Raptors Mailbag: A whole lot of trade talk, playoff matchups, St. Lunatics, and more

37 mins read

The Toronto Raptors have multiple days off, so like we always do at this time, I opened things up for your Twitter questions. We’ll be doing another mailbag next Friday and the Wednesday before the trade deadline, so if you have questions between now and then, tweet at me with #RRMailbag so I can keep track of them more easily.

This is the fifth “official” mailbag of the season, but there have been a few other pieces answering questions, too. As a refresher, here are those earlier Mailbags and trade-related columns. There’s a good chance if you have a trade question, it’s answered somewhere within one of these links.

Alright, let’s do this.

Trade Talk

Should the Raptors trade for a 32-year-old shooting 34.8 percent from the floor and 28.5 percent on threes, who would require sending out either a prospect or James Johnson and who can’t play the three, so would pencil in as the third-stringer at either guard spot, filling on only the minutes of Norman Powell and Delon Wright? Glad you finally let this one go, Will. That Villanova connection, though.

Allen Ray’s probably available.

Whether or not they’re “true” is a hard question to answer.

It’s paramount to remember that the Raptors under Masai Ujiri have been the tightest of ships. That means that anything Marc Stein or Brian Windhorst are hearing is coming from the other teams involved, or the agents of the players if they’re in situations where they’d like to move. I have a theory that teams and agents could use the Raptors as a leverage teambecause they’re so quiet, knowing it will be difficult to be proven wrong (the Jays have run into this some, where they’re always tied to everybody, though it’s also possible Toronto GMs are actually exploring everyone because it’s their jobs). In other words, take any Raptors rumors with a grain of salt, as sources could be floating the Raptors because there’s real interest or because it can inflate the market and nobody from the Raptors is going to say anything to shoot it down.

Now, having said that, Morris to the Raptors isn’t a new connection. Maybe the fit just looks that good (it’s fine, though not entirely a circle peg in a circle hole), maybe his friendship with Kyle Lowry plays a factor. Morris’ outburst may have heated things up, but the more likely case is that the Raptors and Suns actually talked since the Raptors were in Phoenix. Morris’ outburst, though, is a good reminder of why the Raptors would consider a deal even with Morris’ issues – Patrick Patterson isn’t putting up a 30-11-6.

I broke down the entire Morris rumor here, so I’ll refer everyone there for deeper analysis.

Sure there is! All things are possible.

But the less you send out in terms of players (Patterson would be attractive with a very affordable 2016-17 salary and has a high-character player going to a tire-fire of an organization), the more you have to send out in picks. If Patterson and the Raptors’ own pick gets you Morris, as an example, downgrading Patterson to flotsam might require the Knicks/Nuggets pick. I’m not sure exactly what the frameworks discussed for Morris might be, but consider these two examples:

Patterson and Toronto’s 2016 first for Morris
Luis Scola, James Johnson, and the Denver/New York 2016 first for Morris

I’m not saying those are necessarily the options facing Masai Ujiri, but if you downgrade the player package, you’ve got to upgrade the pick. Personally, I’m on board with that. Those picks have more utility to other teams than the Raptors, and with a bit of a window right now, well…draft picks are food stamps, man.

Let William be an example to everyone about the depth of thought that should go into trade proposals. Dude sent me a well-written, well-thought out trade scenario over email for consideration. Now, please don’t do this, because I have a hard enough time keeping up with all of the 140-character trade proposals, but shout out to William for putting real thought into a deal.

His framework is this: Patterson, Johnson, Anthony Bennett, Toronto’s 2016 first, and a conditional 2017 second-round pick (William – you could essentially work out the condition you outlined by sending the second-rounder top-55 protected, though it’s probably tough exactly the way you explained it) for Morris and Mirza Teletovic. So Patterson, Johnson, and Toronto’s own first for Patterson and Johnson, in terms of how you’ll probably evaluate this.

That would be a solid deal for the Raptors. If Patterson and a first for Morris is the expected Morris framework, then getting Teletovic thrown in for adding Johnson (and maybe a late future second) would be solid. You give up a versatile defensive piece but replace some of Patterson’s outgoing shooting at the four, the primary argument against it being the sudden lack of DeMarre Carroll insurance on the roster. The Suns don’t have a great deal of need for Teletovic for the rest of the season and might see this as a nice way to grease the wheels for a Raptors deal. I think they’d push for the Knicks/Nuggets pick, personally, but it’s probably close.

Morris in pure basketball terms, and it’s not particularly close. Lee’s been solid in the past but has struggled to find playing time for two years in a row. In Golden State, that was understandable. It’s less so in Boston, and at 32 years old, he’s not going to suddenly rediscover an old gear.

Now, if you factor in cost, things maybe grade out differently. The Raptors basically can’t trade for Lee, but if the Celtics were to buy him out and he was willing to sign for the prorated veteran’s minimum, then that’s more reasonable. Adding Lee at the cost of, say, cutting Bennett might be preferable to some than shipping out pieces for Morris, as it’s a straight addition. The likelihood seems pretty low, though, and a Morris deal raises the team’s ceiling more substantially.

I’m actually not sure how much this improves the Raptors this season. Jones is a really nice prospect but at age 24, he’s turning in his worst season since his rookie year, and his 2014-15 shooting the ball now looks like an aberration. His minutes have fluctuated a great deal, and now he’s dealing with a concussion (I know that wasn’t the case when you asked, so not your fault). He’s also not as good a defender as Patterson, and with the shooting factored in, this seems like more of a long-term play, securing his rights as a restricted free agent for this summer.

Brewer would upgrade the Johnson position but he’ll be 30 in a month, has two years left on his deal at $7.6 million per, and is having his worst season in years. Like Jones, he can’t really shoot, either.

Some of the performance of those two may be due to the general malaise in Houston, and I like Jones as a prospect despite his being only two years younger than Patterson, but I don’t think this trade makes the Raptors better enough this season to warrant giving up a pick. I’m not sure it makes the Raptors better this season, at all.

I explored a Gallinari framework a while back. He’d definitely be worth surrendering that pick for and you could certainly play him at the four alongside DeRozan and Carroll. He’s awesome and would be a fun fit. You almost definitely have to get a third team involved, though, because the Nuggets aren’t a natural trade partner. They don’t have much use for the Raptors’ two biggest on-court assets (T.J. Ross and Jonas Valanciunas) in a swap and there’s little to indicate Denver’s willing to part with Galinari in a tear-down deal – he’s 27, on a great contract, and they’re even rumored to have made a call on Blake Griffin, indicating their timeline isn’t far in the future.

Doubt very much the Nuggets would acquire him and give up a bunch of assets only to turn around and swing him for assets. If there were a better offer for Griffin than what the Nuggets gave up, the Clippers would take that instead of Denver’s offer.

Toronto probably can’t get in the Griffin conversation until the offseason. Even then, they’d probably need a third team, as the Clippers would have no interest in one of Toronto’s biggest offseason trade chips (Valanciunas).

To be clear, the rumor is that the Cavaliers want Dudley, not that Dudley’s on the market. Washington is still only three games out of a playoff spot and Dudley’s a huge part of what they’re doing if they’re going to make a climb to that spot. In pure basketball terms, he’d be a great fit as a combo-forward off the bench to provide some additional shooting and experience. The Raptors could probably top any Cleveland offer in terms of pick equity, but I’m skeptical the Wizards put Dudley on the market in the next two weeks.

They’re getting by pretty well right now. The Scola-Valanciunas frontcourt hasn’t been good, full stop, but the improved defense of Patterson and the option to slide Carroll there for 10-15 minutes a night once he’s healthy means the Raptors don’t need to make an upgrade. The Raptors can be pretty deadly going small, and that’s a look that would work against most playoff opponents. The issue, then, is if you’re looking way ahead to Cleveland, it’s tougher to match up that way.

Anyway, I’d like the Raptors to make an upgrade, for sure. But I think the team as constructed is good enough to win a playoff series or two.

Don’t tease me. I’m a huge Kidd-Gilchrist fan and think he’s good enough defensively to fit just about anywhere, even if the range never really comes along. Sadly, the Hornets are only two games out of a playoff spot and have a win-now edict. With his value likely at a nadir with the new extension and coming off of another injury, I can’t imagine Charlotte would shop him.

It’s certainly possible, but it won’t be because of his play, really. He was a mid-second round pick and has played 128 minutes. However encouraging those minutes and his D-League performances may have been, he’s going to fall under the “Endowment Effect” I”ve talked about where he’s an asset the Raptors will value more highly than another team (because they’ve invested more, know him better, and so on).

There are probably a few teams that would see him as a worthwhile prospect, but with a $650,000 salary, you can’t bring much salary back for him. He’s probably only a trade consideration in a multi-player trade that needs an extra asset going out.

Other Raptors/Raptors 905 Talk

For my money, Ronald Roberts is the best dunker in the D-League (with all due respect to Jarvis Threatt and D.J. Stephens). He’s a big man with the hops and fluidity of a wing, which is going to make for some really impressive and powerful dunks. His vertical tops 40 inches as a power forward-center!

That said, it’s hard to pick anyone to unseat LaVine. He turned in the best Dunk Contest performance since Vince Carter and claims he didn’t even use his best dunk. It’s unfortunate that Roberts won’t show his stuff at the D-League event despite my best efforts to convince him.

Paul Pierce’s old, washed ass on the Hornets would be all of the bad vibes, even if Pierce is shooting, like, eight percent on the season. He’d still can a clutch triple or two, and the Raptors can’t beat the Hornets even without him.

In terms of opponents, there aren’t any really terrible options. Assume the Raptors get the two-seed and there are eight potential opponents. Let’s tier them.

Highly worrisome: Chicago (they could stay in the 6-8 range if Jimmy Butler’s knee injury is at all serious)
Moderately worrisome: Atlanta (unlikely to finish low enough), Miami (if entirely healthy)
Would be fine: Boston (skeptical they can score enough, though it’d be tough at the other end), Indiana (assuming Carroll at full health), Charlotte
Bring it: Detroit, Washington (no, seriously)

The ideal path is probably for Detroit or Washington to land seventh, then for someone to take out Chicago elsewhere in the bracket, allowing for a second round that avoids Bulls/Cavs.

I don’t know about an overall rank but I’m a fan. He’s a bit old school, but he’s really entertaining, and I love how he calls Devlin out from time to time. You either want really sharp analysis or entertainment from your color man, and Armstrong certainly provides the latter. The Devlin-Armstrong pairing is probably middle of the pack overall, which is a serious upgrade from the other Raptors’ option.

You know, I don’t know.

It’s not bad at all. It was something I suggested they try when Valanciunas was hurt, along with a super-small Patterson-Johnson frontcourt. They give up some rim protection and would be susceptible to the tougher dive men, but Scola and Johnson can hold their own as post defenders, and it’s a nice way to help spacing at the other end of the floor. Personally, I would have liked to see Lucas Nogueira get an early look against Portland when foul trouble came about, but it’s good to know the Raptors can go super-small if need be – In 236 minutes without a true center this season, they’re outscoring opponents by 13 points per-100 possessions, per NBAWowy.

Joseph. If free agency were done over again, he may be starting somewhere as is. Lowry can hit free agency after 2016-17 and will be 31 at that time. I’d like to imagine a scenario in which his peak extends into his 30s and a mutually beneficial deal presents itself, but failing that, Joseph would be the succession plan. We don’t even know if Wright is a capable backup yet, and Joseph’s less than a year older.

Yes, absolutely. He already projects as a strong, versatile defender, and he’s taken his offensive game to another level as the season’s gone along. I thought his offense was at least a year away, but he’s emerged as a real threat as a point forward or as the lead man on the second unit, and he’s now averaged 14.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists at roughly league-average efficiency (he isn’t hitting threes but gets to the line a ton). Still just 23, my earlier belief that Toupane might be an NBA player has been upgraded to a belief that Toupane will be an NBA player.

I’m assuming this means just the Raptors’ contingent. I’ll rank them a few ways:

CURRENT UTILITY TO RAPTORS: Powell, Nogueira, Wright, Bennett, Caboclo
ULTIMATE UPSIDE: Caboclo, Nogueira, Powell, Wright, Bennett

If that doesn’t give a clear picture…

POWELL: Can defend at the NBA level now. Might be a three-position defender. Has improved as a playmaker. Needs to develop a corner three to really lift his upside.
NOGUEIRA: Think he could provide defense and pick-and-roll play right now. Could develop into a fringe starter, could be out of the league in two years.
CABOCLO: It’s still too early to tell but the length, jumper, and fairly rapid development in terms of awareness and decision-making are all encouraging.
WRIGHT: Is really solid offensively, defense hasn’t translated as expected. In a tough spot where he might not be learning a whole lot against D-Leaguers.
BENNETT: I’m almost entirely out on him. His shot selection is poor and he doesn’t use his athleticism all that well at either end. I’d cut him after the deadline, to be frank.

In terms of 905ers not under NBA contract, I’d rank them like this:

CURRENT NBA UTILITY: Roberts, Greg Smith, Scott Suggs, Toupane
ULTIMATE UPSIDE: Toupane, Roberts, Smith, Suggs, Michale Kyser, Sim Bhullar

I’m all for everything Stackhouse. He should lead the celebrations, he should be in the Celebrity Game, he should coach the All-Star Game, and if Dwane Casey is ever let go, I’m all in on Stack as head coach just for the suits and quotes.


Man, this is a tough question. If we’re talking about just songs released under the “St. Lunatics” banner, then it’s probably Jang a Lang. Batter Up is awesome and the video timeless, too.

But if we’re talking about tracks from members of the St. Lunatics, or St. Lunatics-adjace offerings, then things get far more complicated. I hold love for Murphy Lee and Wat Da Hook Gon Be is an all-time catchy track. Air Force Ones takes me back to soooo much high school. But the real answer if we’re expanding to the whole St. Lunatics family has to come from Country Grammar, one of my favorite albums of all time. Can’t really go wrong between Country Grammar, an era-defining song, or Ride wit Me, a track I have more personal connection with.

And yes, this question took me an hour to answer as I went back listening to a ton fo St. Lunatics tracks.

They really haven’t told this story well enough to insulate themselves from potential boos, but there are ways around a disappointing ending. The storyline is straight-forward, but fans just don’t seem to connect or care about Reigns when he’s flanked by Dean Ambrose (an every man and far more sympathetic babyface over the last year) and Brock Lesnar (just way better than Reigns). I thought the Fastlane main event was a misstep in that regard, and they’ve somehow managed to lose the positive momentum they had built with Reigns toward the end of 2015.

Still, it’s Wrestlemania. Smarks gonna smark, but if the rest of the crowd delivers and Reigns and Triple H put on a good match, I don’t think they have to much to worry about. Yeah, Reigns going Full Superman Cena is boring, predictable, and kind of sucks and Ambrose would make a much better option from a storytelling perspective. At the same time, whatever. Wrestlemania is still going to be lit.

Not much to update on. I shaved just after Christmas, the first time I had done so (with a razor) in almost two years. I was going to grow a big one right back out but am opting to keep it around a #2-3 right now, nothing quite on the level of your own beard, Dan. After All-Star weekend, maybe I’ll grow it out.

In terms of beard oil, I’m just using a scentless one that came with a new beard trimmer I got. If anyone from Badass Beard Care is reading, I’d gladly take some samples for growth season.

Oh god, no.

Man, this is a tough one.

Man Seeking Woman: 75. I really like this show. It hits on the points of single/dating life well, highlighting the challenges in clever and hilarious ways. It’s very smart, filmed locally (right around the corner from me!), and they’ve gotten way from a kind of “women are the problem” vibe that was present in the very earliest episodes. Eric Andre is great, Josh’s sister is an excellent secondary character, and Jay Baruchel continues his post-Popular Mechanics run of success (seriously, look at that dude’s resume at age 33, it’s pretty obscene).

You’re the Worst: 55. I really enjoy the show and think they’ve done a great job with the Gretchen-Jimmy relationship and the challenges of having and being with someone suffering from mental health issues. It loses points, though, because by the end of season two I had stopped caring about anyone other than those two. I get that they had to get Edgar some wins, but he’s no longer much of a sympathetic character, and what was a promising Lindsay story just got weird. The fact that Vernon is the third-best character is probably an issue.

Catastrophe: 70. I really didn’t expect to like Rob Delaney. He’s awesome, and this show’s writing is excellent. In terms of raw realism and genuine emotion while remaining funny, there aren’t many better. I could easily see this show drawing an 80-grade from those with kids.

Master of None: 65. I liked it a lot upon the first viewing, with the Aziz-Noel pairing really delivering and hitting on some very real “young adult relationship” points. I can’t identify with some of the issues they run into, but as far as “figuring out life alone and with someone around the age of 30,” it does a really good job. I went back and rewatched a couple of episodes and was less thrilled – I think we should all probably do this for binge-watch shows that can really create an evaluation bias because of the amount of investment – but it’s still really worth a watch.

Just say no to inter-office romance. If it’s a must, Mike Skinner heard on ITV the other week that if she plays with her hair, she’s probably keen.

This is incredible. I’ve come back around on VC after years of disliking him, and I think most Raptors fans eventually will, too. Carter being a WWE-head and someone who played the sax as a kid? Even better. You know how you stay in the NBA until 39? It has nothing to do with conditioning – it’s all about the power of positivity, with nightly post-game clap therapy.

There is only one thing less #booty than Vince putting his unicorn horns up. Don’t watch the following clip unless you’re ready, willing, and…you say it.

Again, we’ll be doing another mailbag next Friday and the Wednesday before the trade deadline, so if you have questions between now and then, tweet at me with #RRMailbag so I can keep track of them more easily.

And as a reminder, if you appreciate the content we produce, want to support RR, and have the means to do so, we’ve started a Patreon page at patreon.com/RaptorsRepublic. Any contribution is greatly appreciated and will help us continue to do what we do, and try to do even more.

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