It has been exactly 29 days since the NBA’s trade deadline, which saw a remarkably high 16 transactions on the final day of eligibility.
Three of those trades came from the Toronto Raptors, who shook up their roster, despite perhaps having the biggest non-deal of the day when they chose to keep Kyle Lowry. There was heavy speculation the franchise’s icon would be on the move, but ultimately this did not materialize.
Still, the Raptors kept themselves busy, trading three players in total to three different teams: Norman Powell was shipped to the Portland Trail Blazers, Terence Davis II was dealt to the Sacramento Kings, and Matt Thomas was moved to the Utah Jazz.
The moves were a shift to create flexibility both now and later – the team opened up an extra roster spot with the moves, in addition to the one they already had. This in turn allowed them to shore up the big man position, bringing in both Khem Birch and Freddie Gillespie, before waiving Patrick McCaw in order to convert Yuta Watanabe’s contract to a standard NBA deal.
In addition to this, it opened up additional salary cap space in the off-season by removing the cap holds of Powell, Davis and Thomas; the only cap hold they retain now is Gary Trent Jr.’s, and opens up approximately 15 million dollars in cap space to begin the off-season. This could be crucial if the Raptors move quickly, as they could fill depth before re-signing Trent and Lowry.
So just how are those former Raptors faring for their new teams, and was the payoff ultimately worth it for the transacting teams? We dive into each individual trade below:
Norman Powell for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood
When we initially graded the trade the day of the deadline, there was one big question posed on each side. For the Raptors, the question was whether Gary Trent Jr. could be more valuable than a draft pick, and whether he will be worth the contract Toronto will have to pay him in the off-season.
To this point, Trent has been inconsistent at times, but he’s also proven that he is very capable of being an impact player, and that there is plenty of room to grow with him.
Trent has already set two new career-highs and hit a game-winning shot since arriving on the scene, and given that he’s only 22, there is still room for improvement. Shooting aside, he’s finding ways to score inside as well and has shown a decent dribble-drive game, thriving in Nick Nurse’s offence. Trent appears to have all the tools to really become a great all-around scorer.
Another area Trent has really impressed early on is his defensive instincts. He’s proven that he is capable of fitting in Nurse’s defensive schemes as a strong on-ball defender, upping his steals per game to 2.0 versus 1.4 in the beginning of the year. He is generally not hurting you on that end, which is important especially as he develops into an impact offensive player.
The question still stands of what Trent will command as a restricted free agent this off-season. He is going to be one of the better wings on the market, and while the Raptors have first right of refusal, it could make things dicey if a team in need of a scoring wing brings a huge offer sheet to the table. At this point, I would expect him to command approximately 15 to 17 million annually, which is still cheaper than what Powell would cost, but not by much. That being said, Trent is six years younger than Powell, and the purpose of the trade was to bet on his upside.
As for Hood, he hasn’t really gotten into much game action, averaging 15.7 minutes over ten games and scoring just 5.7 points per game. His value will be told in the off-season, as his 10.8 million dollar non-guaranteed contract will be valuable as the Raptors look to absorb a contract and hopefully bolster either the centre position or bench depth.
As for the big question surrounding Portland: was trading for Norman Powell really the right all-in move to make in order to win this season?
Just months away from entering unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career, going to a team with aspirations of a deep playoff run seemed promising for Powell to earn the big contract he absolutely deserves.
The Blazers are only 6-8 with Powell in the lineup (though it’s worth noting Damian Lillard missed three games), and he is shooting nearly ten full percentage points lower from three than he did with Toronto. Powell is still scoring efficiently inside, but the long distance shots have not fallen.
The blame shouldn’t be put on Norm for Portland’s poor play, however. He’s been playing his role well, averaging 17.6 points per game and providing an additional scoring punch behind Lillard and CJ McCollum. Unfortunately, the Blazers’ weaknesses as a team are still prevalent, even with swapping Trent for Powell. They rank 29th in the league in defensive rating, and this does not bode well for the playoffs. It still feels like spending two of their better trade assets and not masking any of their holes could prove to be a costly mistake if the goal is to win this year.
An interesting theory I have that may not necessarily come to fruition, but I’m going to say it anyway: I believe it is possible that Portland’s plan may be to re-sign Powell in the off-season and trade CJ McCollum for the aforementioned depth pieces to round out the team.
If the Blazers believe in Powell’s ability to replace McCollum at a fraction of the cost (he’s younger as well), then perhaps this is the way they can make their roster workable and salvage the rest of Damian Lillard’s prime. It would be a cold and calculated move by Neil Olshey to move McCollum, but it would certainly make the Blazers much more interesting if they became a sound defensive team around Lillard and Powell’s potent scoring abilities.
Verdict: TBD in the off-season
Matt Thomas for Golden State’s 2021 2nd Round Pick
Thomas has surprisingly gone cold since leaving Tampa’s warm climate and heading for Salt Lake City. In nine games played, he is averaging just 2.6 points on 30.3 percent shooting, and a paltry 14.3 percent shooting from long range. For someone who was seemingly automatic at times from the three point line, and on a team such as Utah that takes a league-high 43.2 three pointers a game, it seemed like a natural fit. Unfortunately, Thomas’ shot did not follow him on the plane, and as a result he’s played only 7.8 minutes per game while analytically being a big minus on the floor overall with a net rating of minus-10.9.
The Raptors knew Thomas would likely not be on the roster next season, and being able to extract value of any kind out of an undrafted free agent means they did well. This pick is currently projected to be the 45th overall selection, and given the Raptors’ knack for finding depth pretty much anywhere, they should be able to find someone who slips out of the early second round, or find a new project for the Raptors 905 to work on. Utah paid a low cost to begin with, but unfortunately it just hasn’t panned out to this point.
Verdict: Raptors win the trade
Terence Davis II for Memphis’ 2021 2nd Round Pick
Terence Davis II has been as Davis-y as ever since arriving in Sacramento. Davis has posted an atrocious net rating of minus-9.7, mostly attributed to his misgivings on the defensive end, indicating he makes the Kings significantly worse when he plays. He’s continued to be woefully inconsistent offensively, flat out atrocious defensively, already said some head-scratching things in the media, all the while not being reliable enough for any stretch of time to warrant extended minutes.
To put that into context, here are the point totals from each of his fourteen games with the Kings:
6, 14, 6, 8, 27, 3, 1, 0, 5, 12, 3, 23, 6, 0.
The cost was again low, but it felt like an unnecessary flier for Sacramento at the time, who also traded two second-round picks for guard Delon Wright from the Detroit Pistons. This is not even withstanding the fact that they have young studs De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton in front of them.
The same point applied in the Thomas trade can be used here; extracting value of any kind from someone who was brought in as an undrafted free agent should be considered a win. Memphis’ pick currently projects to be 46th, meaning the Raptors would have back-to-back picks, and this actually gives them flexibility as they could trade up if there is someone in particular they want.
Davis was also unlikely to remain with the team, but unlike Thomas, there is nothing he does particularly well that stands out. Given how overwhelmingly negative he’s been on the court, replacing him with absolutely nothing has been addition by subtraction.
Verdict: Raptors Win the Trade