The Toronto Raptors owe over $80 million to the trio of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Serge Ibaka. Making moves will be a problem with these three on the roster. Thankfully, there are a couple of teams that might be willing to take on some money.
The Toronto Raptors new head coach, Nick Nurse, has already signaled changes that may extend to the roster. With the team’s “big three” eating up two-thirds of the salary, expect the team to look into moving one or a few of them for more complimentary pieces.
There are only a handful of teams potentially willing to take mid-level stars like Lowry and DeRozan who are paid franchise superstars.
We look at five of them.
5. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have been rebuilding for what seems like an eternity and general manager Vlade Divac‘s seat gets hotter by the minute. With Slovenian wunderkind Luka Doncic unsure about his NBA future, this might just be when Divac hits the panic button and trades for pieces so they can win now and save his job.
Sacramento can trade several prospects and future picks in exchange for DeMar DeRozan. This trade helps both teams. DeRozan will give the team a proven star and a go-to scorer taking the heat off of their younger guards, while Toronto unloads DeRozan’s contract and receives building blocks.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
Adding a star like Kyle Lowry or Serge Ibaka will do a lot for a team that was exposed in the playoffs. Both Lowry and Ibaka can be complimentary “3-and-D” players who won’t take the spotlight away from Philly’s main stars: Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Their contracts are also due to expire in 2020-21, around the same time Simmons and Dario Saric are due for extensions. The Sixers trade moveable pieces like Jerryd Bayless and Markelle Fultz plus a pick or two, and the Raptors send back a win-now player. The deal helps both Philadelphia and Toronto, plus Lowry’s back story as a hometown guy never hurts.
3. Orlando Magic
Gordon is due for at least a $20-million-a-year new contract but this still leaves the team with enough room to take on one more big deal. They won’t land a big-name point guard like Chris Paul in free agency, so instead they can trade a combo of Augustin, picks, and prospects for Kyle Lowry.
This will give Toronto breathing room while Orlando gets the chance to win now and appease their jaded fans.
2. New York Knicks
The Knicks must compete for the playoffs immediately if the franchise hopes to convince Kristaps Porzingis into signing an extension. The superstar-in-the-making is approaching his fourth season with the team and still hasn’t tasted the playoffs or a winning record.
The Knicks only have the ninth-overall pick in the draft and don’t have much room to sign a big-name free agent. They can instead trade for one of the Raptors’ big guns like DeMar DeRozan, who will provide Porzingis with a fellow All-Star in their bid to make the postseason.
The Knicks can send a package around their ninth pick that includes role players like Courtney Lee to the Raptors giving them a bona-fide star in exchange for helping the Raptors reshape their roster.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are gearing up to make the biggest splash in free agency since the Miami Heat signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh at the start of the decade. Two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard confirmed he wants out of San Antonio and is targeting the Lakers setting the table for Paul George and King James to follow.
If the Lakers don’t acquire this theoretical “superteam”, they will be well below the salary cap and could use extra help. Hometown kid DeMar DeRozan and/or Serge Ibaka’s veteran experience will be a good combo with the Lakers’ youth and will automatically transform them into playoff contenders.
DeRozan’s low-key demeanour is also a perfect contrast to the Ball family’s Kardashian-like attitude.
Its unclear if any of these teams will want to take on the Raptors’ money, and if they do, that they will be willing to give something back of value. Either way, expect Toronto to at least give these teams a call sometime this postseason.