Though still more than a month away, the burner on the Toronto Raptors hot stove turned way up late Monday morning when The Athletic’s Shams Charania dropped a report stating the Raptors and Cavaliers were “engaged in active talks” on a deal that would send Andre Drummond to Toronto.
Given Toronto’s obvious need at the centre position, coupled with a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Cleveland would no longer play Drummond as it begins to gauge interest in the trade market for him, the prospect of bringing Drummond to the Raptors looks enticing and seems logical — in theory.
But, practically speaking, how logical would a move for Drummond be, and what would a Raptors package for him even look like to begin with?
Here’s a closer look at those questions.
How would a deal for Drummond work?
Put simply, making a trade for Drummond would either cost the Raptors at least four players, or things would have to get complicated with a third or fourth team involved.
This is because Drummond is owed $28.7 million this season, meaning the Raptors have to send approximately $22.9 million in player salaries, at least, for this season from their roster in order to acquire Drummond from Cleveland.
And, making matters more complicated, Toronto has no trade exceptions to help with salary matching and — because they used their non-taxpayer mid-level exception — they’re hard-capped this season at $138.9 million. So if they were to take on more salary and move into the tax, they wouldn’t have much wiggle room past the $132.6-million luxury tax threshold.
That’s not a lot of flexibility for the Raptors to work with to make a trade straight-up with the Cavaliers for Drummond, especially when you consider the team’s personnel and who is likely to be traded.
Players like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby aren’t going anywhere. They’ve been locked up long-term and are too important to the team’s future. The same can likely be said of Chris Boucher, and he can’t even be traded until March 3 (like VanVleet) anyway.
A straight swap of Kyle Lowry for Drummond is possible, but that would be redundant if the Raptors are trying to win this season as it makes no sense for Toronto to trade one of its best players on a large expiring contract for a rental centre who’s on a slightly smaller expiring deal.
So then, this leaves Toronto with just the expiring Norman Powell — and the $10.8 million he’s making this season — and a bunch of spare parts that could make a trade happen.
For example, Toronto could make a trade work if they send Powell, Aron Baynes, Stanley Johnson and Terence Davis in a deal.
The issue with that, however, is that’s a lot of roster players Toronto would be sending away that they’d have to part with, not to mention trading Powell means losing a key rotation player (more on this in the next section).
You also have to consider Cleveland’s perspective. As a team that looks like it wants to — at least — make a push for the play-in tournament this season and give some of its young players some experience in high-pressure games, do the Raptors actually have desirable players to offer outside of Powell?
The answer is probably not, making the feasibility of a straight-up trade between Cleveland and Toronto unlikely unless a third or even fourth teams gets involved to both make the cap math and actual on-court fit work.
How would Drummond fit with the team?
OK, so the means of a trade are harder than most would like. But let’s say for argument’s sake that the Raptors and Cavaliers are able to come to an agreement on a deal. How, then, would Drummond fit on this Raptors squad?
Well, he would immediately make them a better rebounding team. Toronto is the third-worst defensive rebounding team in the league, with a defensive rebounding rate of only 71.6 per cent, so acquiring Drummond and his third-best 35.9 per cent defensive-rebounding rate and league-best 24.3 per cent rebounding rate overall would help the Raptors greatly.
Additionally, Drummond would figure to be a much more effective roll threat than Baynes is at the moment and has even improved as a passer and play-maker over the years, able to effectively recognize and kick out of doubles that may come his way in the post.
So, yeah, compared to the current centre situation the Raptors have, Drummond — all six-foot-10, 279 pounds of him — would be an upgrade, but that doesn’t mean he would be a perfect fit.
For one, as mentioned before, the acquisition cost of Drummond would likely include Powell, who, offensively, might be too important for the Raptors to give up without also receiving a somewhat comparable wing scorer in return.
And while Drummond is a great rebounder who can protect the rim, he isn’t a perfect fit for Toronto’s defence in that he can be taken for a ride in the pick-and-roll and isn’t super switchable. This, of course, is an issue the team’s encountering with Baynes at the moment. But why would you trade for someone with similar defensive issues?
On offence, Drummond can’t space the floor at all. Again, Baynes’ three-point shot hasn’t come as advertised this season, but he still at least takes them whereas Drummond doesn’t. It’s an aspect of his game he’s never really really tied to hone (he’s taken a total of 111 triples in his career, and just eight this season).
For a pace-and-space attack like the one the Raptors like to play, Drummond’s inability to even look like a decoy out on the perimeter would greatly hinder them, even if his rebounding could potentially let the team run a little more than it’s doing right now.
Is there really anything to this Drummond-Raptors rumour?
Allow Sportsnet’s Michael Grange to give you the short answer here:
For the longer answer, remember that the Raptors never let their plans leak, so chances are this Drummond rumour is coming from Cleveland’s front office to, as Wojnarowski reported, gauge interest for Drummond to see if they can get anything of merit back for him and avoid buying him out.
As Grange said, it makes sense that the Cavaliers would use the Raptors here given the obvious need Toronto has for a centre upgrade.
However, given all the evidence working against this trade, while you can never say never in the NBA, the actual feasibility of a Toronto trade for Drummond seems rather low at the moment.