The Toronto Raptors’ only big move at the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline was finally freeing themselves of Goran Dragic by sending him and a first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Thad Young. The pick, which became No. 20 overall in the upcoming draft, was used on Ohio State guard Malaki Branham.
The trade immediately looked like a huge win for the Raptors, as Young helped them make the playoffs last season and signed an incentive-heavy two-year deal in free agency. All of that good will and momentum has very quickly been sandblasted away.
Young has been a solid player and an ideal veteran glue guy when he’s been in the lineup, but he hasn’t played in a while due to Toronto’s emphasis on rolling with their younger players. Branham would have been a perfect player to throw into the Toronto rotation, but he’s ended up hitting his stride with San Antonio instead.
Since December 17, Branham has been averaging 8.9 points per game while making 47% of his shots overall and 33% of his 3-pointers. Keep in mind he’s still just 19 years old. Having him on the roster would be much better than watching Young collect dust as a seldom-used reserve.
Raptors’ Thad Young for Malaki Branham trade is looking worse.
There’s a good chance that Young will not be on the roster by the time the trade deadline passes. He can still help a contender compete for a championship, and Toronto clearly isn’t trying to fit him into the lineup. Why not try to move him?
The Raptors are in dire need of a player like Branham. Even as a very raw rookie, it’s clear to see that he is going to be a member of San Antonio’s long-term core. Once he becomes a bit craftier offensively, the Spurs can turn themselves into a real contender.
Young’s demotion is one of the main problems with the whole Vision 6-9 identity as a concept. When everyone has the same skillset, it becomes impossible to make in-game adjustments. With so few shooters on the roster, quality players like Young have to be pushed to the wayside to work the shooters to the bone.
The Raptors had not gotten as much bang for their buck as they originally hoped when they acquired Young, as Branham is starting to show glimpses of long-term starter potential. Ujiri needs to hit on his next big trade for the Raptors to have any sort of chance of competing.