Raptors pick up defensive stopper in savvy trade: instant reaction, analysis, grade

The Toronto Raptors pulled off a surprise trade on Thursday afternoon, picking up great value to take on some money. How should we grade the trade?
Davion Mitchell, Toronto Raptors
Davion Mitchell, Toronto Raptors / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

The NBA is filled with teams trying to manage their money. Teams over the second apron are trying to slash salary, teams above the first apron are trying to get under it, teams in the luxury tax are trying to get out of it. The NBA wanted to prevent teams from simply spending their way to success, and in the process created a system where nearly every team in the league is trying to move off of money.

The Toronto Raptors took full advantage of that reality on Thursday afternoon. As teams prepared for the start of the second round of the 2024 NBA Draft, the Raptors used their flexible financial situation to help a team move off of money, and in the process may have added a couple of rotation players to its young roster.

Toronto makes a smart trade with Sacramento

There is a trade to announce!

Both Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania simultaneously broke the news that the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings had worked out a trade to send Jalen McDaniels to the Kings in exchange for Davion Mitchell, Sasha Vezenkov, the No. 45 pick in this year's draft and Portland's 2025 second-round pick.

The drafting of Carter, one of the best defensive guards in the draft and presumably the top option to back up De’Aaron Fox, made Davion Mitchell expendable. The former Baylor guard is a menace as an on-ball defender at the point of attack, but a suspect 3-point shot and limited offensive skillset on top of his small frame made him replaceable, which the Kings did on Wednesday night. 

Sasha Vezenkov was not replaced in the draft but is clearly not a part of the Kings’ plans moving forward. The Bulgarian forward was signed last summer as an offensive perimeter option who could dribble, pass and shoot. He did not have a great rookie season and there were rumors that he wants to return to Europe this season. The Kings need their money for functional players, while the Raptors can afford to either plug him in or agree to a contract buyout. This deal saves them about $8 million.

From the Raptors’ side, they send back forward Jalen McDaniels, a failed free agent signing of their own from last summer. The Raptors have a "Traded Player Exception" from the Pascal Siakam trade that allows them to take back significantly more money than they sent out in this deal, lowering the Kings’ team salary. 

In return, the Raptors get off of McDaniels’ money (a player unlikely to see any playing time this season) and in exchange address a need at backup point guard behind Immanuel Quickley. If Mitchell can settle in with the Raptors he could earn a second contract with them; otherwise, he was a low-cost backup point guard for a season or two. 

In Vezenkov the Raptors could have a skilled forward to work into the rotation; Toronto is closer to Europe and a more cosmopolitan city than Sacramento, which may appeal to him. He may also work on a buyout with the Raptors to keep some of his money and still walk away to play in Europe where he was something of a star. 

Add in the 45th pick and a Portland pick that could easily be in the first 5-10 picks next year this was a tidy bit of business for the Raptors. We outlined earlier today the possibility of using the No. 31 pick on a “buy-low” candidate such as Moses Moody; Davion Mitchell doesn’t have the same upside or utility as Moody but Toronto had the same basic idea to take a low-cost shot on Mitchell. If he doesn’t work out, all it costs the Raptors is his salary.

Toronto picked up two interesting young players, a draft pick and got off of Jalen McDaniels, all for some money that will end up between the salary cap and the tax line, essentially not hurting the Raptors in any way. It’s a nice move for the Raptors and an understandable one for the Kings.

This is what Toronto should be doing this summer: acting like a patient team, comfortable taking on money for assets and not rushing things. The time will come for Scottie Barnes and this core; until then, making trades like this will help them build toward that future success.

Grade: B+

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