Trading Siakam to Warriors makes some sense, but it may not be a perfect fit

Blake Murphy joins Will Lou and Alex Wong on The Raptors Show to discuss the potential return package the Toronto Raptors might get if the team decided to trade Pascal Siakam to the Golden State Warriors.

SAN FRANCISCO — As long as it’s not your life and career involved, or you’re one of the people whose job is *actually* doing it, connecting the dots in the NBA at this time of year is kind of harmless fun. 

Imagine how this player might fit on that team or that team’s player might fit on yours, rev up an online trade machine and viola. 

Who says no, as they say. 

As an example: here we are, just about a month from the NBA trade deadline and the Toronto Raptors are in Northern California, having just played in Sacramento Friday and with a practice day Saturday before meeting the Golden State Warriors on Sunday evening, all part of a six-game, nine-day west coast road trip. 

In the hours before the Raptors lost a hard-fought game to the Kings, reports were circulating – as they do – that the two teams were “ramping up talks” on a deal centred around Pascal Siakam

Huh? It seemed a bit unlikely.

According to league sources, the Kings are not going to trade talented second-year forward Keegan Murray and the Kings – already on the hook for full max deals for Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox – aren’t interested in paying Siakam a full max contract which means any chances of retaining the pending free agent are nil.

Only moments afterwards – even as the Raptors’ two-time all-NBA forward was going through his pre-game warm-up on the Golden 1 Center floor under the watchful eye of team president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster – came more reports that the “talks” were over, and that the Kings were pulling out.  

OK. Boo.

But if trying to figure out if or where Siakam may be traded is your thing, take heart!

Because roughly as the Raptors were on their team bus heading west for the 90-minute drive to San Francisco late Friday night, news filtered out that Warriors guard Chris Paul had broken his hand and will require surgery.

And then shortly after the Raptors finished practice on the Chase Center floor Saturday, more news: Golden State big man Draymond Green was being reinstated after serving a 12-game suspension for hitting Suns centre Jusuf Nurkic in the face, the latest in a long string of disciplinary infractions incurred by Green in recent years. 

This is on top of a report on rising third-year forward Jonathan Kuminga had “lost faith” in Warriors head coach Steve Kerr after Kuminga didn’t play the final 18 minutes in a loss to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. 

Would the combination of the Warriors sub-.500 record, Paul’s long-term injury, Green’s return – and the subsequent rotations pressures that would create – along with Kuminga’s apparent frustration be the catalyst for a deal? 

And since the Warriors have been linked to Siakam since, oh, the summer of 2021, Toronto’s apparent interest in finding more age-appropriate playmates for franchise cornerstone Scottie Barnes, would the Raptors emerge as their trade partner? 

Well, the dots can be made to connect. 

Add Paul’s expiring $30.8 million contract to the $6 million Kuminga is on the books for this year and you come up with an almost perfect salary match for the $37.8 million Siakam is earning in the last year of his deal. The Raptors come to a buyout agreement with Paul, he gets waived, and the Hall-of-Fame-bound veteran guard gets to choose his preferred destination as a late-season free agent when his hand heals up. 

Everyone is happy, right? 

Except the dots don’t always connect that way, even though the Raptors – like several other teams as the trade deadline rounds into view – will be paying close attention to determine if all the recent tumult with the Warriors will move up their timeline.  

Still, according to multiple sources, the Warriors are loathe to trade Kuminga, who is seen as a potential star who can help them win now and in the future, the rare piece on the roster who can help Golden State both support Steph Curry in the present and transition to a successful post-Curry future, should it ever come. 

And a not insignificant detail is that Kuminga is said to have a very close relationship with Warriors owner Joe Lacob who has historically been reluctant to part with any of the young talent that represents the Warriors’ so-called ‘two-timelines’ strategy of meshing a group of young draftees with their established championship core. 

Trading James Wiseman last season was a tough sell, and the former No. 2-overall pick had only ever struggled with the Warriors. Moving on from Kuminga, taken seventh overall in 2021, just as he seems poised to harness his undeniable talent into a breakout season, is virtually a no-go.

It’s worth pointing out that 24 hours after the reports about Kuminga’s frustration surfaced, he had only good things to say about his relationship Kerr and played a season-high 36 minutes in Golden States’ win over Detroit on Friday night. 

And, as always has to be kept in mind in any speculation involving Siakam, as a pending free agent any return the Raptors might be able to command in a deal would be hugely impacted by the perceived likelihood of him re-signing with whatever team he would hypothetically be traded to. 

And while from a distance the Warriors might check a lot of boxes – a championship pedigree and a chance to play with Steph Curry, for starters – the detail is in the fine print. As one league source pointed out, the Warriors as we’ve come to know them over the past decade aren’t likely to be the Warriors of the next half decade. The chief architect of Golden State’s dynasty, Bob Myers, jumped ship this past summer rather than face the hard choices that might be coming – moving on from under-achieving veteran Klay Thompson or perhaps even having to make a call on suddenly embattled head coach Steve Kerr and whatever other decisions that might be required as proud dynasty fades with age. 

Would Siakam want to sign on for the final years of his prime there, with so much uncertainty looming? 

Would the Warriors – who have paid a staggering $340 million in luxury taxes the past two seasons and are projected to pay out another $186.8 million by the conclusion of 2023-24 – want to sign a then 30-year-old Siakam to a max deal?  Or would hanging to a younger, more affordable and homegrown Kuminga be a prudent path to an uncertain future?

The closer you get to the situation, the dots get harder to connect. 

Which isn’t to say that Ujiri and Webster won’t be making a point of bumping into Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy in the halls of Chase Center on Sunday. 

Neither team is in a position to rule out any possibility. 

The Raptors would undoubtedly consider Kuminga a premium return if there was a deal to be had centred around Siakam.

But if Kuminga was not on the table, it would be a mistake to assume the Raptors would be in a rush to take on the remaining three years and $82 million that Andrew Wiggins has on his contract, given the positional and contractual overlap with newly acquired RJ Barrett. Paying nearly $50 million a season to a pair of GTA small forwards is probably not prudent cap management. 

But Golden State has some other interesting young pieces and contracts that could be pulled together in a deal. 

“They can stack some pieces,” acknowledged one source.

Stack some pieces, add a draft pick, and who knows? 

Moses Moody, a six-foot-six shooting guard who has also struggled to find consistent minutes in Kerr’s rotation while showing some considerable promise in the spurts that he has since being 14th overall in 2021 would in some ways be a more seamless positional fit alongside Barnes, and newly young starters Immanuel Quickley along with the aforementioned Barrett. 

And hey, who did Barnes happen to play high school basketball with at Montverde Academy? The same Moses Moody. 

Worth pointing out, as long as we’re connecting dots, that is.

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