NBA trade rumors: Raptors are sitting on a gold mine, but will they cash in on it?

On Thursday morning, a report surfaced from SNY’s Ian Begley that the Knicks offered the Raptors two first-round picks in December for OG Anunoby. This comes after it was reported earlier this week, by the Toronto Star’s Bruce Arthur, that the Raptors received an offer from an unnamed team with three first-round picks for Anunoby.

So far, Masai Ujiri is untouched.

But how long will it be like this?

It’s not just Anunoby that Toronto is sitting on as a potential high-value trade piece. Pascal Siakam is an NBA player. Fred VanVleet is an All-Star. Gary Trent Jr. would be a desirable shooter/defender for just about any contender.

If the Raptors wanted to concede their struggles this season and put a cap on this current core of players, they would be in position to take the Oklahoma City route to a rebuild. Scottie Barnes becomes your Shai Gilgeous-Alexander building block, and everyone else gets dumped for a truckload of draft capital.

Let’s say Siakam is worth three first-round picks. Anunoby three more. VanVleet potentially two. Another one for Trent. That’s nine first-round picks, plus Toronto controls all of its own picks going forward. It’s a big ride, but if you’re the Raptors, are you ready to start over? The reason these players would be worth so much is because they are very good. Difficult to replace.

Maybe the Raptors go the route of trading a couple of guys but keep a core intact. If that is the case, it is most likely that VanVleet and/or Trent will be sent out. Assuming Trent declines his player option for next season, they will both be unrestricted free agents this summer.

Earlier this month, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps reported that Toronto offered VanVleet the maximum four-year, $114 million extension allowed. VanVleet rejected it. From ESPN:

But one thing is clear: VanVleet believes he is worth more than what Toronto can give him at the moment.

“Without going too far into it… [I’m] just trying to put myself in a good position business-wise and not take an extension on a deal that was made three or four years ago,” VanVleet told ESPN.

“I felt like I’ve played out that contract so far. So I’m just trying to get myself in a position to put the cards in their hands. They had to make a decision from an organizational standpoint.

“I love being here. I love being a raptor. I got on well with Masai and Bobby, so I’m sure we can find [a deal]. It’s a great partnership we have, so going forward I’m not going to make it easy for them and they’re not going to make it easy for me, and that’s the way it goes.”

At the 2021 trade deadline, the Raptors sent Norman Powell to the Blazers for the same reason they may end up trading VanVleet in the next few weeks. They didn’t want to pay Powell whatever it took to keep him, and they didn’t want to lose him for nothing in free agency.

If you’re Ujiri, this is a good problem to have. A bunch of good players that other teams really covet, and that he would certainly also be able to keep. At the same deadline in 2021, it looked like a near formality that the Raptors would move Kyle Lowry. But they didn’t.

Ujiri is not going to compromise. We know so much. We also know that “good problems” are problems nonetheless. This is not an easy decision. I’d certainly count on Ujiri to put together a contender should he suddenly find himself armed with an OKC-like barrel of picks, but there’s no guarantee. And it can be a long process. The Thunder have been around since 2020 and are only now becoming a .500 team because SGA has become an MVP-level player.

Does Barnes really have that kind of upside? I would say no, emphatically. I think he’s a guy you build with, not around. Same with Anunoby. Siakam is the star, but he turns 29 in April. His timeline didn’t fit into a Barnes/draft capital plan.

I don’t know the right answer. It’s not my job. My guess is that VanVleet and Trent will be moved, and Siakam and Anunoby will stay. That would give Toronto at least two more first-round picks to add to its own chest, which would be a pretty nice package to hit the market with in an attempt to land a star alongside Siakam and Anunoby. That would apparently be the shortest path to contention.

But which star is going to be available? And would the Raptors be able to outbid an OKC or Houston or New York — all of whom are also armed to the teeth with draft capital? Would they give up a bunch of really good players for the chance to make it big, only to end up in the same place or maybe even worse than where they started? Ask a Blazers fan about that.

These are all theoretical questions, but ones you can bet Ujiri is considering. These are the decisions GMs are paid the big bucks to make. They are not simple. The only thing we know for sure is that if Ujuri decides to trade any of these guys, he won’t have a shortage of suitors.

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