The Toronto Raptors have a gaping hole at the centre position, and with few free agents still available, they will almost certainly look to the trade market to fill that hole. If Myles Turner gets put on the trade block, he could be just what the Raptors need.
Late last night, the Athletic’s Shams Charania broke the news that Serge Ibaka would be headed to the Los Angeles Clippers to reunite with his old pal Kawhi Leonard next season. Not only did the move leave Toronto Raptors fans heartbroken, devoid of one of their favourite players returning, but it left the Raptors with a massive need to fill at the centre position.
After what seems like every notable free agent big man joined the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, and the remainder of the low-risk flyers such as Harry Giles, Bismack Biyombo, and Willy Hernangomez reportedly agreed to deals this morning, the Raptors find themselves in a little bit of a pickle.
Of course, there is still a chance that Marc Gasol comes back. Latest word is that his decision lies between going to the Los Angeles Lakers, and returning to the Raptors. There is also a good chance that Chris Boucher accepts his qualifying offer from the Raptors, and comes back for one more season before hitting unrestricted free agency in 2021. Even if those two dominoes fall in the Raptors favour though, it’s hard to fill 48 minutes at the centre position between a 36-year-old Gasol, a 200-pound Boucher, and Dewan Hernandez.
Of course, the Raptors still have their $9.3M Mid-Level Exception that they can use. According to the New York Times’ Marc Stein, Markieff Morris could be a viable option to take up some of that space. Even in such a scenario where Morris and the Raptors do agree to a deal, he would probably find most of his time coming off the bench, playing backup power forward minutes behind Pascal Siakam.
Hassan Whiteside, Aron Baynes, and DeMarcus Cousins also all remain on the free agent board, however due to their glaring shortcomings on the defensive end, it’s understandable that there have been no rumblings of the Raptors pursuing them. At the same time, it would not be surprising to see the Raptors go after someone like Baynes, but there are certainly better fitted options available on the trade market. Most notably, Myles Turner, of the Indiana Pacers.
Approximately one month ago when the news of Victor Oladipo being unhappy with his situation in Indiana broke, similar stories of Turner wanting out followed, but were overshadowed by his teammates’ headlines. Still, the fact of the matter hasn’t changed. Turner has had a tumultuous career so far with the Pacers, and with Domantas Sabonis having emerged as Indiana’s big man of the future, it’s understandable that Turner may be looking for a bigger and more consistent role elsewhere.
The Raptors remain as one of few teams in the league who desperately need a big man, and Turner would fit perfectly. While he is not an extremely versatile defender, he is one of the premier rim protectors in the league, coming off a season in which he averaged 2.1 blocks per game. Unlike a candidate like Whiteside, Turner also doesn’t sacrifice much on the offensive side of the ball. He’s a great rim-runner on the fastbreak, and and has also knocked down three-pointers at a 35.7% clip throughout his five years in the league. Working with offensive-minded gurus like Nick Nurse and Chris Finch would only elevate Turner’s offensive game further.
With Indiana’s sophomore centre, Goga Bitadze, seemingly ready to come in and play some minutes off the bench, it would make most sense for the Pacers to try and recoup some value from a Turner trade – not only to clear up the locker room turmoil – but to make way for the future development of their roster. Having signed a 4-year, $80 million contract in the summer of 2019 however, the market for a Turner trade may not be as fruitful as his on-court value suggests.
A trade that sends Turner to Toronto, to presumably be the Raptors’ starting centre alongside OG Anunoby and Siakam in the frontcourt, in exchange for Norman Powell and Terence Davis Jr. would make the most sense. Terence Davis Jr. would likely be the biggest asset for the Pacers in this trade, as a 23-year-old heading into his sophomore season, who is coming off an All-Rookie Second Team appearance. Norman Powell – not a redundant asset by any means – would more so be used to help make the salaries of the trade match.
If the Raptors end up striking out on their top priorities remaining in the free agent market, expect them to be active on the trade market. They won’t go into next season asking Hernandez and Boucher to play heavy minutes at centre, nor should they. With players needing to report to their home markets by November 30th, the clock is ticking for the Raptors to figure something out. A deal for Turner would make a lot of sense for both sides.