Toronto Raptors Before Trade Deadline: Will Canada’s First Domino Fall?

The Toronto Raptors are 4.5 games separating them from a direct playoff berth in the East just under halfway through the regular season. The season is at a crossroads at the start of a six-game home streak. In the previous year, there was a positive turnaround. The situation is particularly interesting because the Canadians’ actions before the trade deadline could be a first domino for the entire league.

At first glance, the situation seems comparable to about a year ago: In 2021, the Raptors opened with six wins in a row and thus managed to turn a bumpy season, which was also marked by injuries, on a positive note. Suddenly there was a positive balance, more runs of 8-0 before and 13-4 after the All-Star break followed and at the end of the regular season the Canadians were even in 6th place in the East.

Raptors: “It can’t get any worse”

“Unacceptable” was the effort that his men showed at 106:119, in which struggling grizzlies gained self-confidence, dominated the zone (70:50 points) and, in addition to Nurse, a frustrated Siakam also picked up a technical foul. “We have to focus and seriously think about playing harder. It can’t get any worse.” After their own free throws, the opponent could have scored with a simple pass on the other side – plays that, according to Nurse, “may happen maybe once in seven years”.

“Blow it up territory” called Kevin O’Connor (The Ringer) in December the situation in which Toronto finds itself. As indicators, he gave the small gap to the dregs of the league (only five teams are currently worse), the hopelessness of chasing playoff success and the fact that there are veterans who could achieve lucrative value on the trade market . Nothing changed about that. According to O’Connor, this does not have to be a bad thing, but rather a framework with talented players is available with which a radical upheaval along the lines of the Sixers could be prevented – retooling instead of rebuilding.

A first date that could be important for such a retooling would be February 9th – the trade deadline. Then it will become clear to what extent Raptors President Masai Ujiri and General Manager Bobby Webster have confidence in the current roster and the direction they are taking. “It’s just about winning another championship here. Nobody cares what 2019 was like. It’s not about the play-in or the playoffs. What’s the point of that? We have to put ourselves in the best possible position for that.”Ujiri contributed a year ago Yahoo SportsCanada clear. If he backs up these words, there could actually be movement in the roster in the coming weeks.

how wants to know, the rest of the league is also eagerly awaiting to know what’s going on up north. A source close to the Raptors is quoted as saying: “Toronto is where the first domino falls. What happens there will impact teams across the league: Dallas, Phoenix, Toronto, Los Angeles, Atlanta – it’s not about deals with one specific team, but people are waiting to see what the Raptors are doing before taking action.” Problem: There is currently no trend whatsoever as to what the decision-makers in Toronto are planning. The situation is described as “very nebulous”.

Raptors: What will become of VanVleet, Siakam and Trent Jr.?

In particular, the “Just keep it up” scenario seems to have little chance of success. If the Raptors, who apart from the 2024 second-round pick still have all their draft capital, somehow fight their way into the play-in tournament and then possibly go on an early summer break a game later, they won’t be at the top if in one the probably stronger draft classes of the past years the best players are distributed.

And your own squad? There are with Fred VanVleet (player option over 22.8 million) and Gary Trent Jr. (player option over 18.8 million) two players who have their destiny for the coming season in their own hands and certainly before the trade deadline will attract interest. Trent, who started 21 of his 31 appearances, was able to confirm his strong previous season with a good 18 points, only the three is a little weaker at almost 36 percent. VanVleet (18.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, but only 32.4 percent threes) has its value in addition to the sporting component as an emotional leader who leads the way. Undrafted, he earned a contract in Toronto in 2016 and has not played for any other team.

Combined with a period of sporting failure, a trade by the crowd favorite could upset fans. At first glance, the squad seems quite homogeneous – a rising star in his prime (Pascal Siakam, 29 years old), a hopeful talent (Scottie Barnes), who was expected to do better in his second year, a variable winger (OG Anunoby) – it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be enough to make a difference in the Deep East. So why not sell Siakam for extremely high value to avoid wasting its Prime on an average team?

Questions about the long-term future of VanVleet and Trent Jr., Siakam’s role in a team that somehow doesn’t work, or that of Nurse, who will start his last year of contract in the fall, will certainly be discussed thoroughly internally in the coming weeks. With almost all top performers and important rotation players, the contract expires in 2024 at the latest (with the exception of Barnes), so that there is flexibility on the one hand, but also uncertainty on the other. Is a contract for VanVleet (soon to be 29) in the five-digit million range the desired goal?

Nurse’s clear words, which he deliberately addressed to his players after internal consultation, should be a final sign of the hour that has come in Toronto. Does the team react positively and create at least a small boost like last year? Or does the plain text of the coach fizzle out in Otto Porter. Jr. has been missing a key signing since mid-November due to a mysterious toe injury that could have provided stability? It’s a fine line the franchise is walking – at least some question marks should be gone by early February.

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