Amid a deadline week that was fuller of roster-altering possibilities than the Southbound TTC Subway carts at 8:00am on a Wednesday, the Toronto Raptors made one defining move – to further bolster their frontcourt depth and take another stroke into the depths end of their all-6’9″ philosophy.
In Bobby Webster’s Thursday afternoon media availability, he attested to the fact that his hotline was queued up until the 3:00pm bell rung, stating that there were a couple of stressful moments just minutes before crossing the finish line. Ultimately, none of the negotiations curtained within those final moments came to avail, and the world was left with one material bit of information: Thaddeus Young was a Raptor, and alas, Goran Dragic was not.
The full trade details are as follows:
San Antonio Spurs receive: Goran Dragic, Toronto Raptors 2022 first-round pick (protected 1-14 in 2022; 1-13 in 2023; and conveying into two second-rounders thereafter)
Toronto Raptors receive: Thaddeus Young, Drew Eubanks, Detroit Pistons 2022 second-round pick
Giving up a first-round pick to acquire a 33-year-old forward on a $14.1M expiring contract isn’t sexy no matter which way you spin the narrative. That said, given that the Pistons currently hold the worst record in the NBA, it’s safe to assume that the second-round pick which the Raptors acquired will fall in the 31-33 range – only a few picks back from where the Raptors first-round selection projects to end up. If the season ended today, the Raptors would have dropped from drafting 20th to 31st, hence, the value loss is more representative of a pick-swap than outright losing a first-round selection.
Webster confirmed that this was the trade-off which he envisioned.
“You slide a little bit in the draft and you pick up a player that you think can help you. I think historically, it’s an area in the draft where we’ve operated in the past, and realistically we don’t see a ton of incremental change between those picks.”
Especially in a draft class that is pegged by the gurus to be relatively shallow, it’s difficult to deem Webster’s assessment invalid. As an added benefit, drafting in the first-round forces a team to offer their rookie two years of guaranteed salary, plus an additional two years of rookie scale money that is under the team’s discretion. Conversely, drafting in the second round provides the Raptors with the right to sign their rookie, but doesn’t force them to. In essence, moving their pick back gives the Raptors marginally more flexibility moving forward.
Ultimately, that’s what this year’s deadline was all about: flexibility. For those who aren’t wooed by the addition of Thaddeus Young – I would say that there’s no reason to be. He may wind up being the sixth best player on this year’s squad – simply because of the inconsistent play from Precious Achiuwa and Chris Boucher, as well as the incessant injuries that crop up to Khem Birch – but the move wasn’t made entirely from the perspective of maximizing a short-term competitive window.
The Raptors have made it clear that their goal is to win another championship, and that every trade they make; every player they draft; and every signing they complete will be with that objective in the driver’s seat. Given that Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., have player options after next season, the Raptors prioritized cap sheet cleanliness for the summer of 2023. This is the exact reason why they opted not to insert themselves into the Norman Powell sweepstakes, to take a flyer on Evan Fournier, or even to make a push for Derrick White – someone who would have inarguably fit the Raptors roster construction and timelines better than Young, but whose contract would have created hindering inflexibilities down the road.
Contrarily, there was a group of players with longer term money whom the Raptors were looking to add, only because their deals were non-guaranteed past the 2022-2023 season. With this type of deal structure, any such player would have provided the Raptors with an additional rotation piece this year, and would have allowed them to play in the same ball park next February that they did this week: selling a player on an expiring contract at the price of a couple useful assets.
According to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange, the specimen in this family of interest were Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari of the Atlanta Hawks, Harrison Barnes of the Sacramento Kings, Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons, Terrence Ross of the Orlando Magic, and Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers. On Sportsnet 590’s The Fan Morning Show today with Blake Murphy, JD Bunkis, and AIlish Forfar, Webster admitted that the Raptors were dangling multiple future firsts in their negotiations on several of these fronts, but that their target’s prices continually increased to the point where making a deal was outside the Raptors stratosphere of sacrificial will.
Per Grange, there were also a plethora of other frameworks discussed during the day, including one that would have sent a Goran Dragic-centric package to the Dallas Mavericks for Kristaps Porzingis. In order to match salaries in such a trade would have been difficult, requiring Birch, Boucher, and other small contracts to be included. Given the term of Porzingis’ contract and his injury history, it’s unlikely that these negotiations ever entered the deal zone.
There was also a three-team deal between the Raptors, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers that would have landed Dragic in New York, Cam Reddish and Alec Burks in Los Angeles, and Nerlens Noel and Talen Horton-Tucker in Toronto, however these discussions broke down because of the Lakers’ luxury tax concerns.
Ultimately, the analysis of the lone trade the Raptors swung is simple: they move back a few slots in the 2022 draft – which Webster fairly views as an immaterial price to pay for trimming $3.5M from the Raptors books this season and adding a player to their bench who can provide a reliable 20-plus minutes per game. After waiving Eubanks, the Raptors stand $3.8M under the luxury tax threshold, and they will have more money to spend on chasing players in the buyout market, should they become available before the March 1st deadline. Alternatively, they can convert Justin Champagnie’s two-way deal into a full roster spot so that he can be eligible to compete in the playoffs.
All the while, the Raptors will also enter this offseason with Thaddeus Young’s bird rights. In the twilight phase of his career, it’s unlikely that he will be seeking any large sum of money that could yield the Raptors assets in return via a sign-and-trade, but if he chooses to stay north of the border, the Raptors will be able to go over the soft cap to retain his services. For odds when whether the Raptors will retain Young this summer, as well as information about US open betting, visit Oddsninja. Young’s first opportunity to make an impact with his new team should come tomorrow night against the Nuggets, barring any complications, as he’ll look to help Toronto seize their ninth straight victory.