The Raptors and Thunder are two teams heading in starkly different directions. The Thunder were one of the feel good stories of the NBA this past season. They have one of the best young cores in the League, and a team chemistry that is not often seen. On the other hand, Toronto struggled this past season with chemistry issues, underachievement, and now faces the likely loss of star forward Chris Bosh. While these two teams are going in opposite directions, they can both help each other greatly.
The Raptors appear to be closing in on a trade for an additional first-round pick. Colangelo has called every team with multiple picks looking for something in the 20s, according to sources. He’s offering cash (the team can pay up to $3 million for a pick) to any team that doesn’t want to make a three-year commitment to a late first rounder. A few teams, including the Thunder and Nets, have said no. But teams with multiple first-round picks (like the Grizzlies) or teams trying to save cash or a luxury tax hit (see the Orlando Magic) are in Colangelo’s sights.
It appears that the Thunder have already turned down Colangelo’s overtures about buying one of their late first rounders (21 and 26), but Sam Presti and his staff should rethink their decision. Presti has done a remarkable job building up the Thunder through the Draft, acquiring multiple first-round picks over the years that have produced the likes of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden. Those five guys are going to be the core in Oklahoma City for the next ten years (assuming they stay together), and adding a player at No. 27 who won’t contribute right away is not the right move.
In addition to the five players mentioned above, the Thunder also have D.J. White, Eric Maynor, Kyle Weaver and B.J. Mullens on their rookie contracts. These guys still need to develop, and will most likely be ahead on the depth chart of anyone OKC picks up in the late 20’s. Presti needs to sell their pick for cash to the Raptors. The Raptors can pay up to $3 million for the pick, and Presti can use that money to sign a mid-level free agent who can come in and play right away, opposed to a guy who will likely be brought along slowly like Maynor, Mullens and White.
The Thunder don’t have the cap space to sign a marquee free agent, but that does not mean they can’t find another piece to their roster. If John Salmons opts out of his contract with Milwaukee, he would most likely be outside the Thunder’s price range. But if they can afford him, he would be a great complement as a creative wing scorer to KD. Also, Al Harrington could be a cheaper alternative to Salmons to provide the same skill-set for Presti.
Another guy Presti could use the Raptors’ money to sign is Kyle Korver. Korver shot an NBA record 53.6% from three, and with the Thunder desperately in need of a three-point threat, Korver would be the perfect guy for the job (with Mike Miller as a solid back-up plan). These guys can all help the Thunder now and later. The Thunder are ready to take the next step, and signing a free agent, as opposed keeping the 27th pick, allows them to do that.
While the Thunder don’t need another Draft pick, if any team ever needed to stockpile young talent like Presti has done, it is the Toronto Raptors. Chris Bosh has one foot out the door, and without him, the Raptors’ roster is a bunch of overpaid, defensively challenged players. Colangelo is actively shopping three of those highly paid, defensively deficient players in Hedo Turkoglu, Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon.
It’s time for a full-scale rebuilding effort in Toronto behind Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan. Colangelo needs to acquire as many Draft picks as he can to help rebuild a team that was one of the worst underachievers in the League last season; and luckily for Toronto, he realizes changes need to be made. He is not sitting idly by hoping his mess of a roster works itself out, but actively seeking to change the culture. If he can get rid of at least one of the Turkoglu/Jack/Calderon trio, then he will offset the money he spends buying a late first-rounder, and maybe even sign a young, cheap free-agent like Hakim Warrick, Dorrell Wright or Travis Outlaw.
The moral of this post is that the Thunder and Raptors need each other. The Thunder need money to sign a free-agent to contribute right away, and the Raptors need to kick-start their rebuilding process. Presti and Colangelo: a match made in heaven.
What do you think?
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