Why The Raptors Traded Leandro Barbosa
On trade deadline day, the Toronto Raptors made two moves to bring their roster down to 13 players and neither move made a whole lot of sense from an on-the-court perspective, at least not on the surface. The following statements were released by the team.
“The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday they have traded guard Leandro Barbosa to the Indiana Pacers for a 2012 second-round draft pick and cash considerations.”
“The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday they have waived guard Anthony Carter.”
While Carter had been permitted to return home while the Raptors looked for other opportunities for him to play, Barbosa was the Raptors best performer off the bench and the subject of numerous trade rumors involving teams in need of shooting guard help.
“Leandro’s talent is obviously undeniable,” said Raptors President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo. “What he was doing for our team providing a lot of scoring punch off the bench was certainly something that was intriguing to some of the teams out there that are making a run at the playoffs or are contenders.”
Barbosa has played 100 games for Toronto, averaging 12.8 points and leading the bench in scoring 60 times, but what was most impressive about this veteran was his demeanor both on and off the court. Barbosa is a genuinely upbeat and positive person who loves to play the game.
“Leandro has unique and special ability as a basketball player, but he’s an even better person away from the game.”
Also, Barbosa gave every indication that he liked playing for the Raptors and his departure via free agency was hardly a sure-thing. So why did the Raptors send this likeable, productive veteran on an expiring contract to Indiana for a second-round pick and some cash?
“I had a lot of discussion with Leandro directly,” Colangelo said. “We talked about what would be an interesting or good situation for him. We concluded that we would do it only if it made sense for both sides and I think he did have a preference to stay.
“I’m happy for him to get the opportunity to join a playoff team as he heads into free agency.”
It’s easy to see how Barbosa helps the Pacers and he probably would like another shot at a deep playoff run, but neither of these situations does much for the Raptors, as Colangelo admits.
“I viewed this as a great opportunity for Leandro to go to a playoff team, a young upstart team that really does need some scoring punch off the bench right now. It is an Eastern Conference team and that would normally not be something that I’d like to do, take care of a team like that, but this is really a positive situation, not only for Leandro but positive for us.”
As Barbosa was only ever a positive force for the Raptors, this isn’t a case of addition by subtraction, and a late second round draft pick is not normally of much value, so the positive impact must be coming a little further down the road and Colangelo spared no effort in explaining how this trade benefited his team.
“There is going to be some talk that this was about perhaps taking a piece away from the team – that’s not the case. This was really about creating that flexibility and also developing some of (our) other players, but at the end of the day, we are taking some talent away and we will have to see which players step up and how that affects the draft status.”
Colangelo has said from the beginning of the season that this year was all about developing their young talent, determining who to keep and hitting the ground running next season. He has also said they plan on adding a high draft pick. It has been easy to observe how Carter was taking point guard minutes away from Jerryd Bayless and Gary Forbes and conclude that Carter was in the way. A similar observation could be made about Barbosa, except in his case, Barbosa still has at least several highly productive years ahead of him in the NBA.
“It allows us to open up a tremendous amount of flexibility as we go into what I’ll call the postseason pre-draft, pre-free agency trade season,” Colangelo said. “It also enables us to make sure that we are giving every opportunity to observe and play the young players that are on this team and that’s Jerryd Bayless and Gary Forbes so we can see what they bring to the table as we make decisions on their situations.”
So the move lets the young guys play more and opens the door to the unusual pre-free agency period trade, but what else might this move do for the Raptors?
“We have had this draft really well-covered and well-scouted from an early date,” Colangelo said. “During the lockout, there was a lot more time for us to spend on the road and there were also a bulk of games in a condensed schedule that made it very easy to go out and see a lot of the top prospects early.
“There is a lot at stake as we close this season down and look at that draft and prepare for that draft, but based on our current record and based on our projected season finish, we are going to stand in a position to add another quality talent, possibly a top five talent to this team.”
There is no doubt that the Raptors are not as good a team without Barbosa as they were with him and this move might help Colangelo preserve that top five pick in the draft, unless of course Bayless and Forbes perform well. Seems like a win-win situation.
This trade deadline day, the Raptors helped a playoff bound Eastern Conference opponent get stronger, but as Colangelo describes, Toronto did get something out of the deal. Salary cap space to use for trades between the end of the season and the start of free agency, playing time to evaluate Bayless and Forbes and possibly a means to maintain or improve their spot in the NBA draft lottery. Barbosa will be missed, but the trade is in keeping with Colangelo’s plan for this season, even if the direct return of a late second-round pick seems rather meager.