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Three reasons why the Raptors should keep their young core intact

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Image: Getty/ Mark Blinch

There have been trade rumours flying that the Toronto Raptors have been chasing world-class players such as Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell. Both players haven’t had much postseason success with their current franchises. KD returned from an Achilles injury two years ago and lost in the semifinals to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks in a thriller 7-game series. This year KD was swept by Jayson Tatum’s Boston Celtics in the first round. As for Mitchell, he was eliminated by the Clippers in 2021 despite Kawhi Leonard getting injured in Game 4. This year, he lost in the first round to Luka Doncic’s Mavericks even though Doncic missed the start of the series.

Still, both players are individually talented and considered to be among the NBA’s best. KD didn’t meet the minimum game requirement, but if he did he would have tied for third in scoring with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Mitchell is only 25 and finished 13th in scoring. They are both known for performing well in the playoffs despite their teams’ limitations. While KD and Mitchell would be significant additions to the Raptors, here are three reasons why they should keep their young core intact. 

1. Inflation in the market

The Rudy Gobert trade between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz is partially what caused the inflation in the market. The Timberwolves gave up four first-round picks (three unprotected), a pick swap, Walker Kessler (No.22 pick in 2022 draft), Leandro Bolmaro (No.23 in 2020 draft), talented young players in Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, and on top of that a useful player in Patrick Beverley. Gobert is a top-five center and the best rim protector in the league but that package the Jazz got for him was such a massive haul that set the trade market for future stars much higher.

In the aftermath of this trade, there are rumours floating around about the Jazz wanting seven to eight first-round picks for Mitchell. The Jazz were reportedly interested in Gary Trent Jr, so if a trade were to go through, the package would have to consist of Trent and OG Anunoby along with several first-round picks.

Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr cannot be traded until the season starts due to a rule that prevents a trade for 3 months after signing a new contract. It’s difficult for the Raptors to match any salary for a star without including Anunoby. 

Furthermore, the Brooklyn Nets are not considering any offers for KD from Toronto unless it involves the reigning rookie of the year Scottie Barnes. For any of these trades to occur, the Raptors would have to give up their future to contend now. Sacrificing the future for the present is not always the best route to go.

KD hasn’t played a fully healthy season in the past three years and is turning 34 this year. Giving up Barnes and other assets for an injury-prone superstar is risky but something the Raptors have done in the past. However, the situation is different now compared to the Kawhi Leonard trade. DeMar DeRozan spent years with Toronto competing in the postseason, and it didn’t work out. The Raptors are only starting off with Barnes.

2. Sacrificing the future for the present doesn’t always go well

Sacrificing the future for the present can go in two ways. Either it will be a success or a fail. Examples of teams successfully sacrificing the future for the present would include both the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers. They sacrificed their futures for Anthony Davis and Paul George in order to contend now. The Lakers ended up winning in the bubble and look to be dangerous with AD coming back healthy and with their coaching changes and underrated free agency signings in Lonnie Walker IV and Thomas Bryant. The Clippers haven’t won anything yet but they are one of the favourites to win this year since their squad has arguably the best depth. Aside from their superstars in Leonard and PG13, they have John Wall, Norman Powell, Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Robert Covington and many more talented players in their rotation.

An example of a team that looks like its head in the failed direction is the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets gave up Jarrett Allen who became an all-star this season, Caris LeVert, three first-round picks and four first-round swaps for James Harden. Following many injury-related issues, Harden was dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline. Afterwards, this past off-season KD requested a trade from Brooklyn.  

The route I would love the Raptors to go through is developing the core like how the Milwaukee Bucks did and making adjustments later on. The Bucks developed Antetokoumpo and Khris Middleton and later traded for the missing piece in Jrue Holiday which resulted in a championship. But they suffered plenty of losses in the playoffs with what became a championship core, including to the Raptors, before finding the right ingredients. The Raptors have a young squad and similar to the Bucks they have time to find the right formula for success.

3. The future is bright in Toronto

The Raptors have a young, talented core in Barnes, Anunoby, Trent, and Precious Achuiwa, with developing projects in Dalano Banton, Christian Koloko, Armoni Brooks and Malachi Flynn. Along with the young core they have star players with championship experience in Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Otto Porter Jr along with veterans and solid depth pieces such as Young, Boucher, and Birch. 

From our young core, Barnes won rookie of the year and Anunoby, Trent, and Achuiwa improved a lot in the past season and showed a glimpse of their potential. The most comparable championship team in recent years to the Raptors young core potential is the Bucks. Barnes would play the role of Antetokounmpo. He would lead the team offensively and be the defensive anchor. They will both attack the paint and shoot from midrange while occasionally shooting from three and creating opportunities for their teammates. From here the positions would be mixed up but the role of the player still remains. Trent Jr would be compared to Middleton, a shooter and scorer who can come in clutch during crucial times. Achuiwa would be Brook Lopez, an elite rim protector and a big who can shoot the three. Anunoby would be a mix of P.J Tucker and Holiday. He would be given defensive tasks like how Holiday was against Booker and Tucker was against KD. Holiday kept Booker to 30% shooting and forced 9 turnovers and Tucker was on KD for 70 minutes 44 seconds and kept KD to 46.8% shooting and forced 13 turnovers. Keeping a player to 46.8% shooting may not be impressive at first glance but it is KD, who has been one of the best scorers for years. 

Durant and Mitchell are two top-tier players who can turn this franchise into a contending team. However, I believe the Raptors should keep Barnes, Anunoby, Trent Jr and the rest of the young core and continue to develop them with the goal of contending for a championship in the near future.

1 Comment

  1. I’m definitely on the side of sticking with this core and adjusting as players show what they are and their contracts come up. It’ll not be long before the FO will need to make major decisions on going into the luxury tax as too many of the core will need to “get-paid” without dipping into the tax. Will they be in contention for the crown to justify the tax hit even with the anticipated new TV money?

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