Grade the Trade: Raptors wash hands of costly blunder, add Pelicans star in new pitch

The Toronto Raptors are one of the teams that make sense as a landing spot for a young Pelicans star. Could they trade for Brandon Ingram this summer?
Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages
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Do the Raptors make this trade?

The Toronto Raptors will need another star player to pair with Scottie Barnes to truly compete for championships. They hope that player can be Immanuel Quickley, and it may be that he develops into such a player over the next few seasons. RJ Barrett played extremely well down the stretch in Toronto and looks like a clear asset on his contract. Brandon Ingram, all the same, is a better player than either of them.

It gets lost sometimes because of his poor fit with Zion Williamson, but Brandon Ingram is an extremely gifted scorer and an improved playmaker with the size and length to make an impact on defense. He is no Kevin Durant on either end despite his physical similarities to the Slim Reaper, but he is perenially a player just outside of the All-Star conversation.

Ingram could slot in at small forward, with Barrett and Quickley starting in the backcourt and Barnes at power forward. That's a foursome where any player could handle the ball and initiate the offense, allowing the team to run all manner of sets and trusting all four players to make the right pass or finish with the shot.

Trading away Chris Boucher and Ochai Agbaji is essentially nothing. Moving on from Jakob Poeltl is painful and somewhat embarrassing given that the team just handed the No. 8 pick to the San Antonio Spurs, but Toronto has to look forward, not back. Finding a different option than Poeltl at center should be a priority over the next few seasons.

Toronto can use the No. 19 pick in this year's draft on a center and plug him in as the starter, with Kelly Olynyk and a low-cost free-agent signing behind him. They could also use their cap space to pursue a higher-tier option, or even pull off a second subsequent deal to trade Bruce Brown for help at center.

Should the Raptors be more patient, trying to trade Brown and Poeltl for draft picks and add another difference-maker in the 2025 Draft? That's not a bad plan, but it's both unpredictable and slow. The Raptors traded for players like Quickley and Barrett so they could start winning more quickly, and this would fit the front office's actions thus far.

Ingram is not a perfect player, but the Raptors probably aren't in the running for one of those. This is a reasonable cost for a good player and it would be worth making.

Grade: B

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