Raptors Insider: NBA Trade Deadline Complicated by Injuries

There are those in the highest echelons of Raptors management who assumed it would take 20 games, or about a month of the season, to learn what the team is, what it needs, and how the pieces fit together. Then they could start figuring out exactly what to do.

Good luck with it.

Injuries, illnesses and absences have not only thwarted plans in the short term, but also shaken up long-term plans.

Who can assume what responsibility and where the cracks in the foundation are cannot be finally clarified today. This makes it difficult for Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri to begin the often lengthy process of creating trades that expand as needed.

It’s come up in a few private conversations over the past few days: They just don’t know enough to take informed steps.

The 20-game mark is widely accepted in the league as the time when a team takes a full tally and the unofficial start of the trade season begins in late November.

The Raptors aren’t quite sure what to do.

Take the case of Gary Trent Jr., for example, who is Toronto’s top trade. He has a manageable contract, roughly $17 million a year, that he can squeeze out of this offseason to pursue a longer-term, bigger deal. Bird rights would be attached to him if he’s dealt – the team giving him the chance to re-sign him regardless of the salary cap and that has real value these days.

But what is he?

There are those in the organization who think he is best suited as an offensive energizer off the bench – a role I might disagree with that suits him best – and Nick Nurse has been the subject of criticism of him this week practiced.

“We’re going to get him his shots and his points, but we want him to be a disruptor (defensively),” Nurse said. “He kind of fits in with us when he does that, and when he doesn’t, he doesn’t fit in with us.”

Well, the extenuating circumstances are that Trent was injured and ill and didn’t have the teammates around him that allowed him to thrive. He had three steals against the Nets on Wednesday.

All of this is real and a direct result of the absences that have dogged the team since around opening night. But if the Raptors considered either changing the lineup or moving Trent in for a bigger, stronger, and more experienced version of themselves in a package, there’s no evidence it would be a wise or foolhardy move.

As troubling as the injuries were, the Raptors are 9-9 behind Boston and Milwaukee in the scrambled Eastern Conference and certainly not excited.

No, the biggest problem that came up in the first quarter or so of the season is that the front office hasn’t had anything to adequately support decisions, and that’s what frustrates them the most.

Iron Man (sort of)

Staying with the injury wave and this severe flu virus that’s been decimating the Raptors for weeks, there’s this point.

The only player to have appeared in all 18 games for the Raptors is OG Anunoby, and not sure many would have expected that given his history.

The top levels of the organization have always felt that the 25-year-old could really be a special player, especially on defence, if he could stay on the pitch.

You were right.

He has been one of the best defenders in the league so far – he would be up for Defensive Player of the Year if that call were made today – and his attacking game is developing well.

In a season of disappointment and disruption, the coaching staff and management are privately over the moon with his game and nighttime availability.

Player Authorization

I’m talking to a front office guy who’s been in the league about as long as me about the state of the organizations.

It was mostly a discussion about how often or seldom teams are in full practice or even having shootarounds these days. They are all too often held or canceled at the discretion of the players.

When vets don’t want to get up too early on the go or don’t want to train fully on days off, this generally happens.

“The inmates run the institution,” he said.

Experienced veterinarian

Appreciation for Thad Young grows.

He played in his 1,100th on Wednesday. NBA game against Brooklyn (the only other active players who have more are LeBron James, Andre Iguodala and Chris Paul) and Young was asked about the milestone afterwards.

I wasn’t there in person to hear that reply, but would certainly have nodded in agreement if I had been.

“I don’t remember being a pro, it’s just who I am as a player, it’s who I am as a man,” he said. “Regardless of the situation, what’s going on and what’s not, I only know one thing and that is to work. I put my head down and keep working, keep working, and keep making sure I’m doing the things the Toronto Raptors brought me here to do: to help these young people keep chugging on and getting better and better as a group.

“But also when it’s time for me to intervene . . . I’m doing the job to the best of my ability and while I’m doing my job I can show them how we should play basketball, that’s how the game is played.

cards and letters

let her come We’ll be putting together the Ye Olde Mailbag for Sunday the next day or so, and it’s only as good as the questions you ask.

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