The Toronto Raptors might or might not be many things, but one thing they surely are this season is headline grabbers.
After reports emerged earlier this week about Toronto engaging in conversations with the Indiana Pacers involving a trade of franchise player Pascal Siakam, both teams agreed to a deal on Wednesday evening with Toronto destroying the final core remnants of the 2019 core that won the Larry O’B led by Kawhi Leonard.
BREAKING: The Indiana Pacers are finalizing a trade to acquire All-Star F Pascal Siakam in a deal that will send Bruce Brown, Jordan Nwora and three first-round picks to the Toronto Raptors. New Orleans will be a third team in deal, sending Kira Lewis to the Raptors.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 17, 2024
The Pacers emptied the draft tank but avoided sending many flesh-and-bone assets north of the border, contrary to what the Knicks did in the trade for OG Anunoby on Dec. 30.
Only Bruce Brown and Jordan Nwora moved their bodies to Canada while Indiana packaged them with three first-round picks—and Kira Lewis via New Orleans—to complete the deal.
All of that is cool, and all of that could end up having a serious impact on New York’s season and the franchise's chances at making a deep postseason run come May. Kento has you covered on that front with his analysis of the trade implications.
Now, looking a bit past the main takeaway of the impact on seeding, could this only be the first (or second, if you add OG’s trade to the tally) move of a string of them put together by Raptors’ Honcho Masai Ujiri? Could Bruce Brown, he of the Knicks interest, be re-routed to New York in the next few hours, days, or weeks?
A lot of questions, not many answers!
This is not me trying to look like an enlightened genius, mind you. Once the trade was completed, it took between one and two minutes for everybody and their mothers to start questioning whether the Raptors would be better off trading Brown away in another move to be completed before the Feb. 8 deadline.
Brown, for context, signed a $45 million, two-year deal with Indiana last summer coming off a championship run with the Denver Nuggets and helping the franchise win their first-ever chip. The second year of that contract, however, is a team option that could be declined next July, effectively making Brown a free agent just a season after inking the papers.
Before signing with the Pacers and massively filling his bag, Brown held meetings with the Lakers, Mavericks, and Knicks, according to Dylan Svoboda of the New York Post. As Svoboda correctly described Brown in his piece, he is considered “a strong wing defender” and he can man the point while also contributing buckets at the two-guard spot.
According to Ian Begley, sharing some intel after the Siakam trade was completed on Wednesday, “some people with the Knicks would love to bring [Bruce Brown Jr.] on ahead of the trade deadline.”
Zach Harper of The Athletic broke down the trade a little after it was reported earlier in the day. He described Brown as a “reliable outside shooter,” although he pointed out that “[Brown] hasn’t been able to get his outside shot going this season (32.7 percent) in a historically great offense (Indana’s).”
Added Harper: “Brown is excellent at moving and cutting off the ball, so he could open up some good spacing and gravity within the half court as (Scottie) Barnes, Quickley and even Barrett are operating with the ball.”
Most interesting when it comes to the Knicks’ potential interest in trading for Brown is the fact that the Raptors will face no restrictions in re-rerouting their new player, with the exception of not being able to aggregate his salary with any other in their roster. He can only be traded away alone or attached to draft picks.
“Brown might be a guy they flip to [another] team in exchange for assets or a role player who can help right away,” Harper wrote. “Maybe that happens before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, or maybe that unfolds around the draft before they have to make a decision on the team option. But that’s a nice trade chip for Raptors president Masai Ujiri to dangle out there.”
Brown is earning $22 million this season. If I’m correct and the Fanspo Trade Machine isn’t failing me, then the Knicks could trade Evan Fournier ($18.8 million) to the Raptors in exchange for Bruce Brown and the salaries would work under the NBA trade rules. Obviously, it’d take more than that—aka first-round picks and/or players a la Quentin Grimes and Jericho Sims (because of their age and mostly their low salaries).
The main question here is whether or not Ujiri would be happy making another trade with the Knicks and virtually turning the Raptors in 2022-23 New York 2.0 albeit with Barnes and Jakob Poeltl instead of Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson.
Yes, the picks are saucy and Masai would demand some of them in exchange for Brown, but considering the Raptors reportedly favored players to volatile draft considerations (although they seemed to contradict themselves with the package they landed in return for Siakam), it’s worth questioning whether or not a “core” of IQ/RJ/Grimes added to franchise player Scottie Barnes would be that appealing to Toronto now and going forward.
Could the Knicks explore this trade? That’s the job of the front office and not doing so would be borderline malpractice. Should the Knicks complete this trade? That’s an entirely different story and the answer to that question is most probably a resounding NO considering what New York would need to surrender (their lone remaining appealing youngster in Grimes and some draft picks including one or more first-rounders).
What are your thoughts, P&Ters? Should Leon pull the trigger?