Raptors could be big winners of OG Anunoby trade with Barrett, Quickley upside

The Toronto Raptors finally pulled the trigger on trading OG Anunoby, getting RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. They might end up as huge winners in the long run

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks
Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks / Elsa/GettyImages

After years of trade rumors, Masai Ujiri finally pulled the trigger and made the move of trading OG Anunoby. He was the headline of the package sent to the New York Knicks in exchange for RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and a second-round pick for the 2024 NBA Draft.

While there are arguments to be made for why both teams made the move, lost or won it, the upside is clear for the Toronto Raptors. Though they gave up the perceived best player in the trade, the return from the Knicks for Anunoby could benefit the Raptors for years to come.

RJ Barrett can thrive in hometown Toronto

Much has been said about Barrett and his lack of development into a star player that many expected. Some of that comes with playing in a big market like New York, especially on a competitive team. But, most of that comes with reason: his scoring has stagnated while his usage has stayed relatively the same, he's shot below 35 percent from three in four of his five seasons, his finishing and corner-3 shooting have been inconsistent, and he hasn't been the lockdown defender the team needs at the position.

In comparison, Anunoby has done all of those things better than Barrett more consistently, including this season.

Having said all of that, there are other factors to consider beyond just who has played better. For starters, Anunoby can be a free agent this summer, and will likely be one of the most coveted players, which will translate into a high salary for the wing. Toronto wasn't going to pay that, especially with already having Scottie Barnes in his position.

With Barrett, they acquire someone who's not only younger (he's 23, Anunoby is 26), but has already signed his rookie-scale extension and is locked up for three more seasons at a price that is lower than what Anunoby would've commanded to stay with the Raptors.

Furthermore, with the age and the timeline of this Raptors squad, Barrett has even more room to play with less pressure and grow alongside Barnes. It will take a couple of years for this team to be at the level the Knicks are at right now, which gives the newcomer more opportunity to develop his game.

He won't be slotted into just being a shooter on offense, because he'll get more opportunities to handle the ball not playing with Jalen Brunson or Julius Randle. Additionally, he won't have the pressure of needing to be a lockdown defender, because this is already a solid defensive team with multiple above-average defenders anchored by Jakob Poeltl protecting the paint.

And that's without even mentioning the fact that he will get to do it in front of his hometown of Toronto. He's already represented Canada on an international stage with the men's national team, and now he will get to do it in the NBA.

While in the present term swapping Anunoby for Barrett might seem like a loss, it might end up as a neutral -- or even positive -- move down the line, depending on the runway Barrett gets and what they do with the money they save not using on Anunoby. Speaking of which...

Immanuel Quickley can be Raptors PG of the future

While maybe Toronto could've gotten an extra pick or something better than a second-rounder, in the deal, the real get for them was Immanuel Quickley.

Like the Raptors with Anunoby, Quickley was a key contributor to their success, but someone that would test his value in free agency and would warrant starter's money while the Knicks already had an All-Star caliber player in his position (Brunson at point guard). So, instead, they're making the bet to spend that money on a position they upgraded with Anunoby, the two-way wing they hoped Barrett would become in his tenure in New York.

For Toronto, this is a bet on a long-term solution at the point guard spot, a position they've been searching for since Fred VanVleet left this past summer. They signed Dennis Schroder to be a placeholder, but he hasn't played that well and was thus removed from the starting lineup recently. In contrast, Quickley has had a tremendous positive impact every time he's been on the floor in a Knicks uniform, and I don't expect that to change with the Raptors.

Quickley is a tenacious defender like Schroder but adds better spacing, quick attacks to the rim, an incredible float game, far better finishing, and overall quicker decisions. That's what Toronto needs alongside Barnes, who will likely continue to be their primary initiator as their franchise player. Now, instead of being a role player (a great one, at that) for the Knicks, he will be one of the main pieces for the Raptors.

Of course, it ultimately depends on what happens in free agency. If the Raptors don't keep Quickley, then they lost the move. It's as simple as that. They made a bet on Quickley to be one of their guards of the future knowing how much he would likely command, and they'll have to commit to that. And, with the Raptors likely moving on from Pascal Siakam in the future as well, Quickley's role may be growing further, someone that would've never happened in New York.

Short-term, the Knicks won this move, acquiring a player that gives them the best chance to compete right now. Long-term, however, if both these former Knicks develop, Ujiri might've worked some magic once again. Only time will tell.

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