The Toronto Raptors have plenty of major decisions to make this offseason.
Between trades, the NBA Draft, and free agency, only a handful of Toronto’s current rotation players may return in 2023-24.
Chief among them will be 21-year-old forward Scottie Barnes, the only player that the Raptors front office has tagged as untouchable in trade discussions.
Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby also could remain in Toronto as core players, given their productivity and status among the league’s top talent.
Nonetheless, though there are multiple ways that they can upgrade their roster, one option is better than any other: The Raptors would be better off trading fifth-year guard Gary Trent Jr. than anyone else this offseason.
1 player Raptors must trade in 2023 NBA offseason
While the Raptors look for ways to improve their roster, Trent is a player whose youth, contract, and productivity will be attractive to opposing teams.
At 24-years-old, the former second-overall pick still has around a decade left in the league.
Yet, Trent has already refined his game to the point where he’s a reliable rotation player that impacts the game mightily on both ends with averages of 17.4 points and 1.6 steals per game this season.
Shooting 36.9 percent from 3-point range on a 48.1 percent 3-point attempt rate, his offensive role can primarily be described as a shooting specialist.
However, Trent is more than just your standard catch-and-shoot artist.
He’s more-than-capable of attacking closeouts, scoring with a pull-up jumper inside-the-arc or using an up-fake prior to a stepback that creates more space for him to get off a three. Trent’s also a movement shooter, though in smaller doses, capable of knocking down midrange and 3-point jumpers when coming off of screens.
Defensively, Trent can often be seen collecting steals like an NFL cornerback gets an interception. All the way down to the pick-six, as he races down the court before his opponent can even react.
It isn’t difficult to see why he would be a popular trade target, especially with him having an $18.8 million expiring contract if he picks up his 2022-23 player option.
Potential trade destinations for Gary Trent Jr.
When assessing what teams might have interest in trading for Trent, there’s a conundrum.
On the one hand, Trent is at a stage in his career in which he’s more likely to be chasing a lucrative contract than a championship. To that point, Trent is still so young that he can be a valuable piece of a rebuilding core.
On the other hand, Trent is the type of player that a team trying to reach the NBA Finals will go after as well. Especially as Trent would likely be one of the youngest players on a veteran-laden roster.
Teams such as the Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies are firmly in-between the two though, and those need to be considered as options as well.
Trade Scenario #1
Raptors receive: Terry Rozier, 2023 second-round pick, 2023 second-round pick,
Hornets receive: Gary Trent Jr.
Trade Scenario #2
Raptors receive: Anfernee Simons, 2023 second-round pick, 2024 second-round pick,
Blazers receive: Gary Trent Jr., cash considerations
Trade Scenario #3
Raptors receive: 2023 first-round pick (via BRK)
Rockets receive: Gary Trent Jr.
In each of the aforementioned trade scenarios, the Raptors get their desired draft capital in exchange for Trent. Trent will likely sign a contract with his new team with an annual salary of at least $25 million.
However, the first two trades are ones that allow Toronto to replace veteran point guard Fred VanVleet.
FVV could become a free agent this offseason if he declines his $22.8 million player option for 2022-23. Heralded for his leadership abilities, feistiness, and productivity despite going undrafted in 2016, VanVleet is still in his prime at 29-years-old.
Nonetheless, FVV and his usage rate as a primary ball-handler seem to prevent Barnes from fully reaching his potential. Many will point to Siakam, given the similarities in their games, as well.
Still, Siakam and Anunoby seem to be favorites of Raptors president Masai Ujiri, a factor which may keep them in Toronto long-term despite incessant trade chatter.
Regardless, by replacing VanVleet with a combo guard, Toronto puts itself in position to play Scottie Barnes in point-forward role more. A role he seems to thrive in.
To that point, Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier and Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons play off-ball regularly. Furthermore, both 29-year-old Rozier and 23-year-old Simons are more efficient and less ball-dominant than FVV.
All of these factors should lead to at least Siakam and Anunoby performing better next season, as they’re both primarily on-ball playmakers.