3 Destinations for Raptors to sign-and-trade Gary Trent Jr.

The Toronto Raptors are not bringing back Gary Trent Jr. What destinations are still available for Trent and how can a sign-and-trade make it happen?
Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors
Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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No. 2: Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets are trying to take a step forward this season without sacrificing their young core, which runs a legitimate seven players deep between Reed Sheppard and Jalen Green in the backcourt; Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore and Tari Eason on the perimeter; and Jabari Smith Jr. and Alperen Sengun in the frontcourt.

Quiet thus far in free agency, the Rockets could use their Mid-Level Exception to sign a player like Gary Trent Jr. outright, another veteran contributor to work into the mix and fill a need that isn't quite addressed by the rest of the roster, slotting him between Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks as a 3-and-D wing in the veteran core that supplements the youngsters.

One of the veterans on the roster is Jock Landale, however, and the Rockets don't appear to be invested in having Landale around. They have Sengun starting at center, Steven Adams behind him, and are looking for opportunities to upgrade at the position.

Landale could be routed to the Raptors in a sign-and-trade, bringing Trent Jr. to the Rockets as a player more useful to them and able to fill the same role as matching salary in a deal that Landale does. The Raptors get a backup center and a player they can use in a future trade.

It's not an earth-shattering blockbuster, but perhaps it's useful enough to both teams for it to happen.

No. 1: Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets have dipped below the first luxury tax apron with their decision to let Kentavious Caldwell-Pope walk in free agency. That opens up the flexibility for them to use part of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, but they don't have enough space under the apron to make an impact signing.

Part of the reason why is that they committed four years and $32 million to Zeke Nnaji, a young center with an intriguing skillset who has been largely unplayable in the postseason. The Nuggets made a bet on Nnaji developing into the backup center that the team needed or at the least into a player they could use as matching salary, but instead his stagnated growth has put a cement block of $8 million annually onto their cap sheet.

A sign-and-trade between the Nuggets and Raptors could solve the problem for Denver, landing them a nominal replacement for Caldwell-Pope in Gary Trent Jr. and sending Nnaji's deal back to the Raptors. Would Trent accept a two-year, $20 million deal with a team option to wash off the stink of a losing team and prove himself on a contender?

The flip side of the deal would be the Nuggets incentivizing the Raptors to take on Nnaji and his remaining contract. The Raptors have the patience to see if he can develop into a rotation center, so he's not entirely dead salary, but he is only now starting his four-year deal. It would take a first-round pick to get it done in all likelihood; a Top-6 protected 2031 first would likely be enough for Toronto.

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