The Toronto Raptors are heading into a potential crossroads this season. What are the odds they trade away assets before the trade deadline?
One season on from winning their first-ever NBA championship, the Toronto Raptors find themselves in a potentially compromising position this year. No longer are they favourites for the title after the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Instead, they can be viewed in many different scenarios. They still have one of the most talented squads in the Eastern Conference but without that superstar talent, that could prove moot. They could well challenge for homecourt advantage but with a number of teams in the East improving, they could well drop down the pecking order.
That would leave the team with a dilemma. The Raptors don’t have many players on the books after this season, with the likes of Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam all potential free agents. Even OG Anunoby, who has a seemingly guaranteed team-option for next season, could potentially come off the books – though that remains very unlikely.
If the Toronto Raptors get off to an undesirable start, the season could look pretty bleak and determine their status as buyers or sellers come the trade deadline. If they are the latter, then they could well look to move the likes of Lowry, Gasol, and Ibaka while they can. If there isn’t much to play for, then it would be wise to claim some value from players that could help contending teams before the deadline.
What are the odds that could happen?
How good are the Toronto Raptors?
Sorry to begin with such a vague, and open-ended question, but just how good can the Raptors be this season?
That remains up in the air, just like it does with every team this year. It’s safe to say, though, that there will be a noticeable drop-off from last season, purely because there’s no more Kawhi Leonard, a game-changing, season-altering talent.
That’s okay, though. The Toronto Raptors still have one of the best rosters in the NBA, stacked with impressive defensive talent and an elite point guard in the form of Kyle Lowry – a five-time NBA All-Star. The floor is relatively high, but the ceiling is still a little uncertain. How will Pascal Siakam operate as a primary scorer, and can the Raptors get any offensive production out of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson?
Those remain questions with pending answers. There’s hope that the coaching staff can strike gold once again, but of course, no one is impervious to a miss on a shot in the dark – not even the Toronto Raptors.
There’s definitely potential for this team to win 50-plus games for the fifth season in a row, without question. A championship core remains, and Siakam looks primed to take another jump, while OG Anunoby looks to reprise his role as the teams starting small forward after his sophomore year was plagued by injuries and a demotion to the bench.
If he finds his footing, watch out. This team could be scary-good on defense.
What could go wrong?
Well, don’t expect a Cleveland Cavaliers shaped nosedive from the Raptors, that’s for sure. This team will be vying for a playoff spot all season long, it just depends on the seed.
The Eastern Conference is set to take a leap this year. The Philadelphia 76ers may well be the best team in the NBA with arrivals Al Horford and Josh Richardson set to join a young and exciting core. Horford, paired with Joel Embiid, makes for the best frontcourt line-up in the league, bar none.
Their closest contenders in the East will be last year’s Eastern Conference runners-up, the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that’ll be itching to prove to be more than just a regular-season team this year – they have the talent to do so.
After those two teams, there’s another layer of teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, and Indiana Pacers. Somewhere, in there, the Raptors lie. The problem is, though, whereabouts in that pack do they rank. The Nets won’t have Kevin Durant this season but are set to be an exciting team, but still should cause problems in the East.
In truth, all five of those teams could be better than the Raptors, which could easily mean a slide is on the cards. If the Raptors get to February and are sitting at .500, would it be fair to assume that the wheels had come off and that expectations would be low heading into the playoffs, especially as the seventh or eighth seed in the Conference?
If there’s no room to grow and the right offer comes around, the Raptors could well look to trade away their assets and get set for the future. Right or wrong, the likes of Kyle Lowry could still command a price, such is the talent of one of the best point guards in the NBA.
What are the odds?
To put it bluntly, pretty low. Maybe that’s down to a little bias but this Raptors team still looks to be as sharp as a tac. Even with the losses of Green and Leonard proving to cast doubt over the trajectory of the team, there’s still hope within the organization – and the fan base – that the team can contend for home-court come April and May. It would be incredulous to suggest that the team could outright miss out on the playoffs.
Not only do the Raptors have the talent, they still have the fit. This team is set up the way Nick Nurse wants it to be, even if the offense might stutter in early proceedings before finding its feet. On the other end, the Raptors could be special.
Final odds: 20-percent
Call it faith, or blind following, but the Raptors won’t be in a position where they consider trading away assets in five months time. Champions for a reason, right?