Raptors summer trade target couldn't get off the bench in postseason loss

Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers and Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers and Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors have all gone home. Their season ended with Game 82 of the regular season. As teams fight for their postseason lives in the Play-In Tournament and into the 16-team playoff field, the Raptors can only watch and wish they were still playing games that matter.

For the franchise to right the ship and get back to the playoffs, they will need to improve the roster. One way to do that is to draft another star to pair with Immanuel Quickley and Scottie Barnes, and if they retain their first-round pick this season they'll take a crack at that.

The Raptors could trade for a star

Another path is to find one on the trade market, and after trading OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam this season they may have the draft capital to go after one. They probably don't have the pieces to get a Top-10 player in the league, were one to even come available,

What about a fringe All-Star player who could be a supporting player as Scottie Barnes ascends to stardom over the next couple of seasons? That kind of player would be more affordable, and if they buy low on such a star, as they hope that they did with Quickley, they could have a strong core to build on moving forward.

One such player was in uniform for the New Orleans Pelicans in last night's close loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Play-In Tournament. The two teams took part in an incredible showdown, with Zion Williamson absolutely dominating the Lakers before exiting late with a hamstring injury that will almost certainly sideline him for the remainder of the postseason.

Without Williamson, the Pelicans are going to have a difficult time beating the Sacramento Kings on Friday night to make the playoffs as the eighth seed, and even if they do they'll likely be rolled over by the Oklahoma City Thunder. That outcome could lead to some changes for the Pelicans this summer, especially with their more veteran core.

In last night's game, the Pelicans pulled off a significant second-half comeback behind Williamson, Trey Murphy III and Jose Alvarado. Herb Jones and Larry Nance filled out the lineup, with CJ McCollum and Dyson Daniels working in after Williamson went out.

Brandon Ingram had a difficult game

The player not on the court? Brandon Ingram, the onetime All-Star forward who was supposed to be the co-face of the team with Zion. Two years ago, when Williamson was again sidelined by injury, Ingram led the Pelicans into the playoffs and took two games off of the Phoenix Suns.

Yet last night, head coach Willie Green benched him for the entire fourth quarter, and he played just 25 minutes for the game. Even when Williamson went out with his hamstring injury, Green put in McCollum. Offense-only possessions at the end of the game weren't even enough to get him off of the bench.

Part of the reason was Ingram's return from injury, as Tuesday night was only his second game back. More pertinent was his play, as he went 4-for-12 and was -16 on the night. It was a painful end for Ingram, and it doesn't speak well to Ingram's chances at leading the Pelicans to a win on Friday.

The fit of Ingram and Williamson is a difficult one. Neither is much of an offball threat, neither provides much rim protection, and neither is a lockdown wing defender. They both do best with the ball in their hands, and it's to the Pelicans' credit that they have loaded up on wings and forwards who can play supplemetary roles as shooters and defenders around them.

Even with that prescient roster construction, however, it's clear that Ingram and Williamson would be better actualized on separate teams. Zion offers the better ceiling and is also the more difficult to trade given his injury issues, so trading Ingram is a possible path the Pels will discuss this offseason. If that offseason comes on Friday, just weeks after they were a fingertip away from the No. 4 seed, it will be a painful enough moment that those changes could occur.

Ingram is an intriguing fit on the Raptors

That brings it back to the Toronto Raptors. Brandon Ingram is an intriguing fit with the Raptors as a player with size who is a good enough scorer and shooter to diversify the offense. Barnes' defensive ability makes for a better fit than Ingram and Zion, although certainly not a perfect one. The Raptors likely can't afford a perfect fit, but buying low on a player as talented as Ingram does make some sense.

This summer could be the nadir of Ingram's value, and striking now would allow the Raptors to move forward in the draft and subsequent transactions building around Barnes, Quickley and Ingram. That's an intriguing offensive trio and would allow for flexibility in filling out the rest of the core.

Brandon Ingram did not play well on Tuesday night, but he has a proven track record of playing at a high level and at a position that is highly valued around the league. While he didn't play much against the Lakers, he could play a lot for another team next season -- count the Raptors among the list of teams likely to be interested.

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