The Toronto has what the Bucks need and although there is some debate about whether or not the Raptors should just stand pat heading into the NBA trade deadline, if they could pry the right player out of Milwaukee, most people would up their chances of making it to their first NBA Finals.
The premise is simple. The Bucks are dead last in rebounding and going no where this postseason, if they can even hang onto a playoff spot sitting just a game and a half out of ninth in mid-January, and the Raptors have been shopping one of the league’s perennial top 10 rebounders (on a percentage of available boards) since last summer.
The Bucks have been linked to high priced potentially available centers like DeAndre Jordan, but it’s hard to imagine how they can come up with enough assets to match a $22 million salary without decimating their roster. At $15.5 million, the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas is at least a possibility.
In Toronto the Raptors have depth at center and power forward and with the emergence of second year center Jakob Poeltl, the continuing move to play more small ball and the stated desire by Serge Ibaka to play more minutes at the five spot, Valanciunas has become a luxury that head coach Dwane Casey struggles to find minutes for.
As the starting center Valanciunas is playing just over 20 minutes per game despite averaging a team second best 19.3 points per 36 minutes and cleaning the glass at a team best rate of 13.7 boards. He is the player the Bucks lineup is missing.
Also, Valanciunas has played like a man among boys versus Milwaukee in two games this season, averaging 13 points and 9 boards in just 16.9 minutes.
In a case of its going to cost you to get what you want, the Bucks player that can help the Raptors is small forward Kris Middleton.
The contracts of the two players are close enough in salary and duration for a straight one-for-one swap and although Middleton is putting up a career best 19.9 points per game, he’s doing it taking a a career-high 15.8 shots as his three-point shooting has fallen off a cliff to 34 percent.
The Raptors would want the Middleton of the past four seasons that averaged 14.5 points and shot 40.8 percent from three and playing on a team with more offensive talent, they can probably be convinced that is the player they’d be getting.
The trade should begin and end here, but if the Bucks want to add a two-way player with the potential to replace what Middleton provided, Toronto can probably be convinced to send another piece that Casey is having trouble finding minutes for in the Raptors deep roster.
In the playoffs last April Milwaukee had Toronto on the ropes until Casey brought Norman Powell from a DNP-CD in Game Two into an increased role over the next four games. Powell averaged 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 28.5 minutes while shooting 90 percent from three in those games and helped turn the series around. That isn’t something a coach or GM can easily forget.
This year Powell has lost his spot in the rotation to rookie OG Anunoby (a swing and a miss by the Bucks who drafted the 6’10 D.J. Wilson six spots ahead of him) and is pretty much just finding minutes as an injury-reserve, but the potential as an over-achieving tough defender and offensive threat is still there.
The Raptors signed the second round pick Powell to a four-year $42 million extension this past summer and under the current circumstances, could undoubtedly be convinced to move him for another prospect, say Wilson, who the Raptors could develop in their G League franchise.
Moving Powell doesn’t help the Raptors and would be a risk if Casey needs a reliable player to cover injuries or even just foul trouble, but to make a deal for Middleton, president Masai Ujiri would have to consider it. The Bucks would probably want Anunoby, but that demand would instantly kill discussions.
As the calendar quickly moves towards the NBA trade deadline on February 8th, the Bucks will increasingly feel the pressure to do something meaningful about their inability to rebound the ball and signing two-way centers like Marshall Plumlee only smacks of desperation. They can either take a chance or accept the fact that, even with Giannis Antetokounmpo, they are still a one-and-done team in April at best.
The Raptors on a franchise record setting pace of 29-12 at the halfway point in the season are probably feeling pretty good about where they are, but the shadow of the King in Cleveland still looms and even with the Cavs current slide, Ujiri won’t be fooling himself into thinking the Raptors would be favored in a playoff series against LeBron James by standing pat.
It isn’t easy trading meaningful players with a potential playoff rival, but this is a deal the Raptors and Bucks should make happen.
Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson