Susurrant Success: A Post-Deadline Recap

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Well, that was a day.

Mercifully, if you’re a Raptors fan, the trade deadline ended up being what most thought it would be—quiet. If you’re a Cavaliers fan, well, not so much. What this article is going to look at are the three main takeaways from yesterday, and how they impact (or don’t impact) Toronto.

Let’s kick off with …

The DeAndre Jordan Trade Rumours

Marc Stein is a very reputable source, so when this tweet surfaced it was clear from the get-go that this was a real possibility. However, Masai Ujiri’s camp has never leaked anything they didn’t plan to, and so the rumours likely came from the Clippers or Jordan’s camp.

Either way, at some point, someone thought the Raptors were legitimately in the mix.

Of course, Toronto didn’t end up trading for Jordan and the athletic big man wound up staying in Los Angeles, with other reported trade talks also falling through.

What makes Jordan tantalizing is obvious: He’s a defensive-minded center who can rim-run like a gale-force wind. Jonas Valanciunas (who would obviously be outgoing in such a deal) isn’t nearly as athletic or fast, and Jordan replacing him would allow the starting unit to get out and run more often, just like the bench loves to do.

On the downside, Jordan doesn’t have much of an offensive game. He dunks—that’s about it. Exactly 84.1 per cent of his shot attempts come from within 0–3 feet of the basket, where he shoots 71.7 per cent. Almost all of his other shots are taken from 3–10 feet, and on those he only shoots 34 per cent.

Valanciunas, on the other hand, is much more offensively gifted. He can take guys himself in the post, spot up in the midrange or beyond the arc, and he can make savvy passes that Jordan just doesn’t have in him. The current Raptors system really values Valanciunas’ ability to hit shots and pass the ball as well as just setting screens, and these are areas that Jordan would have trouble excelling in to the degree that Jonas does.

Even defensively, which is the main reason to bring a guy like him aboard, he’s fallen off a bit this season. It’s true that he’s playing with a lesser team (one that’s been injured a bunch), but his play is clearly not as impressive as in years past. For example, he is 27th among centers in DRPM (defensive real plus-minus) this season, and was sixth in 2016–17. His rim protection, too, is lacking: His defended field goal percentage is 62.7 per cent, significantly worse than Valanciunas’ at 57.1 per cent.

Off the floor, Jordan would’ve caused a kerfuffle financially as well. He is on an expiring contract, and Toronto wouldn’t have wanted to lose their new center for nothing, especially after giving up Valanciunas and whatever other assets would’ve been involved in the deal. His contract does have full Bird rights, which means that the Raptors could’ve re-signed him to a maximum deal, although that would’ve put them far deeper into the luxury tax than they probably would’ve liked to have been.

In the end, not making the deal was a smart decision. Acquiring Jordan doesn’t move the needle significantly for this team (can you really imagine DAJ trying to guard the Warriors’ switches on the perimeter?) and would’ve put Toronto in an even tougher financial situation come the offseason. Ujiri chose to stick with what’s working, and fans should be thankful for it.

The Bruno Caboclo Deal

I’m not sure anyone saw this coming.

The Raptors finally decided to give up on the Bruno Caboclo experiment after investing a lot of time and effort into helping him grow as a player. Evidently, the organization didn’t think he was progressing quickly enough, and traded him away to Sacramento for one Malachi Richardson, a sharpshooting wing with potential.

It should be fun to watch Richardson join the Raptors 905 and hopefully blossom, but it is admittedly extremely sad to see Bruno go. He’s evolved from a kid from Brazil into a local folk hero, a cult legend of sorts. He was a big part of the 905’s championship run last season, averaging 10 points and 5.5 boards a game.

Let’s just take a moment, and pour one out for the Brazilian KD.

Perhaps the most salient part of the Bruno deal is that it cleared some immediate extra space for the Raptors to work with. They saved abut $900,000 with the deal, meaning that, when you consider the publicly unknown incentives involved in Kyle Lowry’s/DeMar DeRozan’s contracts, the Raps probably have around $2 million to spend on a buyout candidate (although it’s also possible they stick to offering the minimum in case they run into other unlikely incentives). That’s still less than the full bi-annual exception (currently sitting at $2.75 million), which some teams will be able to offer, but not by much, and the pull of playing for a contending team will be a draw for some players.

This really was another intelligent play by Masai. A glum one, perhaps, but if there’s anything that teams have reinforced over the past year or so, it’s that the NBA is a business first, and businesses don’t have feelings. 

The Future, Post-Deadline

So, what now?

Well, as mentioned earlier, the Raptors are going to be in the buyout game (but not for Derrick Rose—no one should be in the buyout game for Derrick Rose). They should attract decent attention, what with being a contender in the East and all. But they don’t have to rush on offering a deal—players only have to be waived by March 1st to be playoff eligible. It’s likely that Toronto will survey the landscape, and wait a while to see what new pieces become available.

Joe Johnson is a popular name that’s circulating, with his future as a buyout candidate already certain. It’s also been noted that he’d like to play for a contending team, so there’s that. He’s not quite the same Joe Johnson of old—now he’s closer to just old Joe Johnson—but he can still get buckets off the bench and provides a veteran presence. It would be rather humourous to have one of the all-time great Raptors killers join the club, too.

As for potential future candidates, everyone has eyes on Vince Carter. At 500 years old, he’s still making a positive mark on the league and provides the same sort of stuff Johnson does. Toronto did offer him a deal last summer, so the interest would definitely be there if VC becomes available. But there’s no way to know if the interest would be mutual, since Carter still seems to value playing time as a top priority, something he obviously wouldn’t get much of on this Raptors team.

Still, it would be cool to see Vinsanity return to Toronto and finish his career there.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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