The Toronto Raptors didn’t make a move at the NBA’s trade deadline on Thursday.
Some would write that sentence as the Raptors “failed” to make a move at the NBA deadline. That depends on your outlook on the team for the rest of the season, and the timing of Friday’s awful loss to the Chicago Bulls certainly couldn’t have been worse for the doomsdayers.
Not making a move is mostly fine given the bigger picture. There was no deal that would put the Raptors on equal footing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and while optimizing the likelihood of getting to that matchup would have been nice, “mortgaging the future,” as general manager Masai Ujiri put it Thursday, wouldn’t be worth a small gain at the margins. Personally, I was all for a chips-on-the-table move given how infrequently windows to the conference finals present themselves, but I understand the realities of the situation and, more importantly, the market.
The realities of the market are something that came to light in a recent episode of Zach Lowe’s terrific Lowe Post Podcast over at ESPN. Lowe had Marc Stein on as a guest, creating one of the most formidable one-two reporting punches you’ll ever find on a podcast. Short of adding Woj, there seems no more certain way of getting post-facto explanations of the trade deadline than Lowe and Stein.
Not surprisingly, they back up the general feeling that Ujiri was looking for an upgrade at the power forward position. Reports throughout the week and day had Ujiri dangling Patrick Patterson and the Knicks/Nuggets pick for an upgrade, which is a framework we talked about a lot around here because it was the one that made the most sense given the Raptors’ unique salary-construction constraints. Reaction was mixed as to whether leveraging that pick for a small upgrade (if that) – to a Thad Young, Ryan Anderson, or Markieff Morris, perhaps – was worth it.
Specifically, Lowe asks a similar question to what I’ve been asking (I’m paraphrasing): How can you call the Raptors a loser immediately or criticize them without knowing what was on the table? (Obviously, we’ll never know entirely, and unknowing isn’t a pass for inactivity, but what if there legitimately wasn’t a good deal to make?)
Asked by Lowe whether Toronto was ever close to a deal, Stein’s responded as follows:
I have heard a ton about Toronto the last two weeks.
Just for a little Inside Baseball, I spoke to the Raptors at 3 a.m. on trade deadline day, so this is exactly 12 hours before the buzzer. I told them many times through the process, ‘I’m hearing you’ve got this, I’m hearing you’ve got that.’ I remember hearing ‘they’ve got something with Denver, they’ve got something going with Denver, they’ve got a deal.’ And they consistently said ‘no we don’t, no we don’t, now we’re not close.’ And they didn’t make a deal in the end. So when that happens you have to say, you know what, they might have been telling me the truth here.
We all thought on the outside they were going to make a win-now trade. I think it was almost a month ago that I heard P.J. Tucker, and that was really the guy I thought they were going to end up with. They were linked to Markieff Morris, they were linked to Thaddeus Young, they were linked to Kenneth Faried. All manner of fours. But I think P.J. Tucker and Ariza were the two guys that really appealed to them. And of course, Tucker and Ariza are as much threes as small-ball fours, if you really want to stretch it.
They needed a shooter, that’s the point. If they were gonna make a move, it was going to be for a shooter. In the end, how close it was only they know.
Lowe continues by saying Patterson is “pretty damn good” and could start in the playoffs (hello!) and mentions DeMarre Carroll’s impending return. Then he makes the big point – the names attached to the Raptors are “fine, whatever, they’re not changing your life as a franchise.” Bingo.
And given the asking price, things are complicated. As for the asking price, Stein has this to say:
Everybody who wanted to deal with Toronto wanted Patterson and a pick.
In checking with the Raptors, they just rave about his impact in the room, as the Canadians say, he’s a chemistry guy. So that’s a lot to consider.
So, yeah. The price was Patterson and a pick, and two very well-tapped in guys don’t necessarily feel like the forwards available warranted that price. That’s kind of what I’ve been saying in the fall-out from the deadline, disappointing as it might be.
Stein also added, by the way, that the Raptors didn’t deny most names but denied their reported interest in Morris, and Lowe stresses strongly that there was zero chance the Raptors would pay that price for Anderson (“4-$80M is not out of the realm” for an Anderson contract, Stein notes).
The one name that everyone keeps coming back to is Al Horford, who the Raptors could have made an offer for but who ultimately stayed in Atlanta. The Hawks were looking for multiple good rotation players in a deal, per Lowe, so the Raptors may not have had a reasonable package to offer, anyway, and it may have thinned them out for a potential rental. Stein notes that the Raptors will be one of the teams in a “long line” to try to throw the kitchen sink at Horford this summer.
There’s a ton of great stuff in here I haven’t bothered to transcribe, and a wealth of non-Raptors information, too. Go check it out.