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Remember what the Toronto Raptors looked like approaching the trade deadline a season ago? Full of swagger, a chip on their shoulder for being written off without Kawhi Leonard, battling for one of the top seeds in the East, two All-Stars, Nick Nurse coaching Team Giannis.
It was nothing but good vibes, but it’s become crystal clear that this year’s team isn’t that.
The Raptors are under .500 at 17-19, are flirting with the idea of the play-in tournament ,and had no representation at All-Star weekend for the first time since 2013. Still, there’s a case to be made that they’re better than their record and therefore should be buyers. They went 15-9 after a 2-8 start, but COVID-19 protocols left them woefully shorthanded against the Pistons and Celtics and so they lost their final two games before the break.
An argument also exists to try and maximize what could be Kyle Lowry’s final season with the Raptors. He is the greatest Raptor of all time, a trade that truly creates a better long-term future may not exist, and he’s playing at an All-Star level averaging 18 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 7.0 assists. (He also remains determined to retire as a Raptor, no matter what.) As the Raptors’ season has progressed, Nurse has leaned towards small ball more and more, putting his core players in Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Norman Powell at the forefront.
When it comes to any trade, it’s about figuring out what pieces work best around that core. Here are five players who may be available and can address some of the Raptors’ weaknesses: