By Pete Baxter
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Indiana Pacers, at 10-16 and long since stuck in the purgatory of NBA mediocrity, are “receptive in trade dialogue with rival teams” around the key veterans that have made up their core in recent years (Pacers potentially move to rebuild, receptive to trade talks on Caris LeVert, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner: Sources – The Athletic). With the Pacers ready to hit the reset button on their roster, now is the perfect opportunity for the Toronto Raptors to make a move to upgrade their own roster.
The primary hole in the Raptors’ lineup for the past two seasons has been at the center position. Letting Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol walk after the 2019/20 season proved far more detrimental to the team than expected. Aron Baynes, brought in as a free agent stop gap, was a disaster. Undersized bigs Chris Boucher and Khem Birch have performed admirably, as has newcomer Precious Achiuwa early this season, but the lack of rim protection (21st in blocks this season) and rebounding (21st in rebounding this season, 28th in defensive boards) has been evident. The lack of a lob-catching threat in the post has been a detriment to the offense. The lack of a stretch big who can still bang down low (the key skillset in the Ibaka/Gasol frontcourt that helped win a title) played a major role in the Raptors huge step back in 2020/21.
Enter the newly available, 25-year-old center of the Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner. Turner checks virtually all the boxes for the Raptors needs. He is a dynamic rim protector, leading the league in blocks once again this season with 2.8 per game. He is a good but not great rebounder, averaging a decent 7.5 per game on the season. He is an ideal stretch five, with a big, athletic 6’11” and 250 lbs. frame and shooting an impressive 39.5% from three-point range.
The addition of Turner to this squad could get the Toronto Raptors back over the hump and into contention in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Raptors have a stockpile of young, inexpensive prospects and draft picks to help the Indiana Pacers jumpstart their rebuild.
Let’s take a look at what a trade to bring Turner to Toronto might look like, including how the money would work with 2021/22 salaries:
The Pacers Receive
PG: Malachi Flynn – $2,048,040 in 2021/22
PG/SG: Goran Dragic – $19,440,000 (expiring)
C: Precious Achiuwa – $2,711,280 in 2021/22
2022 First Round Pick
2023 Second Round Pick
The Raptors Receive
C: Myles Turner – $18,000,000 in 2021/22
SG: Torrey Craig – $4,878,049 in 2021/22
The Pacers receive draft capital in the form of a first and second-round draft pick. They receive two young, talented inexpensive prospects in Malachi Flynn, 23 (Toronto’s backup point guard and 2020 first-round selection) and Precious Achiuwa, 22 (Toronto’s starting center and last year’s first-round pick by Miami). They also receive Goran Dragic, who’s expiring contract will account for nearly $20 million in available cap space next season, or (more-than-likely) could be flipped to the Dallas Mavericks (his preferred destination) for additional draft capital and prospects as he moves on to play with his fellow Slovenian countryman, Luka Doncic. Exactly the haul a rebuilding squad is looking for.
Meanwhile, the Raptors move on from the Goran Dragic dilemma, significantly upgrade their center position, and lock-up said center position for the foreseeable future while filling the glaring hole that has haunted the team for the past year-plus. Yes, sacrificing next year’s first-rounder hurts, but there is no question Turner is worth it. Torrey Craig is a veteran role player who can occasionally score points in bunches, rebounds well for a wing player, and makes the money work.
The New Lineup
Let’s take a look at where this transaction leaves the Raptors depth chart, moving forward:
PG: Fred Vanvleet, Dalano Banton
SG: O.G. Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., Torrey Craig
SF: Scottie Barnes, Yuta Watanabe, Svi Mykhailuk
PF: Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Justin Champagnie
C: Myles Turner, Khem Birch
While Nick Nurse would no doubt experiment with this new group, in this scenario, we see O.G. Anunoby (when healthy) slide into the two-guard spot (making him perhaps the most intimidating shooting guard in the league with his 7’2” wingspan).
This would, no question, be one of (if not the) best defensive starting five in the league with such incredible range and athleticism. Point guard Fred VanVleet, a staunch defender in his own right, would be the only player in the starting lineup with a wingspan of under 7’0.” Meanwhile, by swapping out Achiuwa for Turner at the five, the Raptors add much needed three-point shooting (the team currently ranks 26th in three-pointers made). Rookie and budding star Scottie Barnes would be the only “non-shooter” in the group, and he even has showed gradual improvement in his shooting touch. Anyone in the lineup could drop 20+ points on a given night.
The team also maintains outstanding depth. Gary Trent Jr. would be a shoo-in for Sixth Man of the Year honors with his scoring and elite defense. Khem Birch and Chris Boucher are capable, though undersized bigs who can shoot. Second-round pick Dalano Banton is a lanky 6’7” point guard who will quickly become an elite defender and had already been outplaying Flynn this season.
Pull the Trigger, Bobby
Myles Turner is exactly what the Raptors need to climb back towards the top of the Eastern Conference. At just 25 years old, he perfectly fits the timeline for the young core of VanVleet, Siakam, Anunoby and Barnes. The Pacers have made him available, and Raptors’ GM Bobby Webster (and of course, Masai Ujiri) must strike while the iron is hot.
Bring Myles Turner to the North.