The Toronto Raptors are one trade away from being a team you’d hate to play against in the playoffs.
When it comes to making a splash, the Toronto Raptors have been pretty active over the past few years. Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster haven’t been afraid to move a few pieces if it meant improving the team.
Obviously the biggest trade in Raptors history is the Kawhi Leonard deal. The team was at a cross-roads with the DeMar DeRozan Era and needed to shake things up. Instead of going back to the well and hoping that DeRozan could get them over the edge, they shipped him off for Leonard, which changed the franchise forever.
The Leonard deal isn’t the only trade that Raptors management should be praised for. The acquisition of Marc Gasol in exchange for C.J. Miles, Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and a 2024 second-round pick was a pretty huge package to give up. That package was worth every penny, as Gasol provided great minutes and was a leader on a Raptors team that won the NBA Championship.
In addition to the Gasol trade, there’s another small trade that I always admired by the Raptors. The acquisition of P.J. Tucker at the 2016-17 Trade Deadline was a great move because the team understood that they couldn’t play Valanciunas in crunch time. They liked his size and ability to score, but when it came to playing tight defense in the playoffs, he was going to get exposed.
This similarity reminds me a lot of the team today.
One Trade the Raptors Need to Make
The Toronto Raptors started the season poorly but over the past few games have came back to life. One of the reasons towards their success has been the emergence of Chris Boucher. He’s been able to provide high-quality minutes off the bench and has not only been able to score, but has defended tremendously.
Here’s the one issue, though. Boucher isn’t a rookie and nobody expected this type of production. He’s a 28-year-old, who’s been in the NBA for four seasons and is finally getting an opportunity. It’s possible that he keeps these statistics up for the remainder of the season, but it’s also just as likely that he regresses.
Boucher has done a great job at replacing starting centre Aaron Baynes (who’s been a trainwreck), but we’re not at a point where Boucher can become the starting centre. The Raptors need his performance off the bench, because without it, they don’t have a ton of scoring options.
So, in order to continue to maximize Boucher’s hot start, the team needs to trade Aaron Baynes. However, they’ll have to wait a few weeks to do so.
“Free agents signed this offseason cannot be traded any earlier than Feb 6; Those who are-resigned via Early or Full Bird have to wait until March 3 to be traded.” (via: hoopsrumors.com)
Baynes currently has a 112 Defensive Rating (DEFRTG) and 83 Offensive Rating (OFFRTG). Excuse me, while I puke. Comparatively, Boucher has a 104 DEFRTG and 145 OFFRTG. Essentially, for every 100 possessions they’re on the court, Baynes team will be losing 112-83, while Boucher’s team will be winning 145-104.
I know it’s only been a handful of games, but that discrepancy is wild. When Boucher is on the floor, the Raptors have a huge advantage, compared to when they play Baynes. The Raptors need to immediately upgrade Baynes position.
If the Raptors still had Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, we wouldn’t be having these discussions. Don’t get wrong, Gasol was barely playable against the Boston Celtics last post-season, but his basketball IQ and offensive potential was worth keeping him around. Baynes has been a negative plus-minus player in nine of the 11 games he’s played this year.
In a perfect world, Rudy Gobert would be an unbelievable fit to this Raptors roster, but he just signed a super-max contract and probably isn’t going anywhere. Toronto doesn’t need to trade for a superstar centre, but instead needs a reliable player who can contribute a little offensively and isn’t going to cost them defensively.
In my opinion, one player that the Raptors should go after is Clint Capela. The 26-year-old currently plays on the Atlanta Hawks, but spent most of his time with the Houston Rockets and would be a great addition to Toronto’s line-up.
His defensive ability stands out first and foremost. However, he also has an offensive side averaging 16.9 points per game in his career. Not only that, but Capela currently has a 103 OFFRTG and 102.9 DEFRTG which is a huge upgrade on Baynes. He makes $18M per season but if the Raptors were able to package Norman Powell ($10.865M), Baynes ($6.975M) and a few draft picks, it may be enough to get Capela to Toronto.
Acquiring Capela is probably a pipe-dream but if the Toronto Raptors wants to make the playoffs and then compete for a championship, getting a player like him should be their number-one priority. Even in limited minutes, the team cannot continue to play Baynes because every second he’s on the court, it decreases the Raptors chances at winning.