As the off-season barrels ahead at full steam, the Toronto Raptors have remained steady amongst all of the trade talks and free agency speculation. While multiple reports have surfaced regarding Raptors’ players being on the trading block, no specifics are yet to emerge regarding an actual deal. With writers suggesting that there is a “reasonable chance” at least one of DeRozan, Lowry, Ibaka, or Valančiūnas will be traded before the season begins, and that reportedly nobody on the team’s roster is considered untouchable, now is as good a time as any to review the team’s assets and how they should be valued.
It’s important to remember that this will be almost entirely subjective and very dependant on external factors around the league. In the current NBA, most teams are either looking for star power to topple the Golden State Dynasty, or they’re stockpiling young players in hopes of a brighter, Kevin Durant-less future for the league. With that being said, let’s begin the rankings.
Note: I excluded our G-League and 2-way guys, as they rarely have any value in trades and would likely be used as filler if they were to be dealt at all.
1. OG Anunoby
2018/19 salary: $1,952,760
Trust me, I know it might seem a little crazy to put a largely unproven player entering his sophomore season as our most valuable trade asset. Yes, he was snubbed from this years all-rookie teams and yes, most of us Raptors fans are miles higher on his potential that the rest of the league, but his combination of athleticism and defensive skill are just too good to ignore. While we would receive a larger haul for DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry if they were to be traded, it’s just hard to think there’s much of a market for aging all-stars in the current NBA. To my knowledge, there isn’t one team in the league that is both one mid-level all-star away from title contention and would have the assets to give up for them. Given his cheap contract and immense potential, I believe Anunoby would be our best trade sweetener if we were looking to add a third star to the current core. Regardless, it’s far more likely the Raptors begin to focus on youth and see OG as a major piece to build the future around.
While he didn’t put up big numbers on the box score over his rookie campaign (likely why he didn’t make the all-rookie teams) advanced stats paint Anunoby in a far greater light than most of his peers. Among rookies who played at least 41 games in the 2017-2018 season, he ranked as follows:
- 4th in defensive rating
- 2nd is offensive rating
- 2nd in net rating
- 5th in defensive win-shares
- 8th in steal percentage
He also came in at 4th in EFG%, although it’s important to note he took very few shots. A lengthy, athletic, lockdown defending wing who has shown potential as a spot-up shooter is one of the most valuable assets a team can have these days. Although he may never reach the lofty heights that many Raptors fan envision for him, his current skill set alone gives him one of the highest floors of his rookie class, and he has nowhere to go but up from here.
2. DeMar DeRozan
2018/19 salary: $27,739,975
At 28 years old, the first half of Toronto’s all-star backcourt just finished up what was probably the best regular season of his career to this point. His improved 3-point shooting and playmaking abilities led to a career high in 3PM and assists, and by the majority of advanced metrics it was his most efficient season to date. While all of the positives do help to maintain his value, there are also a number of negative factors that reduce it.
The bitter truth is that DeRozan is simply not a great fit for the modern NBA. While he’s a great player who can certainly still contribute to winning, not many teams are looking for wings that can’t shoot 3’s or play defence very well. His 31.2 3P% is still below league average, and only about 20% of his field goal attempts were from 3 point range, which is far lower than most other elite shooting guards. He is also in a great situation for his playstyle, as Kyle Lowry serves perfectly to cover up his deficiencies. He still has decent value for some teams who are looking to add a second or third star player, but it’s unlikely the Raptors would get the mother lode in any deal for him.
3. Kyle Lowry
2018/19 salary: $31,000,000
Kyle Lowry has long served the Raptors as the yin to DeMar DeRozan’s yang. There is a heavy contrast between their playstyles, as Lowry is the type of player whose impact isn’t always apparent in the box score. He’s a relatively low scoring guard who puts up shots on extremely good efficiency as one of the best 3 point shooters in the NBA. Over the 2017-2018 season, he ranked 3rd in 3 pointers made with 238, and knocked them down at a rate of 39.9%. Lowry also shot 63.1% of his field goal attempts from beyond the 3 point line.
Lowry is a player that analytics love, and he fits wonderfully in the modern NBA. He could also be an ideal third option on a contending team with his highly efficient, low-usage scoring and his defensive ability. Unfortunately, he’s also 32 years old, and that will make it hard for any team to part with major assets for him. The most likely scenario is a team desperate to bring in talent for their franchise player, like the Hornets or Pelicans perhaps, would be willing to part with a few picks or young players for him.
4. Jonas Valančiūnas
2018/19 salary: $16,539,326
Valančiūnas remains one of the Raptors most valuable pieces, and at only 26 years old he has plenty of room to continue growing his skill set. The offensive specialist put up 12 points and 8 rebounds a game in only 22 minutes a game this past season, and even began showing glimpses of an accurate (albeit slow) 3 point shot. He’s not without his faults, as his lack of speed often means he struggles to defend quicker guards on the perimeter.
While he would be able to fetch a decent return, I firmly believe that the Raptors should hold on to Valančiūnas. Given how new head coach Nick Nurse seems to have an affinity for the big man, I think Jonas could be one of the easiest routes forward for the team to improve. Any fan knows how coach Casey was reluctant to utilize Valančiūnas, and getting a bump in minutes and usage could see major increases in his scoring and rebounding. Considering he put up 20/14 per 36 last season, he could be a major impact player when he’s used the right way.
5. Fred VanVleet
2018/19 salary: $8,838,000 (estimate)
The Raptors current sole move this free agency was re-signing VanVleet to a 2 year, $18,000,000 contract. Given his crucial role for the team last season where he finished top 3 in sixth man of the year voting, it was an easy choice for the front office to make the deal. The backup guard was coveted by multiple teams in need of a playmaker to come off the bench, and for good reason. He showed a great well-rounded skill set last season, with solid shooting, passing, and defense. The only knock on his game is that his size and athleticism likely limit his ceiling below an all-star level, but a good backup point guard is still an insanely important role for a team to fill.
6. Jakob Poeltl
2018/19 salary: $2,947,320
The 22-year-old centre showcased quick hands and some borderline elite rim protection this past season. Don’t believe me about the elite part? Among centres who played in at least 41 games last season, Poeltl ranked 8th in DFG% at the rim, and 7th in frequency of such shots defended. Also among all players who played at least 41 games, he ranked 4th overall in FG% on 2 point shots, coming in at 72.5%. He also came 10th overall in the NBA in defensive box plus/minus. As evidenced by talks of Clint Capela possibly getting a max contract, bigs who can protect the rim and convert layups efficiently are at premium currently with how much space 3 point shooting opens up on the floor. A look at Poeltl’s stats combined with his age suggest he could be a very solid starting centre in the future.
7. Pascal Siakam
2018/19 salary: $1,544,951
The lightning-quick forward is one of Toronto’s highest upside players, but there are definite questions about how likely it is that he’ll reach that upside. He’s shown flashes of ability to attack the rim, make plays for his teammates, and play hounding defence. The downside to Siakam, as most of us know, is that he was one of the worst 3 point shooters in the league these past couple years. That certainly hasn’t stopped the team from giving him the green light to shoot them, and for good reason. If he can reach a point of around league average shooting it would be easy to imagine him as a great starting forward. If the shot never does develop, he’s already carved out his role as a great bench defender who can inject a burst of energy into any lineup, which is a valuable piece to be had.
8. Delon Wright
2018/19 salary: $2,536,898
Wright spent the 2017-2018 season proving himself as a great guard to come off of the bench and keep things running smoothly. He showcased solid passing, solid defence, and efficient low-volume scoring. He’s also deceptively old at 26, and he should be currently heading into the prime years of his career. He isn’t a major impact player like Lowry or DeRozan, or a young asset with sky-high potential like Anunoby, but he does have value for teams needing more bench depth. There likely won’t be any deals made where Wright is the main piece involved, but he could be great as a sweetener to throw in.
9. Norman Powell
2018/19 salary: $9,367,200
It pains me to my core to have Powell this low on the list, but his performance this past season coupled with his incoming pay raise have tanked his value a fair amount. His combination of work ethic and athleticism mean that he still does have the potential for improvement, but he’s not likely viewed nearly as favourably among league front offices as he used to be.
Just about every stat imaginable suffered a drop last season compared to his 2016-2017 campaign, whether you’re talking pure box score numbers or advanced metrics. His TS% fell from .552 to .492, a significant 0.060 drop that shows how he struggled to score. His VORP also dropped below zero to -0.2, essentially meaning he preformed worse than the average G-League player would by that standard. One positive to look at is that his defensive metrics showed little to no decrease at all, which supports the eye test from watching him. It’s not too late for him to keep focusing on his defence and continue to rebuild the rest of his game from their.
10. C.J. Miles
2018/19 salary: $8,333,333
Not much to say about Miles compared to the others on this list, he continued to prove that he’s exactly what we thought he was. A 3 point specialist who can provide some spacing off of the bench, he could have a solid role on just about any contending team for a few more years. At 31, nobody is going to be giving up anything major for him, but his salary could be useful for matching a theoretical max contract player as he is still a positive contributor.
11. Serge Ibaka
2018/19 salary: $21,666,667
Rounding out the list is our former hope for a true “championship level” third option. Given how I’ve included him as our least valuable trade asset on the team, it’s clear he hasn’t quite been filling that role for us. The good news is that by most standards he still remains a positively contributing player for the Raptors. The bad news is that those contributions are not nearly worth $21,000,000 a year. He still showed some decent rim protection and a silky midrange jumper, but it seems both of those skills are declining steadily. His shooting has become more and more inconsistent, and his BLK% has been steadily declining since his 2011-2012 season.
Assuming his level of play does not improve from what we saw last season, his contract has become a negative asset at this point. It’s not likely the Raptors would find a deal where giving up assets to dump his contract would benefit the team, as we would probably still remain over the cap regardless. Given this fact, the most likely scenario will require a lot of patience from fans regarding Ibaka these next couple years.