Revisiting the top 5 trades in Toronto Raptors history

The Toronto Raptors have made several roster moves over the last few years, but what are the top five trades in franchise history?

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Toronto Raptors (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Ah, trades. One of the great bastions of team-building in sports. Over the years, the Toronto Raptors have been able to build through trades and the draft. Since Masai Ujiri joined the team in 2013, the Raptors have had a penchant of turning late-round picks and undrafted free agents into key rotation players for one of the most consistent franchises of the last half-decade.

With the NBA currently on an indefinite hiatus, now is as good a time as ever to look back through the archives. There have been bad trades - think trading away Vince Carter for next to nothing - and there have been good trades. Here, we will attempt to dissect the best.

It hasn't been easy. Recently, well, since Masai Ujiri has had a helping hand with the Toronto Raptors front office, the team has been in safe hands. The past half-decade has been the best in franchise history. The Raptors have reached the playoffs for the last six years and had already secured a spot in this season's playoffs - whenever they may be.

To get to that point, the Raptors have gone through a litany of players. Draft picks, trades, free agent pick-ups, you name it. But it's really the trades where Ujiri has really made his name, despite acquiring the likes of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Norman Powell through the draft.

Even before his arrival with the team, the Raptors still had a habit of making a good trade now and then. But what are the five best trades in Toronto Raptors history?

5. Greivis Vasquez to the Milwaukee Bucks

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2015 2nd round pick
2017 1st round pick

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Greivis Vasquez

This effects of this trade are still certainly being felt for the Toronto Raptors - and that is only a good thing. Greivis Vasquez was a pretty important rotational figure for the Raptors in his two seasons with the team, averaging 9.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game in 143 appearances, shooting 41-percent from the field and 38-percent from three.

There was the not-so-small matter of Vasquez also coming up big in the playoffs too, but when the Milwaukee Bucks came calling before the 2015 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors saw the chance to add some future assets to the team - including a 2017 lottery-protected first-round pick - as well as shed some salary.

Instead, this trade turned into one for the best in Raptors' history. With the 46th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors selected Norman Powell. Two years later, they picked up OG Anunoby with the 23rd overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Powell struggled with inconsistency in his early years but always showed the signs of being a good player and had some big moments in the playoffs too. Now? He's one of the leading scorers for the Toronto Raptors after putting forward a career-year in the 2019-20 season, averaging 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, shooting 50-percent from the field and 40-percent from three. He has finally found his groove.

And there's OG Anunoby, who is just 22 years old but already one of the games elite wing defenders. After a rocky sophomore season, Anunoby has bounced back in his third season, averaging 10.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game, shooting 51-percent from the field and 38-percent from deep.

This trade is a success story for the Toronto Raptors already, but both are still young and are improving with every passing game. The ceiling is even higher, and it only cost Vasquez, who only played 23 games for the Milwaukee Bucks.

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4. Vince Carter to the Toronto Raptors

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Vince Carter
Cash considerations

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This trade would be a little higher in the rankings had the Toronto Raptors not had the ability to draft Vince Carter in the first place. Still, Glen Grunwald managed to snag Carter and cash considerations from the Golden State Warriors in the 1997 NBA Draft, so it's still a pretty decent trade all around.

The Raptors traded Antawn Jamison with the fourth-overall pick and then subsequently traded him to the Warriors for his UNC teammate Vince Carter plus some cash on the side. Jamison would go on to have a pretty great 15-year career and was a two-time All-Star in a spell with the Washington Wizards, but his impact was nothing like Carter's.

Carter was the first player to propel the Raptors onto the national stage and Vinsanity took Canada by storm. He was the Raptors first-ever superstar and spent a successful seven seasons with the team and was a five-time NBA All-Star.

Even now, it's hard to fully quantify the impact Carter had on the Raptors, but it's safe to say that he is, without a doubt, a top-three player in franchise history. He averaged 23.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game in his 403 appearances for the Raptors.

His tenure with the team ended in pretty acrimonious circumstances and it took a long time for the fans to forgive Carter. They have now though, and it's just a shame we won't get to see him play in Toronto one final time.

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3. Marc Gasol to the Toronto Raptors

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Marc Gasol

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If Kawhi Leonard's move to the Toronto Raptors is the trade that propelled the team into title contention, their trade for Marc Gasol in February of 2019 is the trade after the trade. Without Gasol anchoring the defense, the Raptors don't win that title.

There were, predictably, a lot of reservations about the trade initially. Fans were disappointed to see a long-time favourite in the shape of Jonas Valanciunas leave the team. Often underutilized, Valanciunas was in and out of the starting line-up by design, switching roles with Serge Ibaka depending on the matchup, before missing 26 games due to injury.

He wouldn't play again for the Toronto Raptors. Once Valanciunas was declared healthy and raring to go he was shipped off to the Memphis Grizzlies along with C.J. Miles and Delon Wright, who had both carved out nice roles in the rotation for the Raptors. In return, the Raptors would get only Marc Gasol.

Gasol, who was 33 at the time of the trade, had shown signs of slowing down. At the time, he was averaging a career-high 4.7 assists with the Grizzlies but was stuck on an underperforming, an injury-ridden team. The Grit and Grind era was coming to an end and it seemed as if Gasol's championship window was closing.

Instead, his impact on the team was immediate. With one of the best passing big men of all-time, the Raptors playmaking greatly improved, they began knocking down more threes and the defense stepped up a notch - that's where Gasol's impact was felt the most.

His performances against the likes of Joel Embiid and Nikola Vucevic in the playoffs will go down in folklore. Gasol was able to neutralise the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic's best players in both series to great effect. Without him, the Raptors might not make it past the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

The final piece of the Raptors title-winning jigsaw puzzle, Marc Gasol's trade to the Raptors will go down as one of the best in the team's history.

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2. Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors

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Kyle Lowry

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All of these trades are synonymous with some sort of moment in Toronto Raptors history, but the trade that brought Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors is the one that, if we're being honest, is probably a key reason why every other trade happened.

Lowry was treading water with the Houston Rockets and clashed with several authority figures in his first few years in the NBA, including former Rockets' coach Kevin McHale. He spent four seasons in Houston and eventually worked his way up to the starting point guard position until his departure in the summer of 2012.

The cost for the Raptors wasn't that costly at all. Gary Forbes, who was packaged with a first-round pick that was then flipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder, was waived at the start of the NBA season and never set football on an NBA court again. However, that first-round pick would become Steven Adams, so that worked out for OKC - just not Houston.

For the Raptors, they got Kyle Lowry. The player who would help lead the Toronto Raptors into its most successful period in franchise history culminating in last season's title triumph. Lowry is the franchise leader in assists and, arguably, the greatest player in Raptors history. A player who is willing to give his all to win a single game.

For 549 games, Lowry has been the engine and the heart and soul of the Toronto Raptors, willing them with his aggression, court vision, and all-around superb play. Often a scapegoat for his playoff performances during the early years, Lowry wrapped up Game 6 of the NBA Finals with one of the most complete performances of his career.

Who would have known what was to come in 2012?

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1. Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors

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Kawhi Leonard

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Kawhi Leonard's trade to the Toronto Raptors in the summer of 2018 is, by far, the greatest trade in franchise history. As important as Kyle Lowry is to the team, even as the greatest player in Toronto Raptors history, he doesn't win a title without Kawhi Leonard by his side.

The Raptors had been amid their most successful spell in franchise history when they made the trade for Leonard, but two successive sweeps by the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the postseason left the front office feeling like they had reached their ceiling with the duo of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan anchoring the team.

DeRozan was the sacrificial lamb, with Jakob Poeltl - a young and rising center - and a first-round pick thrown into the mix for good measure. That haul gave the Raptors their superstar in Leonard and an elite 3-and-D defender in Danny Green. How the Raptors managed to get someone as pivotal as Green is a true testament to the ability of the front office.

Green shot a career-high 46-percent from three in the regular-season and while his impact weened in the playoffs he was still important in decisive moments - much like most players during the Raptors title run. It's no surprise that Green was able to become one of the Raptors fan favourites during his lone season north of the border.

As for Leonard, well, he probably put forward the greatest single-season in Toronto Raptors history in the 2018-19 NBA season and, like Green, it would be his only season in Toronto. Leonard averaged 26.9 points per game during the regular season before upping his average to 30.5 points per game in the postseason. He was on another planet.

With huge moments proving to be the norm during the Raptors Finals run, including the Game 7 buzzer-beater against the Philadelphia 76ers, Leonard was voted as the Finals MVP for the second time in his career as the Raptors won their first-ever NBA title.

Next: Ujiri is still trying to repair relationship with DeRozan

Leonard only lasted one season in Toronto before electing to move back home to Los Angeles to join the LA Clippers, but the Raptors knew the risk. The price was worth it.