By Pete Baxter
The Toronto Raptors found themselves at the center of a flurry of trade rumors and speculation all the way up to the final moments before the NBA’s trade deadline.
In the end, they made three moves of varying impact. Perhaps the biggest news from Tampa/Toronto was the big move that was not made at all.
Let’s take a look at the moves Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster and company made today and how they impact this squad.
Move #1: Matt Thomas to the Jazz
Toronto traded Matt Thomas to the Utah Jazz for a future second-round pick.
Thomas is a phenomenal perimeter shooter. He has hit nearly 46% of his threes over 67 career NBA games. Unfortunately, that is all Matt Thomas really brings to the table. He is a major defensive liability, which prevented him from ever being a regular piece of head coach Nick Nurse’s rotation. However, the Jazz do well in adding a true sharp-shooter off the bench.
The Raptors had zero second-round picks until 2023 before today’s trades, so the draft capital they receive back is a decent return.
Move #2: Terence Davis II to the Kings
The Raptors shipped Terence Davis II out of town to Sacramento for a 2021 second-round draft pick (formerly owned by the Memphis Grizzlies).
Davis gets a fresh start with the Kings. After a solid rookie season, Davis regressed in year two following an offseason in which he faced domestic abuse allegations. His tumultuous offseason has left him dealing with ongoing legal and potential league ramifications and caused him to fall out of favor with the Raptor’s fanbase. He had also recently fallen out of favor with head coach Nick Nurse and was no longer a consistent member of the team’s rotation.
The Raptors recoup the second-round pick they used to draft Davis in the first place. Prior to today’s moves, they had no available second-round picks until 2023. Given the franchise’s success with second round picks in recent years, this is a decent return for a guy who needed to moved out of town.
Move #3: Norman Powell to the Trail Blazers
In the biggest move of the day, the Raptors sent key rotation piece Norman Powell to Portland for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood. Powell is in the final year of his contract, and the Raptors likely were not going to be able to afford to bring him back following the career year he is having. Powell is averaging just under 20 points per game. He is shooting nearly 44% from three, and is a decent enough defender.
While Powell is the best player involved in the deal, the Raptors get an impressive haul in return, considering the alternative was likely to lose Powell for nothing at season’s end.
Gary Trent Jr. has been a solid offensive weapon as a part-time starter in Portland, averaging 15.0 points per game on the season on nearly 40% from three. He is also a good defender with better size than Powell on the wing. He is just 22 years old and should immediately be a key member of the Raptors rotation. He is also potentially a less expensive weapon to hang on to in the offseason. He will be a restricted free agent, which gives the Raptors a great deal more flexibility than they would have had with Powell.
Rodney Hood is a decent role player. He is an above-average defender and decent shooter who has averaged nearly 12 points per game for his career. He has had some trouble finding consistent playing time in Portland, averaging just 4.7 points in 19 minutes per game. His three-point shooting has slumped to under 30% for the season after shooting nearly 50% from three in an injury-shortened 2019-20 season in which he played just 21 games.
Despite those troubles, he will fit much better into Nick Nurse’s system than the departed Davis and Thomas ever did. The Raptors will have him under contract through 2022 if they so choose, but his contract is also non-guaranteed. Toronto has the option of placing him on waivers.
Move #4: Keeping Kyle Lowry
The Raptors opted to hold the line with Kyle Lowry. The Heat, Sixers, and Lakers were the last three teams in the market for Lowry, and none presented an attractive enough offer for Masai and company to pull the trigger.
The Lakers did not have the available young talent to make a deal worth it for Toronto. This was particularly true after it was rumored that L.A. did not want to part with Talen Horton-Tucker. The Heat still refused to include Tyler Herro in any offers, and a Duncan Robinson-centered deal was not going to move the needle for Toronto, especially considering Robinson is also set to be a free agent this offseason. Philadelphia, with an assortment of decent young pieces (Matthyse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey were the most popular names brought up in rumors) could not put together the right deal either.
In the end, the Raptors made the right move. Trading their franchise point guard and team GOAT for a non-impactful package was not going to help the franchise. It also had potential to alienate their fan base. They now have options in this coming offseason to either explore a sign and trade deal or work out an extension to keep Lowry in town.
It will be interesting to see, however, if Kyle Lowry indeed ever plays another home game in Toronto.
As expected, Masai Ujiri and company made sure they were not on the losing end of any transactions. A collective exchange of Norman Powell, Matt Thomas, and Terence Davis II for Gary Trent Jr., Rodney Hood, and two second-round picks tilts the scales in Toronto’s favor.
Keeping their legendary floor general in-house, while not necessarily part of their long-term plans, was also the right move at this time.
While the Raptors have plenty of time to potentially go on a run and battle for a playoff spot, this is in many ways a lost season for Toronto. They were ravaged by Covid-19 and have zero true home games all year.
The moves made today keep them just as competitive for the remainder of the season, while giving them considerably more flexibility in the future.
More to come from Tampa/Toronto.