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The NBA’s hot stove is firing on all cylinders ahead of Thursday's draft and the Toronto Raptors aren’t immune to the heat.
The noise around a speculative OG Anunoby trade grew louder on Wednesday with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports saying the Portland Trail Blazers are pursuing Anunoby, with their No. 7 pick in the draft as a key asset to make it happen.
Portland Trail Blazers are in pursuit of Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby with the No. 7 pick in Thursday’s draft in play, league sources tell @YahooSports.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 22, 2022
Regardless if it actually becomes reality or not, there are arguments to be made on both sides of the aisle whether or not this might make sense for the Raptors. Let’s explore.
The Case to Make the Trade
The reason why the Raptors might be looking to make a move like this would be twofold.
For one, despite his physical gifts and the production he brings to the table, Anunoby has had a tough time staying healthy. He’s never played a full 82-game season and his career high for games played came in his rookie year when he suited up in 74 contests. Over the past two seasons he’s only played 43 and 48 games, respectively.
Though it may not seem like it, durability and availability are real skills in pro sports and Anunoby hasn’t proven to be a player who can check off that particular box through five seasons in his NBA career.
Secondly, the other big reason why the Raptors would want to make a trade like this is if they were looking to take a bit of a step back as far as building towards another championship goes.
A couple of talented Canadian wings in Shaedon Sharpe and Bennedict Mathurin are expected to go around No. 7. Both would make for great narratives around the team and have the athletic and physical profiles that could see them become real NBA players.
Additionally, in order to make the money work for the deal, Josh Hart and Nassir Little have been floated as candidates who could return for Toronto.
Objectively speaking, Anunoby is a better player right now than whoever the No. 7 pick is going to be and more impactful than Hart or Little.
With that said, if Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster and Co., have made their assessment of the team as it's currently constructed and don’t see a good route to climb back up the mountain, then trading an asset like Anunoby for a younger, high-upside piece would make some sense.
The Case Not to Make the Trade
With the devil’s advocate out of the way, let’s take a look at why it doesn’t make a great deal of sense for the Raptors to trade Anunoby now.
The biggest reason is as follows: Anunoby will be turning 25 in mid-July, only just completed his fifth NBA season and has at least two more seasons with a player option for a third on a very-team friendly annual average value of $18 million. Though he did get hurt again, he averaged a career-high 17.1 points per contest last year as his offensive game appeared to expand yet again, suggesting there’s still a fair bit of potential left for him to squeeze out.
So, knowing all of that, why would the Raptors trade Anunoby just to bank on the potential of the No. 7 selection – Canadian prospect or not?
Even if the deal were to involve, through a sign-and-trade scenario, someone like a Jusuf Nurkic – who would help solve Toronto’s centre woes – or a very promising young player such as Anfernee Simons – who also would have be moved in a sign-and-trade situation – surrendering the kind of high-quality 3-and-D force with potential to become a shot creator that Anunoby still wouldn’t be worth it.
Yes, the injury history is concerning, but that’s just a risk the Raptors are going to have to live with because all signs point to them looking to forge ahead with the team they have now.
Fred VanVleet is an all-star point guard, Pascal Siakam is back to being an All-NBA performer and Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes could be a franchise-changing superstar. And with Anunoby, the Raptors can make another run at things as he’s ready-made right now to take a large role and help the Raptors win games.
As mentioned before, trading Anunoby would suggest the team’s looking to take a step back, but why would Toronto look to do that with how the team’s set up at the moment?
It wouldn’t make much sense.
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