Raptors Rumors: Gary Trent Jr, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Nick Nurse
HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Sportsnet Raptors analyst and host Blake Murphy report on trade talks involving Gary Trent Jr, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, and the futures of Pascal Siakam and Nick Nurse on the latest HoopsHype podcast episode.
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1:20 Gary Trent Jr.’s trade market
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Scotto: Toronto is the team that I think holds a lot of the cards for the trade deadline and is the biggest wild card going into the deadline… I wrote this closer to the G League Showcase, but it still stands true now according to NBA executives I’ve spoken to around the league, they think Gary Trent Jr. still remains the top trade candidate on the Raptors. Trent just turned 24 years old, and in Toronto, he’s been consistent, averaging 18 or 19 points the past two seasons. He has an $18.8 million player option for next season. Given his age and the market, most executives I talk to think he can get around that, if not a little bit more, if he decided to opt out. They’re operating as if they think he will. He’s one of the top free agents projected to be available on our HoopsHype rankings.
Murphy: He’s kind of emblematic of the entire situation in Toronto, where they have a handful of guys that are good and are on decent contracts that a lot of good teams around the league would want. The tough part with Gary Trent Jr – beyond the fact that I’d say barring injury, it’s a certainty he’ll opt out after the season – is that the Raptors are in a bit of a cap situation with him and Fred VanVleet both able and likely to opt out this summer. If they couldn’t come to terms on a new deal with either of those guys, there’s the potential they lost them and can’t replace them. The Raptors don’t project to be a big cap space team even without those two guys.
What you’re looking at here for the Raptors is, do you deal Trent at the trade deadline? It’s like the Norman Powell for Trent trade over again, where it’s let’s get someone who’s younger, a little less expensive, or has a little more team control.
Trent is a lot younger than Powell was at that point, and I think this team thinks he could continue to grow with them. The hard part comes, and my colleague Michael Grange had a piece on Trent where he said there’s mutual interest with both sides in re-signing, but what that didn’t get into is at what price? If Trent is looking at the Jordan Poole deal and the Tyler Herro deal, and he thinks the Anfernee Simons deal is on the low end for him, that gets a little tough. Then, you’re talking about a Raptors team that’s below .500 right now and would be locking into probably being a tax team pretty quickly. That’s why the situation is a little complicated. I personally tend to think he’s still the likeliest to be dealt from the core here because he’s due a big raise.
They’re not only trying to see what the value is for Trent out there but also trying to gauge what the next contract looks like for him. If you don’t trade him at the deadline, does he have you over a barrel this summer where it’s Trent at $25 million a year, or he leaves, and you don’t have ample cap space to replace him? He’s the example this year of why Bird Rights are so valuable.
Scotto: There are certainly people around the league that think he (Trent) can eclipse that $20 million mark. I’m not sure if he gets to the $25 million mark. If he does, it’s based on age. He’s 24. For Toronto, you’ve got big decisions to make because, down the line, you’ve got to look at OG Anunoby, who’s eventually going to be eligible for an extension, Fred VanVleet’s free agency coming up, and Pascal Siakam has been the best player on your team overall and you’re going to have to pay him relatively soon as well. Scottie Barnes remains untouchable as their youngest core piece.
12:50 OG Anunoby’s trade market
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Scotto: There’s been some speculation from a few rival executives that the Memphis Grizzlies could make a run at OG Anunoby, given their surplus of draft picks in the years to come… There was also a report out there, I believe from the Toronto Star, that one mystery team previously offered three first-round picks for Anunoby… I don’t see Toronto getting a better package than that for him.
Murphy: He’s still very young at 25, so maybe there’s some upside there. Show me the lineup in the league that he can’t fit in. With some of the metrics out there, he consistently ranks as one of, if not the most, versatile defender in the NBA. He can guard a ball-dominant guard in James Harden and then switch off and guard Joel Embiid in the same possession. He finishes at the rim at almost a 70 percent clip and is a career 37 percent three-point shooter.
For this year and next when he has that $18.6 million salary, and that’s before he gets to a player option in 2024-25. In terms of production per dollar and the ability to have him on your roster for the next 18 months, it’s hard to see many guys who are as plug-and-play as he is.
The first-round picks report, the thing with that is when you dig into it, that could mean a lot of things. If that’s three picks from teams at the top of the standings, that’s different than the 2029 Lakers pick unprotected or a 2023 pick from the Wizards.
I know Masai (Ujiri) and OG have a pretty strong relationship. I think why you’re hearing things like that (three first-round picks offer) out there at this stage is the Raptors aren’t in a spot where anyone can be untouchable, but they want to be blown away if they’re going to consider trading Anunoby.
Say they make a move at this trade deadline and then decide in the offseason they really need to go more aggressively and trade more pieces away. OG is going to have tremendous trade value in the offseason again. He’d have tremendous value at next year’s trade deadline since his Bird Rights would go with him in any trade, so you have a chance to extend or re-sign him. I think it would take quite a haul for Toronto to move OG.
More: Possible trade fits for OG Anunoby
18:25 Fred VanVleet’s future
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Scotto: We’ve got the locker room leader, Fred VanVleet, coming up on a player option, which by all accounts, from anyone you talk to around the league, is expected to decline that player option and enter unrestricted free agency.
Regarding VanVleet’s extension talks before the season, I was told that the four-year, $114 million extension offer was never going to be high enough since VanVleet, who’s one of the top free agents entering the market this summer, considered himself somewhere in the $30-35 million average annual range, which is similar to Jrue Holiday’s average annual salary (this season), for example.
There seemed to certainly be an understanding with Toronto and Fred at the time that it was just a logistical thing. The possibility of him being in Toronto long-term was certainly in play.
Murphy: I think it’s somewhere in between the Trent and Anunoby situation where they’ve got to look at offers because, like Trent, VanVleet can potentially leave for nothing. You don’t have a great means of replacing him. I think they value him internally at a higher level than Trent. Part of that is through the negatives this year, he’s one of the key forces in trying to keep that locker room together.
If he was to be dealt, that would put my eyes on what Pascal Siakam’s situation is this summer because the parallel timelines the Raptors are trying to run are predicated on Fred and Pascal, not just Pascal, no matter how good he is. There would be a domino to that. They’re going to have to get a young player they can plug in as someone who’s going to be a part of this team this year, next year, and maybe the year after, and pick equity for VanVleet.
If they don’t trade him, there’s always the option to sign and trade him in the offseason. I think there would be more paths to that with VanVleet than Trent because it’s harder to get the cap space open to signing VanVleet outright if he wants to go to a winning situation.
The Orlando thing has been interesting because that’s an obvious fit on paper. Jeff Weltman was around the Raptors not all that long ago, so there’s probably a familiarity there. The Phoenix thing keeps coming up. They were one of the teams that were really in on him in 2018.
26:50 Pascal Siakam’s future
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Scotto: Pascal Siakam is leading the league in minutes per game for the second straight season and averaging career-highs in points (25) and assists (6.3). From talking to executives around the league, they don’t believe he’s going to be traded, unless you overpay and blow Toronto away with a crazy offer.
Murphy: I don’t think so. I think that would be an offseason thing they’d have to explore… I think that’s an easier move in the offseason when more teams have cap flexibility. I also think there’s an element if you’re acquiring Siakam, and if he makes All-NBA this year, he’s then eligible for that super-max extension with the Raptors.
28:15 Nick Nurse’s future
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Scotto: Nick Nurse won a championship his first year as coach and the Coach of the Year award in his second season, but it’s been an underwhelming fifth season for him and the Raptors this season. Is there any possibility he’s not back next season?
Murphy: I’d be pretty surprised if they let him go. There are always those scenarios where a glamor market team comes around and offers him a huge raise, and the Raptors say we’ll play ball, and the Raptors say kick us back a second-round pick or a first-round pick in the future. I think he has one year left on his deal after this season. He’s been, without much argument, the most successful coach in Raptors’ history. We’re not far removed from him being a championship coach and Coach of the Year.
If you plan on being back in the playoffs next year, you know he’s a good playoff coach, and when the wins are coming, he can get that buy-in. It’s just been a tough year in all regards there. Does he get an extension this offseason, and does it make it awkward for him to head into next season as a lame-duck coach? That’s a tougher one. I don’t think they’d cut ties with him unless it’s one of those scenarios where there’s one year left on his deal, and another team comes calling, and you can get a pick for him, and it’s a win-win all around.
You can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) and Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) on Twitter.