The Toronto Raptors have found themselves trending in NBA circles on multiple occasions this offseason despite only making a few under the radar acquisitions.
They were (and to a lesser extent still are) in play for Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant; originally listed as one of the most likely destinations for the future first-ballot hall of famer. The hysteria settled though when news broke that the Nets would only deal Durant to the Raptors if rookie of the year Scottie Barnes was included. Masai Ujiri has been adamant that Barnes’ services are not for sale and so it seemed as if the trade discussions halted indefinitely.
It wasn’t long before new rumours surrounded the Raptors, as they were reported to have interest in the Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell. The 3-time all-star is obviously not at the same level as Durant, but he’s an impact player and one of the best scorers across the league. He’s a piece that would instantly turn the Raptors into a major threat in the Eastern Conference.
The other teams reported to be active in the Mitchell sweepstakes are the Knicks, Hawks, Hornets, Kings, Heat and Wizards, with the Knicks looking like the early favourite to get a deal done. New York have a plethora of first round picks, and would likely be able to pull off a deal if they’re willing to part ways with a majority of them.
With that said, the Raptors are not to be discounted in these negotiations. Much like in the Durant dealings, Toronto has a talented young core and lots of attractive pieces to dangle in Utah’s direction, and they would be able to field an offer that could complete with anyone in the association, including the Knicks.
It’s likely that the Jazz are eyeing draft picks, and the Raptors have them in abundance. As well, OG Anunoby or Gary Trent Jr. would be great additions in a trade package, either separately with draft picks or bundled together. Anunoby and Trent Jr. are talented, young players that could help the Jazz navigate through rebuilding seasons, while Mitchell would make an immediate impact in Toronto.
The Louisville product averaged 25.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg and 5.3 apg last season on 44.8% from the field and 35.5% from deep. He’s the type of bucket-getter the Raptors are sorely missing, and putting him in a backcourt with Fred VanVleet would lead to absolute fireworks.
As well, pairing Mitchell with Barnes is almost guaranteed to produce positive results, as Mitchell could aid in Barnes’ development while spacing the floor for the rookie of the year to get increased touches in the paint.
Mitchell hasn’t had the best history defensively, but the Raptors employ one of the best team defences in the league and could definitely help him improve on that side of the ball. It’s not as if he’s incapable, the defensive potential is there for Mitchell and Nick Nurse’s coaching staff would be well-equipped to bring it out of him.
Most importantly perhaps is that you’re not selling the future with this deal like you would be in a Durant transaction. Mitchell will be turning 26 this season, and undoubtedly has many prime years still ahead of him.
There’s lots of teams to compete with, but the immense talent of Mitchell makes it worth pitching an offer to Utah, even if it means possibly losing Anunoby and/or Trent. As long as Pascal Siakam and Barnes remain untouched, a trade would make a lot of sense and put the Raptors on a fast-track back to the elite of the Eastern Conference.
For now, the headlines are rumours instead of fact, but you never know with Ujiri and Bobby Webster. Where there’s smoke there could be fire.