The Toronto Raptors are unlikely to make a move before the trade deadline

Toronto Raptors - Masai Ujiri (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Masai Ujiri (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Phoenix Suns – T.J. Warren (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Exploring options in the Western Conference

Currently, there are 14 teams in the Western Conference vying for playoff positions. Only five games separate the 6th seed from 14th. The only team without playoff aspirations is the Phoenix Suns.

Typically, by this time of year, there would be at least a couple of teams that had started to look towards next season. That isn’t the case this season. The top nine teams in the conference (Denver, Golden State, Oklahoma City, Portland, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles Lakers and Utah) aren’t interested in collecting lottery balls.

The New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks also have an incentive to make a playoff push. Anthony Davis can become a free agent in 2020. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are waiting for Davis to turn down the supermax this summer, so they can pounce. Even if the Pelicans aren’t competing for a championship, General Manager, Dell Demps, needs to show Davis that the team is moving in the right direction.

The Mavericks traded their 2019 first round draft pick (top 5 protected) to the Atlanta Hawks as part of the Luka Doncic trade. Doncic is the front-runner for Rookie of the Year. He is also going to force management to consider accelerating their rebuild. The Mavericks are looking to move second-year guard, Dennis Smith Jr., in order to further build around Doncic.

That leaves three teams: Sacramento Kings, Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Kings have not made the playoffs since 2006. The team is currently in the 10th spot at 23-21. The Kings will have to send their 2019 first round pick to either Boston or Philadelphia. They are also the only team with cap space and have been looking to upgrade their roster. The Kings were recently linked to Enes Kanter of New York Knicks.

The Grizzlies and Timberwolves would be smart to focus on the draft. Both teams have intriguing young players. Adding another high lottery pick is always a good thing. However, the Raptors don’t make sense for any of the big names on either roster.

Mike Conley doesn’t provide an upgrade over Kyle Lowry. Marc Gasol is slowing down. Nobody wants Chandler Parsons and the $49 million remaining on his contract. The Grizzlies have a few solid wing players, but none really provide an upgrade over the Raptors’ current roster.

The Timberwolves are in disarray. The team recently fired head coach and President of Basketball Operations, Tom Thibodeau. This coming less than two months after the Wolves traded Jimmy Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Wolves would love to move either Andrew Wiggins or Gorgui Dieng, but neither one is going to help the Raptors compete for a title.

The only remaining Western Conference team is the Suns. They have a surplus of wing players in T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges, and Kelly Oubre. The Suns recently signed Devin Booker to a max contract extension. Assuming they secure a top 3 pick in this year’s draft, the rotation will get even more crowded with the addition of Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett. Not all of these players can fit into the Suns’ long-term plans.

Any of these wings would be an upgrade over the likes of C.J. Miles or Malachi Richardson. They would also be able to take minutes away from Norman Powell or Delon Wright. However, none of them would come cheap.  The Suns would likely want a future first-round pick in return.

The Raptors did not have a first round pick in 2018 because of the DeMarre Carroll trade.  As mentioned above, they also won’t have one this year. Given the uncertainty surrounding Leonard, Ujiri may not want to deal another pick.

Now that all of the Western Conference teams have been eliminated, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference.