Toronto Raptors send guard Leandro Barbosa to Pacers with eye on future

TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors suddenly have more money in their pocket to go shopping with this summer.

The Raptors traded guard Leandro Barbosa to the Indiana Pacers for a second-round draft pick and cash Thursday in a move made with the future in mind.

Team president and GM Bryan Colangelo said dealing Barbosa, whose expiring contract will pay him US$7.6 million this season, was about creating financial flexibility for this summer’s free-agency period.

The Raptors also waived guard Anthony Carter.

“This is really a positive situation not only for Leandro but positive for us because of the flexibility that it opens up,” Colangelo said.

“Right now we’re all about making this team better, taking steps forward and although we’re losing some talent on the floor, we think this creates more flexibility, more options for us as we continue to build this roster.”

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The Raptors have about $10.5 million to go to market when free agency opens July 1, Colangelo said. The move also allows Colangelo and his staff to get a better look at young guards Jerryd Bayless and Gary Forbes.

The 29-year-old Barbosa has averaged 12.6 points per game in his nine-year career. He averaged 12.2 points per game this season as a reserve for the Raptors.

Colangelo said the Brazilian guard’s preference was to remain with the Raptors.

“I view 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,” Colangelo said about the popular player.

Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan wrote on Twitter: “One of the best teammates I ever had. Great dude ima miss @leandrinhooo20 learn a lot from him! Best of luck.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey said the move in no way meant the team was packing it in on a disappointing campaign. Toronto was 14-29 heading into Friday’s game at Memphis.

“I don’t want to send the wrong message to our players. In no way, shape or form are we saying ‘Hey, we’re giving up on the season,'” Casey told reporters in Memphis. “We’re still going to fight, compete, play hard, the coaching staff is going to coach hard until that last game is played.

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“That’s the message that we want to send to our players and the rest of the league.”

Colangelo said there’s reason for optimism heading into this NBA off-season. Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors’ first pick -fifth overall – in last year’s draft, will make his North American debut next season. Toronto opted to leave the Lithuanian centre in Europe for another year of seasoning.

And currently tied for fourth-last in the league, the Raptors will have a high pick come the June 28 NBA draft.

“I feel great going into this draft. As we like to say upstairs, we’ve already got the second-best player in the draft (in Valanciunas),” Colangelo said. “If you look at Jonas we think he would be No. 2 on the board right now.

“The addition of Valanciunas, the addition of a new player that we might select, the flexibility that could net another player, we feel very good about where we stand.”

Colangelo said several teams inquired about starting point guard Jose Calderon.

“He’s an important piece to us right now, he’s our No. 1 point guard, he’s our starting point guard, and until we’re in a position to replace that, that obviously is going to stay the case,” Colangelo said. “We like what he’s doing with this group, he’s really playing at a high level under coach (Dwane) Casey.”

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Barbosa, meanwhile, has long been one of the NBA’s most explosive reserves. He was the league’s 2006-07 Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 18.1 points per game for the Phoenix Suns despite starting just 18 times. He is a career 39 per cent three-point shooter who has made more than 800 triples in his career.

The nine-year NBA veteran was acquired by Toronto, along with centre Dwayne Jones, on July 14, 2010 for forward Hedo Turkoglu.

Carter, in his 13th NBA campaign, signed with Toronto as a free agent Dec. 12. He appeared in 24 games, averaging 2.0 points, 1.4 assists and 8.4 minutes.