The Raptors have had their best run in team history having made the playoffs 5 years in a row. In this time the Raptors made it to the Conference Finals just once and have been eliminated by LeBron three years in a row. So what can the Raptors do? Can they survive?
Let’s make one this perfectly clear; a part of their survival depends on what LeBron does this offseason. But even if he goes to the West, best case scenario they face him in the NBA Finals (if not the Warriors). It’s adamantly clear that Raptors don’t have anyone that can match up with LeBron. Clearly, the Warriors can match up on both ends and in the East, the Celtics and possibly the Sixers can throw people at him defensively.
Next season the Raptors have 131M against their cap. And expected to be 28M over the cap. This clearly puts them in a bind. They can’t bring in pieces around their stars unless they move pieces.
Next season Lowry makes 31M, DeRozan 27.7, Ibaka 21.6, Valanciunas 16.5, Powell 9.3, and Miles 8.3. And they also own their 1st round pick to Brooklyn. So what can they do?
“When you gotta go, you gotta go”
I guess they could make a run at Kawhi? But they don’t really have the pieces. Straight up for Ibaka works salary wise, but the Spurs don’t need another big. The Raptors could get Leonard and Danny Green for DeRozan, Anunoby, and Powell (may need to take on a salary when Powell’s extension kicks in).
If that were the case, the Toronto can throw out Lowry, Green, Leonard, Ibaka, and Jonas. Is that good enough to win the East? Probably not…
What about free agency? Well. If they can get someone to take Ibaka and Lowry, (basically only the Lakers could afford) they could make a run at Durant, Boogie, Paul. If not them; Favors, Brook Lopez, Bradley, Jabari ? I guess but would any of them (outside those big 3) be better than Ibaka and Lowry? No.
Here’s a few trades they could make…
Batum and Monk for DeRozan.
Would Charlotte do this? Probably. Charlotte could run out Kemba, DeRozan, MKG, Williams, and Howard. Not terrible. That’s a playoff team.
Would the Raptors? Probably not. DeRozan is better than Batum. And Monk’s year was worse than expected. But it could help make up for not having a 1st round pick this year. Having OG and Monk would be two nice guys that can be role players in their 2nd years.
Here’s a trade I DO love. DeRozan to Min for Wiggins.
Wiggins isn’t the scorer that DeRozan is, but Wiggins is 23, and still has upside. He may not be the perennial All-Star that people thought, but he’ll be in the conversation each year. Bringing in Wiggins won’t make the Raptors better next year. But they’ll give him someone to extend the streak of competitiveness. And after that… Anything can happen.
Imagine the Wolves, Teague, Butler, DeRozan, Taj, KAT. What an exciting team!
Now lets say they do trade Wiggins for DeRozan. How about they reach out the the Lakers and trade Ball and a future 1 for Lowry. This would be a play to draw LeBron to LA. Add a better player next to him and get rid of the Ball sideshow.
Next call the Pacers and offer Ibaka for Thad Young. I’m not sure if this would be accepted by the Pacers, but the trade would work money wise. And Thad would be on an expiring contract. Ibaka would add a nice dynamic for the Pacers, but they may prefer the versatility of Thad, and then the open cap space.
Now the Raptors have Ball, Wiggins, Powell, Young, and Jonas.
Not very good. But Wiggins is 23, Ball is 20, Powell is 25 and OG is 20. Plus you’d get the Lakers future 1st, which if they get LeBron won’t be very good. Let’s not forget, most importantly, it will open up cap space. You’d be over 20M under the cap next year and you’d have room for a max guy before you need to give Ball his extension. In the meantime shop Thad, an affordable expiring, and try selling Jonas for anything!
I guess it’s better than doing nothing. The worst place to be in the NBA is a playoff team that has no chance of winning.