By Cole Parkinson
Westwind Weekly News
The Toronto Raptors have had a dreadful season. When looking at the past five years or so, the Raps have been one of the upper echelon of teams in the Eastern Conference and the wheels have fallen off a bit in the 2022-23 season. While that isn’t a great thing, obviously, I still don’t see it as a terrible situation either.
They have young players (Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr., Precious Achiuwa) that make up their core, but decisions loom large as the deadline draws nearer.
It certainly feels like Fred VanVleet is on the block and while he has had a pretty lacklustre year so far, teams would obviously want to add a point guard who has pedigree not only in the regular season but also in the playoffs. The Raps may not get a great return considering his down season, but Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri won’t just give him away either. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, so we’ll see what route they take — but if it was me, I’d be looking to move him. On the other hand though, if a good deal doesn’t materialize, I’d rather keep him.
Right now, I think the Raptors would like to get into the draft lottery to gain a top-level prospect. And I don’t blame them considering how beneficial top-tier players are in the NBA. Barnes is having a sophomore slump, but I think he will be a great player for Toronto in the long run. He may not be one of those superstars, but if you get another top-five draft pick to pair with him, that’s a good start. Most mock drafts have C/PF Victor Wembanyama, PG Scoot Henderson, PG/SG Amen Thompson, SG/SF Ausar Thompson, and PG/SG Nick Smith Jr. as the top five, and the Raps would certainly be happy with one of those gutys.
But who else will be on the roster next season? Do the Raptors move VanVleet, Siakam, Anunoby, or Trent Jr.? They’re certainly looking at all avenues and from reports, and it sounds like the front office is asking the world for any of their players. And why wouldn’t you at this point? Are teams going to pay over the moon for any of these players though? Probably not, but the front office wants to create a bidding war heading into the deadline. If the Raps are truly selling off, you may as well do it right and try to not only maximize your return on players being traded, but you also need to add younger players. They may not be bonafide number one guys, but as long as you’re adding useful pieces, that’s a good start to building another contender.
With the deadline coming on Feb. 9, the front office has tons of work to do over the next two weeks. I think the Raptors have to be the most interesting team heading into the deadline considering they have many pieces that could be traded and no one truly knows what approach they’re going to take. This could be a huge moment for the next three to five years for the Raptors and while the memory of the 2019 championship is still fresh, no fan wants to be stuck in a long rebuild. So while the team may not be super exciting heading down the stretch, I bet the lead-up to the deadline will be must-watch.