Morning Coffee – Mon, Sep 20

Great Wall of Toronto | Raptor trade tiers | Rafer Alston talking bout back in the day

Raptors trade tiers 4.0: We’ve got some (almost) untouchables, a few fillers and sweeteners – The Athletic

Borderline untouchable
OG Anunoby (four years, $72 million remaining, player option for 2024-25)
Scottie Barnes (four years, $33 million remaining, team options for 2023-24, 2024-25)

As I said, the tiers are not ordered in any way, but I believe OG Anunoby is the least likely Raptor to be traded — sorry, Daryl Morey. It’s not only because he’s on a good contract for a player who is at worst a plus-starter and at best, an All-Defense first-teamer, but because at 24, he fits both win-now and win-later timelines. It is unlikely his value has peaked, and we have already seen how good of a supporting player he is if the Raptors can slide back into contention. It would be hard to find an Anunoby trade that made sense for the Raptors.

As for Barnes, I could talk myself into him being a key piece in a win-now trade — sellers in those scenarios are always looking for players on rookie contracts, and he has four years to play out before restricted free agency, if that’s how his team decides to play it. The Raptors are far more likely to play the long game than the short game, so he falls here.

Embrace the future
Pascal Siakam (three years, $106.3 million remaining)
Fred VanVleet (three years, $63.8 million remaining, player option for 2023-24)

Were there rumours about one of these players this offseason? Did anybody have any opinions on one of these guys? Any takes out there?

I never thought a Pascal Siakam trade was particularly likely this offseason — not because the Raptors still totally believe in him, although they still like him, but because selling at what is most likely a career ebb is just not good business. Yes, there are reasons to believe he is ill-suited for a No. 1 role, but he made some smart changes to his game as last year progressed, undercut by a bad 3-point shooting season. A bit of positive regression there could see his value rise, which might bump up the possibility he is moved. Anyway, the takeaway should be that the Raptors aren’t looking to trade Siakam. However, if the right package is offered for Siakam, it could make sense to move a player who turns 28 in April as the Raptors veer more toward the future.

The same could be said for VanVleet, who turns 28 in February, but I think his value to the organization’s culture is a little higher, meaning it would take a little more to move on from him (not in terms of assets, but in terms of the Raptors’ overall willingness to trade him).

After tumultuous year, Siakam is emerging as a different kind of NBA star – Sportsnet

But it’s an interesting comment because it was clear that the Raptors wanted Siakam to the ‘the guy’ on the floor. Nurse said so much on multiple occasions, and consistently put Siakam in positions to carry the load offensively, while acknowledging that there would be growing pains as the multi-skilled forward grew into a job he’d never had before, at any level, other than briefly with Raptors 905 early in his professional career.

Siakam’s late-game stumbles last season proved the point, but it wasn’t like Nurse ever took the ball out of his hands. He kept going to Siakam, giving him opportunities to learn the nuances of the toughest job in the sport on the fly.

But Siakam didn’t feel the support he needed. It was part of the fuel that sparked the locker room blow up between him and Nurse last March – between being suspended by the team for disciplinary reasons in January to being benched in the fourth quarter of a loss in February, by March he felt singled out for a Raptors season that had gone off the rails. He had a point. In the NBA, young stars with lucrative long-term deals are protected publicly — even if behind-the-scenes discussions might be more frank and honest, let’s say.

Siakam felt exposed and, combined with the vitriol he was taking on social media for the first time, he felt alone.

These things are a matter of interpretation, certainly, but if that’s how Siakam felt and it contributed to his struggles, at least some of that’s on the Raptors. We might like to pretend that all superstars are born with the kind of hard shell that Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Kawhi Leonard are known for, but others have to develop those callouses over time, and need some reassurance along the way.

That, by all accounts, Raptors president Masai Ujiri wasn’t around the team as much as normal during the season with his own contract status up in the air probably didn’t help. Raptors general manager Bobby Webster might run the team day in and day out, but Ujiri remains the culture-setter.