The concept of trading Donyell Marshall and Jalen Rose before the deadline next month isn't nearly as automatic as people think, according to Raptors general manager Rob Babcock. In fact, Babcock said he would "have to be convinced" a trade would make the Raptors significantly better down the road before he sacrificed any short-term goals, such as trying to make the playoffs this season.
Babcock reiterated no Raptor is untouchable, but added: "I don't feel any sense of urgency to do anything at all."
The Raptors are 18-26, but within striking distance of first place in the Atlantic Division as the NBA trade deadline approaches on Feb. 24.
"Everybody just assumes we're going to move Donyell. It's crazy," Babcock said of Marshall, the veteran forward whose minutes have been up and down this season under Raptors coach Sam Mitchell.
"It's not just media and fans. Even people in the league assume we're trading Donyell. People are interested in him for two reasons. One, he's a good player. Two, his contract is up at the end of the year.
"So, teams call us. Teams have been calling about Donyell since last July. But he's playing good for us, and if we keep him, he gives us the option at the end of the year of deciding maybe we can re-sign him, or maybe we clear some money."
Rose is another player whose name has come up consistently in trade rumours, particularly back when the Raptors were shopping the since-departed Vince Carter. Rose has two more years left on a lucrative pact that will scare off many suitors, but Babcock said it's ludicrous to think the Raptors essentially would give Rose away simply because of his contract.
"Jalen has been playing pretty good basketball," Babcock said. "When he was taken out of the starting lineup, people assumed -- because Jalen assumed -- he was going to be traded (Rose was back in the starting lineup on Friday in Charlotte after coming off the bench for 16 games). And everybody assumes we just want to flat-out trade him for anything because he has such a high-salaried contract.
"But he is a valuable basketball asset and you don't trade a valuable basketball asset unless you get a valuable basketball asset in return.
"The only way you give someone like Jalen away is if your ownership tells you to dump as much salary as you possibly can. And our ownership has not said that at all. They want to win a championship and Jalen could be an integral part of that development."
Of course, if the right deal came along tomorrow, Marshall and Rose could be gone, as could any Raptor.
But if Babcock is to be taken at his philosophical word, he has not made up his mind that Marshall and Rose absolutely must be dealt, public and league-wide assumptions notwithstanding.
"Right now, I have no desire to really move anybody," Babcock said. "I like our team. We have a long way to go, but to be honest with you, I didn't think we'd be as far along as we are.
"I said a month ago we were playing basketball the right way about 50% of the time. We would like to get to 80% or 90%. I think we're at 60% now, so we're getting closer. We're going to have slumps. But when the guys play the way we want them to play, you know what? We're not a bad team."
Not everyone would agree whole-heartedly with that assessment. Regardless, Babcock seems firm in his resolve to make what he believes are the right moves, even if that means making no moves at all.