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
Toronto Raptors – Delon Wright and Miami Heat Wayne Ellington (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Exploring options in the Eastern Conference

There are really only five teams of relevance in the East: Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers. The rest of the conference is trying to decide if they should tank or try to sneak into one of the final three playoff spots.

One team that Raptors fans are watching closely is the Washington Wizards. John Wall had season-ending surgery. There has been speculation that the Wizards might push the reset button. However, Bradley Beal is not ready to give up just yet. The Wizards are 5-4 since Wall went down, including a heartbreaking loss in double overtime to the Raptors on Sunday.

Beal is averaging 31.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in January. The Wizards are reportedly looking for two prospects and two picks in any deal for Beal.

General Manager, Ernie Grunfeld could look to the future, but that would also be him signing his own death warrant. Grunfeld has made a number of questionable calls over the years. He has traded multiple first round picks in exchange for short-term gains. A playoff appearance and first-round exit might at least give him one more year of job security.

The Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons have two of the top 10 payrolls in the NBA. Neither team is set to have cap space before 2020. The playoffs mean more to both franchises than a late lottery pick.

The Charlotte Hornets are in a weird position. The team wants to make the playoffs. Michael Jordan, the team’s owner, is also on record saying that he wants to resign Kemba Walker. However, it has been reported that the Hornets are interested in moving Nicolas Batum. A number of other players, including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Bismack Biyombo are likely available. None of these options make sense for the Raptors.

The Brooklyn Nets are an interesting team to watch. Over the years, Brooklyn has been a dumping ground for bad contracts, as long as a draft pick was attached. The Nets are finally in a position where they get to keep their own first round pick. Tanking to add a blue chip prospect makes sense for Sean Marks and his team.

The Nets also have a number of veteran players on expiring contracts (DeMarre Carroll, Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried and Jared Dudley). Any one of them could provide help come playoff time. The problem is the Nets have their sights set on this summer. The team could have more than $50 million in cap space. Marks is not interested in adding any long term salary, which makes a trade difficult.

The Orlando Magic want to make the playoffs. They currently sit in the 9th spot. If they slip, Nikola Vucevic may become available.

Vucevic has been incredible this season. He is averaging 20.1 points and 11.9 rebounds. He is a potential All-Star. A trade of Vucevic for Valanciunas straight-up works financially. But the Magic would also likely want a young player or pick. That is probably too much for a player who isn’t much of an upgrade and is set to be a free agent this summer.

The Chicago Bulls are interested in moving Robin Lopez ($14.3 million) or Jabari Parker ($20 million). The Raptors have no use for Lopez with Ibaka and Valanciunas on the roster. Meanwhile, Parker is on record stating that NBA players don’t get paid to play defence. That doesn’t sound like the type of player a team would want come May or June.

The Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks have a few veteran wing players who are rumored to be available in Kent Bazemore ($18 million), Tim Hardaway ($17.3 million) and Courtney Lee ($12.2 million). None are good enough to supplant any of the Raptors starters. All are under contract for next season. The Raptors are already poised to have a massive tax bill if they are able to resign Leonard. Adding any one of these players doesn’t move the needle enough to make a trade worthwhile.

The other problem with making a trade with the Knicks, the team doesn’t want to add any long-term salary. The Knicks are also looking forward to this summer when Kevin Durant becomes a free agent. A max contract for Durant starts at just over $38 million. Kristaps Porzingis will be a restricted free agent. His cap hold is just over $17 million. The Knicks need to shed at least one contract in order to be able to sign both. The Knicks only want expiring contracts.

With that being said, there is one player on the Knicks’ roster that the Raptors should be interested in, Noah Vonleh. He has been one of the most consistent players for the Knicks this season. He is averaging 8.6 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 41.1 percent from long distance.

Vonleh is long (7-foot-4 wingspan) and athletic. He was a first-round pick of the Charlotte Hornets in 2014. The Knicks are his fourth team in five seasons. Vonleh signed a one-year, non-guaranteed minimum contract with the Knicks in the offseason. He came to New York with the hope that David Fizdale could rejuvenate his career and it has happened. According to Ian Bagley of ESPN, Vonleh is already on several teams’ radars as a free-agent target this summer.

Vonleh is set to earn $1.5 million this season. A swap of Vonleh for Malachi Richardson’s expiring contract, plus two second-round picks may be enough to get a deal done. The Knicks would likely push for a first-round pick but may be forced to settle. Vonleh is unlikely to return next season. The Knicks should try to get some value, instead of losing him for nothing.

Finally, we reach the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs recently signed Kevin Love to a four-year, $120 million contract extension. They have Rodney Hood and Alec Burks on expiring contracts. The Cavs would probably love to move J.R. Smith or Jordan Clarkson. Anyone of them could be had for the right price. Love has been injured all season, the rest of widely inconsistent. None of them make sense for the Raptors.

Case for/against using 20-21 draft pick in trade talks. dark. Next

The Toronto Raptors currently have the third highest payroll in the NBA. The team also has an estimated luxury tax bill of just under $35 million. The Eastern Conference is wide open for the first time in eight years. The Raptors have a legitimate shot at reaching the NBA Finals. However, any title run will likely have to be done with the players already on the roster. An upgrade will not come cheap and might not be worth it.

Salary information was provided by and