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Draft Mailbag: Apparently everybody wants to trade the pick

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With the draft now upon us, I thought I’d keep things rolling with another #RRMailbag. If you want to catch up on all the previous mailbags, including the latest, which talks about the offseason as a whole, you can find them all here. As for more draft prep, you can find a list of everyone the Raptors worked out here, with links to each draft workout post within.

And, of course, you can find my official (OFFICIAL!) rankings of the prospects in the 2016 class here.

Before we go ahead: We’ve started a Patreon page at patreon.com/RaptorsRepublic. If you appreciate the content we produce, want to support RR, and have the means to do so, any contribution is greatly appreciated and will help us continue to do what we do (and try to do even more).

Alright, let’s get this money.

A great question to start

This is a great question, particularly since Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri came up as a scout first and seems to really love the draft. In his time as a GM, Ujiri has only made eight picks by my count (adjusting for the nonsense of draft-day and post-draft trades). Prior to his time as a GM, he was an international scout with the Nuggets, the Raptors’ Director of Global Scouting, and then the Raptors assistant G.M. Only some of this is instructive, but here’s the draft history that Ujiri has been a part of:

2015 – Raptors
Delon Wright (#20)
Norman Powell (#46, acquired in trade)

2014 – Raptors
Bruno Caboclo (#20)
DeAndre Daniels (#37)
Sold pick (#59)

2013 – Nuggets/Raptors (Ujiri was Toronto’s GM at this point and the Raptors had no picks, but he left Denver on May 31, so he still would have had a hand in Denver’s scouting/draft lead-up, if not the selections)
Traded pick (#27)
Erick Green (#46, acquired in trade)
Joffrey Lauvergne (#55, acquired in trade)

2012 – Nuggets
Evan Fournier (#20)
Quincy Miller (#38)
Izzet Turkyilmaz (#50)

2011 – Nuggets
Kenneth Faried (#22)
Jordan Hamilton (#26, acquired in trade)
Chukwudiebere Maduabum (#56, acquired in trade)

2010 – Raptors (assistant GM)
Ed Davis (#13)
Solomon Alabi (#50, acquired in trade)

2009 – Raptors (assistant GM)
DeMar DeRozan (#9)

2008 – Raptors (director of global scouting)
Traded pick (#17)
Nathan Jawai (#41, acquired in trade)

There are a few things that stand out: Trades are firmly on the table, there’s a heavy international flair, and there’s a mix of swinging for the fences and taking proven college contributors. It’s also a bit of a mixed bag in terms of effectiveness, which is exactly what you’d expect given the risk associated with picking for upside and with international prospects in general – you implicitly accept a lower success rate to try to hit big

For where the Raptors are, I like how Ujiri’s profile lines up. Not only has he done well with late firsts, he clearly likes to lean international (this is a strong international crop), and I’m fine with a lower-percentage play to try to hit big given Toronto’s current position. The concern, then, is that he’s sometimes come up empty (at least with immediate returns), and we’ve never seen him pull the trigger (himself) on a pick as high as No. 9, so there’s some uncertainty here.

But again, my general draft philosophy seems to line up pretty closely with his, so perhaps I’m biased looking at the track record. If he uses both picks, this draft could go a long way in filling out the report on him as a drafter.

Using the pick

I have Timothe Luwawu four spots higher than Furkan Korkmaz in my rankings (10 vs. 14) but in the same tier. Blame those awesome Mega Leks jerseys. I think they’re both really interesting prospects and love Korkmaz’ offensive game, but I think Luwawu’s defensive potential puts him just a little higher for me. (This is a tough call, especially considering Korkmaz is younger. I wouldn’t begrudge someone flipping them in the rankings, and I’d be happy with either at No. 9).

Oh, a pair of Denzel Valentine questions. PhD Steve can really sell a guy. First, I have Valentine at No. 18 on my board, so if he slipped to No. 27, that would be terrific. I don’t think that happens, and the impression I got from Valentine not working out with the Raptors was that he was in that “it’s a reach at No. 9, won’t be there at No. 27” grey area (that, and with him so close geographically, the Raptors have probably scouted him well already).

Trading down isn’t really all that simple this year, though. Not only is the market difficult to figure in general, but it’s unclear what the Raptors could get back in such a deal. In a draft that’s generally perceived to be weaker, and without much of a class breakdown after No. 8, a team probably isn’t going to part with a roster player to move up to No. 9 (and salary matching is a little complicated for Toronto until July 1). The Raptors are already flush with picks, too, and while they could definitely acquire another and use it on a draft-and-stash, it may not be enough sweetener for them (the Nos. 16 and 23 picks, as an example, have roughly the same “value” as the No. 9 pick, though I doubt Boston would make such a deal). And it’s doubtful anyone is giving up a pick in the vaunted 2017 draft to move up in this one. There’s also the risk that because the draft is so wide open, the Raptors could trade down and then wind up losing out on Valentine, anyway.

This is a long way of saying I don’t know. All options are on the table, obviously, and if a good trade materializes, you do it. But with things this open, I’m kind of starting to feel like if you really like a guy, you just take him. Nothing outside the top eight guys is really going to be that big a reach – of the five main rankers I look at, 21 different players were ranked as lottery prospects. Take your guy.

I’m pretty comfortable with that group, too, though I’d add Furkan Korkmaz and Wade Baldwin into that same “tier.” I’ve got it Deyonta Davis-Timothe Luwawu-Skal Labissiere-Jakob Poeltl-Wade Baldwin-Domantas Sabonis-Furkan Korkmaz, but they’re all pretty close. I mostly just hope it’s not Henry Ellenson, of the names floated in that range (he’s fine, but I think No. 9 is way too damn high for a guy who doesn’t consistently knock down shots yet and can’t defend in the NBA).

I would rank him No. 44, somewhere near the top of the sixth tier. I get the impression that’s lower than you would have him, but it’s still well above where he’s normally being ranked. I definitely think he’s an NBA player, and he has some really nice defensive potential and fits what the Raptors like to do (and seems a personality fit). They definitely like him, and the fact that they brought him in to test out a prospect with a rising draft stock in Malachi Richardson is telling.

My guess is they’re hoping he goes undrafted, as No. 27 is probably a bit of a reach. They’ve shown they don’t care much about reaching if they like a guy, but he might be off-radar enough to slip him through.

I have Robert Carter Jr. just a few spots behind Dorian Finney-Smith, in the same tier. If the Raptors were to acquire a second-round pick, I think he’s a guy that could come in and man that third-string power forward role (with some 905 time) and maybe be ready for minutes this season. He’s already got the NBA body(and is reportedly in much better shape now) and a really nice inside-outside game. I like his offensive profile a lot, but I’m always a little wary of the guys with personality/motivation concerns, just because I have no way of getting to know the prospect myself.

I think he probably gets drafted, so the Raptors may have to land a second to get him. There’s too much good here for someone not to take a flier, even with some bust potential.

https://twitter.com/denzelvonsav/status/745361968085729281

I have Ante Zizic at 22 and Ivica Zubac at 27. I think they’re roughly equal as prospects overall, but Zizic has more defensive potential and is already a beast of a rebounder. The other factor for me is that in talking to Zubac yesterday, he really wants to come to the NBA right now. I’d want either of these guys to be amenable to getting stashed for a year to develop on someone else’s dime, and if one is more open than the other, that’d be a tiebreaker for me.

Let’s put it this way: I have Diamond Stone ranked higher than any of the primary rankers I look at. Even then, I only have him at 30 (the others range from 31 to 45), although he’s in the tier where I’d be fine with him as the No. 27 pick.

The one thing I’ve had a bit of trouble deciphering with him, and this is fully admitting a flaw in my process a bit, is that I really like him as an off-court fit. I think he’d be a natural fit with the locker room and with the organizational culture, and Dwane Casey really seems like a fan (and vice versa). That stuff matters, but it’s probably unfair to let it factor in when I’ve only met 15 or 20 of the potential prospects – I can’t, in good conscience, bump Stone for something I can’t measure for someone else.

The other factor with Stone is that I get the impression watching film that Maryland didn’t use him to his fullest potential. He has a bit of a jump shot and can really pass, but because of his effectiveness inside, they mostly tethered him there. I know there are concerns about his defense translating due to athletic limitations, and that’s fair, I just think the offense may be getting slept on a little bit. (Enough for me to have him as a first-round talent, anyway.)

Trading the pick

This is a tough question I’d prefer to answer in July, when Terrence Ross’ poison pill provision expires and it’s easier to package him. I’m going to re-post this clip from my last mailbag for clarification:

There’s actually a pretty substantial value for the Raptors waiting until July or August to move the pick, depending on what they’re targeting – dealing the pick now would attach a salary of $0 to it for the purposes of a trade being cap compliant, whereas once the player’s signed (30 days after, technically), that pick could have a trade-matching value of up to $2.7 million. So if your ideal is “Terrence Ross and the No. 9 pick,” waiting until July to make the deal changes the allowable incoming salary in that deal from $5.4M (Ross’ Poison Pill Provision amount, times 1.5, plus $100K) to $15M (Ross’ 2016-17 salary, plus $5M), and waiting until August increases it further to $17.7M (Ross’ 2016-17 salary, plus the pick at 120 percent of scale, plus $5M).

You can ignore the cap things, but if you want to flip “Ross & No. 9,” the most common trade I’m asked about, you can bring in $12.3M more if you wait until 30 days after signing the pick, and it would be far less complicated.

I think the No. 9 pick has some value on its own, but it’s tough for the Raptors to get anything that helps for 2016-17 unless they wait (or have something very creative up their sleeve). From there, I think Ross and that pick should be able to get you a quality rotation player, especially if you’re fine with someone on the last year of their deal. Ross’ contract is going to look a lot better once free agency begins to play out, which is both an argument to hang on to him and a boost to his trade value.

If you’re flipping just the No. 9, I’m not sure you can do much more than roll that asset over into future picks.

This is an interesting question. It depends who it is, I think. Last year, Justise Winslow began to slide and the Hornets reportedly got offered a huge package of picks to move down so someone could grab him. There’s nobody as good as Winslow likely to fall, but I could definitely see a team having fallen in love with Jamal Murray or Buddy Hield, in particular, scrambling to make a deal if they slide. Were it to be Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, or Jaylen Brown, I think the Raptors may be better off just using the pick (and I don’t think there’s any chance Kris Dunn slides).

Said differently: More likely to trade if Dunn/Murray/Hield fall, less likely if Bender/Chriss/Brown. That’s how I’d play it, at least.

Nerlens Noel is definitely the better fit than Jahlil Okafor. I really don’t see any way Okafor and Jonas Valanciunas could ever play together defensively, and while Noel is two years further on his rookie contract (that matters), he’s at least shown he can play some four. Given what the price tag is likely to be, I don’t really love either for the Raptors given fit/timeline/contract elements, and I don’t think the Raptors would have the chips anyway – Philly wants another top-8 pick, not just a lottery pick. Maybe Ross and No. 9 gets it done, but that’s a lot to give up for Noel a year ahead of him getting paid.

Consider me shocked to receive multiple questions about Greg Monroe. Very strange. First, Monroe and Valanciunas couldn’t really play together (I don’t see Monroe ever playing power forward again), so he’d be an odd target unless more moves are coming. In addition, Monroe only has one year left on his deal (plus a player option he’s likely to decline), and while that’s fine given where the Raptors are, it needs to be acknowledged. The biggest element here, though, is Monroe’s $17.1-million salary for next year – the Raptors would have to send out a lot more than just the No. 9 pick to get in the mix for him (Ross and the pick 30 days after the pick signs, or Ross, the pick, and more, or Valanciunas, and so on). I don’t really see a fit or a match here.

As for which player would have the most trade value once selected, that’s going to vary team by team. Jakob Poeltl has the highest ranking on average, but depending on what team you’re dealing with, upside (Davis, Labissiere), immediate help (Sabonis), or a specific skill (Ellenson) may rule the board. If the intention is to trade the player, I’d take whoever the Raptors deem to be the best piece overall and hope the market agrees with them (for me, that’s Davis, who I have ranked 9).

Assorted

Let’s start here: Nobody seems to have a good feel for how the crazy free agent market is going to play out, so it’s tough to target any player or group of players. The Raptors will only have the mid-level exception and some other, smaller exceptions to utilize, and that may not be enough to get even some of the middling names. Beyond that, the market doesn’t have many potential bargain-bin guys (does Dewayne Dedmon do it for you?), so the Raptors could be left reaching. That’s why I think most mocks have assumed the Raptors go big, and why I’m fine if they wind up taking Poeltl at No. 9 for more immediate help (or any of a handful of names at No. 27), though it’s not my preference.

I think they enter the year with Lucas Nogueira penciled in as the backup, with a rookie (drafted or international) or reclamation project type on-hand to push him for that role. Nogueira’s entering his third season, has shown flashes, and has played big minutes at a high level in the world’s second-best league. If he’s not ready for that role now, well, hopefully there are contingencies.

(And no, I don’t really see any way Bismack Biyombo comes back. He’ll be missed.)

He won’t do it for the next 30 days, at least.

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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