We’re three weeks away from the NBA’s trading deadline, which means it’s time for the twice-a-year trade levels column.
This is different from the previous six. Sure, the Toronto Raptors could make a move to improve their chances of a Play-In Championship rank, but their status as a potential seller with most of the team’s starters puts them in an enviable position. We’ll explore that more next week, but the conditions are ripe for them to let the market play as sellers. Any hypothetical big board of realistic trading targets on the deadline will have four of the beginners in the top 12 or so. And there are a lot more buyers than sellers – at least there should be.
To remind you: I have placed each player in a group corresponding to the scenario in which they are most likely to be traded. The groups are not ranked according to the likelihood of each scenario occurring. However, within each group, players listed at the top are more likely to be traded, and players listed at the bottom are less likely to move. (Include all salary details for this season.)
Previous Raptors Commercial Class Releases: 1.0 (Trade Deadline 2020) | 2.0 (2020 Offseason) | 3.0 (Deadline 2021) | 4.0 (2021 offseason) | 5.0 (Trade Deadline 2021) | 6.0 (2022 offseason)
More Birds of Prey Trade Deadline content: The Sellers Part One | The Sellers Part Two | The Fred Van Fleet Mystery
Scottie Barnes (three years, $25.79 million, team option for 2024-25, extension eligible in 2024, potential restricted free agent in 2025)
The best thing about the last 10 or so games of a disappointing Raptors season is watching Scotty Barnes once again impact games in so many ways. Whether it’s as a sorter, passer or physical presence in the paint, Barnes is back to showing his potential in every game. Barnes averages 17.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game over his last 10 games, heading into Thursday’s contest in Minnesota. He was probably the best Raptor during this stretch.
I “almost” got stuck there as an acknowledgment of how strange this season has been from a team perspective. The Raptors should have succumbed to the point of having absolutely nothing off the table. That being said, coming up with a reasonable trade for Barnes is almost impossible. The most likely outcome is that the Raptors offer him a max-value extension two summers from now, and the Barnes Raptor stays for a very long time.
Why do we give it up?
Precious Achiwa (2 years, $7.22 million remaining, extension eligible in 2023, RFA/UFA in 2024)
Christian Koloko (three years, $5.24 million remaining, 2024-25 not secured, potential RFA in 2025)
Uchiwa has yet to show he can be a major league starter, but his stellar play in the second half last year and since returning from an ankle injury should keep him the Raptors for longer. Raptors president Masai Ujiri said he still sees Toronto as a “team of the future,” and Uchiwa, with his formidable defensive skills and improved offensive decision-making, could be a useful part of that.
More importantly, with the Raptors potentially in winning position now at this deadline, they shouldn’t be in a position where they have to add sweetener to make a deal. After Barnes, Achiuwa is the best player the Raptors still have on a rookie deal. I’d bet on an extension getting done in the off-season, if only because the Birds of Prey are currently in an uncertain state, but that could change.
Koloko, who has provided above-average utility as a second-round pick, is unlikely to move due to his relatively low salary.
We’d rather not, but give us your best offer and we’ll think about it
OG Anunoby (three years, $55.93 million remaining, includes player option for 2024-25)
Pascal Siakam (2 years, $73.34 million remaining)
Both Raptors forwards are eligible for an extension this season. However, since Anunoby won’t qualify for a supermax, the Raptors could offer him a starting salary of around $22.4 million, with a maximum of 8 percent increments. If he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer, some team will offer him at least $30 million in first-year salary, and that’s conservative. If Siakam makes the All-NBA this year, he’ll be eligible for a starting salary of 35 percent of the salary cap for his 30 percent starting salary.
In any case, Anunoby is likely to move at the deadline for several reasons, primarily: It’s easier to incorporate into the middle attack, and it does half of what Siakam does. Barring something unexpected, Siakam’s value shouldn’t change dramatically between now and summer, because part of the appeal of acquiring him will be the ability to realistically extend him. If you were worried that the Raptors might win a lot of games with him, it would be impossible for Toronto to “catch up” the likes of San Antonio, Detroit, Houston, and Charlotte in the lottery standings. Raptors are likely to fall somewhere in the 5-9 range. Obviously it pays off from a season’s perspective to get the best possible lottery position, but that’s more about the floor than the ceiling.
I digress. I bet Siakam or Anunobi will move in on Deadline, but the latter is more realistic than the former.
It is likely that one of these two will be an animatronic
Gary Trent Jr. (2 years, $35.84 million remaining, including player option for 2023-24)
Fred VanVleet (2 years, $44.08 million left, including player option for 2023-24)
Yes, the salary cap is going up, and it will continue to do so when his new TV deal comes up for renewal. (The current contract expires after the 2024-25 season.) It will be difficult to award a contract this coming season which will be a huge handicap for the team in the long term.
Still, the Raptors draft will only be $18 million or so under the luxury tax threshold next season, assuming they allow Thaddeus Young access to free agency — which doesn’t explain Trent Jr.’s possible withdrawal. And VanVleet and signing for higher salaries, not including Raptors likely to bring high or mid-level lottery pick
After a few years of developmental struggles, the Raptors need more shareholders with lighter contracts. Trading Trent Jr. Or VanVleet the easiest way to get those parts. I’ve already written about the complexity of VanVleet’s situation; Because of this, I have Trent as the player most likely to move, although he may be closer than some might think.
Helpful veterans who can be attractive to competitors
Thaddeus Young (2 years, $16.1M remaining, only $1M guaranteed for 2023-24)
Chris Boucher (three years, $35.25 million remaining)
None of these players will bring in a first round player on their own. However, I could see multiple teams looking at Young or Boucher and thinking they could help them in a deep role this year. Boucher’s contract doesn’t look great for the first half of the season, so I would say he’s less likely to transfer than Young, who could be considered on a semi-expired contract.
The Raptors shouldn’t feel pressure to transfer from any of these players, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to move them for second-round draft picks in addition to matching salaries.
Make the math work
Khem Birch (2 years, $13.65 million remaining)
Otto Porter Jr. (2 years, $12.3 million remaining, including player option for 2023-24)
Malachi Flynn (2 years, $6.02 million remaining, eligible extension this season, RFA/UFA in 2024)
Juancho Hernangomez (1 year remaining, $1.84 million)
Dalano Banton (1 year, $1.56 million remaining, RFA/UFA in 2023)
Honestly, I saw no reason not to rank these players by salary. I think the Raptors will be open to letting the Pantone experiment continue for another year or two, and an injured Porter could still be a meaningful contributor at a good price next year. None of these players are going to get in the way of the Raptors running a bigger chunk of the business.
Cold hard cash (up to $6.36 million)
Their second-round picks (2023, 2025-29)
Their selections from the first round (2023-29)
For a proper future piece, I can see the Raptors picking it up. I don’t see that as a likely scenario, but it’s more than zero. Also, cash can sharpen the wheels of commerce. How do you feel about your monthly cable payments to help Masai Ujiri?
(Photo: Mark Blanch/Getty Images)