Toronto Raptors v Chicago Bulls

If you were already itching for another big Raptors-related trade rumour now that Rudy Gay is firmly in place and Pau Gasol is out for a while, ESPN’s Marc Stein dropped this on us Thursday evening…

In his actual report for ESPN.com, Stein writes that “other players with smaller contracts would have to be added to the deal to make the salary-cap math work should talks indeed progress to a more serious level. But sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that both teams have considered the move.

From a straight basketball perspective, replacing Bargnani with Boozer would be a significant upgrade for the Raptors, especially if this season is any sort of indication of the players in question. I’ve knocked Boozer before for being absolutely porous defensively, but generally speaking, going from Andrea to Carlos isn’t exactly that much of a defensive drop-off, and if it is, it’s certainly not enough of a drop-off to negate the offensive upgrade the trade would be for Toronto.

Sure, Boozer is four years older and is on the wrong side of 30, but other than a slight advantage for Bargnani in the blocks department, Boozer has been significantly better in virtually every statistical category – both basic and advanced – for as long as both have been in the league together.

Where the deal might become difficult for MLSE and fans alike to swallow is in the financial department, as the Raptors would be adding yet another expensive long-term contract (Boozer will make $32.1 million between 2013-14 and 2014-15) shortly after adding Rudy Gay’s max-money deal. Having said that, they’d also be ridding themselves of Bargnani’s inefficient contract, which still has over $22 million left itself between the two seasons after this one (unless they plan on using the amnesty clause on Bargnani, the Raptors have to accept that they’ll probably have to take back a bad contract to get out of Bargnani’s).

From the Bulls’ perspective, you could say what you want about them becoming a better three-point shooting team, but the deal would seem to primarily be a cost-cutting move on their part, as the payroll cut from Boozer to Bargnani would save them money in the luxury tax department next season, while potentially being the difference between being over the cap and under the cap in 2014-15. Cost-cutting aside though, I just don’t see how this potential deal of Bargnani plus filler for Boozer makes sense for a Bulls team that has proven to be a legitimate championship contender when Derrick Rose is healthy.

And that’s why the reported deal seems too good to be true for the Raptors, because personally, I can’t see the Bulls making this move without asking for Terrence Ross to be one of the included “smaller contracts” that Stein alludes to. Suffice to say, there’s no way in hell I part with Ross (or Valanciunas…obviously) just to acquire Boozer, no matter how tempting parting with Bargnani may be.

When it’s all said and done, if the Raptors can get the deal done by throwing in another cheap contract without giving up Ross or JV, then I sign off, leaving me with a lineup next season mainly consisting of Gay, Boozer, Lowry, Johnson, Valanciunas, Ross and DeRozan. After that, I amnesty Kleiza this July (assuming he picks up his $4.6 million player option for 2013-14), elect not to pick up John Lucas’ team option for next season, let Alan Anderson walk in free agency (if you don’t find a taker for him at the deadline) and potentially explore trade possibilities involving DeMar DeRozan (while addressing the point-guard depth), depending on how he and Gay look together in the final 30 games of this season.

That leaves you with what should be a surefire playoff team for a couple of years, with the development of Valanciunas and Ross likely being the difference between whether that core can evolve into a semi-contender or not in the East.

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UPDATE: For what it’s worth, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune followed up Stein’s initial report by writing that according to a source, it was the Bulls that initiated trade talks, but that “another source suggested it’s unlikely the Raptors would take on Boozer’s contract.” In addition, Johnson writes that “the Raptors know the trade is available and could expand to include Nate Robinson and John Lucas III,” who enjoyed his breakout season in Chicago last year.

If the Bulls are actually offering Boozer and Robinson for Bargnani and Lucas and the Raptors aren’t aware of anything close to a better offer for their enigma of all enigmas, then sign me up.