, but he’s still a below average point guard and Sacramento might love the possibility of acquiring Kyle Lowry, who is the perfect George Karl player.
Kyle Lowry for Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry/Jason Thompson and Sacramento’s first round pick
HARRISON BARNES (Golden State)
Raptor fans know Barnes far too well as the player they just missed out on by winning an otherwise meaningless game at the end of the 2012 season, allowing a tie with Golden State (which was settled with a coin toss). The Warriors selected Barnes and the Raptors took Terrence Ross.
Now, Barnes was never as good as his early hype. He had a mature game in high school, but never exhibited any elite skills that would make you think he could become an elite player in the NBA. He is talented, though, and has an all-around game that is being somewhat overshadowed in Golden State. And he could end up being pushed out if Draymond Green ends up getting the money he’s expected to. Barnes will be up for an extension and as their fifth most important player in the starting lineup, he could be moved to save money.
Barnes is NOT James Harden, but he’s in a similar situation. And that could mean he’s available for the right price. The problem is that Toronto has few pieces the Warriors would want, unless the Raptors agree to take on David Lee’s gargantuan contract, which is enough to give anyone pause. Either that or a third team would need to be brought it.
Patrick Patterson, Terrence Ross, James Johnson and Greivis Vasquez for Harrison Barnes and David Lee
AARON GORDON (Orlando)
Orlando surprised a lot of people by taking Aaron Gordon with the 4th pick, ahead of some players who were a little more heralded. He didn’t put up gaudy numbers at Arizona and doesn’t quite have a true position, at this point. He’s a little undersized for the 4 and is lacking a consistent jumper to play the 3. But he’s an energy player who has a much higher basketball IQ than one would expect from a high flyer like Gordon.
Gordon has the potential to be a high impact player, but he’s not a good fit for Orlando. Orlando doesn’t take a lot of threes and are fairly average at making it. That means spacing is often a problem, which means there’s not much room for Gordon to do what he does best, which is cut to the hoop.
While his position is still uncertain, Gordon is another player that would be a good gamble and might be expendable for Orlando. What Orlando might want in exchange is unclear, however. They don’t need a player like Lowry or DeRozan, and while they could use Patrick Patterson, the Raptors would have to throw in much more to get a deal done.
Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Terrence Ross for Aaron Gordon, Luke Ridnour and Channing Frye
TERRENCE JONES/CLINT CAPELA (Houston)
Houston is on the verge of losing in the second round to a much more talented L.A. Clippers team that has highlighted Houston’s weaknesses. Jason Terry has played far better than he should, considering he’s 37 years old and was simply not supposed to be starting for the team at point guard, but he’s not much of a defender, which has allowed the Clippers do beat them despite missing Chris Paul for two games and having him hindered when he did return.
Patrick Beverly is a very good defender, but isn’t really much of a starting point guard. They could really use an upgrade here. And that’s where the return of Kyle Lowry could come in.
Lowry might be a little too ball dominant to play alongside James Harden, but if he can adjust they could form a scary backcourt.
Terrence Jones is similar to Patrick Patterson, a muscular stretch four, but he’s two years younger, a better rebounder and defender, and isn’t as allergic to the paint as Patterson is. In Houston’s offense, Jones’ job is simply to space the floor, but he’s got talent and could be an asset that will rise in value if the Raptors acquire him and give him more responsibility.
Capela was a possible draft target last year, but Ujiri ended up going with Caboclo, instead. Capela is raw but has a lot of defensive potential and has actually played some big minutes in the playoffs, so that’s very encouraging. He’s much farther along than the Raptors’ defensive center project.
Kyle Lowry for Terrence Jones, Clint Capela, Corey Brewer and Kostas Papanikolaou