Toronto Raptors v Houston Rockets

If you thought Wednesday’s season finale meant things would be slow in Raptor Land, think again. On Thursday, Bill Simmons published Part 1 of his annual list of the NBA’s top 50 most valuable assets, which included Jonas Valanciunas at No. 44 (just ahead of Enes Kanter and Andre Drummond, just behind Kenneth Faried).

More importantly, Simmons included this tidbit…

When Sam Presti was quietly shopping James Harden last October, he called Toronto to feel out a Jonas package. And got rebuffed. Quickly.

Simmons also includes a sidenote, which reads “Our pal Chris Broussard told me this one and nearly made my eyeballs fly out of my head. But I got it confirmed — it’s true.”

My first reaction was that we’re all aware of how scrutinized Broussard’s “sources” are, but between Simmons writing that he had the report confirmed himself and Zach Lowe writing back in October that the Raptors were one of the teams who “had at least semi-serious internal or external discussions on Harden,” I can definitely believe that the Raptors had a legitimate shot at trading for Harden with Valanciunas as the bait.

I’m as big a Valanciunas fan and am as hopeful about his potential as anybody, but obviously, if you’re asking me today if I would trade Jonas to land James Harden, my answer would be yes. I see Valanciunas as a future All-Star and a potential top-three player at his position one day, but Harden has proven himself to be a legitimate franchise player this season and might be a top-10 player overall already at the age of 23.

Having said that, let’s remember that things were different back in October. Valanciunas had yet to play a regular season game in his NBA career, and while Harden was seen as a top-five shooting guard and rising star, very few people expected the memorable season that the bearded youngster delivered and there was no guarantee that Toronto could have locked him up long term. So while it’s easy for us to sit here now and cry about the fact that it sounds like there was a chance for the Raptors to acquire Harden, it would have been an incredibly tough decision to make for Colangelo to trade away his prized top-five pick without him playing a single game for the franchise.

You can do that for the absolute, no doubt about it superstars, but Harden wasn’t in that category before the 2012-13 season tipped off. He is now.

Though I will say, while the decision to not actually pull the trigger on the deal is understandable given the circumstances, Colangelo rebuffing the deal “quickly” is surprising. Really, he didn’t even think about it for a few seconds? Didn’t even come back with a counter-offer in the event that Presti’s offer wasn’t to his liking?


On a final note, if this recent development has tempered your excitement about Valanciunas because you now lament what could have been with Harden, may I present the following player comparison presented without comment to remind you of the special talent that Valanciunas could be.

I’ve included a table below which includes the per-36 minute stats and advanced stats for the rookie seasons of two big men.

Player PTS/36min REB/36min BLK/36min FG% TS% RebRate BLK% PER
PLAYER A 13.5 9.0 1.9 55.6 .618 14.9 4.2 15.62
PLAYER B 12.3 8.0 1.5 45.9 .513 12.8 3.1 15.24

Player A is a rookie named Jonas Valanciunas in 2012-13.

Player B was a rookie named Chris Bosh in 2003-04.

Again, presented without comment.

Comments (42)

  1. *You can do that for the absolute, no doubt about it superstars, but Harden wasn’t in that category before the 2012-13 season tipped off.*

    I’ll never get how people make that excuse for GMs. If an NBA general manager watched him in OKC and couldn’t see that the tools were all there for him to be an elite player then that person shouldn’t be an NBA general manager.

    • Elite player …hmmmm…..sure. Super star or All-star…that was in question. Especially he just came off with a huge no show in the NBA finals. He was basically in the same group as Rudy Gay before the season started.

  2. I’m sure when BC was approached about a JV package for Harden, his immediate response was “Doh! I should have drafted Drummond after all!”

    Don’t get me wrong, JV will have a better career than Drummond, but if we could have had Drummond and Harden instead of JV, DD and Ross, then I’m a ‘little’ disappointed.

    Although, if DD and RG can become 39% 3pt shooters next season, and if JV starts getting 12 shats a game, then they won’t actually miss Harden all that much.

    • Drummond was raw potential but ppl didn’t know if he was gonna be the next Serge Ibaka or the next Kwame Brown. Not to say our pick of Ross was amazing. I’d package Ross with any Bargnani trade without thinking twice.

    • Yes, Demar is gonna go from a 24% shooter to 39, and Rudy from 34 (including 31 last year, 32 this season) up to 39 as well. Apparently the jumpshot fairy is about to descend on Toronto, hope she doesn’t miss my building.

  3. Terrific article, quite frankly, at the time, I might’ve rebuffed the situation quickly as well. Talking about trading Valanciunas for Harden, knowing Derozan is in his position, and the potential of JV (now presented in the above).

  4. If Val becomes the next bosh, sign me up, without the leaving Toronto of course!

    • JV is tough and doesn’t have a big ego. He’ll be better than Bosh in a few years, maybe even next year.

      • hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah. you have got to be kidding. What makes him good? What gives any indication that he will become better than Bosh? He has got to be one of the lightest centers in the league. Terribly undersized at 230 pounds. he hustles. that’s about it. Chris Bosh is 100 times the shooter and offensive player than Jonas will ever be. The Bosh and Vince hating is foolish and annoying. Bosh is a fantastic basketball player. There is no question about that. Jonas is not a great defender on centers. He doesn’t have good post moves. Everyone is seeing Jonas through rose colored glasses. If he turns out great, great. But not sure there is anything that he has shown for people to be this high on him (3rd best in his position , all-star).

  5. James Harden is the player that BC is pretending Rudy Gay is.

    • What is that supposed to mean? Rudy Gay was a huge addition for this club, period.

      • Gay is not nearly the player that Colangelo and the Raptors are selling him as. A good player? Yes. Elite? No way. If he’s your first or second option, you aren’t a contender. And with his contract, he’s paid too much to be anything else. Memphis realized that and that’s why they made the trade.

      • Sorry but there is no chance any team can compete for a title with Rudy Gay as the focal point, period.

    • Excellent observaion.

      Harden’s production and effect on the game is that of an elite player.

      Gay’s Raptor PR is that of an elite player. His production is that of a good player but hardly worth his current salary

  6. i read that OKC and Toronto were in talks about Andrea and Derozen for James harden. And BC said no

  7. That deal was never available, thunder first called bobcats for 2nd pick. Next golden warriors were called for k thom and first rounder. Washington was called for beal and finally they settled on the rockets. I am pretty sure raps were not even a candidate to get harden.

    • If it was only Broussard, then I wouldn’t believe it. Even if it was just Simmons confirming it, maybe not. But again, the Raptors were reported way back in October to be one of the teams OKC reached out to, among others.

      As for your additional scenarios, they may very well be right, but no one knows the actual order of calls that OKC placed.

  8. Harden would have been great, but the raps would go nowhere without a true center. Can’t make that trade.

  9. I disagree on trading Valaciunas for Harden, good big men these days are very hard to come by, while it seems good guards are a dime a dozen.

    Harden is a very one dimensional player, and gambles a lot in passing lanes. He has the fourth-highest turnovers per game at 3.7, but only gets 5.9 assists. His man defense and help defense are pretty bad.

    Obviously 26 PPG is nothing to just brush off, the 3pt shot is very nice, and is a great finisher (with the addition of flopping), but his midrange game is pretty lacking. His offense is pretty much a Kobe effect, getting many points from many shots, while being a very large ball-hog.

    Trading Valanciunas for a volume scorer (which the Raptors have a lot of in case you haven’t noticed), would be a big, BIG gamble, one which could have very easily cost Colangelo his job if it didn’t work out.

    • James Harden is one of the most efficient scorers in the league, with a True Shooting percentage that is 9th highest all perimeter players in the entire league. He’s also 5th in the league in scoring, but 8th in attempts per game. Hard to call him a volume scorer. He makes Rudy Gay look like Austin Rivers, in comparison.

      As for him being one-dimensional, he averaged 5.8 apg, which is just 0.6 apg less than Lowry.

      • Lowry had a pretty sh-t season, so I don’t know why you would compare to him. If Lowry and Harden played equal minutes (Harden plays 9 minutes more than Lowry), Lowry would average 2 assists more than Harden, not just .6.

        One-dimensional meaning offense-defense. He has a good offense (which is his one dimension), while his defense is bad. Assisting and passing is just a subdivision of offense.

        Nitpicking TS% is pretty easy, especially when you limit it to guards. You need to go in depth on where he scores and how he scores. Why include his FT efficiency? That doesn’t make him an efficient scorer, there are plenty of good FT shooters who cant hit a 15 foot jumper.

        He’s 11th in FGA per game, but 13th in FG per game, I don’t know why you would include one without the other.

        • Nitpicking TS%? And I wasn’t limiting to guards. I was limiting it to ALL perimeter players, including SFs. He’s 9th among all non-big men in the entire league. Basically, he’s one of the most efficient scorers in the league.

          I understand the need to defend not making the move (I probably wouldn’t have done it either), but Harden is a great player who scores efficiently and isn’t a bad defender. Not great, but not as bad as you portray him.

          • You are absolutely correct, other than the fact that Harden is a very lazy defender since arriving in Houston. He’s highly efficient and a true star but his defence has been lax this year.

  10. @JMay –

    “Not to say our pick of Ross was amazing. I’d package Ross with any Bargnani trade without thinking twice”.
    IMO I respectfully disagree I like Ross’ game and you can see in his rookie season that there are signs of a potentially really good player…seems like Simmonds has some love for Ross too after reading his top 50 MVA’s.

    Here are some numbers (I know numbers aren’t everything) but these are nice to see if your a hopeful Raps fan. Here are Ray Allen/Jay Richardson and T-Ross’s rookie numbers over 36 minutes. I choose these guys because they are recent NBA SG’s who game I respect. I choose 36 minutes because Ross was not a starter and the other two were in their first year. Have fun!

    Ray Allen:
    PPG – 15.7
    Dimes – 3.0
    Rebs – 4.6
    3P% – 39%
    FG% – 43%
    FT% – 82%
    STL – 1.1
    BLK – 0.1
    Started 81 games

    PPG – 15.8
    Dimes – 3.2
    Rebs – 4.7
    3P% – 33%
    FG% – 42%
    FT% – 67%
    STL – 1.5
    BLK – 0.4
    Started 75 games

    PPG – 13.6
    Dimes – 1.5
    Rebs – 4.2
    3P% – 33%
    FG% – 40%
    FT% – 71%
    STL – 1.2
    BLK – 0.4
    Started 2 games

    T-Ross numbers are comparable to those two great SG NBA’ers – Plus T-Ross won the Dunk Off, I am not ready to trade him so quickly let alone as a “throw in” to excuse Bargnani – unless the reward was high.

  11. Jonas V is a legit center and Bosh was a skinny pf…not exactly a right comparison…

    • I wasn’t comparing their styles. Presenting a case that Valanciunas was more effective as a rookie.

  12. Good article. This is going to be the move that BC didn’t make that was the right decision. People underestimate how good of a player JV is. His last 20 games have been unbelievable. His confidence down low is outstanding outplaying bigger players with his ferociousness and quickness. He can now finish with both his left and right hands, something that he has obviously been working on with Magloire when his wrist was broken. He can shoot, he has a hook shot, he can dunk. And he’s only 20 years old. He hasn’t even put on what I like to call his ‘man weight’ yet. This guy is going to completely dominate people in the post next year. Just watch. Fuck Harden and his beard. JV will be a double-double monster next year. Book it.

  13. Harden was shipped for Lamb (rookie), Martin (12M expirer) and future picks. So I assume the proposal could have been something like Valaciunas (rookie), Calderon (11M expirer) and filler for Harden.

    Ok, I can undersand Colangelo wanting to keep the young core not trading Jonas. But it makes any sense trading shortly after Davis, Calderon for Rudy Gay. Wasn’t Ed Davis (23yo) part of the young core? Is Gay (26yo) a more established young superstar than Harden (23yo)? It’s crazy that he even didn’t make a counter offer.

    • Harden was still on his rookie contract, so that doesn’t work. Harden was also shipped to Oklahoma with Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward, in order to be able to take back Kevin Martin’s contract.

  14. What I’d like to know is if OKC was ONLY looking for a deal involving JV.

    Or was it possible that they could have made a deal without him, but Colangelo just wasn’t interested?

    • Considering the Raptors didn’t have a first round pick to give them (due to the Lowry deal), I highly doubt the Raptors had anything else Oklahoma would have wanted apart from Valanciunas.

      • That is true.

        Although I wonder if a package similar to Ross, Davis, Calderon and some 2nd rounders would have been enough to interest to them, or if it was even discussed at the time.

        • I think what Houston ended up giving them was a much more attractive package. Martin replaced Harden’s position and scoring off the bench, and Lamb gave them a long term option if Martin didn’t re-sign. And a guaranteed lottery pick that might end up being high had to be enticing.

          Davis is obviously a nice big, but there’s not really room for him on Oklahoma. Calderon would be playing behind a guy who plays 35 mpg, and I don’t know if Ross is really an upgrade over Lamb, especially considering Lamb was rated higher before the draft.


          With Calderon on the team, it would allow Westbrook to move to SG for some of the game, , which I think might be a better position for him because it cuts down on his decision making, which isn’t always the best. And Davis gives them a replacement for Nick Collison and an efficient inside scorer, which they could use.

          I still think the Raptors pick would tip the scales.

          Still, a starting five of Lowry, Harden, DeRozan, Amir and Valanciunas would definitely have been been an improvement over what they have right now, both in the short AND long term. And moving DeRozan for a legit 3 who can shoot the 3 and defend would have given the team even I would have been happy with.


  15. Holy shit. If true, the mistakes just keep piling up at BCs feet.

    There’s two major blunders here:

    First, not taking the best player available in the draft in Drummond

    Second, not trading for a legit franchise player in Harden. Let’s say we trade JC, Val and Amir (plus other non-core pieces from both sides to make contracts work, maybe taking Perkins back?) plus the option to swap picks in 2014 and a 2013 2nd rounder. I don’t know if that gets things done, but lets play hypothetical and say it does.

    That would have left us with a core of Lowry, Harden, Demar, Davis and Drummond.

    That is so far above our current core of Lowry, Amir, Gay, Demar. Switching Gay for Harden, Davis and Drummond? I want to cry.

  16. If the Raps gave up Jonas and Calderon for Harden and Harden didn’t resign, then ppl would be up in arms that Colangelo made that deal… possibly twice as much as they are right now that he didnt.

  17. Also keep in mind, at the trade deadline last season, there was still many questions about Harden’s ability. We all definitely know now after his season in Houston that he’s a stud… but that wasn’t general/common knowledge last year.

    • Harden had superb advanced stats, and there was really not much question of whether he’d become an All Star. He’d shown enough in Oklahoma to see that. But the question is whether he’d become worthy of a max contract. I wasn’t too sure. I’m as big a critic of Colangelo as anyone, but I don’t blame him for not trading Valanciunas for him. I’d love to have seen him try and make a deal without including Valanciunas, though.

  18. I highly doubt it was just for Jval, there must have been additional draft picks in the picture.

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