It has been a highly successful 2018-19 season for the Toronto Raptors so far despite losing both their head coach at the end of last season’s playoff run and their franchise player to a trade with the San Antonio Spurs. But the injury bug has hit them quite a bit the past few weeks with point guard Kyle Lowry and center Jonas Valanciunas out indefinitely.
A trade or two could help the Raptors regain their swagger after an inconsistent showing during their last 14 games in which they went 7-7. A point guard, a rebounder and/or a low post scorer would be a good addition to the team.
The Raptors have a 27-11 record, just percentage points behind the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks who, at 25-10, are arguably the biggest surprise team of the season. In order to stay near the top and possibly overtake the Bucks eventually, they will need healthy bodies on the floor and be productive with the playing time given to them.
Coach Nick Nurse spoke to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps about the injuries and how they have managed.
“’Yeah I’ve almost forgot about that to be honest because there’s been so many guys out, it’s like the options are none,’ Nurse said of the feeling of having a full complement of players. ‘We’re playing the healthiest guys, and the rest of the guys are all getting to play because we’ve got to play them.
‘Everybody’s going through it.’”
Needless to say, Toronto needs help quickly. Let’s look at three early trade deadline targets for the Raptors:
*Note: These trades were simulated through ESPN Trade Machine
3. Raptors receive: C Dwight Howard, C Thomas Bryant, SF Jeff Green
Wizards receive: SF CJ Miles, C Greg Monroe
The Washington Wizards received a huge blow when All-Star point guard John Wall was declared out for the year with a season-ending injury. Though it was still unsure where the Wizards were headed after a horrible start, Wall’s absence pretty much assures that Washington is either going to rebuild now or they would rather just tank the season by not doing anything drastic to resolve their current situation. Whatever their plans are, Dwight Howard and Jeff Green, veterans who want to win now, are likely not going to be part of them.
With Howard on board, the Raptors have an extra big man to throw another wide body at opponents in the playoffs. Granted that he won’t be able to play until a month or two later, his true value to the team is going to be in the postseason anyway.
Howard’s presence on the boards and as a physical presence in the paint will be invaluable when the game slows down in late April all the way to June. Consider Howard an investment for the ultimate goal of winning a championship this season because anything less than reaching the Finals (at least) would be another failure.
Green is another veteran who can play big time in limited minutes in the playoffs. He can play the three or the four position relatively well. His 2018 Finals experience with the Cleveland Cavaliers left a bitter taste in his mouth and he will be motivated to give it his all for the chance to win that elusive title.
2. Raptors receive: SF Vince Carter, C Dewayne Dedmon
Hawks receive: SG Danny Green, C Greg Monroe, 2019 second-round pick
Consider this a homecoming move for the Raptors as they welcome back Vince Carter to the fold. But this is not just for sentimental reasons though that may be the most prominent reason for it. The man can still play! It’s not a stretch to say that the 20-year veteran forward is quite valuable as a reserve.
His 7.7 points per game average is quite impressive especially for his age and he recently just scored 21 points against the Cavs, the highest points ever scored by a player 41 years or older. He will be rejuvenated to play for Toronto once more where he is considered their greatest player ever. It’s only fitting that he retires with the team that drafted him.
Center Dewayne Dedmon is going to take over for the injured Valanciunas and back him up upon the Lithuanian’s return. Dedmon’s been playing outstanding basketball since the Hawks acquired him last season. Playing for a contender would motivate him to play even better.
The rebuilding Hawks should find that 2019 second-round pick quite valuable in June.
1. Raptors receive: PG D’Angelo Russell, C Kenneth Faried
Nets receive: SG Danny Green, PG Delon Wright, SF C.J. Miles, 2019 second-round pick
With Lowry out indefinitely, Toronto needs a point guard badly. Despite D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie playing well together with the Brooklyn Nets, one of them has to go for the other to grow to his full potential. The Raptors would do well to take the more expendable one which I believe is going to be Russell. He will give Lowry more time to heal and take over orchestrating the offense in the meantime.
This will allow Fred Van Vleet to move back to being one of the best backup point guards in the league. As good as he’s been, employing Russell will give the team another scoring playmaker who will ensure that the Raptors get back on track even if it takes Lowry a while longer to return to form. The former second overall pick by the Lakers is averaging 17.9 points and 6.1 assists per game, statistics that will be quite valuable to the Raptors and get them back to playing aggressively.
Kenneth Faried is going to be a formidable backup power forward or center and allow the second unit to play with energy. He will give the team a much-needed boost on defense and on the boards.
The price for acquiring these two would be quite high with the losses of Danny Green, C.J. Miles and a 2019 second-round pick but the immediate value that Russell and Faried will bring is going to make up for these losses.
The Raptors should consider making a trade soon if they don’t want to miss a beat in taking over the wide-open Eastern Conference.