The Toronto Raptors were one of multiple teams rumored to pursue a blockbuster trade this off-season, with names like Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell being tossed around. Following Durant’s decision to stay in Brooklyn, the league shifted its focus to Utah’s Mitchell.
While the Raptors were named as a team interested in the three-time All-Star, it appeared the New York Knicks would be bringing Mitchell home due to their surplus of draft capital and young talent. The trade seemed just inches away from being consummated.
However, just like the Knicks franchise has done for the last decade, they fell short and a trade never came to fruition. Danny Ainge, and his thirst for picks, was able to land a substantial offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers that saw three unprotected first-round picks, and two pick swaps head to Utah.
Collin Sexton, Lauri Markannen, and Ochai Agbaji were also involved in the package.
On paper, Mitchell and Toronto felt like a match made in heaven. Mitchell would be the go-to scorer the Raptors can rely on down the stretch, while Toronto could surround Mitchell with tremendous defenders that could hide some of his flaws. However, the asking price for Mitchell may have been too much for Masai Ujiri to stomach.
Acquiring Donovan Mitchell would have gutted the Toronto Raptors.
When you take a look at some of the offers Utah declined, and ultimately accepted, it never felt like the Raptors could put together a compelling-enough package to meet the Jazz’s appetite. A potential package would have Toronto part with OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr, and at least 3-first round picks.
Is giving up two young starters as well as multiple first-round picks to get substantially worse on defense, but upgrade on offense worth it? We already established that Mitchell would fill his role as a go-to scorer, but he doesn’t fit the Raptors’ switchable defense scheme. Masai Ujrii would also be deprived of his ability to add via the draft.
Fred VanVleet is one of the few outliers, but being a plus defender makes it work. Having two small guards sharing the backcourt makes it difficult to switch everything, especially with Mitchell’s perimeter defense regressing over the years.
The Raptors should feel relieved that Mitchell, a career 23.9 points per game scorer, didn’t enter the division. Joining a young, up-and coming Cavaliers team adds yet another contender the Raptors will have to get through in an already stacked Eastern Conference, but at least Toronto has their collection of assets still locked away.