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Unwrapping the Raptors-Warriors trade rumours involving Pascal Siakam

Photo credit: NBA media (2019)

Just because the Toronto Raptors are out of the playoffs doesn’t mean they’re going to sit out of the NBA’s drama, too.

As the NBA’s draft combine is underway in Chicago, teams are taking stock of the new crop of prospects set to make their way to the league, and naturally, trade speculation is beginning to swirl. One of the teams reportedly looking to be active in making a move using their pick to go for an immediate upgrade is the Golden State Warriors, who hold the seventh and fourteenth picks in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Per The Athletic’s John Hollinger, one name in particular the Golden State Warriors could pursue: Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors.

Now, just to be clear, this absolutely does not mean the Raptors are shopping Siakam, or are even necessarily open to the idea of trading him. After all, Siakam is only one year removed from being an All-Star and being named to the All-NBA Second Team, and is 27 years old with three years left on his contract. He’s made strides in each of his five seasons with the Raptors, and to this point, the Raptors have viewed him as one of the franchise’s core pieces as the team transitions into a new era from the Kyle Lowry-led teams.

Amidst this new trade speculation, there has been one universal trade package that has been discussed, as it is practically the only way the Warriors can simultaneously match salary while making an enticing enough offer to the Raptors that would make them consider parting with Siakam.

All that said, let’s dive into the proposed trade, its implications, and whether or not it makes sense for the Raptors to be entertaining these rumored trade talks:

The Proposed Trade

James Wiseman has had a disappointing, yet encouraging rookie season
USA Today (2021)

Pascal Siakam to Golden State for James Wiseman, Andrew Wiggins, & Pick #7 in the 2021 NBA Draft

In the most commonly discussed scenario, Siakam would be the main centerpiece for the Warriors, while the Raptors would be acquiring second-year big man James Wiseman, and a mid-lottery pick to complement their fourth overall pick in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft.

Wiseman, a 20-year old from Nashville, Tennessee, has played very limited time over the past two years, and would be a bit of a project due to his inexperience.

Wiseman was selected with the second overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Warriors, but played only 39 games this past season due to a meniscus injury. He displayed the flashes that prompted the Warriors to draft him so high in that action, however, averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the field and 32 percent from three. He shows promise as a mobile big on the offensive end who can play in the mid-range, while also serving as a rim protector on the defensive end.

In addition to this, Andrew Wiggins, a 26 year-old shooting guard from Vaughan, Ontario, would be coming home to play for the team he grew up idolizing. Wiggins, the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, has had a fairly solid NBA career to date, and is coming off his most well-rounded season in his first year with Golden State, where he posted career highs in field goal and three point percentages to increase his efficiency, and was much improved defensively.

Perhaps the biggest implication of all is that in this hypothetical deal, the Raptors would have two lottery picks in the upcoming draft and a chance to drastically alter their team in one fell swoop.

Paired with the fourth overall pick, it would give the Raptors two young talents that can potentially form an exciting new core in the wake of Siakam’s depature. It certainly gives the Raptors a much different look as a team overall, and it would signal a big shift in direction for the franchise.

What Does It Mean?

Raptors All-Star Pascal Siakam tells us why he loves playing in Toronto
Toronto Raptors Media (2020)

For the Warriors, it means they want to make one last title run with Stephen Curry still in his prime, and Klay Thompson returning from injury. They feel Siakam is a player that can help bring them back to contention after missing the playoffs the past two seasons due to various injuries to Curry and Klay Thompson. On Curry’s timeline, the Warriors do not have any time for prospect development, and need to make these moves to win now.

For the Raptors, it means they believe they have a better chance to win a championship with a core of Wiseman, OG Anunoby, and the two draft picks than they would led by a duo of Siakam and Fred VanVleet.

That should in no way be a negative reflection on either of those players. They are terrific players, and they can play significant roles for a championship team – they already proved that in 2019. However, neither were the first option on that team, and the Raptors would have recognized that they need to be in those secondary roles on a team with aspirations to win it all.

The Raptors would instead be placing their faith in the new wave of young guys, which should also include Malachi Flynn and Gary Trent Jr. (whom Hollinger also notes is likely to re-sign). The big implication is that the Raptors would perhaps take a step back in the next one-to-two years in hopes that the team is more successful in the longer term.

That is really the biggest rationale behind any potential move that involves Siakam today: the team wants to raise its potential ceiling and move closer to the ultimate goal of winning another championship. They would have an extremely young core with Wiseman and Anunoby, and a crack at two additional players that can build a potentially fearsome starting five down the line.

Should the Raptors Make the Deal?

Raptors: 3 free agent power forwards to sign after Pascal Siakam surgery
Nic Antaya, Getty Images (2021)

It’s a potentially interesting framework, but as currently constructed, it likely isn’t enough to convince the Raptors to pull the trigger on a Pascal Siakam trade.

While Siakam had an up-and-down year that saw many challenges with injuries, COVID-19, and a difficult roster fit next to Aron Baynes, he continued to show improvements to his overall offensive game. He flashed more of his playmaking, which has developed quite nicely, and while his three-point shooting regressed from his 2019-20 numbers, he shot a career-high 82.7 percent from the free throw line.

Many critics have called this a down year for Siakam. If you’re averaging 21 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, and that’s considered a down year, imagine what a good year is going to look like. Simply put: he’s a darn good basketball player, and he will hold a lot of value around the league in any potential deal.

Looking at the value of similar players around the league who were dealt, the yield has also generally been higher, which means the Raptors should be seeking more. Most recently, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday was dealt from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for salary ballast, three first-round draft picks, and the right to swap picks in two additional years. At the time, Holiday also only had one year left on his contract, but he signed an extension.

In the right situation, Siakam can have an impact on his team as a third scoring option, secondary playmaker, and all-around defender akin to what Holiday has been for the Bucks this season. While Wiseman and the seventh pick are expected to be higher draft picks than what Milwaukee will theoretically give up later this decade, there are plenty of teams who have paid higher prices to win, and the Raptors are better off holding onto Siakam than selling low.

If the Warriors were to sweeten the deal, however, the Raptors would perhaps pick up the phone and listen. What could turn these faux trade talks into actual traction would be if the Warriors were to include pick number 14 in the trade as well. Two lottery picks, plus a young prospect in Wiseman, and a serviceable player in Wiggins would be a serious haul for Siakam, and it accomplishes both teams’ goals.

Ultimately, there are no firm discussions at this time, so it is purely speculation. In theory, it’s a good trade fit on both sides should they firmly commit to that direction. The Warriors do feel the pressure to win now for their franchise icon, while the Raptors are still trying to figure out what their future looks like.

In the NBA, anything is certainly possible.

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