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Raptors Mailbag: Trading for sheep

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“If I could trade mistakes for sheep, count me away before you sleep. I’ll stay awake ’til I trade my mistakes…”

It’s Trade Deadline Week! That means it’s time for yet another mailbag, heavily trade-focused, before I retire the feature for at least a few weeks.

This is the seventh “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.

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Alright, let’s do this. Settle in.

Raptors trade questions

It’s almost impossible to figure an in-season deal for Griffin, given the difficulty of matching salaries and the incongruence between Clippers needs and Raptors assets. Doc Rivers was adamant Tuesday that Griffin isn’t going anywhere, and while I think that’s probably true right now given his value is at a nadir, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the idea revisited in the summer – the Clippers’ core is very good, but with the Warriors, Spurs, and Thunder around in the West, they may feel a pressure to take a major swing before Chris Paul’s prime expires.

If that happens, then yes, the Raptors should definitely try to get in the conversation. Griffin is excellent, and even with free agency looming in 2017, one year of him with the Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan core would be worth whatever the price is. That price, by the way, would almost certainly require a third team. The Clippers would be looking for a win-now move, and while T.J. Ross would be a nice piece for them, the Raptors’ other priamry assets (Jonas Valanciunas and picks) don’t fit the roster (DeAndre Jordan) or timeline (like, yesterday).

This one’s been put to rest, but yes, I think Patterson would have qualified when it came down to it. He’s the same age as Markieff Morris (Patterson will be 27 next month) and he has one more year left on his deal at a very affordable $6.05 million. He’s not a prospect or anything, but for a team that needs cheap, useful pieces and high-character players to rebuild the locker room, I think Patterson would have been an attractive piece.

He also stands to be a pretty nice trade chip this offseason, given the deal and where the thin PF market could go.

Naw, B. He’d be a really nice offensive addition as a shooter and third option who could help prop up the second unit, but the defense would really concern me. On top of that, the probable asking price (likely Patterson and a first) is a little high for a rental I’d have no interest in re-signing at the rumored $20-million price point.

These questions are related because my answer to No. 1 is “if No. 2 is possible.” The Nets need that Knicks/Nuggets pick, and I’m entirely on board with cashing that chit in if it means the Raptors can make an addition without a major subtraction (Patterson) in the same deal.

A Scola-Johnson-Nogueira-Bennett framework satisfies cap requirements, and the Raptors could swap Wright in place of Bennett if necessary. Scola and Johnson would just be buyout candidates for Brooklyn, but Nogueira would be an interesting prospect for them, one who could potentially contribute next year (same for Wright). Would two prospects and the Knicks pick be enough? If I’m the Nets, probably, but they don’t even have a GM yet, which really complicates thing.

From the Raptors perspective, a Young move definitely makes them better this year and at age 27, he fits the DeRozan-Lowry timeline well. The three years and $38.8 million restrict some offseason flexibility but come at a reasonable price. A four-for-one deal thins them out, but there’s always the buyout period or a second move to help fill those gaps.

I could go either way on this deal. Scola, the Knicks pick, prospects the Raptors don’t use, and summer flexibility seem an OK price for adding Young, even if he doesn’t change the accounting of a Cavaliers series, and even if it’s not an enthusiastic yes. I’m less enthused if Patterson is involved, instead.

This is one I explored pretty deeply in mid-January, as I think Gallinari is a great fit in terms of timeline and offensive style. He could pretty easily share combo-forward duties with Carroll, take a share of the scoring load and shot-creation responsibility from Lowry and DeRozan, and open up a ton of fun lineup iterations.

There are a few complicating factors. For one, the Nuggets don’t seem all that willing to deal Gallinari unless it gets them in the discussion for a star – he’s still young, and the Nuggets don’t see themselves as that far away from competing for a playoff spot again. In addition, they have little use for Valanciunas.

I tried to come up with some three-team scenarios that would help balance Denver’s roster in the process. It’s difficult, but if Ujiri could find something, I’d part with Ross, Johnson, Patterson/Scola, and the Knicks pick to get Gallinari and a throw-in roster-balancing piece (Foye, Arthur) back. He raises the talent level too much over the next couple of seasons not to jump on any deal that doesn’t send out Lowry or DeRozan.

Hard pass. A Carter return would be fun for him and fans but he doesn’t have a good deal of on-court utility any long, and his $4.3-million salary for his age-40 season includes a $2-million guarantee. Randolph would be an awful defensive fit next to Valanciunas and would cramp driving lanes for Lowry and DeRozan, a tough cost to accept just for an extra post-up option on offense.

Ross and Patterson is just way too much for that return.

This is such a strange situation. You give any Raptors fan this offer the last two years and they jump on it, no questions asked. Now, Patterson’s improved enough defensively and the premium on spacing has grown enough that it’s a serious question, and the Bulls aren’t going to sweeten the offer beyond a straight swap.

Gibson’s a defensive upgrade and a former teammate of DeRozan’s from USC. But he’s 30, costs 45 percent more, and stands to cramp spacing when at the four alongside Valanciunas or Biyombo. It’s a pass but it’s very close, so if another move goes down that adds a stretchy four, you could certainly double back this way.

No chance the Hawks do that. Patterson is a nice piece and the Knicks/Nuggets pick is nice, but they could definitely get more. Wright hardly moves the needle as a 23-year-old non-lottery rookie who’s barely played, and Caboclo’s trade value is essentially zero. (Keep in mind with Caboclo that he’s already on Year Two of his rookie contract, still isn’t NBA-ready, and the Raptors have invested heavily in the infrastructure to develop him – other teams are going to see him as a low-percentage lottery ticket and salary filler, while the Raptors see him as a real prospect they’re pot-committed to.)

If you’re talking Horford, you’re talking Patterson and at least a pair of firsts or a Valanciunas-centered package (and who knows if Mike Budenholzer would want an inflexible, if talented, piece like Valanciunas).

Probably not any further this year. He’s still very good, to be clear, and is having a really nice season. He’d help protect the rim and with defense and rebounding in general in a series against the Cavaliers. He increases the chances of the Raptors getting there and maybe gives them another game, but they still wouldn’t be favored.

In terms of just frameworks, he’d cost a lot and isn’t a guy I’d want to max out this summer, so he’d be strictly a rental.


OK, so let’s start here: The Kings aren’t moving Cousins. They’re too close to a playoff spot right now to blow things up, and even if they weren’t, they’re all-in for the forseeable future with a win-now owner and a new arena coming. The Raptors don’t have the pieces for a win-win move, and they’d only get in a theoretical Cousins mix if the Kings were willing to look a little down the line.

But let’s have some fun. Cousins enjoyed his time in Toronto, donning a Nazem Kadri jersey in a photo some think is him looking at real estate, and his manager tweeted they’d be back soon.


So, here’s my offer:


Say the Kings put Cousins on the block tomorrow. The Raptors’ best offer working around the poison pill (ignoring three-team deals) is Patterson, Valanciunas, Powell, and three of the four first-round picks in the next two years. I’d do that in a second, but Boston could trump it.

Non-Raptors trade questions

I think Horford gets dealt. If the Hawks really don’t think they can re-sign him or don’t want to give him the max, it’s smart of them to be realistic of their 2015-16 chances and make a move that adds to their 2016-18 window. The Celtics make too much sense if they’re willing to use that Nets pick (not a certainty).

The Pistons and Hornets have already made small moves to make them a slightly larger 2-7 threat. Chicago is obviously the biggest first-round threat if they stay low in the standings. The big one is Boston. The Celtics have a huge war chest and are already quite good. As currently constructed, I don’t fear them in a second-round 2-3 playoff series (they’re great defensively but I’m skeptical of their offense in a tight game), but if they added someone who can score down the stretch, they’d be dangerous.

Offer to retire Danny Ainge’s Blue Jays jersey in exchange for not making the deal.

ainge

He might be past the point of a rebrand. He’s already got Born Ready and has spent time as a human meme. Maybe a fourth home in three years is the right time to try something new. Here are my suggestions: Stephen Lance Jr., Lance Storm II (under a Canadian flag luchador mask), L.J. Stephens.

The real change he needs to make, though, is the return of the headband.

Heartburn? No. Carpal tunnel, blurred vision, and bad posture? Definitely.

Non-trade Raptors questions

I’ve been writing about this since the opening day of the season. Patterson has always been a more natural two-way fit with Valanciunas, and Scola with Biyombo. The starting lineup could use that additional defensive versatility and spacing, while the second unit could use the extra bit of shot-creation. Every bit of lineup data suggests this is the move to make, too. The two concerns for Dwane Casey, I’d imagine, are disrupting rotations/chemistry (he’s understandably a major proponent of consistency), and the fact that for two years running, Patterson’s done the bulk of his damage against bench-heavy units.

I make this switch Friday if no deal’s been made.

I think it may have actually done the opposite. It was the coldest it’s been in over two decades and it didn’t matter at all – everyone still had a great time and spoke highly of the city and the weekend. Showing an estimated 120 NBA players who were in town that even at its very coldest, the city is still great (and that it’s relatively easy to avoid the cold) could be a major win.

I think Joseph is good enough to eventually be a starting point guard, for sure. He probably could be for a few teams right now. I’m skeptical about Wright, who I’m not even sure is a capable backup at this moment. Joseph is less than a year older than Wright, too, so it’s not as if Wright can realistically be expected to “catch up.”

If Lowry were to leave in the summer of 2017, I think the Raptors try to acquire another point guard to replace him. They’d have to. Failing that, Joseph would be ready to start, though he’d be a lower-tier starter, I think (that’s not a shot at him, but PG is very deep league-wide and Joseph currently ranks as an elite backup).

There are a couple of reasons people are concerned: The hot stretch came against a soft schedule, the Raptors are out-performing expectations, and Lowry and DeRozan have been under incredibly heavy workloads. There’s also the matter of what happened last year, which is going to scare some.

I lean more to your side, though. I don’t think it’s “ridiculous” to be worried, and I remain concerned about Lowry’s minutes load. At the same time, last year’s team collapsed for entirely understandable and predictable reasons, and it was something I was warning about for some time. This year, the team is better balanced, can win at both ends, is getting Carroll back at some point, and generally feels on better footing than last year. This team is much better suited to succeed over 82 games and into the playoffs. It’s still a worthwhile goal to ease up on some of the guys to make sure they enter April at full-strength, though.

Also, this wasn’t a question.

I think it’s over, really. With a few exceptions, they started taking care of their business during the pre-break stretch, and now it’s on Casey to start turning things over to the bench when the leads get big enough. And if the “playing down” issue materializes again? Don’t care – you still have to get your guys more rest/fewer minutes. The Raptors have insulated themselves well enough in the No. 2 spot in the East that they can take some single-game risks to focus forward, as there’s now little need for Lowry to play 40 minutes to close out a 12-point lead against a bad team.

Raptors offseason talk

I mean, technically, yes they can. I’ll talk about the machinations of exactly how in a question below about Batum, but yes, it’s possible. In terms of how it would work, who cares? Carroll and Durant can both play some four, you could switch freely between all three wing positions, and there aren’t a great number of teams who could hurt you for it. Plus, the answer to the question of fit when it comes to adding that much talent is “get the talent, figure the fit out later.”

Realistically, no. Durant’s not coming to Toronto, not with what he has in OKC and how strong a secondary option the Warriors stand as. Maybe there’s a push to go to the East, I guess, but then his hometown Wizards would give the Raptors a good push.

I’m still of the mind Durant signs a one-and-one deal with the Thunder and re-enters the market in 2017, when he’ll be able to get a larger percentage of a larger salary cap.

A cap hold is an artificial “salary’ a player counts for on the books while unsigned to prevent teams from getting too creative with their offseason maneuvering. There are a few different types of cap holds that serve as placeholders for players the team is “expected” to sign, and they serve to keep teams from going too far over the cap – they count against the cap until the player in question is officially signed or his rights renounced. Quickly, here are some cap holds that could impact the Raptors this offseason:

  • DeRozan. He’ll be a free agent, but he can’t count as $0 on the books because it would let the Raptors add too much salary before doubling back to sign him (since they own his Bird rights, they can exceed the cap to re-sign him). So instead of $0 or his $10.1-million 2015-16 salary, he’d have a $15.1-million cap hold, with the CBA anticipating a 50-percent raise.
    • Any other free agent would also have a cap hold until he signs elsewhere or the team renounces him.
  • Draft pick cap holds. If the Raptors use their picks, the Rookie Scale amount will be on the books immediately, with the CBA assuming the picks will get signed. (Once signed, they’ll actually count for more, as almost all draft picks sign for 120 percent of scale. Teams can get these holds off the books by agreeing with the player to stash him elsewhere for a season.)
  • Incomplete roster charge. If the Raptors cut/renounce enough players to where they have fewer than 12 players, the league’s minimum salary gets applied as a hold to each roster spot up to 12 players.
  • Exceptions. The Raptors won’t have their Bi-Annual exception if they get below the cap and don’t have any trade exceptions, but if they get under the cap, the mid-level exception would have a cap hold (the team can renounce it).

Basically, the CBA assumes certain moves/salaries/raises to prevent teams from getting too clever in the offseason.


It’s definitely possible, although it’s not easy. If we assume a $92-million salary cap (something Zach Lowe reported is the current thinking among some executives), the Raptors stand to be about $7.7 million over the cap when the offseason begins, with 17 players or charges on the books as of July 1 (this assumes DeRozan and Biyombo decline their player options, as they will).

cap1

Realistically, the Raptors could get a little under the cap pretty quickly by renouncing the rights to Johnson, Scola, Bennett, and Biyombo.

cap2

From there, the Raptors need to clear more than $20 million still, assuming Batum or Horford get the max, which starts at roughly $25.9 million under the new estimates. Moving prospects and picks helps in that regard, but they’re little gains that strip the roster – the bigger move is to send out Ross or Valanciunas, who should both have value once the poison pill provision is removed on July 1.

If Horford is the target, dealing Valanciunas makes sense. Unloading Valanciunas, Patterson, and the Knicks/Nuggets pick gets the Raptors to about $25.3 million in cap space, which might be close enough. If Batum is the target – and there’s reason to believe he is – then dealing Ross makes more sense (they could still unload Valanciunas instead, I’m just illustrating). Dumping Ross, Patterson, the Knicks/Nuggets pick, Lucas Nogueira, and Delon Wright gets the Raptors to $23.3 million in cap space, which, again, is close. In either case, trading or Euro-stashing the team’s own pick would clear another half-million-plus, ditching Powell could clear about $300K, and Joseph stands as a major cap-clearing piece, too.

cap3

There are also sign-and-trade possibilities, and while that doesn’t benefit the player a ton under the current rules, it’s a way to get the Hawks/Hornets something and complete the requisite cap maneuvering all at once. 

From there, the Raptors would re-up DeRozan at his max or near it, turning his cap hold into real salary and pushing the Raptors above the cap. Then they’d have just small exceptions to fill out the roster.

It’s all complicated but entirely possible. All of this is something I might revisit next week when we have a better idea of where the team stands.

Like with the Durant answer above, you figure out the fit once you get the talent. The NBA has moved so far from the standard definitions of the five positions, you can really get away with (and might be best served by) playing three wings or two guards and two wings. Adding Batum to a DeRozan-Carroll wing duo would give the Raptors a ton of perimeter playmaking, better spacing, and a much more fluid, versatile defense that could switch freely and would lock down the transition game. Sure, there are occasional opponents against which Carroll as a 20-MPG four might be a small worry, but those teams also have to deal with sticking a big on one of these guys at the other end of the floor.

The style the Raptors would play in this case would be a ton of fun. I’m all for positionless basketball.

If they still have the pick, maybe? It’s a little early to think that far ahead. We don’t know what the Raptors will do at the deadline, whether they’ll even have the Knicks/Nuggets pick, where it will land, or where Murray may go.

Assuming they keep the pick and it’s at No. 10 and Murray slides a bit, sure. Murray is a top-five talent in my eyes, and while he’s not a natural fit given all the guards the Raptors have (he won’t be able to play the three), I’ll always be in the Best Talent Available camp. I would NOT, however, advocate for taking him just because he’s Canadian – he has to be the best talent on the board where they pick.

Can you ask me again post-deadline? This is just way too hard to figure in mid-February – there’s the deadline, draft, potential pieces coming back in salary dumps to clear space, the fact that nobody has any idea how the cap explosion is going to change the market, etc. Sorry, Dan. I try to answer them all, I just can’t wrap my head around it while I’m still trying to figure deadline scenarios.

That said, clearing space for Batum/Horford would leave the Raptors quite thin. Some low-cost options I like in that case: Toupane and Roberts from the D-League, Brimah as a potential undrafted free agent big man project, Prince late in the first round.

Miscellaneous

We never got confirmation of why Michael B. Jordan pulled out of the Celebrity Game. O’Shea Jackson didn’t really impress as a replacement. I remain quite upset about Jordan’s absence.

The 73 wins, for sure. Jordan’s long since been bested in the Dunk Contest in different ways, and 72 wins has kind of been held up as an unbreakable mark. Really, though, I doubt Jordan cares unless a modern-day star gets close to six rings or supplants him as the crying meme.

*I did not, though I’ve had the pleasure once before, briefly.
*Nope, I ain’t there yet, it seems.
*Yes. He’s here fairly often, and even if he wasn’t, he adds so much value to the NBA landscape that I’d gladly vouch for him getting a passport.

Not weird at all! I saw him from across a room and was star-struck, having assumed he operated exclusively in the shadows. You could never meet him, though – his sources would let him know you’re coming and he’d manage to avoid you.

I’m a huge Dunk Contest geek, so nothing’s going to top just being there for that display. Smaller moments that were fun, too: The rising buzz in the ACC as Thompson heated up in his final 3-Point Shootout round, talking to Jason Sudeikis, and being credentialed for a major event with several friends I kind of “started out” with at theScore.

Woah, nobody said no chance in the future. In the short-term, no, because it requires some work and money and investigation into the impact it may have on the hockey and concert sides. There’s also the thought that while it looks great on TV, it may not be the best for live atmosphere during the season. I hope it happens eventually, though.

Chris O’Leary of the Toronto Star has more.

I would read a lot. Go to a lot of concerts. Maybe get eight hours of sleep one time. Slide into a lot of DMs. Make a lot of mistakes.

If they cancel sports for a year, maybe. (I’ve been trying to do a better job of getting the appropriate amount of sleep, to the point that I’m tracking it as I train for this half-marathon. Sadly, I’m at fewer than seven hours per-night in 2016 and barely six over the last week. Analytics! [Tom Haberstroh would be so disappointed in me.])

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