Let’s just forget that first half against the Bulls on Tuesday night, in fact, let’s just forget that whole game. While we are at it, let’s forget about that 16pt, 4th quarter collapse against the Pistons as well, after all between those two losses, something wonderful happened. The Toronto Raptors didn’t just tentatively dribble into the trade market, they slam dunked it. There’s also a possibility that they aren’t done either. Jeff Weltman has traded Terrence Ross and one of two first round picks to the Orlando Magic for long coveted power forward Serge Ibaka. It was no secret that President Masai Ujiri had wanted Ibaka for some time as they had talked to the Oklahoma Thunder about the 27 year old at last year’s draft. At that time however, OKC asked for either Ross or Norman Powell, Cory Joseph and the 9th pick overall. Ujiri has rarely, if ever, overpaid for a player and his patience has now seemed to pay off.
The Magic on the other hand given up Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the 11th overall pick (Domantas Sabonis) which means maybe they should have exercised the same said patience. In fact, speaking of patience, can any of you tell me (without googling it of course) when was Ujiri’s last trade? Yeah, I couldn’t recall it off-hand either but I am pretty sure it is close to twenty months. For a playoff team and one that has made it to the Eastern Conference final during that span, that’s just plain crazy isn’t it?
So what do the Raptors get in Ibaka that will help them? The soon to be free agent should be an immediate help offensively and more importantly defensively. He alone won’t make the difference, but his rebounding, rim protection and ability to make opposing players alter their shots will help considerably. His presence also offers the perimeter defenders an opportunity to focus more on disrupting a 3pt shot because should they drive to the basket, Ibaka will be waiting.
In other words, he does bring a defensive presence that hasn’t been there since Bismack Biyombo. The difference however is that Ibaka also brings help on the offencive and could immediately jump into the 3rd scoring option behind DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Ibaka’s range has increased over the years as he is now a 38% shooter from behind the arc.
To get something of value, unfortunately the Raptors had to give up something of value as well. Terrence Ross had finally began to show more consistency to his game this year, coming off the bench and being an instant scoring threat. I believe his maturity will help him settle in quickly in Orlando and whether he starts or comes off the bench he will have a good understanding of what he needs to do. @T_DotFlight31 (may need to change his twitter handle now) provided Toronto fans some exciting moments including his 2014 Slam Dunk Contest Championship and that memorable 51 point night versus the LA Clippers. Speaking of those Clippers, the Raptors own their 2017 first round pick as well. The good news is that the Raptors will get to keep whichever first round pick is better.
Overall, we have to just step back and applaud Ujiri for his patience and pulling out a trade that not only helps them now but didn’t cripple the team either. The only worry at this time regarding Ibaka is the fact that he is a free agent, but it seems that the Raptors will do everything possible to sign him and Lowry at the end of the season. This could very well mean that DeRozan, Lowry and Ibaka combined could cost about $90M/year. Thankfully, many of the surrounding pieces are all on rookie scale contracts to help absorb that but it seems we may be getting a little too far ahead of ourselves. There is still some time before deadline day and it is quite possible they are looking for a strong backup wing that can defend. For now though, the only thing the Raptors and fans should concentrate on is finishing second or third in the Eastern Conference and then seeing how far into the playoffs they can go. We can just let Ujiri worry about more trades and salary caps, after all… he’s got the patience.
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