Now that the Indiana Pacers and the Philadelphia 76ers have both been bounced from the postseason, the Raptors' pursuit of their star small forwards can finally begin...right?
Well, let's put a pin in that for a second.
A few weeks ago, before the Pacers went six games against the Heat and before the Sixers pushed the Celtics to seven, both Danny Granger and Andre Iguodala looked like viable targets for the Raptors this offseason. The Raptors, armed with nearly $12-million in cap space, a mid-lottery pick, and some young assets, looked to be in a good spot to secure the services of one of these All-Star forwards. While neither was ever going to come cheap, the thinking was that both had a tenuous grip at best on a future roster spot with those franchises and that a team like Toronto might be in a good spot to lure one away.
Today, though, that may no longer be true.
See, both teams feel like they crossed the Rubicon this spring. Both got deeper into the Playoffs than most had expected them to and both are now riding high on not only their recent successes but also on the brightness of their futures. While trades for both clubs are not out of the question this offseason, neither looks interested in moving their best players for the kind of assets that the Raptors have to offer: primarily cap space or young pieces. If Indiana or Philly is going to make moves now, at least moves involving their top assets, then you have to figure it would be for pieces that make them demonstrably better right away, so that they can come back next season even stronger than they finished off this year. After all, if they don't get better in a trade this summer, why would either club sacrifice their forward momentum to make one?
For Indiana, especially, there is really no reason at all to move Granger. The Pacers were the third best team in the East this season with Granger acting as their best scorer by far, at 18.7 ppg. The thinking had been that Granger would be moved along so that up-and-comer Paul George could slide to the small forward spot and the team could chase a free agent like Eric Gordon or O.J. Mayo to take George's spot at shooting guard. However, George's numbers cratered in the postseason and he was absolutely abused by Dwyane Wade at the other end of the floor against Miami. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense right now to start making decisions based on George's production, especially now that the team has ramped up fan expectation for next season and beyond, meaning that Granger will probably be starting next season exactly where he finished this one; starting for Indiana.
That makes sense, too, since Granger has only two years left on his deal and the Pacers are swimming in cap space this summer. There just isn't any urgent reason to move him along. Even if free agents George Hill and Roy Hibbert earn market value from Indiana this summer (say $5.5-million for Hill and $13-million for Hibbert), they'd still be $6-million below the cap. Had George really exploded this postseason, or had Indiana choked, then you could argue that a change needed to be made, but given how successful the Pacers have been as built over the last 12-18 months, it's hard to find a reason for a major shakeup in Indianapolis.
Philly is in a slightly different boat, however. If their management is honest with themselves, they know that they'd have been knocked out in round one by a healthy Chicago Bulls team, and would probably not have lasted seven games against a fully healthy Boston squad. Their success this spring had as much to do with the health of their opponents as it did with their own play. They're a good team, but they are not on Indiana's level yet, nor is their future nearly as promising. Philly is about $9-million under the cap but are contending with high-scorer Lou Williams and starting center Spencer Hawes hitting free agency. They also have to pay a draft pick this summer and find some talent that takes them beyond where they finished off this season, because down the stretch of the regular season this squad looked absolutely pedestrian.
Even still, while changes look inevitable for the Sixers, it doesn't exactly make sense for the Sixers to swap out Iguodala for Ed Davis and the chance to select Perry Jones or Jared Sullinger in the draft. If they are going to let Iguodala go, they are going to do it because they can land an impact player like Pau Gasol or Al Jefferson. If they can't get a guy of that stature, it makes way more sense for the club to trade Evan Turner or possibly amnesty Elton Brand and try their luck in free agency.
Does that mean it's impossible for the Raptors to craft a deal for these guys? No, but the terms have changed considerably. To land one of these players you're probably looking at having to sacrifice at least DeMar DeRozan or, more likely, Andrea Bargnani. While the Raptors' hole at small forward is real, it would be a lot worse in a lot of other areas if Bargnani were used to acquire one of Granger or Iguodala. If Bryan Colangelo is going to move Bargnani at some point, especially at his cap-friendly cost, he's going to want more in return than a borderline All-Star small forward. While the club would love to beef up their wing spots, they aren't going to move their best big man to do it. If Colangelo cannot construct a trade before the draft, he'll just use his pick and try his luck after July 1st once free agency opens.
Over the course of the next month in the lead up to the NBA draft there is going to be a lot of chatter surrounding the Raptors. They are committed to improving their talent base before next season and they have multiple options in front of them to make that happen. While the doors to Granger and Iguodala look to have gotten a lot closer to closing over the last couple of weeks, that just means that the Raptors have to look for another door somewhere else to improve through. Once the draft order is set this Wednesday in the lottery, the talk will really start to heat up. Look for Toronto to be right in the middle of it all. This is where the offseason starts to get fun, Raptors fans. Enjoy.