Morning Coffee – Tue, Feb 7

We are in the trade end-game now, see you at the live pod tonight!

NBA Trade Deadline 2023: What offers the Raptors should (and shouldn’t) consider – Sportsnet

Trade 2, from Eric Koreen: Anunoby, Khem Birch, and Malachi Flynn to the Suns in a three-team trade that sends Jae Crowder to the Bucks and Dario Saric, Torrey Craig, Grayson Allen, MarJon Beauchamp, a 2023 first-round pick (PHX), a 2025 first-round pick (PHX), and a 2027 second-round pick (PHX) to the Raptors

Eric grabbed my attention with this one by dangling that we’d need a subsequent move that trimmed an insignificant amount of salary so that the Raptors could avoid the luxury tax. That’s talking my language.

As for the trade itself, it’s effectively Anunoby and filler for a platter of potential bench pieces and a couple of very interesting draft assets. Saric and Craig are useful, even if the Raptors don’t intend to win a lot down the stretch, as they’re useful rotation pieces the team would hold Bird rights on to re-sign in the summer if they like what they see. Beauchamp is a recent first-round pick who fits some of the criteria the Raptors look for in developmental pieces and looked intriguing everywhere except the 3-point line in the G League last year. The toughest part of the framework is having to cheer for Allen the next year-plus, as he’s owed $8.5 million next year to knock down threes and annoy opposing fanbases. It’s the 2025 pick from Phoenix, if unprotected, that stands out most to me: If new Suns ownership goes all-in to make a splash and capitalize on the last of the Chris Paul window, this team could be in a tough spot sooner than later.

This might be too much player equity for the Bucks to channel into Crowder, preferring second-rounders to Beauchamp. As we’ll see momentarily, some think the Suns could be exactly this aggressive.

Other Anunoby-Suns trades
Anunoby, Birch, and Flynn for Saric, Landry Shamet, Cam Johnson, and two unprotected first-round picks

Anunoby for Crowder, Saric, an unprotected 2024 first-round pick (PHX), an unprotected 2026 first-round pick (PHX), and an unprotected 2028 first-round pick (PHX)

If the second deal there seems like Toronto wishcasting, please note that it came from my pal Michael Pina at The Ringer, and he is just about as smart as they come. The thinking here, again, would be new Suns ownership surveying the immediate landscape and a suboptimal medium-term roster/cap situation and deciding to go all-in, with Toronto fading the post-Paul era of the Suns. I’d prefer the boatload of picks to the package of Shamet (an inexpensive and useful bench piece) and Johnson (a plug-and-play spacing wing who is older than Anunoby and a pending free agent).

10 things: Raptors’ focus shifts to trade deadline following lengthy road trip – Sportsnet

One trend that eludes stats is very obvious when you see them up close: The Raptors have a bad habit of not playing together. Some players are more guilty of it than others, but the problem is endemic. Trent Jr. stands out on the offensive end, where he refuses to make the extra pass.

It was trivial in the win over Houston when Trent Jr. didn’t feed Malachi Flynn for a wide-open layup and instead held onto the ball for the intentional foul, but it was costly against Phoenix where twice he failed to find Siakam running the break in a game that came down to one possession. VanVleet and Siakam routinely stop the offense, and while they create the best advantages, they are also the leaders who need to instill trust in the team.

Chris Boucher was literally hopping mad that he didn’t receive a pass against Memphis, and Barnes is especially expressive when the pass doesn’t get to him, or if others don’t make the play he wants off his passes.

Defensively, the issues are harder to spot but there are subtle breakdowns everywhere. VanVleet reamed out rookie Christian Koloko for not helping on a driver that sped right by him at the point of attack. Siakam gave up three and-ones in being late on rotations against Memphis in a game where he battled foul trouble, while Lauri Markannen beat him three straight trips when he fouled out in Utah. Boucher is routinely lost on rotations, Thad Young is too slow for the wing and too undersized in the paint, which left Barnes and Achiuwa doing most of the heavy lifting.

Why the Raptors should take advantage of a sellers market at NBA trade deadline – Yahoo

What that next team looks like is anybody’s guess. There are a number of ways the Raptors can go at the trade deadline, and a number of different types of packages they could prioritize, from pick-heavy packages to player-heavy ones.

But given the way Siakam has played this season and the rapid pace Barnes is developing at, the Raptors would be wise to build a roster around their two interior-based wings by surrounding them with players who maximize their strengths while covering for their weaknesses. That means adding outside shooting, rim pressure, and rim protection.

Despite much being made about the Raptors lack of on-ball creation heading into the season, they have a top-11 offence despite shooting just 33.5 percent from three (28th in the league), so creating advantages and good shots isn’t actually the Raptors biggest problem offensively — extending and finishing those advantages is. Between Siakam and Barnes’ continued development, those two project to have the ball in their hands a lot going forward, which is why the Raptors may be able to get away with trading one of their other ball-dominant players and instead focus on filling in the gaps around them.

I went long on the Raptors need for three-point shooting here, and it’s obvious with where the league is heading that the Raptors have not done a good enough job prioritizing outside shooting in their roster building. That is even more true if the plan is to build around Siakam and Barnes, who both do the majority of their work in the interior and are both very good playmakers when the defence packs the paint or double-teams them.

However, we also know that the best teams in the league aren’t over-reliant on three-point shooting. And while Siakam and Barnes are both good mid-range shooters, the next best shot after three-pointers is at the rim, where the Raptors take just 33.3 percent of their shots (18th in the league) and convert on just 65.7 percent of them (20th). They would be wise to add players who can not only spot-up off of Siakam and Barnes, but also attack the basket and finish there.

Defence is where the Raptors really need help. They currently have the 18th defense in the league while being one of the worst rim-protecting teams, allowing opposing teams to take 35.3 percent of their shots at the Raptors basket (23rd in the league) while converting 67.5 percent of those shots (19th). Precious Achiuwa playing more and potentially stepping into the starting lineup full time after the trade deadline should help the rim protection numbers, but the Raptors need more of everything to be a good defensive team, from point-of-attack defence to players who can cover ground and smartly rotate to head coach Nick Nurse’s liking to actual bigs who can protect the rim.

Those are the three biggest issues currently plaguing the Raptors. And while they aren’t going to fix them all with one move — in fact, trading any of their core pieces could actually cause them to take an immediate step back in any number of categories — those are the issues the Raptors should be looking to fix if they want to build the best possible team around Siakam and Barnes. Therefore, those are the skill sets they should look to be acquiring as they reshape their roster moving forward. And trading one of their core players at peak value this trade deadline could help them get enough assets to eventually fill some of those holes.

NBA trade deadline: What can Raptors and Pelicans offer each other? – The Athletic

To Pelicans: Anunoby, Khem Birch
To Raptors: Graham, Hayes, Jones, Kira Lewis Jr., 2023, 2025 first-round picks (Pelicans, top-4 protected), 2027 first-round pick (either Bucks or Pelicans, dealer’s choice)

If I’m the Pelicans and I want Anunoby, the team I’m worried about? The Grizzlies. They could offer something like Danny Green (whose contract expires after this season, unlike Graham’s), Ziaire Williams, Santi Aldama and picks and be right there.

Guillory: You make an excellent point about the double-edged sword that comes with having a ton of draft capital going into these sorts of negotiations. Having a ton of picks puts you in a position to be a player whenever guys like Anunoby (or even Durant) become available. But for some teams, it almost comes off as an insult if you aren’t willing to put multiple picks on the table when they know you can afford it.

It’s like going out to dinner with a wealthy person and they offer to split the bill with you at the end. It makes sense, but you still walk away from the table looking at them a little funny.

If I were a team negotiating with the Pelicans, I would try to wrestle as many picks away from them as possible because: a) they can afford it; and b) they already have a ton of young talent on the roster.

But as we mentioned before, the Pelicans are in a bind because of their current salary cap situation. This is a team that’s never paid the luxury tax in the history of the franchise. With three players on the roster making more than $30 million over the next few seasons, it seems almost inevitable this will change within the near future.

The question is, how aggressive will they get with the construction of this team knowing what the bill’s going to look like once dinner is over?

As much as I like Anunoby, and he would be a fantastic fit in New Orleans, he’s only got one guaranteed year left on his current contract. He’ll be looking for a massive upgrade in his annual pay soon. Any team that gives up a talented young player and three first-round picks to acquire him should be ready to throw the bank at him soon after his arrival.

And as we’ve learned in recent years, giving up three or more first-rounders for a guy who doesn’t immediately make your team a title contender usually turns into a disaster (sorry, Timberwolves fans).

How much do you think Anunoby’s next contract will play a factor in some of these negotiations? Giving up three lightly protected firsts might seem a little steep for the Pels considering those circumstances.

Koreen: Each team has its definition of what cap/tax peril means, and the Pelicans, operating in one of the league’s smallest markets with the history you pointed out, will likely try to avoid a tax payment until the last moment. Anunoby isn’t a max player, but you can pencil him in for a starting salary of about $30 million in 2024-25. It’s a factor.

There have been times this season when it’s looked like the Pelicans have the best roster in the league. They also just lost 10 consecutive games. I get why that would give them pause. Save for Denver, each team in the Western Conference has had reason to doubt itself this season.

At some moment, though, that precariousness is the point. The Western Conference is wide open. In Williamson, Ingram, C.J. McCollum and a bunch of productive players on rookie deals, the Pelicans could make a deep run not only this season but for seasons to come. If Murphy, Daniels, Jones and Marshall all hit, that’s great. However, that would still put the Pelicans in a potential tax situation. In the meantime, maybe you miss a window. Things change fast.

The question, then, is for the Pelicans: Is Anunoby the guy who could help keep a contention window open for long enough while also streamlining the team’s salary structure? And if not, what is the plan?

With that said, make your best offer for Anunoby. (Also, if you are interested in any other Raptors, feel free to put an offer out there.)

Guillory: A fair offer for New Orleans would be Jones, Lewis, Graham, Hayes and first-rounders in 2023 and ’25 (with protections) for Anunoby and Birch.

I am a huge Herb Jones guy, so I probably lean “no” if I was the man in charge. But it’s a deal that makes sense for both teams.

Do you think Memphis would put an offer on the table exceeding this one? I’d say they are the team that benefits the most from an Anunoby trade, but their front office has shown how much they value holding on to their picks.

I’d also love to hear your thoughts on Trent and what his value might be in the trade market. That’s one of the names I’ve had circled for weeks as a potential Pels target.

NBA Trade Deadline: Three Toronto Raptors O.G. Anunoby trade proposals – Raptors HQ

O.G. Anunoby for Devonte’ Graham, Jaxson Hayes, Trey Murphy III, and three first round picks

This one is definitely the weakest in terms of player return to Toronto, but Trey Murphy is extremely young, and has shown some serious promise with the Pelicans’ All Stars sitting out the majority of this season due to injury.

Jaxson Hayes and Devonte’ Graham are both expendable pieces for New Orleans that could fit right into Toronto’s rotation, at the exact positions they need, and O.G. would make the Pelicans an absolute problem next to Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Herbert Jones.

That team both offensively and defensively would take a big upgrade with the addition of Anunoby. They already possessed the first seed in the West before long term injuries to both Ingram and Williamson took place. Since then, they have dropped into ninth, but are still only 2.5 games back of the kings for the three-seed.

Raptors’ Ujiri seems to hold trade cards. Will he deal them? | The Star

Maybe the Raptors are less attached to Gary Trent Jr., who is also in the midst of a contract year. But if they don’t retain and re-sign Trent in the off-season, they’d be saying goodbye to one of the best perimeter shooters on a team that is dreadfully short of perimeter shooting.

And if it’s Pascal Siakam that’s leaving in a deal — and that would be unexpected — maybe Ujiri’s attachment to players his organization has drafted and developed into all-stars has been loosened by an undeniable lack of post-championship success, one measly playoff series victory in the wake of 2019’s parade. Or maybe Ujiri is presented with an offer he just can’t refuse. This is a wide-open championship race, where a lot of teams can convince themselves there’s a ring in their future if they can make the right move this week, so drumming up suitors shouldn’t be a problem for a motivated sellers. Which means the conditions could be ripe for Ujiri to extract prime returns.

No pressure, but Ujiri isn’t making eight figures for nothing. At least, many at MLSE hope not. Certainly it was interesting to listen to Toronto head coach Nick Nurse offer his opinion on Irving’s move to Dallas alongside Nets teammate Markieff Morris, which brought back to Brooklyn point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, defensive stopper Dorian Finney-Smith, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick and a couple of second rounders. Nurse assessed the deal as good for both teams, with the Mavericks getting a co-star for MVP candidate Luka Doncic and the Nets extracting a commendable return for Irving, an impending free agent.

“(Brooklyn) got a lot of assets for a guy that wasn’t going to be back, it seemed,” Nurse said. “And I think that’s important to do.”

That last line is the important one to remember, coming from Nurse. Because if you trace the slow devolution of the Raptors from 2019 champions to 2023 strugglers, a big part of the decline has stemmed from the repeated loss of valuable players who not only didn’t re-sign with Toronto as free agents, but who brought little or nothing back in return as they departed.

Kawhi Leonard’s one-and-done Toronto residency was a gamble that paid off handsomely, of course. He was a one-season rental who left behind nothing except the banner. And even if the banner is forever, and you’ll take it every time, it doesn’t mean the Raptors aren’t still essentially paying for it, considering Leonard plays for the Los Angeles Clippers and the chief chip Toronto swapped for him, DeRozan, is having another all-star season in Chicago.

And that doesn’t mean the Raptors aren’t still reeling from losing the likes of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to free agency for nothing in the years since. Not that the Raptors could have easily traded Gasol and Ibaka for huge hauls, given their advanced ages. But when you add their exits to the departure of Kyle Lowry, who at least brought back Precious Achiuwa from Miami in return, you can understand where Nurse is coming from.

Toronto’s championship core was disassembled slowly. And as for the hope that the internal draft-and-development machinery would do its job to replenish the ranks — well, let’s just say the Raptors are on a bit of a cold streak in discovering the once-hidden gems like Siakam and VanVleet that so importantly rounded out the title team.

When a procession of core players leaves a franchise, and very little comes back in the other direction, a coach’s options get slimmer and slimmer. A once-deep roster becomes the thinnest in the league, as measured by a Toronto bench that is playing the fewest minutes in the league this season. And that’s the short answer why, when Nurse looks for viable options on a nightly basis, the coach sees a cautionary tale on the risks of allowing impending free agents to walk.

In other words — ahem … hint, hint — unless there’s a better idea on the table, unless the Raptors are set on keeping VanVleet and Trent in the off-season, which is going to get expensive and offers scarce guarantee of progress, maybe it’s time to cash in some chips before another crop of free agents leaves town without a trace beyond the memories.

Lewenberg: Toronto Raptors could benefit from aggressive post-Kyrie trade market at deadline | TSN

After striking out on Irving, teams looking to address a need at the point guard position like the Lakers, Clippers and Suns could shift their attention to Fred VanVleet. New Orleans and Memphis – reported suitors of O.G. Anunoby and perhaps even Pascal Siakam, if he were made available – might be inclined to increase their offers. Brooklyn has also emerged as an aggressive buyer.

With Irving on the move, rival organizations have inquired into the availability of Kevin Durant, who submitted – and eventually rescinded – his own trade request over the summer. The Raptors were one of the teams to express interest in the future Hall-of-Famer at the time but, according to sources, those discussions didn’t go very far.

Brooklyn insisted that the reigning Rookie of the Year, Scottie Barnes, be included in any offer. Toronto refused. End of discussion. If Durant found his way back on the block and if the two clubs reengaged, all indications are those talks would go similarly. Barnes remains off limits – he’s the only player the Raptors won’t even entertain offers for, according to multiple sources.

Meanwhile, the Nets have more leverage with Durant, who’s signed through 2025-26, than they did with Irving, a free agent after this season. They also don’t have much incentive to bottom out, with Houston owning the rights to most of their picks for the foreseeable future (via the James Harden trade).

At 32-20, fourth in the East, and with Durant nearing his return from an MCL sprain that has sidelined him for the past month, they’ve indicated that their plan is to remain competitive, which means adding talent around KD.

Prior to completing the Irving trade on Monday, the Nets approached Toronto with the possibility of expanding the deal, sources confirmed to TSN, but the belief is that scenario – which would’ve sent VanVleet to Brooklyn in exchange for Dinwiddie and draft capital – never gained much traction.

While the Nets don’t have the quality or quantity of assets that some of those teams out West do, they can shop the 2029 unprotected pick they just received from Dallas, as well as Dinwiddie or Finney-Smith, though neither can be packaged with other players in a deal. They’re expected to be among the league’s most active teams ahead of Thursday’s deadline, so this isn’t the last time the Raptors will hear from them between now and then.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster figure to be very popular over the coming days. For what it’s worth, they’ve been telling interested teams that if they don’t like what’s out there this week or if they’re not ready to make a big move, they’re willing to wait and play out the season. As TSN reported last month, the sense throughout the association has been that Ujiri’s preference is to retool around the core he built and believes in, as opposed to breaking it up and launching a full rebuild.

According to one league source, the Raptors have been reluctant to seriously engage with offers for Siakam and also don’t seem eager to move Anunoby, who’s under contract through next season. Where they might be feeling more urgency is with VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., who are expected to opt for free agency this summer and will be seeking big raises.

More often than not, standing pat or making small tweaks at the deadline and waiting until the off-season to make significant roster changes is a sound strategy. That’s always how Toronto’s front office has approached this time of year. However, if they are entertaining the possibility of pivoting, this could be an opportune moment to do so.

Regardless of the direction the Raptors prefer, one wonders if an active seller’s market and some aggressive offers could force their hand and push them to consider options they may not have considered under different circumstances.

WOLSTAT: With NBA trade market in a frenzy Raptors need to act to set up for the future | Toronto Sun

It’s not where they wanted to be, this is a franchise that has a singular goal: Bringing a second championship to Toronto. They were hoping for a major step forward, not two steps back.

“I think we made a commitment to grow. We’re a young team, a young growing team,” Masai Ujiri said back at media day. “I think in this organization we’ve always wanted to preach patience. We want to win. We’re expecting to win … in terms of our plan, it’s to grow our young players and continue to develop and see (where) that takes us.”

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Unfortunately, (unless you really love the NBA’s lottery), where it’s taken the Raptors is on a voyage to the bottom of the standings. To the point that weighing doing some selling instead of potentially losing solid assets, players and people (like Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr.) for nothing this summer, or in taking advantage of a salivating market for O.G. Anunoby now, vs. In the off-season. The excellent national NBA writer Marc Stein reported Monday Toronto might not yet be willing to talk either Anunoby or Pascal Siakam deals. They love Anunoby. They have since the day they drafted him, but if the market is as loaded as rumoured, it says here they’d be doing a disservice to the franchise hanging on to him. 

Barnes (for obvious reasons), Siakam (he’s a homegrown All-NBA player, and even if you did decide to change things more substantially, the offers will be better in the summer) and Precious Achiuwa (young, talented, under team control for years) should be sticking around. Beyond that, a number of Raptors hold value ranging from sky-high (Anunoby), to high (VanVleet), to moderate or thereabouts (Gary Trent. Jr., Thaddeus Young, Chris Boucher).

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Again, there’s a bevy of buyers out there. A lot more than in most years. And while I wouldn’t term it desperation, there’s a lot of angst to get something done to power up with so many teams believing they are a piece away from being a championship contender. 

Teams like Memphis, New Orleans and the Clippers need to make a big splash. Brooklyn surely isn’t done dealing. Denver could use an upgrade, despite leading the NBA in wins (with Boston). LeBron James and the Lakers want to do something. So does New York and Sacramento and Phoenix and Golden State and Portland.

Is Oklahoma City ready to start selling off some of its assets?

It’s going to be an interesting week!

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