The San Antonio Spurs are trading Thaddeus Young to the Toronto Raptors for Goran Dragic, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Drew Eubanks will also head to Toronto in the deal, and the two sides will also be swapping draft picks. Toronto will get Detroit’s 2022 second-round pick. San Antonio lands Toronto’s 2022 first-round pick, protected 1-14. If it doesn’t convey, it will be protected 1-13 next season before reverting into second-rounders. The deal sees two players who have been severely underutilized this season find new homes that could potentially make more sense.
Dragic was a cap casualty in Miami this offseason. The Heat needed to match salary on a sign-and-trade for then-Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, and they used Dragic’s team option to help get there. The marriage was awkward from the start when Dragic made it clear that he wanted to play for a contender. He appeared in just five games for the Raptors before an undisclosed personal issue took him away from the team.
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But now, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Dragic will get his wish. The Spurs are expected to grant Dragic a buyout and the chance to choose a new home for himself. The Bucks, Bulls and Clippers are expected to be interested, but the favorite will almost certainly be the Mavericks, who employ fellow Slovenian star Luka Doncic and could badly use another ball-handler.
Young has been a more frequent presence in San Antonio this season, but not by much. Like Dragic, he was used as salary ballast in a sign-and-trade. Ironically, that trade was for Lowry’s best friend, DeMar DeRozan. He has appeared in 26 games with the Spurs, but has played just 370 minutes there. He was an extremely valuable small-ball center for Chicago last season, though, and he fits Toronto’s organizational ethos of accumulating as many long forwards as possible. Here’s how both teams graded in the deal.
San Antonio receives:
2022 Raptors first-round pick (protected 1-14 in 2022, protected 1-13 in 2023, turning into future seconds)
Spurs trade grade: A
Remember, Young was rumored as a possible buyout candidate mere days ago. Those rumors might have been a bit premature considering his value, but there wasn’t exactly much buzz on his market in the days leading up to the deadline. That has much more to do with San Antonio’s mismanagement of a valuable veteran, but regardless of how we got to this point, the Spurs wound up landing a pretty valuable first-round pick in exchange for a player they hardly used.
Toronto’s first-round pick is protected 1-14 this season. That’s right in the sweet spot for the Spurs. If the season ended today, Toronto would be picking No. 20 overall. We should point out, though, that the sixth-seeded Raptors are only half of a game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets in the standings, and when the Nets are healthy and beyond the drama of the past few weeks, they’ll likely string together enough wins to get into the top six. That would push Toronto into the play-in.
Yes, that risks them falling into the lottery and keeping their pick, but if the Raptors take care of business in what will likely be a single home game, they’d wind up sending San Antonio a pick in the mid-teens. That’s the best these protections allow. If they miss the playoffs, the Spurs get another crack at it next year for a young Raptors team that seems likely to improve. All in all, the Spurs landed a pick that is not only going to be fairly high, but is also pretty likely to convey within two years. That’s a great bit of business here on a player they ultimately didn’t want.
2022 Pistons second-round pick
Raptors trade grade: C
Kudos to Toronto on getting Detroit’s second-round pick back in this deal. Not enough teams manage to mitigate the loss of a first-round pick by landing a valuable second-rounder, but that one should be fairly high. Young is a pretty standard Toronto target in that he’s 6-foot-8, defends at a high level and offers a meaningful dose of playmaking.
He’ll immediately offer his teammates some important relief. All five Raptors starters are playing at least 34.8 minutes per game. Nick Nurse has always used a starter-heavy rotation, but he’s been especially distrustful of his bench this season. If Young can grab four or five minutes from each starter, he’ll go a long way in keeping them fresh. He likely also cements Toronto’s commitment to playing fairly small. Pascal Siakam has nominally been Toronto’s center this season, and while they’ve been linked to virtually every true big man available at the deadline, they ultimately chose to acquire a small-ball option. That approach has clearly worked for the Raptors, who have been one of the best teams in the NBA since Siakam returned from injury. But it’s a somewhat limiting philosophy. Even if small-ball works, it’s not something the Raptors explicitly needed more of. Landing a more traditional big man might’ve offered some more optionality. The Raptors know what they are doing. If they are committed to this style, they have good reasons for it, but it’s going to cause problems in the wrong playoff matchups.
Where we really have to ding the Raptors, though, is in the pick they gave up. Again, that pick is slated to land at No. 20 right now and will likely be a few spots better than that. A mid-teens pick for most teams is a relatively minor asset. But a mid-teens pick for the Raptors? Yea, that’s something a bit more substantial. Their last five first-round picks have been Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, OG Anunoby, Malachi Flynn and Scottie Barnes. That’s four home runs in five tries. Toronto is such a stellar drafting team that giving up its own first-round pick carries a much greater cost than it would from a typical front office. That would be fine if Young was going to be a long-term core piece, but he’s really more of a supplementary addition and he has an expiring contract. He’ll help Toronto, but over the next five years, the Raptors almost certainly would’ve gotten more value out of that pick.