As the trade deadline approaches, it’s important to take a look at some of the so-called tradeable assets on this Raptors team. What are the strengths and weaknesses of a player, looking at the current and future possibilities, and of course salary situations.
Salary: $7.8 million guaranteed this year with a player option of $8.4 million for 2008-2009.
Strengths: The only true center on the Raptors roster. Has slimmed down incredibly from the previous year and as a result, has gotten more agile. Ability to hit the outside shot and be an offensive rebounding presence. Can guard most centers in the league one-on-one.
Weaknesses: Not a terribly good offensive threat and not particularly the strongest body on the team. Fairly poor free throw shooter. 31 years old with a large contract. Tends to be slow moving up and down the floor.
Comments: Whenever the topic of trades come up, Rasho Nesterovic’s name is always linked in trades. As one of the two relatively large bench contracts on the roster, there are definitely questions as to the usefulness of a Nesterovic on a team that moves as fast as the Raptors do. But answer me these questions: How many serviceable big men are there in the league that wouldn’t mind playing off the bench, who can still be effective and are seldom injury prone? To put the contract in perspective, Darko Milicic is getting roughly $7 million a year, but is constantly a problem on and off the court due to his attitude. Samuel Dalembert was given about $10.5 million a year and possibly will have future problems with his body. Ilgauskas gets close to $11 million, Nazr Mohammed gets $6.5 million (with three more years), and Etan Thomas gets approximate $6.8 million.
Nevertheless, if we ignore the salary question, the another problem remains. If you were to trade Rasho Nesterovic, who is your center presence who will guard big men like Shaq, Dwight Howard, and Yao Ming? Bargnani can’t even guard normal “quick” centers right now, and Bosh has to do it most nights in spite of the toll it takes on his body. At least with Rasho starting, he could take on centers on his own without requiring double teams. It’s really important to remember that after we lost Kevin Willis, and Eric Montross lost his career due to a freak accident, the Raptors have struggled for years to find someone that can plug up the hole. Now that we have one that doesn’t mind playing back up, there are lots of people calling for a trade to remove him. It’s not his fault though if he isn’t being given much floor time.
In order to make trades work, Rasho’s name will always be thrown about. With only one more additional year on his contract (something that will undoubtedly be exercised), he’s a piece that can balance out most deals around the league. The only question is, who will play center against those players that are tall and crafty? Bargnani’s development has taken a back seat and may not resolve itself until next year. I fear that finding a legit center to replace Rasho will not be as easy as everyone makes it sounds, and after watching Antonio David get banged around for years without Kevin Willis, I fear the long term effects it’ll have on Bosh’s productivity.
Verdict: Only trade worth making is if the Raptors can get a big man back.