The Toronto Raptors had been linked to two big trades in the past few weeks, as impending free agents OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam both could have been flipped for a big chunk of future assets. The first shoe has dropped, as Anunoby was dealt to the New York Knicks for RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley.
Many across the league seem to be waiting for the inevitable Siakam trade that will throw the Raptors fully into rebuild mode and a future build around Scottie Barnes. As logical as it may sound, Masai Ujiri may not be too excited about such a proposition due to the lack of influence he can wield.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Siakam has some serious leverage in trade discussions, as his expiring contract means that his list of trade partners will likely be whittled down to those who think he will sign a long-term extension with them in the offseason.
Wojnarowski also mentioned that a trade is not necessarily imminent for Toronto, as Ujiri will use the next few weeks to see exactly how Siakam fits in alongside Barnes, Barrett, and Quickley. If he thrives, the practicality of a trade won't be there, and the Raptors could keep him.
NBA rumors: Pascal Siakam has leverage in Toronto Raptors trade talks
Siakam is averaging 22.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game. The scoring might be down compared to last season, but any team would be thrilled with the possibility of bringing in an automatic interior finisher with Siakam's blend of versatility, playmaking, and championship experience.
After failing to reach an extension before the December 30 deadline, Toronto finds itself in an even more difficult place from a trade perspective. If Toronto extends Siakam, they will be unable to trade him for the next six months. If he is to be moved, Siakam will be nothing more than a rental.
Teams like the Hawks and Pacers remain in on Siakam, as they still might be willing to part ways with a promising young player and some draft capital to acquire Siakam, see if he can change their fortune, and revisit an extension later. That speaks to the level of talent Siakam possesses.
If Ujiri wants to put a hold on things until he sees how the team fits together, Toronto's win against the Cleveland Cavaliers is certainly cause for optimism. Not only did both Barrett and Quickley perform solidly in their debuts, but Siakam managed 36 points on 13-20 shooting.