Pete of the North
Since Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster and company failed to take our advice and go all in on the Harden sweepstakes, let’s pivot and figure out next steps to get this 12-15 squad firing on all cylinders. Today we will put on our real-life NBA 2K GM hats and make some magic happen.
Step 1 – the Inevitable Trade
Let’s get the hard one out of the way. It is time, Raptors nation. As much as I hate to finally admit it, having two of our three best players being six-foot point guards makes zero sense, and has created an unbalanced rotation. Fred VanVleet is, without question, the point guard of the future for this squad and one of the key pieces to build around moving forward. This means that it is time to set our legendary, fearless leader free and trade Kyle Lowry.
There are several teams in the league already rumored to be highly interested in acquiring the Raptor’s all-time great point guard. The Clippers, Nuggets, and Heat are three of the teams said to be leading this charge. As imaginary GM in this scenario, I am accepting a deal from Miami.
The Heat receive: PG Kyle Lowry, 2023 2nd Round pick
The Raptors receive: SG Tyler Herro, C Kelly Olynyk
The Raptors receive a solid building block for the future in shooting guard Tyler Herro and improve their front court depth with a borderline starting quality big man in Kelly Olynyk (who happens to be Canadian). Herro is just 21 years old and is an up-and-coming offensive force, putting up nearly 17 points per game this season. Olynyk is a high energy player who can shoot the three and stretch the floor, making him a great fit for what Raptors do offensively.
Losing their lone second round pick over the next few seasons hurts Toronto, but after bringing in Olynyk, Toronto could easily turn around and send Aron Baynes to a team in need of front court depth and recoup this pick. The Warriors make a ton of sense, lacking a true big man, and they happen to have several 2nd rounders in each of the next two drafts. In this hypothetical scenario, let’s make that move as well:
The Warriors receive: C Aron Baynes
The Raptors receive: Golden State’s 2022 Second Round Pick
Step 2: Let’s Reset the Lineup
In the wake of these moves, let’s put on our custom Nick Nurse ball caps and shuffle the Raptor’s depth chart for the rest of the season, setting us up for maximum success in our hunt for the playoffs.
PG: Fred VanVleet
SG: Norm Powell
SF: OG Anunoby
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Chris Boucher
PG: Malachi Flynn
SG: Tyler Herro (sixth man) / Matt Thomas
SF: Deandre Bembry / Terence Davis
PF: Yuta Watanabe / Stanley Johnson
C: Kelly Olynyk
This is now finally Fred VanVleet’s team to lead. The “bet-on-yourself” king now has the reins to the offense, and first round pick Malachi Flynn gets called up from G League detention to move into the back-up PG spot. This is the back court of the future, and now is the time to see what they got.
Chris Boucher finally gets his chance to start. With an outstanding, career best start to the year, averaging 13.8 points, 6.8 boards, 2.0 blocks and over 40% from three, he has earned his chance to run with the first team as a regular starter. Olynyk will replace Boucher’s energy with the second unit and will be a strong upgrade to Baynes in the rotation, averaging 10 points and six boards himself so far this season (along with a couple of made threes per game).
At the two-guard, we have options, with two starting quality shooters in Herro and Powell. Herro probably has the higher ceiling ultimately, but for this season, I am sticking with the veteran who has played out of his mind this season when given the opportunity to start (averaging 16.5 points per game overall this season, but just over 10 a game when coming off the bench). He has the chemistry with this starting unit, and as a career-long Raptor has earned his chance to take Lowry’s open starting spot. Herro instantly becomes one of (if not the) top sixth man in the league and a huge potential spark off the bench for this squad.
A healthy eight-man playoff rotation of VanVleet, Powell, Anunoby, Siakam, Boucher, Herro, Olynyk, and Flynn/Davis would be a competitive match for anyone in the Eastern Conference.
A Look to the Future:
VanVleet is 26, Tyler Herro is 21, Pascal Siakam is 26, OG Anunoby is 23, Norm Powell is 27, and believe it or not Chris Boucher is the elder statesman of this new Raptors core at 28. Even Kelly Olynyk is only 29. This new look, post-Lowry Raptors squad could be together for the better part of the 2020’s if successful and are all tradeable assets should changes need to be made in the future.
Despite the slow start this year, I would see this team working their way up to a fourth seed in a relatively weak Eastern Conference. A second-round playoff appearance would be a given, and depending on how the new pieces mesh, and trip to the Eastern Conference finals would be entirely possible. Hell, as far as I’m concerned this team on paper is miles ahead of the Heat squad that made the finals last year, so a match up against long-time Raptor killer Lebron James in the finals would not be out of the question.
Last but not least…
Build that Lowry statue. Retire that number 7 jersey. Fred VanVleet has huge shoes to fill, as even if it ends now, Kyle is the Raptors GOAT.
Agree? Disagree? Couldn’t care less? Let me know! And as always, thanks for checking out the blog!