The perceived plan for the Toronto Raptors this season is to finish as low as possible and build for the future, which means trading big contracts and hoping to get a high as possible draft pick. So far, things haven’t been going according to plan, so some more trading might be coming their way.
They’ve already gotten rid of the Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay contracts. However, since Gay was moved to the Sacramento Kings, the Raptors have been doing quite well and in the awful Eastern conference, this pace of winning should land them a playoff spot.
So what to do? There are two options if the Raptors are intent on not making the playoffs for the first time since 2008 – deliberate tanking, which means giving the head coach an order to start benching his best players. Suddenly giving Amir Johnson only 20 minutes a night, and the same goes for DeMar DeRozan and others.
The other option is trading players. Rudy Gay was a bad contract, but also a bad influence on the team, so he might have been a wise decision to offload regardless of the financial consequences. However, there are no mega contracts left on the team.
The two names usually mentioned with upcoming trades are Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas. Why them? Even though DeRozan has a $9.5 million per season deal that carries on until 2017, the Raptors would like to keep him for the time being. Amir Johnson is another player they’re happy with paying $7 million to for now. Others, like John Salmons (signed till 2015), Landry Fields (2015), Chuck Hayers (2015) and Steve Novak (2016) are simply impossible to move for the time being.
However, Lowry is averaging 15.7 points and 7.2 assists per game. He’s not an elite point guard, but he is on an expiring contract ($6.2 million) which means there’s a very good chance quite a few teams will be interested in him closer to the trade deadline.
Valanciunas is a different case. The young Lithuanian hasn’t improved this season as some had hoped, but that doesn’t mean the Raptors are giving up on him. He has a contract until 2015, and then a team option for another season worth $4.6 million. If in the next month or so he doesn’t show a bit more than his 10.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, which means bigger games and a lot better defense, he’ll be a very easy player to get a trade for.