Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)
Late last night it was announced that the Toronto Raptors had made a salary dump by trading DeMarre Carroll and the entirety of his contract, along with both their 1st and 2nd round 2018 draft picks to the Brooklyn Nets for center Justin Hamilton.
Before we can really break down this deal, we must first understand that a move such as this was expected and necessary in order to be below the luxury-tax territory. Carroll's contract calls for him to be paid just slightly north of $30 million over the next two years, so the salary dump makes sense; especially when realizing that Norman Powell will enter next off-season as a restricted free agent. Simply put, cap space was needed. Thus, in terms of being able to relieve the pressure of the salary demands that the Raptors were undergoing, it makes sense that they would try to find a team willing to take on the salary of a player that did not meet expectations.
Arguably one of the biggest new Raptors to be signed on as a free agent, there was the expectation that Carroll would act as a defensive presence similar to what we saw in PJ Tucker earlier this year. However, injuries plagued him and we never got to see our expectations met as Carroll was never quite right after recovering from a right knee injury. Further, with how poorly he performed in this year's post-season, - and hindsight being what it is - it seemed like the writing was on the wall that the Raptors would make an effort to move him. So in terms of creating cap space to make the signings of Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka financially easier, this makes sense.
However, trading away the Raptors' 1st and 2nd round draft picks is something that I think a lot of fans will be discouraged with, and it's easy to see why. On face value, one could argue that this is the price of doing business. When trading away a declining asset, there had to be something that the Nets needed in addition that would make the deal more palpable. Yet, leaving the cupboards completely bare for the 2018 draft, in terms of picks, will surely lead Raptors fans to have an uneasy feeling in their stomachs. Is it worth having the salary relief if it means not having a single draft pick next year? Is it worth not having Carroll, with all of his warts, if it means sacrificing any sort of potential for the future?
It's easy to say "no" to both questions, especially given how top heavy the Raptors are as a result of this trade. As it stands, the Raptors have 4 centers in Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira, and Hamilton. Also, with the loss of Carroll - although not the defensive presence that he once was - in combination with the loss of Tucker, it leaves the Raptors extremely thin on the defensive side of the ball. Moreover, with how much of an emphasis the Raptors management has put on development and recruiting young stars to stabilize the future of the organization, this seems like a major shift in philosophy. Sure, you could argue that the Raptors have enough depth for the future in players like Powell, Delon Wright, Poeltl, Bruno Caboclo, Pascal Siakam, and Nogueira. But sacrificing the opportunity to add additional pieces in the draft that has the potential to make a major difference is hard to swallow (even though there's also the chance that the players they would have drafted may not have contributed on a significant level. I get it.).
However, when taking a step back and looking at the longterm play, the deal makes sense. As it stands, the Raptors absorb Hamilton's $3 million contract, which as a result gives them about $27 million in relief from Carroll's contract. There's still the opportunity that the Raptors could move on from players like JV, Joseph, or even flip Hamilton in a subsequent move to both free up more cap space and/or accrue pieces to fill in the gaps. With Hamilton being behind the curve in terms of knowing the Raptors' plays, he seems to be the most dispensable asset that won't lead to an even bigger sacrifice of the future (such as dealing one or both of Nogueira and Poeltl). Hamilton's favorable contract may seem intriguing for a team in need a young solid center for depth. As it stands right now, though, the Raptors aren't one of those teams. Thus, there's little reason to doubt that Masai Ujiri is done making moves and strengthening the team, but it's going to be a bit challenging.
Moreover, this pretty much solidifies Powell taking Carroll's place in the starting lineup, thereby further proving that he is a big part of the future for the Raptors. Fans have been salivating over the thought of Powell taking on a bigger role for the Raptors and with this move, it almost guarantees him just that. Assuming that the Raptors don't attain a better, more experienced and reliable piece via trade or free agency, we may be able to finally see what we have in Powell. With a full season as a starter under his belt, it will also give the organization a solid look as to what they will be willing to offer in terms of a contact or a match-sheet when his restricted free agency hits next off-season.
So yes, the price is crazy steep and it's difficult to grasp the notion that the Raptors, currently, do not have a singe draft pick for 2018. It's easy to have the knee-jerk reaction that Ujiri may be on the losing end of this deal, but that's only when you look at it in a vacuum. There has to be a subsequent move via trade or free agency that will either balance out the roster more, or create even more cap space, thereby allowing them to sign multiple, yet cheaper, pieces. We should be able to say with confidence that the roster, as it currently stands, more than likely won't be what the Raptors trot out for the start of the 2017-18 season, so let's exercise some patience. Most people have assumed that it would be Valanciunas that would be moved over anyone else, but as I mentioned during the latest SOT6 Podcast in talking to Adian and May of ThePostUp.net/Pass The Rock Podcast, the days of the limited yet dominating big-man may be numbered in the NBA. Perhaps other organizations feel the same way and, unfortunately, there's little to know interest in acquiring a $16 million dollar center. Thus, we have to hold on to the hope that the off-season moves and signings aren't over and the gaps will be filled.
I mean, this can't be it, right?
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