Trade Proposal: Raptors’ James Johnson to 76ers for Nik Stauskas


When a marginal player goes public with his discontent, a team will frequently push the offender out the door. Here’s a productive way for the Raptors to do that with James Johnson.

In light of James Johnson’s latest self-inflicted wound, one has to consider him trade material. The Toronto Raptors are not interested in hearing him whine about his playing time. As far as coach Dwane Casey is concerned, JJ is behind Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson on the depth chart. GM Masai Ujiri says the team is winning, and JJ needs to bear that in mind before he tells the world he’s under-utilized.

James doesn’t cost that much; this is the last season of his two-year deal at $2.5 million per. However, if he’s benched himself, let’s move him. Having a disgruntled player in the dressing room never helps.

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Nik Stauskas, the pride of Mississauga, ON, has not enjoyed a meteoric start to his professional career. Drafted #8 by the Sacramento Kings in 2014, he was dumped after one season in California. I’m sure he thought losing there was bad – then he arrived in Philadelphia, to join a team in perpetual disarray. The 76ers are 0-17 this season, and if you add their 0-10 finish to last season, 0-27 is the worst ever mark in pro sports, ever. While Nik might not like being traded to his third team in less than two years, I’m sure he’d love to be out of the Philly zoo, and back home.

Nov 11, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) dribbles against the defense of Philadelphia 76ers guard Nik Stauskas (11) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Nik was regarded as a “can’t miss” pro because of his shooting prowess from beyond the 3-point arc, but so far his results have been disappointing. After making 32.2% of his long balls as a King, he’s down to 28.1% in a Sixer suit, despite significant increases in minutes and shot attempts Per Game [PG]. He is averaging 8.9 Points PG, which is OK but hardly starter grade for someone who’s not a strong defender.

The Raptors would be making a further commitment to small ball (and to Canadian players, though that’s merely a happy by-product of this deal) by trading for Stauskas. We would lose a versatile player in Johnson, and gain a specialist. Whether Nik ever breaks through to the level of an average 3-point shooter is impossible to know, but I like his chances. He’d be on the second unit in Toronto, and thus more likely to find spacing for open shots against lesser defenders.

The departure of Johnson might mean a further chance for Anthony Bennett to escape the dreary string of DNP-CDs (Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision) he has been picking up. With Jonas Valanciunas on the shelf, the Raptors are already too small, so Bennett’s size and strength should be useful.

Nik Stauskas isn’t a great player; at the moment he’s not even a good one. But he’s more likely to improve than James Johnson, and almost certainly will be less of a headache for team management.

This trade (like all our trades, it’s approved by the ESPN Trade Machine, and declared of no consequence to either team) isn’t some sort of final-piece-in-the-championship-puzzle stroke of genius. But it’s low risk (Johnson’s hardly playing, and the Raptors are 10-6), and could have a significant payoff in two years. If Philly was amenable (“Would you like a second-round pick with that?” “Sure, we’ve only got three next draft, so we clearly need one more.”), I’d do the deal.

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