Thursday afternoon, the Toronto Raptors announced that they reached a buyout with Peja Stojakovic. Shortly after, sources said that the Raptors would acquire center Alexis Ajinca from the Dallas Mavericks as the Mavericks look to sign Stojakovic after he clears waivers on Monday.
In order for the Mavs to have room to add Stojakovic to their roster, they’ll need to let someone go and sending Ajinca to the Raptors works for both teams. The Mavs can grab Stojakovic and the Raptors can get a young, enigmatic big man for almost nothing.
Marc Stein of ESPN first reported the buyout and then followed up with the news on the supposed Ajinca deal.
In buying out Stojakovic now as opposed to closer to the deadline, the Raptors give Stojakovic a chance to sign with a contender and play for a title. Why would they want to help him? Because he helped them earlier this season, giving up a portion of his trade-kicker, allowing the Raptors to complete the deal with the New Orleans Hornets that sent Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks and David Andersen to the Hornets in exchange for Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless.
The buyout itself is not a real surprise. While some people might have expected Bryan Colangelo to seek a trade for Stojakovic’s expiring contract of $15.3 million, with so many guys coming off of the books this season, expiring contracts are not as sexy as they sound. What is attractive to the Raptors, however, is getting rid of Stojakovic’s contract to create some financial space next season. Bringing in a young player this season to see if there’s anything there that they like before his $1.4 million rookie deal comes off the books is also appealing.
About the decision to work out a buyout with Stojakovic, Colangelo said, “We were clear from the beginning that our trade with New Orleans was made with the future in mind, so a buyout or trade of Peja’s contract was a likely option…Although he did not fit into our plan of developing our young core talent, I’m sure that Peja will add significantly to any veteran team that signs him.”
Whether Colangelo wants to say his team is rebuilding, retooling, transitioning, it doesn’t matter. The Raptors have made it clear with their decisions this season that that they are focused on the future and this move shows they are committed to the development of their youth.
Maybe there was a team hoping to take Stojakovic’s deal off of the Raptors’ hands in exchange for Toronto taking a troubled star or failed experiment in return, but, really, why take a risk when you can get rid of the contract yourself and provide financial breathing room for next season? Especially when there is still a trade exception allowing the Raptors to absorb another contract and an expiring contract in Reggie Evans if the team needed to swap players to free up another roster spot to facilitate a move.
Either way, we knew Stojakovic wasn’t going to be with the team for the long haul. Now we know regardless of how they want to spin this season (or, how this season spins out), the Raptors are in full-blown youth movement.