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Center Options for Raptors Ahead of the Feb. 8 Trade Deadline

The Toronto Raptors are in the midst of a four-game losing streak and have less than a month to right the ship. Who can they acquire to help turn things around?

Reality is starting to hit the Toronto Raptors where it hurts.

Masai Ujiri has been adamant about the organization's desire to remain competitive, and there was definitely a brief spark following the OG Anunoby trade. Skip ahead one week, and all of this season’s issues are once again at the forefront.

Sample size is irrelevant when looking at Toronto’s recent mediocrity. Now 15-25 on the season, the team has lost four straight – posting a 3-7 record over the last 10 games and a 6-14 record over the last 20. Some losses were extremely close and poor officiating may have played a role, but paltry defense and non-existent three-point shooting is where the bulk of the blame should fall.

The Raptors gave the Boston Celtics a decent challenge on Monday, but that was in spite of getting killed in the paint and shooting just 12.5% from beyond the arc. In fact, Toronto’s shaky perimeter shooting is a direct result of being unable to create driving lanes – which is something other teams are regularly exploiting.

Things will stabilize a bit in that regard once Jakob Poeltl returns, but his status remains uncertain. He’s also been in the lineup for virtually the entire season, and Toronto’s still been a bubble play-in team at best.

The February 8th trade deadline is quickly approaching, and the Raptors still have a vacant roster spot to play with from the Anunoby deal. Who might be available?

Daniel Gafford

Toronto could really benefit from a big like Daniel Gafford. The Washington Wizards know what they have in their 25-year-old center, but what he brings fits so naturally into what the Raptors are trying to accomplish. In other words, he’s worth the price so long as it’s not outlandish. Especially considering he’s locked up for two more seasons at $12.4 million.

Standing at 6-foot-10, Gafford is a fairly effective defender capable of blocking shots and being a dog on the glass. His ability to create space on the floor can’t be understated either, emphasized by his 172 screen assists – fourth-most in the NBA this season behind only Domantas Sabonis, Nikola Jokić, and Anthony Davis.

Outside of Pascal Siakam and draft picks, Toronto doesn’t have much trade capital but perhaps some kind of package involving Gary Trent Jr. could be enough to move the needle. The Wizards depth at guard, much like their depth at most positions, is lacking.

Tyus Jones and Delon Wright are on expiring deals, and Trent Jr. would be an upgrade on Landry Shamet. Trent Jr. is expiring as well, but his age and game fit Washington’s plans and perhaps he could be convinced to stay.

Nick Richards

During a recent episode of the Locked On Mavericks podcast, Senior NBA Reporter Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports speculated that the Charlotte Hornets may be willing to part with center Nick Richards.

Fischer went on to say that a strong offer, like perhaps a pair of second-round picks, could be enough to get it done. The 26-year-old would essentially be a cheaper, lower-end version of Gafford. The injury bug has torn through Charlotte’s dressing room as of late, and Richards hasn’t looked out of place as the starting center.

The seven-foot big is signed for two more seasons at $5 million. He’s improved each year and is an energy guy who can set screens and protect the rim on both ends of the floor. A player like Otto Porter Jr. can be sent the other way with the picks to make the money work.

Dereck Lively II

The chances of Dereck Lively II ending up in Toronto are admittedly slim, but not impossible. According to Fischer, the Dallas Mavericks are reportedly interested in acquiring Siakam as he would fit well alongside Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving.

Perhaps the Raptors would have chosen Lively at the 2023 NBA Draft if he hadn’t gone a spot ahead of Gradey Dick, and now’s their chance to have them both. Lively’s rookie season has gone well, starting in 29-of-30 games so far and averaging 8.6 points, 7.7 bounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks in just over 25 minutes.

He’s certainly not a player the Mavs are looking to part with, but it may be something they’re willing to come around to if Siakam is truly viewed as the missing piece. For the money to work, some combination of Tim Hardaway Jr., Richaun Holmes, and Maxi Kleber would have to be packaged with Lively.

Perhaps the Raptors can also pry away Montreal-native Olivier Maxence-Prosper. Taken 24th overall in the 2023 NBA Draft, Prosper has failed to become a mainstay in Dallas’ rotation and could potentially benefit from a change of scenery.