The Toronto Raptors face an arduous off-season in which the front office will have plenty of questions to address, and not much in the way of clear answers.
After their second consecutive second-round sweep — the latest coming on the heels of the best regular season in franchise history — the sky appears to be falling in Raptorland.
The team already axed head coach Dwane Casey, and there could be plenty more changes ahead this summer. But what makes this such a trying off-season for Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster & Co. is that it could prove quite difficult to deal players from the current core while getting valuable players, draft picks and contracts back in return.
On Monday, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News published an article in which he spoke to an annonymous NBA front office executive from another team who weighed in on the potential trade value of star Raptors DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka.
The anonymous exec wasn’t exactly shy in their evaluations.
Of Ibaka, the executive said: “It’s a big red flag how much he has declined in the last couple of years … It is not impossible to find a taker for him because he can shoot, but you’re going to have to swallow hard and take back some money you don’t want on the other end.”
Ibaka is set to earn roughly $22 million in each of the next two seasons. He was a non-factor in the playoffs, and, save for a solid showing in the first game of the opening round, went on to average seven points and five boards for the rest of the post-season.
The executive didn’t see a real trade market for a back-to-the-basket centre like Jonas Valanciunas, but said that there may be teams willing to take a look at Kyle Lowry. The 32-year-old is set to earn a team-high $33 million over the next two years, but the relatively short duration of his contract could warrant a team taking a chance on him, although the returns will be under-value.
The most interesting comments came with regards to Raptors star player and leading scorer DeMar DeRozan.
“They’re going to want a draft pick in a package for him, and there aren’t a lot of teams that are going to include possibly good picks or young players for a guy who is kind of a square peg in today’s league. It’s not saying DeRozan doesn’t have value, it’s just that you’d have to adjust your whole offense for him. You can’t just stick him on the Pelicans, for example, because he wouldn’t pair up with Anthony Davis well. There’s too many obstacles.”
DeRozan, who was good in the first round but struggled again against the Cavaliers and was infamously benched during the entire fourth quarter of the Raptors’ Game 3 loss in Cleveland, remains Toronto’s most valuable trade chip. But, as outlined, dealing DeRozan is no easy task.
What’s more, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which the team deals their all-star guard and improves as a result. If the club feels they’ve reached their ceiling and seek significant changes entering next season, then it’s an option they’ll explore closely.
Whether or not the Raptors find a deal, let alone if they pull the trigger or not, will be the most significant move that will shift both the short- and long-term outlook of the team. It’s going to be a busy, important summer in Toronto.