Hard to believe, but it has been only two weeks since the Raptors last took the floor with the hopes of salvaging some sense of dignity against the Cavaliers, who'd steamrolled Toronto in their semifinal matchup. The Cavs KO'd the Raptors in a stunning sweep, of course, and days later, coach Dwane Casey was let go.
That's left the Raptors with a wide agenda here in the offseason. They're still coach-hunting, but the consensus around the league has been that making a shuffle in the coaching staff alone is not going to solve all the Raptors' woes. If the team comes back with the same personnel, they're not likely to get much better next year.
But the way the Raptors' payroll is constructed, the options available for a move this offseason will be limited. Toronto, essentially, has four significant trade chips to play, and each of them comes with its own set of problems.
Still, we looked at the possibility of deals happening with all four, the type of package that could come back in return, and what might prevent each player from actually hitting the trade block. We also checked in with a league executive from another team for thoughts on whether that player might actually be on the move.
DeMar DeRozan (three years, $83 million left on contract)
Let's deal him: DeRozan is the best chip the Raptors have if the goal is truly to overhaul the roster. He's 28 and has been an All-Star in four of his last five seasons, a span in which he has averaged 23.4 points. DeRozan has been remarkably durable, too, suffering just one serious injury (a torn tendon in his thigh in 2014) that kept him out for a month-and-a-half and has had no lasting effects.
Not so fast: A scorer like DeRozan won't be easy to replace. Even as the Raptors reduced the pressure on DeRozan as part of their makeover last season, he was still the team's top producer, at 23.0 points per game. Teams will have concerns about acquiring DeRozan, too, because his game is so heavily reliant on midrange shooting - he's a career 28.9 percent 3-point shooter, and after starting the year at 37.8 percent in his first 40 games, DeRozan shot 25.9 percent from the arc in his final 40 games.
What you could get: Because DeRozan is such an oddball among the league's elite scorers - a wing who can't shoot from the 3-point line - teams would be wary to deal for him, and his contract adds to that caution. If he were to move, the main return would likely be another highly-paid player with a few significant warts. Kawhi Leonard would be the dream scenario, but more likely is Andrew Wiggins of the Timberwolves, a much-rumoured possibility that has yet to gain any traction.
Exec weighs in: "Three years, that's the big number. They're going to want a draft pick in a package for him, and there aren't a lot of teams that are going to include possibly good picks or young players for a guy who is kind of a square peg in today's league. It's not saying DeRozan doesn't have value, it's just that you'd have to adjust your whole offence for him. You can't just stick him on the Pelicans, for example, because he wouldn't pair up with Anthony Davis well. There's too many obstacles."
Kyle Lowry (two years, $65 million)
Let's deal him: Lowry was an All-Star again this year, despite reduced numbers. He was willing to sacrifice his own stats to help diversify the Raptors offence, but still averaged 16.2 points, 6.9 assists and 5.6 rebounds, shooting 39.9 percent from the 3-point line. He is a solid defender and a tough-minded veteran, but the Raptors have depth at the point guard position, with Fred VanVleet (a restricted free agent) and Delon Wright on board.
Not so fast: No one is clamouring for a 32-year-old point guard who was the league's sixth-highest paid player last year and is slated for raises each of the next two seasons. VanVleet had a good year, but there is not much evidence that he's ready to take over as the team's starter, especially if it means the Raptors must pay him starter-level money.
What you could get: Again, the Raptors are not likely going into any kind of significant rebuild, so a deal like this would likely yield only a lateral move and probably require taking on some bad contracts. You might get Kemba Walker, for example, from Charlotte, but you would have to take Nicolas Batum and the three years, $56 million left on his contract. Or if Eric Bledsoe of the Bucks became a target, the Raptors would have to take back Matthew Dellavedova (two years, $19 million) and/or Tony Snell (three years, $34 million). Miami's Goran Dragic (two years, $37 million)? OK, but you also get James Johnson (two years, $30 million).
Exec weighs in: "If anything does happen with that roster, Lowry is probably the guy who makes the most sense. He can be hard-headed, that was always his reputation, but he seems to have mellowed out now that he's older. He's tough and he has two years left on the contract, which makes it easy to take, especially if you can get rid of a bad deal on your books. I think that is what Toronto is going to be looking at with him and of all the possibilities, that's the most likely."
Jonas Valanciunas (two years, $34 million, player option on second year)
Let's deal him: Valanciunas just turned 26 and his value is at its peak, as he is coming off his best season in the NBA and remains somewhat tantalizing in that Toronto has never really given him the touches he might well warrant. You have steady improvement, relative youth and some mystery - now would be the right time to strike. The Raptors have options behind Valanciunas, with Jakob Poeltl performing well in his second season, and with an ability to go small thanks to defensive-minded power forwards. Valanciunas dabbled with a 3-point shot in the second half of this year, but he remains a mostly in-the-paint offensive player.
Not so fast: All things considered, Valanciunas is on a very reasonable contract, and though he is not the prototype for versatility among centers, he is a reliable scorer in the post and has improved defensively. The trade market has been glutted with centers on big contracts in recent years, and the Raptors have not had much success finding a trade partner for him in their past attempts to make a move. That glut means that any return for Valanciunas is not likely to line up with the value he brings Toronto.
What you could get: The Raptors could potentially swap their problematic center for another team's problematic center, but they're likely to get back a bigger problem in return - good luck with Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat, Hassan Whiteside, Tyson Chandler or even Marc Gasol, who might be the best-case scenario despite being 33 and having coped with injury issues in recent years.
Exec weighs in: "They've shopped him in the past, but the contract is not so bad anymore, and he is playing better. He is a more aggressive defender and rebounder. So the thing that makes another team more willing to trade for him has got to make you think that you don't really want to deal him after all. If you can find a piece that helps you on the wing, that's great. But even with JV playing better, there are not a lot of teams looking for back-to-the-basket centers. I don't see anything happening with him."
Serge Ibaka (two years, $44 million)
Let's deal him: No player better symbolized Toronto's playoff flameout better than Ibaka, who has been fading over the last couple of years (fueling questions about whether he is really 28, his listed age). Ibaka began this postseason in spectacular fashion, with 33 points and 21 rebounds in Toronto's first two games. From there? Uselessness. Ibaka averaged 6.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and shot 36.0 percent in the Raptors' other eight playoff games, and he was moved to the bench for Game 3 against Cleveland. That does not bode well for the remaining two years of his deal.
Not so fast: At his best, Ibaka can still have an impact defensively and contribute offensively. He has turned himself into a good 3-point shooter, a stretch-4 that opposing defences must take into account. If the Raptors unload him now, they'll be doing so at the low point of his value, and pretty much be forced to take a poor package for a guy who might be able to bounce back.
What you could get: There will be at least one bad contract coming back for Ibaka, perhaps two - Danilo Gallinari and Austin Rivers from the Clippers, perhaps, or Evan Turner and Moe Harkless from Portland. Washington is desperate to create some salary wiggle room, so Markieff Morris could be had if it also meant taking on Gortat and Jason Smith (or just Morris and Ian Mahinmi, but the Wiz will be under pressure to dump Gortat). There may be some young bench players involved in these deals, but that's what it would take to be rid of Ibaka.
Exec weighs in: "It's a big red flag how much he has declined in the last couple of years. It's hard to imagine him just getting back to being better. I think the has value as a bench player, but he does not have the same athleticism he had a few years ago. That hurts. It is not impossible to find a taker for him because he can shoot, but you're going to have to swallow hard and take back some money you don't want on the other end."
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