Raptors Mailbag: Mid-season trade targets

If Raptors management is looking to make a mid-season deal, they'll likely aim to fill a hole up front. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Rumours of DeMar DeRozan’s return may have been exaggerated somewhat, but there’s still plenty to talk about where the Toronto Raptors are concerned.

To get involved in future Twitter mailbags, fire your queries to me @Eric__Smith.

@RaheemPortis what are the chances the Raptors make a move before the deadline? Would they even need to?

News broke today that, contrary to earlier reports, DeMar DeRozan won’t suit up on Thursday against Charlotte. When he does make it back, though, his return could be akin to the Raptors making a mid-season trade. DeRozan has appeared in only 16 games this season; sidelined for the last 18. Toronto has gone 11-7 in his absence (they went 13-3 with him). Reintroducing a dynamic scorer and one of the league-leaders in free-throw attempts should be a big lift to Dwane Casey’s lineup.

However, with due respect to DeRozan, his presence likely won’t have a major impact on the Raptors’ defence overall. He can help, but I wouldn’t expect massive turnaround. And that leads to a bigger question: What is Toronto’s biggest need and/or greatest deficiency right now?

@KGCKGC5 Do you think we will try to get a powerhouse defender and rebounder before the deadline?

@HolyDirkness when Raps are even at 100% health .. We lack a post presence at the PF slot. Is David West attainable if not who is ideal?

@KCBillard Will Raps try & move expiring deals for David West or Jeff Green? Is Ken Faried attainable from Denver for two 1st rnd picks?

‏@TEKJohnson what trade if any would make 2 solidify the roster. don’t have to be specific.

If Masai Ujiri and his management team are seeking out a deal, I think they’ll be looking at their frontcourt specifically. Father time seems to be slowing down 10-year vet Amir Johnson this season. He still works his tail off and is, in many senses, the heart and soul of the Raptors on many nights. But he simply doesn’t have the bounce that he once did (hey, nor do I!).

Jonas Valanciunas is progressing well (I still say he’s a future All Star), but he’s not a shot-blocker or rim-protector. His rebounding and scoring are fine (and only going to improve), but there’s a void left by Toronto’s bigs. And it’s not filled when you factor in the second unit—with guys like Tyler Hansbrough, Chuck Hayes or Patrick Patterson—either.

If I were in Ujiri’s shoes, I’d be looking at teams outside of the playoff picture. Are those clubs looking to auction off assets? Denver’s Kenneth Faried was mentioned above by one reader, and the Nuggets are a team worth talking to. Timofey Mozgov is intriguing, and Ujiri’s ties to Denver could bring added value.

Other names from non-playoff teams that could fill the gap in Toronto’s lineup: Kyle O’Quinn (Orlando), Reggie Evans (Sacramento), Rudy Gobert (Utah) and Greg Monroe (Detroit).

The Raptors have a number of expiring contracts they could dangle in a deal and if they truly believe their window of opportunity is as open as it will ever be, they may be willing to trade future draft picks as well.

@i_am_joey will the team send bruno again to the dleague?

@jon_ku 1h1 how important is it for the raps to have own d-leauge affiliate seeing the fort wayne time didn’t seem to do much for Bruno

I don’t believe it’s that important. I think the greater issue is the D-League itself. I’m not sure how you can truly change this, but the league is flawed, in my opinion, by the fact that too many players are out to “get theirs”—to score a ton and stand out as individuals. The hope of getting noticed and called up to the NBA is too enticing. Thus, unselfish play and defence are often thrown by the wayside.

Caboclo may be better served staying with the big club; learning from Casey and his coaching staff and being around the pro game on a day-to-day basis.

There could be some benefits in having a team run by the Raptors specifically (and there were rumblings—years ago—about Toronto bringing an affiliate to the Golden Horseshoe); they could dictate terms and ‘control’ development more easily. But I don’t believe it’s a prerequisite.

‏@michaelcusden Q1: Could Masai fix the Maple Leafs? Q2: Who do you see them making a deal with (if any)? Q3: Who is the best team in the West?

1) Zing!
2) See above.
3) Golden State—and not just because they have the best record right now. The Warriors are showing they can be as deadly defensively as they are on the attack. That kind of balance is dangerous in the post-season, and their home crowd is the loudest in the league. The Warriors have a ton going for them!

@zubairkaisar who’s role will be reduced the most when DeMar comes back?

@thomas_mooney1 how do you expect DeMar to be brought back into the lineup?

When DeRozan rejoins the lineup, it will mean he’s healthy. So outside of conditioning I’m not worrying about his minutes. I’d probably ease him in for a game or two at most, but he’s still my starter and I’m not walking on eggshells with him.

I would imagine DeRozan’s return will bump Landry Fields back to the depth of the bench. And in an attempt to still find time for Lou Williams, Greivis Vasquez and even James Johnson, it may be a while before Fields garners significant playing time. Overall, Williams and Vasquez will probably see their minutes reduced slightly. But Casey has a lot of options in his rotation, so I wouldn’t expect anything drastic to unfold. If anything, DeRozan’s return could have a positive impact on Kyle Lowry. Casey can now use Williams or Vasquez at the point—not just off the ball—in order to spell Lowry for longer stretches.

@wilcox1232 ideal scenario since are getting a top 4 seed who would you want to play in round 1?

@uptowngiz If the Raps end up losing a first round 4v5 match up, with the Cavs for example, would that be considered a failure?

We haven’t even hit the halfway point of the season yet, so playoff speculation is premature, to say the least. But I won’t back down on what I have said since training camp: Toronto must keep pushing the ball forward; keep momentum going. I think a first-round exit, regardless of matchup, would be a disappointment. For a franchise on the rise and turning heads around the league—bolstered by a fan-base that has gained a ton of well-deserved attention—I think a second round appearance is important. Improving upon last year’s game seven loss to the Nets is important.

@sonnybuckets Top 5 favourite Hoops tweeters?

There is Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski and then there’s everyone else.

@lowe_jeff With Andrew Wiggins developing well do you see Canada being able to compete for a medal at the olympics even if it’s only 2020

Absolutely. And it’s not just Wiggins. A core that is includes the likes of Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Kelly Olynyk should be able to compete for a medal and finally return Canada to some international basketball glory.