The Toronto Raptors fired the starting gun on NBA trade season by moving OG Anunoby to the New York Knicks in the first blockbuster of 2023-24. Masai Ujiri has been stubborn to a fault on the trade front in recent years, but after letting both Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet walk for nothing in free agency, it’s clear the Raptors plan to exercise some control over how their current expiring contracts leave the team.
Next in line after Anunoby is two-time All-Star Pascal Siakam. The 29-year-old is expected to garner interest from around the league, but there is a potential holdup. According to Marc Stein, Siakam is unlikely to sign an extension with a team that trades for him. Instead, he plans to use his looming free agency to gain his own control of the situation.
“The ability to become a free agent in July provides a decent measure of control to Siakam over the next six weeks leading up to the Feb. 8 trade deadline. The looming threat of his free agency makes it highly unlikely that a team would be willing to surrender multiple quality assets to Toronto without clear confidence it can re-sign Siakam.”
There are manifold implications here. Not only will Siakam’s stance impact Toronto’s ability to demand max value for the former NBA champion — it could prevent the Raptors from trading him entirely. Toronto engaged in cursory dicussions about trading Lowry and VanVleet once upon a time, but neither was moved because Ujiri drives a hard bargain. We saw the same situation last season, when Anunoby was reportedly worth several first-round picks in the trade mill, but Toronto held tight.
If the Raptors aren’t getting appropriate value back for Siakam, Ujiri might hang up the phone and leave it on silent. There’s no mandate for Toronto to trade Siakam. Per Stein’s report, the Raptors finding common ground on an extension with Siakam would be “unexpected,” but that does not mean impossible. The Anunoby trade proved Toronto’s desire to remain relevant. R.J. Barrett and Immanuel Quickley are both young, but talented. The Raptors could have sought draft capital, but opted for ready-now contributors instead.
Even as the Raptors fall apart at the seams, Siakam is too good to trade for pennies on the dollar. Toronto would be better served re-signing him and trading him when his value is higher, if that’s still possible. Only the Raptors’ front office has a strong read on Siakam’s desire to stay in Toronto. But, he is very much worth a lucrative extension — either now or in the offseason. If the Raptors can pay him (and avoid a failed bidding war, a la VanVleet), then maybe Siakam doesn’t get moved.
For the season, Siakam is averaging 22.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists on .518/.285/.749 splits in 35.1 minutes. Scottie Barnes has been elevated to center of the universe status in Toronto, but Siakam is still the team’s leading scorer. His ability to pressure the rim and create off drives at 6-foot-9 is extremely valuable. He would promote a lot of fringe contenders to the next level.
The Dallas Mavericks have expressed “exploratory interest” in Siakam, per Stein. Also mentioned as potential suitors are the Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, and Indiana Pacers. All fringe contenders looking for that extra boost.
Expect Siakam’s name to continue circulating the rumor mill between now and the Feb. 8 trade deadline, but if contractual concerns dampen the enthusiasm of potential suitors, we can’t rule out Siakam finishing the season where he started.