Deadline Week Mailbag: Yeah, we’re gonna talk some trades

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The trade deadline coming up on Thursday at 3 p.m., which means it’s cause for the latest #RRMailbag.

Contrary to popular belief, my annual “dump on all the trade ideas” mailbag is actually one of my least favorite to write (that there were multiple installments last year almost killed me). I love trade hypotheticals, and at this time of year it’s to the point that I don’t even need the trade machine for most potential deals. Unfortunately, the answer far more often than not with trade stuff is “no.” It just takes a lot – salaries matching, incentives matching, the other team thinking like you think and liking your assets, on- and off-court fits, and so on. And then even if you use your best objective analysis, teams like the Kings and Knicks exist to muck things up. So I don’t shoot down ideas with joy – trust me, our coffers could use another couple days of traffic like the Serge Ibaka trade caused – I’m just trying to be realistic.

And I hate fun, obviously.

You can find all of the previous editions of the mailbag here, which likely contain a question about a trade target of your liking if it wasn’t covered within this column.

Before we go ahead: A reminder that we have 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). You can also follow me on Twitter for, uhh, tweets, and on Facebook for all of my writing/podcasting/radio stuff. Validate me. You can also ask me questions at any time using #RRMailbag, and I’ll be sure to include them in the next mailbag, no matter how long between.

Alright, let’s get this money.

Les Cousins Dangereux

The Kings are dumb, the trade is objectively terrible, and we’ll see over the next couple of years that, while both parties surely deserve blame, DeMarcus Cousins was not the problem in Sacramento. Poor Buddy Hield.

I can’t answer the “would he have wanted to” part – I heard conflicting things about the Raptors’ potential interest in Cousins. (Personally, I would have been aggressive even with the character concerns, given the immense talent at play and the strength of the Raptors’ own culture.)

With that said, I’m sure they would have at least inquired to see what the asking price was. Now, could the Raptors have offered a better package? Objectively, yes. Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell, and a first-round pick, for example, is a much better haul. But the Kings reportedly wanted little salary back, and Valanciunas is under a long-term contract. Valanciunas is also a divisive figure from a value standpoint, so the Kings may or may not have been in love with him, even if they were fine with the salary. From there, the pick the Kings received stands to be slightly better than the one Toronto could have offered.

Now here’s the big thing: Vivek Ranadive is reportedly insanely high on Buddy Hield, thinking he could become Steph Curry-adjace. However silly that seems, trades aren’t made in a vacuum – if the Kings’ owner liked Hield best as an available prospect, there’s nothing Masai Ujiri or Jeff Weltman or Norman Powell or Delon Wright can do about that. The Kings are dumb, and all objectivity goes out the window when you’re dealing with a franchise like that. The Kings also hand-picked the teams they were dealing with and froze others out, according to Adrian Wojnarowski’s most recent podcast.

So yes, the Raptors could have trumped the offer. Every team probably could have. But the Kings are outliers of stupidity.

A few different suitors have been floated, but it definitely wasn’t the Raptors. The Lakers seem to be a popular choice, the Nuggets would have made sense, the Suns were in the mix, and so on. Vlade Divac admitting he had a better offer two days earlier makes this all the more ridiculous, and I only hope we find out the exact offer they passed on.

The Raptors already rank 10th in technical fouls per-game, and Cousins leads the league in that stat (Kyle Lowry is 11th, DeMar DeRozan is 15th). So, yeah, I think they’d be right up there, although somehow Phoenix is averaging a tech a game, a tough mark to match. Maybe the three Olympians together would have made them all super happy and agreeable, though?

Probably, yeah. You can have a preference between the two, and Cousins is obviously more talented, but Serge Ibaka was available at a reasonable price, and the Raptors jumped. It’s tough to fault them coming away with perhaps the second-best piece that will be dealt near the deadline, especially if a Cousins deal was never in the cards. The Ibaka trade is a good one, and the Cousins deal doesn’t change that (and the Celtics didn’t get him!). Had the Raptors not made the Ibaka move, there would probably be a little more outside pressure on them to make an Ibaka-like move this week, and people probably would have (unfairly) used the Cousins’ deal as a low market-setter.

Anyway, they got Ibaka, which is great.

This is a great question, and one I don’t have a perfect answer for, because you rarely hear about these things. My guess is that the player probably continues their charitable efforts in their original city in the short-term before transitioning to their new city (if it’s a permanent home) over time. In the case of Cousins, it’s even harder to guess, because he’s vigilante about keeping all of his substantial charitable endeavors private. This is a nice piece from Zito Madu that touches on the human aspect of such trades – Cousins is a major loss for the Sacramento community.

Other Trade Talk (Oh god, there’s so much trade talk)

The Raptors’ assets aren’t limited, no. Not only do the Raptors still have a first- and second-round pick in every draft in perpetuity, they also have Jakob Poeltl, Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet to dangle as pieces. Their near-term second-round picks probably aren’t worth much since they’ll likely come in the 50s, and they may not be open to dealing first-round picks for rentals, but there are a number of ways to construct a deal for a back-of-the-rotation addition.

What’s more, they also have Jared Sullinger’s salary to attach to an asset to help make money work. That’s big, and keeps a lot of possibilities (especially for players making under $10 million) open.


Do you guys want me to list some potential trade targets, or…?

Not to direct you guys elsewhere, but I wrote about just such a thing over at Vice on Friday. As a Cliff notes: P.J. Tucker would seem to be the most likely name on the market, Bojan Bogdanovic and Nick Young are interesting names to help with shooting, Gerald Henderson could be a low-key addition, and other teams deciding they’re out of the playoff race could open up names like Marco Belinelli or Tony Snell. (I go into more detail in those linked pieces.)

More generally, I think the Raptors would like a wing player capable of defending either wing spot (I don’t think they really need a combo-forward or combo-guard type) and knocking down some open threes. Unfortunately, 3-and-D types who aren’t lacking in one or the other aren’t really on the market and, if they were, would likely be expensive. If the Raptors add a player, he’s likely to be the fourth wing in the rotation – a matchup specialist, depth insurance, etc – so the piece they get doesn’t need to be a perfect, seamless fit.

My guess is that any deal would be Sullinger paired with either a pick or a young player, and if it’s the latter, the Raptors would become likely players on the buyout market or with a G-League call-up. The hope should be Sullinger-and-a-second gets something done, but that is probably unreasonably optimistic. The team’s in the tough spot of their seconds not being enough and their firsts being too much for a rental.

And no, not Mike Scott. Did NOT expect to hear a question about the regional manager. The Raptors really don’t need another big, especially one who can’t even get on the floor for the Hawks.

Swaggy P, obviously. You asked who I, Blake, would rather have, right? I’d get content gold out of Young here. One of my favorite interviews I’ve done in my career was with Young. I could do a daily feature here just shooting the shit with him.

If I’m the Raptors, though? Oh yeah, Lowry and Dwane Casey would very likely murder Young. For the Raptors, Tucker is probably the guy that fits the necessary role best – he can defend multiple spots, he requires very few touches, he brings toughness, and I’ve heard good things out of Phoenix in terms of the locker room. He’d probably embraced the limited role, too, given the chance to compete. That he’s only a mediocre shooter is a concern, but Young is a character risk, Bogdanovic is mostly just size on defense, and Wilson Chandler is reportedly going to cost a lottery-protected first, a pick-swap in another draft, plus two pieces to match salary. Gerald Henderson is fine and perhaps available, too.

Again, it’s important to understand that the Raptors aren’t adding a no-brainer rotation piece to bump Norman Powell from the rotation or anything. It’s a depth addition, a matchup look, something to give them an extra option off the bench.

Tucker feels like the most likely.

Ben McLemore can shoot. And that’s about it. He’s not big enough to guard the three, and he really doesn’t provide a ton else other than a jumper. If he cost little, I guess, sure, but there’s not a ton to be excited about there. (Someone should take a flier to try to wash the Kings stink off of him and see what he’s got, it just seems an odd undertaking for a pseudo-contender.)

Afflalo has long felt like a potential Raptor given his reputation as a 3-and-D guy, and Kendrick Lamar would probably have some fun with Compton natives teaming up. And Afflalo can still shoot the hell out of the ball – he’s at 38.5 percent for his career, exactly the same as his mark over the last two years – but he’s not at his prior levels by any means. (He actually ranks 97th among 100 shooting guards in Real Plus-Minus, if you like that as a metric, and his defensive metrics haven’t really lived up to his reputation the last couple years.) More than anything,  Afflalo’s expensive at $12.5 million, making salary matching a little difficult without paying a significant price for him – are you really giving up Cory Joseph or two prospects with the Sullinger contract to get him?

If I’m the Sixers, I’m probably not giving Robert Covington away without getting a pick or a prospect back. It’s not that he’s great, or anything, but he has a $1-million salary for this year and a $1.6-million team option for next year. A player who is remotely productive on that type of deal is exactly the kind of piece the Sixers were looking for in their Sam Hinkie-era roster churn. Maybe Bryan Colangelo feels differently.

The issue with Covington for the Raptors is that he’s not all that good. He shoots a ton of threes, but he’s only at 35.4 percent for his career and 32.7 percent on a heavy volume this year. There’s some nice defensive talent given his size and versatility, but he’s mostly an offensive zero. At last call at 2:55, sure, make a call. Philly probably wants a pick or a better prospect than Covington in return.

I answered this one on Twitter but thought I’d put it here, too – this would depend on what the Bulls got for Jimmy Butler, both in terms of position and timeline. McDermott is old for a prospect, but he’s young, cheap, and a good enough that the Bulls might want to keep him either as a rebuilding piece or as an inexpensive bench contributor if their focus was more near-term. So, I guess this is a wait and see, but I doubt it.

(As a side note, the idea of acquiring a Raptor-killer always amuses me. It’s half the reason I included Gerald Henderson above.)

Doubtful. The Nuggets want a lottery-protected first and a pick-swap right, per Zach Lowe, and he’d also take more than just Sullinger for salary matching. So you’re giving up a lot of assets for a guy who no longer fills a massive need – Toronto needs wing help, but prior to the Ibaka deal, a combo-forward like Chandler was an even more attractive piece. Now, acquiring Chandler likely means cutting into Powell’s time this year and next, when the Raptors would have $27 million committed to a pair of small forwards.

He’s a nice piece. I just think he was only an option pre-Ibaka.

The Pacers say no. They’re not going to move Paul George…right? Reports make it sound unlikely at this point. If they did, the Raptors aren’t a natural trade partner unless DeMar DeRozan is on the table – the Pacers have Myles Turner at the center position, and the Raptors don’t have the high-end picks or blue-chip prospects it would take in Indiana’s disaster scenario.

But yes, you should always shoot your shot. Ujiri and Weltman would have to make that call. And you should shoot yours.

I’d say the odds are pretty good they look to deal Valanciunas this summer, but I’m not sure where you’d be able to put money on it.

Particularly if the team plans to retain Lowry, Ibaka, and Patterson, someone will have to go to avoid a Cavaliers-sized luxury tax bill, and Valanciunas’ contract helps the most in that regard. The Raptors would then be left with Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl, and Ibaka as their centers, with Ibaka, Patterson, and Pascal Siakam to cover the power forward position, and finding a sixth big would be fairly easy on the cheap. Maybe the team doesn’t intend to keep both Ibaka and Patterson, but even if they don’t, salary may have to be shed, and since it’s unlikely they’ll find a home for DeMarre Carroll without paying to do so and Cory Joseph’s salary might not be enough of an unload.

Not that Valanciunas has to go, or anything. But he seems like the most obvious odd-man out if someone from the core has to be outbound this summer.



Hardest of no on Barnes. I got asked about this one so much on Monday, and I can’t really figure why. Yeah, sue, he’s tough and can still defend. But he’s also an offensive zero who hasn’t shot well on a high volume of threes for two seasons running now, and he turns 37 next month. More than anything, he comes with an enormous amount of off-court red-tape – he has a pending legal case, he’s been fined a ton, and while there are plenty of teammates who seem to like going to war with him, his personality would seem like an unnecessary risk. You know how in How I Met Your Mother, Barney had the hot-crazy scale? Well, the NBA should have a talented-problematic scale called The Markieff Morris Diagonal, and anyone below the Morris line isn’t worth the risk. Barnes is just too problematic given what he could bring.

I don’t see the fit for Langston Galloway, either. He can shoot, but he’s a combo-guard, and the Raptors aren’t really hurting for guys who can man the guard spots, and Galloway can’t slide up a position to help. Tyreke Evans is an interesting piece if bought out, even if he’s not a clear defensive fit, just because the talent level is so much higher with him than the other options likely to be available. But you’re hoping fora buyout and then competing with Cleveland for him, so good luck.

Omri Casspi went to New Orleans in the Cousins deal.

Andrea Bargnani is averaging 9.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in 17.6 minutes with Baskonia in Spain, shooting 45.3 percent from the floor and 42.6 percent on threes. I have no idea how he’s rebounding so little. Anyway, though you’d want to know. Sadly, Baskonia is doing fairly well and is unlikely to free Bargnani for a return to the Raptors.

I wouldn’t say it’s most likely, but I definitely think it’s on the table. If the Raptors can’t make a move by the deadline, it’s possible that they waive Sullinger in order to not only open up a roster spot to add a wing, but to give Sullinger the chance to catch on somewhere he might play for the remainder of the year. Sullinger seems the type to play the role of good teammate if not, but it might wind up being the best thing for the team and the player.

If they go that route, they’d probably look at NBA buyout candidates before turning to the G-League. Axel Toupane is a guy I’ve liked for a long time and the organization is high on defensively. He can guard three, maybe even four positions, and he’s a terror in transition or working as a secondary ball-handler. The issue with Toupane, unfortunately, is that he can’t really shoot, something multiple non-Raptors scouts mentioned to me as a potential call-up sticking point at the D-League Showcase. J.P Tokoto isn’t a lights-out shooter, either, but he’s improved and passed Toupane in that regard.

I’d think the team leans Toupane and accepts the limited shooting if they do reach down to the G-League – there are benefits to calling up your own guys in terms of convincing guys to play for you in the future – but that step is a few down the line rather than the “likely next” step right now.

Raptors Miscellaneous

I’d imagine Dwane Casey will probably take some time experimenting with the best staggered units for a few games still. There are big question marks in terms of who takes up Terrence Ross’ role in those groups – Norman Powell is the rotation piece but doesn’t provide the same kind of shooting – and how big a role Lucas Nogueira may have now that Ibaka can take some of the minutes at the five. The specifics of the rotation will be fluid for some time, but the Raptors now have the luxury of an extra two-way piece to deploy when one of their stars hits the bench.

There are number of ways Casey could go, but here’s a very early and very rough stab at what the rotation could look like, based on how I’d deploy things (Cory Joseph holds on to his spot here because I’m assuming that change isn’t coming yet):

That’s maybe closer to a playoff rotation given how tight it is, but the minutes totals feel roughly right. And there are some issues. Nogueira has earned more minutes than that, the fourth-quarter rotation will probably be a gameflow/matchup decision each night, and I’ve broken Casey’s normal mold by going a bit small early and trying to sneak Lowry an extra rest period. Still, this seems like a rough approximation of how things may work. As for the specific questions, as to how effective they may be, Ross’ shooting will be missed, but you hope to get some of that back with Ibaka, or by utilizing Valanciunas as more of an option against bench units. And your defense should be more consistent across units now.

It’s an interesting spot to be in. This is a lot of fun, and Casey has a ton of options now. But there are only 25 games to figure it all out, so there is an urgency in scrutinizing how different lineups perform, and small samples become all the team has to evaluate off of.

Yes, it would be. Even with Joseph being a solid backup, he’d be among the lower-end starters in the league (and hasn’t been particularly good this year). And Lowry owns one of the most pronounced on/off impacts in the league – few teams fall from as high to as low with the removal of one player. Letting Lowry walk would mean a return to fighting just for a playoff spot, and at that point the better path is to perform a major overhaul.

There’s also the risk of damage to the progress the organization has made by letting Lowry walk. It’s not the most analytic way to approach things, but the Raptors have been able to build to the point where Woj mentioned them in the same breath as the Spurs as a quality organization this week. It’s important to be good, not just a contender, and a return to mediocrity or the nuclear option risk walking back a lot of the organizational equity that’s been built.

The more likely scenario in my mind, should Lowry choose to stay, is that the emergence of such point guard depth allows them to lessen their tax bill by sending out Joseph with a succession plan in place, or dangle Wright as attractive trade bait.

The new collective bargaining agreement will see the NBA add two “hybrid” roster spots. So teams will have their 15-man roster that will continue to operate in the same way things do now. They’ll also have two of these additional spots for young players. The hybrid spot allows a player to come to camp, earn an NBA salary until D-League training camp begins, go down to the D-League at a higher D-League salary, then return to the NBA on an NBA salary once the D-League season wraps up. In between, they can also spend 45 days on the NBA roster. Players can also have their deals converted to NBA contracts.

What this does is allow teams to develop more players, with some sense of ownership of their prospects. It also sweetens the deal for players who can earn more than the D-League salary overseas. As examples: Right now, the Raptors run the risk of losing Toupane to any NBA team, whereas if he were in one of these hybrid spots, he couldn’t sign elsewhere. He also could have been recalled to help with wing depth right now; Drew Crawford went overseas after getting cut by the Raptors because his earning power overseas is significantly higher than the current paltry D-League maximum. Under the hybrid rule, he probably wouldn’t have loved being in the D-League still, but he’d have been able to stay close to an NBA roster with a salary potentially closer to his actual value.

In terms of assignments/recalls, this gives the Raptors more options, for sure, so long as they can find players to sign these hybrid deals who prove worthy of calling up to get a look at.

It’s unclear exactly how these deals may play out, how willing players will be to sign them, whether they kill 10-day contracts, and so on. Would Fred VanVleet have signed one this offseason, or sought out a proper NBA deal like the one he got from the Raptors? Would it change how the Raptors approach the draft, particularly their second-round selections? As with all new CBA wrinkles, it’ll take an offseason before we really know how teams will handle them.

He is not, no. If the Raptors were to continue on their downward spin and flame out in the first round of the playoffs, I do think Casey’s seat would be pretty warm. But Rex Kalamian and Nick Nurse are both closer to being head-chair ready. Stackhouse has done a very nice job with the 905 and will surely have some suitors, but the jump to an NBA bench is extreme. Jesse Mermuys took a promotion from the 905 to be a No. 2 assistant. Nurse is incredibly well-respected around the league and has head coaching experience all over, including the D-League. And most of all, Stackhouse might be best suited with a young, up-and-coming team – he’s clearly got some player development skills, and his approach to the 905 (particularly the long practices) might wear on a veteran team. That’s not to say he can’t or won’t shift with a different roster, I’m just not sure the Raptors would be the team to try him out so soon when they have other strong options on their own bench.

Stackhouse is going to be an NBA coach somewhere in the next couple of years, though. Which will be a lot of fun.

Probably on the block right now to be honest. Just gotta get Danny Ainge to finally include Terry Rozier.

(I know you’re joking, but to be clear: DeRozan isn’t a demonstrative bench guy, so I get why some saw his lack of celebration with the rest of the bench last Wednesday as a bad thing. He was encouraging in other ways, though. Delon Wright mentioned to me after the game, for example, that DeRozan was talking to him at each timeout and telling him it was his game to close out, not to worry about coming out, and so on. You can be supportive in different ways.)

This is a question for Doug Smith and Ryan Wolstat and Eric Koreen. They’ve been banging that drum forever, to no avail. I am unbothered by the noise.

I have no inside information on it or anything, but looking at the sponsorship partners around MLSE, BMO stands out as a logical fit.

Definitely not. For one thing, the standings will probably be tight enough that even if they wanted to, the Raptors wouldn’t be able to wiggle into a spot with any certainty. If they happen to draw Cleveland in the second round by accident, that would be unfortunate, but the race for first and race for third could see them try to do that and end up with the wrong matchup, anyway.

It’s far more important for the Raptors to spend the next 25 games getting back to a place where they look like they can win a first-round playoff series. Because they haven’t looked like that in over a month, and it won’t matter who a second-round opponent is if the Raptors don’t figure things out. I think the goal is probably the No. 3 seed, with maintaining home-court in the first round a priority, but their focus will be primarily on figuring themselves out.

This is an excellent question. I’m going to go with DeMarre Carroll. I don’t necessarily think he’d be a plus-plus baker, but his flair for fashion would give him a major edge in terms of presentation, which probably goes a long way if everyone’s cupcakes are just OK.

Right now, Nogueira’s is the most consistent and trustworthy. Poeltl and Siakam work on corner threes a lot but are still in the process of finding that range. Valanciunas can hit the top three and has promised me he’ll hit one at some point this season. It’s probably never going to be a major weapon for Nogueira or Valanciunas, but there’s plenty of time with all four, particularly the rookies. Long-term, I’d say Siakam needs it the most but Poeltl has the best chance of making it a reliable weapon (based on current form).

Deserves? Yes. Joseph has struggled on defense for the bulk of the season, and Wright could eat into his minutes if that continues. If the team doesn’t make a move, Wright also slots in as their fourth wing thanks to his length and Toronto’s flexibility with multi-guard lineups. I’ve long been a major Wright fan, and am confident he’s a capable NBA regular right now.

Gets? I don’t think so. Joseph will have a decent leash given the level he played at last year and the likely preference to do what they can to get him right by the playoffs. Any change in depth chart at the point would probably be temporary. And that fourth-wing role would be pretty limited based on matchups and gameflow, so that’s not a promise of big minutes, either.

While it’s true that 3-and-D wings are very valuable (look at the names we’re talking ourselves into this week), Carroll will be 31 this offseason and has a lot of injury red tape. He’s improved as the season’s gone along, but there’s not convincing evidence he’ll ever get back to being an elite defender, maybe just a good one. He’s also short of elite from long-range, settling in more as good (he shot 39.3 percent over 2014-15 and 2015-16 but is down to 35.2 percent on a heavy volume this year.

There would be a market, but I’m not sure Carroll would get major term. If he wanted three years, a team might only go to $10 million or so annually. Maybe he could get more on a shorter deal. Then again, someone gave Luol Deng four years and $70 million, so who knows, right?

More to the point I think you’re getting at, Carroll having two years and $30.2 million left on his deal after this year is not a major albatross. You’d probably have to give a team a sweetener to take his contract on, sure, but it’s not the worst deal in basketball or anything. For the Raptors in the short-term, it’s better to have Carroll than not given how little he’d bring back. It’s something they can reevaluate in the summer as a luxury tax crunch comes their way.

Non-Raptors Miscellaneous

I’m not touching this one. But #LOLRomanWins, obviously.

If you haven’t yet, check out Riverdale. It is so bad, but in that perfect, endearing, so-bad-it’s-good way. It’s exactly the kind of dumb, mindless nonsense I occasionally need. I am not going to make a guess here as to who the killer is in the event my opinion spoils some of the first four episodes for anyone who hasn’t seen them yet, but Eric, I will DM you my latest theories. Interested to hear everyone else’s in the comments, too.

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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