The NBA trade deadline is a date for the players and general managers to make trade and transfer for team’s reconstruction.
In this season’s condensed schedule, the last possible moment that a player can be traded is on March 15, just over one week away.
The tendency for general managers to procrastinate results in the majority of a season’s trades occurring on deadline day. For most players, the expectation is to remain with their team and not be the unlucky one to go.
During a interview with Xinhua before Wednesday night’s 116-96 victory over the Rockets, Toronto Raptors forward Rasual Butler shared his recollections of his first trade.
“It caught me off guard. It shocked me a little bit. It was something that came out of nowhere,” said Butler.
The nine-year veteran has played on five different and has changed his mentality when approaching the trade deadline.
“It’s part of the business. It’s something that you can’t worry about because it’s out of your control. You have to be prepared if it happens, you begin to deal with it once it happens,” said Butler.
In the 2010 season, Raptors center Aaron Gray was part of a trade deadline deal that saw him go from Chicago to New Orleans. In a pre-game interview, Gray said that he believes the process is inevitable for all NBA players.
“If you’re around long enough, it’s going to happen,” said Gray. “It’s definitely a stressful situation; each team has not only their on-the-court chemistry, but definitely off the court as well. Coming into the locker room, (with) 14 new personalities, you never know what to expect. You have to figure out where you can make a niche, what they need you to do, a whole different system, both offensively and defensively.”
For others, a trade can offer a player a change of scenery, an opportunity to shine.
Last season, Raptors forward James Johnson was the beneficiary of a trade deadline deal that saw the Raptors acquire him from the Chicago Bulls. Johnson shared his trade deadline experience.
“I think it’s beneficial if you’re in a position that you’ve been working hard and still not getting any playing time because you don’t fit the coach’s system,” said Johnson.
“I sat on the bench for a year and a half and didn’t have any confidence in my abilities,” added Johnson, who is now the starting forward for the Raptors 13 months later.
With the trade talks heating up, Raptors general manager, Bryan Colangelo finds his Raptors, which record 13-26 the season, in a similar situation as last year on the rebuilding with little hopes of making the playoffs.
Despite the similarities to last season, the organization finds itself with greater financial flexibility than last season. In particular, three players present intriguing cases to be acquired by contending teams.
Guard Leandro Barbosa and Gray are in the last year of their contracts and provide an opportunity for contending teams to rent a player for the remainder of the season and make a playoff run.
The 29-year-old Barbosa currently ranks in the top 15 in bench scoring with 12.2 points per game and would add depth to contending teams in need of three-point shooting and speed.
While the 7-foot Gray is a cheap option for teams looking for a big man who can provide toughness and size while playing sporadic minutes.
Lastly, guard Jose Calderon is also a candidate to be traded. The 29-year-old Spaniard has spent his entire six year NBA career in Toronto and is the longest serving member of the team.
Calderon ranks third in the NBA with 8.7 assists and provides playing making ability along with veteran leadership to the locker room for his potential suitor.
Unlike Gray and Barbosa, Calderon has an additional year left on his contract, requiring the target team to take on more risk by taking on a 10 million U.S. dollar contract for next season.
Whether any trades are made at the deadline, Colangelo knows that the team has a promising core of young players to build around for years to come.
Head coach Dwane Casey and his coaching staff will use the remaining 27 games left in the season to assess the talents of the remaining players on the roster.
On paper, the group has the potential to be a perennial playoff team. Like most young players, the biggest area of concern is consistency.
Forward DeMar DeRozan and guard Jerryd Bayless have struggled at times during the season, performing below season expectations. Forwards Amir Johnson and Ed Davis have had a up and down season, displaying moments of brilliance and moments of mediocrity.
Meanwhile, two players that have stood out the most are Andrea Bargnani and Johnson. Both have played with at a high level of intensity on both the offensive and defensive sides.
The Raptors control the rights to sign Jonas Valanciunas, a promising 19-year-old center from Lithuania. He is expected to join the team next season and provide the team with a strong group of big men.
The future appears bright for the Raptors. In the meantime, Raptor players with expiring contracts continue to face uncertainty.