It appears as though the acquisition of Serge Ibaka was only the start for the Toronto Raptors. The team has remained active in the trade market in their pursuit of solidifying their chances as contenders. With Kevin Love injured, it’s possible the Raptors feel as though this is their chance to make the NBA Finals.
According to Sports Illustrated, the Raptors have approached the Detroit Pistons looking to acquire Andre Drummond:
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“League executives expect Toronto to try and make moves on the wing and in the frontcourt. As much as Toronto needs to find depth behind its current frontline, the Raptors are also still skeptical about Jonas Valanciunas.
“Before they acquired Serge Ibaka, the Raptors called the Pistons pitching a package centered around Valanciunas for Drummond, according to a league source. Toronto is in ultimate win-now mode. They will certainly be interesting to monitor as the deadline approaches.”
It’s interesting that the Raptors are looking to trade Valanciunas. With free agency pending for Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Patrick Patterson, the Raptors are in danger of going well into the luxury tax. Moving one or more of Valanciunas, Cory Joseph, or DeMarre Carroll could ease their tax burden.
But a move for Drummond wouldn’t be one of salary relief. Drummond is in the first year of a five year deal that pays him an average of $25.4 million per season. While Valanciunas earns an annual average of $16 million per year. Even if the team were to add Joseph to the deal, it wouldn’t provide them with the relief they need.
So with the question of salary relief out of the way, it’s time to evaluate how significant the upgrade would be. While Drummond is a defensive upgrade over Valanciunas, he’s still a negative on that end of the floor. Despite his athleticism and size, the Pistons’ defensive rating is 10 points better when he sits. Overall the team’s net rating is 11.4 points better with Drummond on the bench.
The Raptors would be banking on a change of scenery returning Drummond to his All-Star form of last season. The big man is still only 23 years old and averaged 16.2 points and 14.8 rebounds per game last season. He also had a +7.3 net rating for that year as well. As a pick-and-roll weapon and monster rebounder, he would fit within the Raptors’ attack — as opposed to Valanciunas, with his slow-developing post-ups.
The report from Sports Illustrated does not clarify whether or not the discussions have ended. The Raptors would obviously need to include more than just Valanciunas and the specifics have not yet been released.
However this report does tell us a few things. The first is that the Raptors are open to moving Valanciunas. Long considered to be a franchise cornerstone, JV simply hasn’t shown much meaningful growth to his game.
The other thing this report tells us is that the Raptors are willing to pay a considerable amount to become a contender. A move for Drummond would mean the team would have four max-to-near-max contracts next season. Toronto is one of the league’s largest markets, but this would be the first time they truly act like it.
Not every rumor comes to fruition. But each lends insight into the mentality of a franchise and who they view to be expendable. Even if the team doesn’t land Drummond, expect the activity to continue as the deadline approaches.