Grade the Trade: LeBron heads east as Raptors join 3-team blockbuster proposal

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers / Cole Burston/GettyImages
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Grade the Trade: Do Raptors help out LeBron and the Cavaliers?

This trade is not about the Toronto Raptors. Ultimately, it's about LeBron James and how he wants to end his career. To what lengths will he go to play with his son, Bronny James? Does he want to play out his career back home in Cleveland, alongside his son?

Those are the big questions of this trade. The questions for the Raptors are much smaller. Should they prioritize a low-cost, low-upside swing at a prospect in the draft with the 31st pick? Or would they rather add a proven NBA player and high-level shooter in Georges Niang?

There are other benefits to making this swing. The Raptors will get a future second-round pick to cut into the loss. They'll get off of the final year of Jalen McDaniels' salary, a reasonable deal when they signed him last summer but dead weight after his abysmal season. If there is a value difference between Niang and the 31st pick, those pieces are tiny pieces to add to the scale.

If the Toronto Raptors believe they can push up into the back end of the playoff race next season, and are planning to keep Jakob Poeltl and maybe even Bruce Brown, then it's probably a no-brainer to turn a second-round pick into a shooter like Georges Niang who can help to open up the court for the Raptors' on-ball players.

It's probably better for the Raptors' long-term viability as a title contender to tank next season as well. Many of the other teams around them in the lottery standings, such as the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs, will likely be much better next season. Moving off of veterans and prioritizing losses and development for another season would give them a shot at adding a difference-making star alongside Scottie Barnes. In that scenario, keeping the second-round pick makes more sense than adding a veteran bench player.

If the Raptors don't trade the Cavaliers their second-round pick, Cleveland probably gets it somewhere else. They won't let that tiny hurdle prevent them from adding LeBron James, if that's the plan they wish to pursue. Toronto can be a part of this or other deals to continue improving their roster; this one has some big names involved, but ultimately it doesn't move the needle much for the Raptors.

Grade: B-

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