The Toronto Raptors were very successful with Pascal Siakam at the center position in the regular season, but the flaws in going so small started to be exposed as the season progressed. If Toronto makes a seismic trade in the offseason, expect centers to be prioritized.
One name that Toronto should get in the offseason is Phoenix Suns big Deandre Ayton. Some might be wondering how can the Raptors bring on Ayton given his contract demands. Ayton is a restricted free agent in the offseason, and he wants the max, which the Suns are reportedly unwilling to pay.
The key to pulling off a trade might be star forward OG Anunoby. While we should preface any hypothetical trade talks with the fact that he has not asked out and Masai Ujiri may be unwilling to move him, the fact that executives are looking at acquiring him could signal that Phoenix is interested.
Since Anunoby’s name has been in trade rumors recently, Toronto might do a sign-and-trade that involves Ayton and Anunoby. This trade has many moving parts, but it might make sense for the Raptors and the Suns.
This Raptors-Suns Deandre Ayton/OG Anunoby trade could work.
Ayton is a center that can help the Raptors take the next step for the 2022-23 NBA season and beyond. His length will strengthen their defense since he has a 7-6 wingspan and rock-solid frame. His defense will help the Raptors whenever they have to face elite big men.
Offensively, Ayton is a master rebounder and finisher inside that played an integral role on the NBA’s best team over the last two seasons. It doesn’t take Red Auerbach to see how he fits in with Toronto.
Despite being in the trade to match the salaries, Craig can still be a valuable contributor to the Raptors. He won’t be in the starting lineup because of Scottie Barnes, but he has been a high-energy defender and improved scorer over the last few years who could help improve the bench.
If Toronto doesn’t want to keep Craig, that’s okay because his contract expires next season. That will give the flexibility to trade him before the deadline.
Anunoby could be the third star on Phoenix alongside Devin Booker and Chris Paul. His elite defense will remain, but he could get an increased volume of shots if Mikal Bridges takes a back seat.
The trade will also send Khem Birch to the Suns. Birch struggled mightily last year, but the same Suns franchise that revitalized Bismack Biyombo and JaVale McGee could get him back on track.
Svi Mykhailiuk has a player option that he can pick up in the offseason. He will be great for the Suns if he can give the team more shooting. Toronto is also getting two second-round picks plus the right to swap picks in this deal. Getting some draft compensation in addition to Ayton could make up for surrendering all of those picks.
It’s clear that teams are interested in OG Anunoby. I expect the Raptors to get some calls about him. However, they won’t move him unless they get a bonafide star in exchange. Ayton is admittedly a long shot, but dealing Anunoby to acquire him might make sense.