The Toronto Raptors’ 1-5 rocky start to the 2020-21 campaign could signal that a drastic change is in order.
Houston Rockets superstar James Harden, whose trade demand still stands in Houston, has recently been connected with Toronto as a potential destination for the NBA’s 2018 MVP, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Windhorst, who joined Toronto’s Sports Net 590 The Fan on Monday, says the Raptors would package a deal centered on All-Star Pascal Siakam, along with other players and future first-round draft picks.
He also added that he believes it would be a good move for the Raptors, given their defensive prowess this season, while Harden would give their offense – one that’s been in flux this year – the much-needed firepower it’s been sorely missing.
“If you look at the Raptors from the top view, you would say even though they’re 1-4 they’re defense is still performing,” Windhorst said. Well, even though you lost two really good defensive big men (Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol), they’re defending at a level – that is where you want them defending. I think yesterday they were fourth in the league in defense. They’re offense has been horrible, just horrible – bottom 5. And so, you say, if you just defend and Norman Powell gets out of his funk, Pascal gets out of his funk, I’d expect O.G. to score more, you can sort of say that but that’s where they’re issue is – they don’t have that offensive firepower.
“They do have a really good team-defensive concept. So, you start to think; where can you get offensive firepower?”
“That’s why you start thinking about a guy like Harden,” Windhorst added. “Because you know he’s a terrible defender but if you have good team-defense around them; that’s the formula for a huge amount of victories.”
Raptors’ Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby & Malachi Flynn For Rockets’ James Harden?
When Siakam inked a four-year deal, worth $130 million with the Raptors last year, no one could have expected his name to be involved with trade talks one year later. Pascal’s struggled in trying to duplicate his production of last season where he averaged 22.9 points per game on a 45.3% clip.
Last postseason, those numbers dipped to 17 points a night on 39.6% shooting in 11 playoff games. This season?
Through six games, he’s hovering around the same sort of production (17.6 points, 40.7%) but is it concerning enough, this early, for the Raptors to ship Siakam to Houston in exchange for Harden?
“You look at Pascal and that’s the guy on your roster that makes the most sense,” Windhorst said. “The other challenge is with the way the roster has actually been put together, I think they have seven players that they’re not allowed to trade until February or March. So, it’s not like that difficult to figure out what a Raptors offer would be. I’m sure it would have to be Siakam. I would guess the Rockets want Malachi Flynn and then you’re looking at multiple first-round draft picks into the future, probably lightly protected or unprotected.
“That’s a big bite, especially because you’re looking at that – you trade away Siakam, you’re looking at really depleting your frontcourt, you’re going to be backcourt-heavy, you’re going to need some people back there so it requires other transactions.”
In a trade proposed package that would include Siakam, Flynn, and O.G. Anunoby, the Raptors could essentially match Harden’s $41.2 million salary, however, would it be wise for Toronto to send two vital pieces of its frontcourt for The Beard?
“Siakam is a guy who still has a lot of value because he can play multiple positions,” Windhorst explained. “He defends, he plays both ends of the floor when he’s right – he’s not all the way right, right now, and he’s signed to a long-term contract. You would be trading for a guy you don’t have to worry about but still, I think, Houston would want him and a bunch of other stuff and that’s where you get into difficulties because if you’re a team like the Raptors if you execute a James Harden trade; he’s under contract for two years.
“You have to believe that you’re going to be a championship contender for two years.”
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst: ‘That Team Can Become A Champion Contender, So You Give Yourself Two Years; Two Swings
In the end, it ultimately comes down to what Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri truly believes. If he pulls the trigger on such a deal; Ujiri’s opinion on a Harden-led Raptors team is crystal-clear.
“That means the team that you have when the dust clears is a championship contender,” Windhorst said. “And you have to believe that you can keep it there and that’s where the question would become will they do something like that if they believe that team can become a champion contender. So, you give yourself two years; two swings at it because then you might have to face a rebuild without limited draft picks and that’s where this gets difficult and that’s why Masai gets paid the money he does; to look at situations like this.
“I know the Raptors have looked at it, I don’t know how serious they are but they’ve definitely looked at it and discussed it with the Rockets.”