Why the Raptors should Stand Pat at the Trade Deadline
While he hasn’t made a move yet, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has been in the middle of many of the trade rumours that have been circulating before Thurday’s trade deadline. It’s no surprise to hear that the Raptors are looking to make a deal seeing as they are the second best team in the East despite the DeMarre Carroll-sized hole at small forward and giving big minutes to two bench-caliber power forwards. While most Raptors fans are waiting with anticipation for a trade that will lock Toronto’s spot in the Eastern Conference Final, I offer a somewhat unpopular opinion. Do nothing.
The main reason that I wouldn’t make a move is because I don’t see a deal to be made that doesn’t negatively affect the team’s spacing and chemistry. Many trade rumours have linked the Raptors to Thaddeus Young, Brook Lopez and Markieff Morris. While all three are better players than Luis Scola or Patrick Patterson, I would shy away from trading for any of them.
As it stands, a typical Raptors lineup will feature 3 three point shooting threats at a time. Lowry, Ross and a combination of Patterson and Scola are effective enough from deep to create space for DeRozan and Valanciunas in the paint. A lot of the Raptors’ success this season can be attributed to DeRozan’s rim attacking prowess. This season DeMar has attacked the paint more than ever with 22.4% of his shots coming within 3 feet of the hoop, 21.1% coming from 3 to 10 feet and has set a career high with a free throw attempt rate of .470.
Although Patterson has been a bit of a letdown, only shooting .348 from deep, any trade they make involving him will be a downgrade in their shooting. Young is only a .217 from three, Markieff is .289 and Lopez is 0 for 7 on the season. Any Raptors lineup featuring these three will make for a more congested paint and give DeRozan less room to operate.
That being said if the Raptors don’t make a move it will be a bit of a letdown. They are one of the few teams that have the assets to make a splash. They have this year’s Knicks first rounder, their own first rounder and next season’s lottery protected Clippers pick that they could deal. They could pair one of these picks with James Johnson’s expiring contract or a combination of Delon Wright or Norman Powell.
One scenario that was thrown out by Bobby Marks of the Vertical was the Raptors potentially trading for Al Horford. This isn’t a rumour so much as an idea thrown around, but I like it more than any of the other trade suggestions I’ve heard. Horford will obviously cost more than a Thaddeus Young, but his .340 three point percent, flexibility to play the 4 and the 5, and the acquisition of his bird rights–meaning the Raptors can re-sign him and Demar by going over the cap–makes Horford a much more attractive target.
Masai Ujiri has given me no reason to question his managerial talents so far. The Bargnani trade alone makes him the best GM the Raptors have ever had. But I just pray he doesn’t value name recognition more than the team he has currently assembled. In my opinion the best deadline deal will be when Carroll hopefully returns from injury in time for the playoffs. This team has awesome chemistry and is playing a better brand of basketball than the team that got swept by the Wizards last season.