The Toronto Raptors have become one of the better teams in the league, with hopes and aspirations of challenging the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East. The biggest knock on them? They need a power forward. Well, today, they’ve apparently got one…
Serge Ibaka (15.1 points per game, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 30.5 minutes)
Terrence Ross (10.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 22.4 minutes)
A 2017 First Round Pick
Obviously, Serge Ibaka is a major improvement over starting the likes of Lucas Nogueira, Pascal Siakam, Jared Sullinger and Jakob Poeltl. Most of the power forward minutes go to Patrick Patterson, but he comes off the bench, and has been injured as of late, while the Raptors have slid all the way from second down to fifth in the East. While his rebounding and blocks have gone down since his OKC heyday, Ibaka will still provide the Raptors with a solid defensive presence up front, as well as a decent third scorer behind DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Having to give up Ross isn’t a huge blow. They can give his minutes to Norman Powell, who should be able to take over as the spark plug off the bench.
With Ibaka’s free agency looming this summer, it’s clear that the Magic didn’t think he’d resign with them, so they avoid letting him get away for nothing. However, it does make their trade to acquire him seem like a waste. They traded Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis (a lottery pick) and Ersan Ilyasova for half a season of Ibaka, and it’s been a lousy have a season for Orlando. They’re 21-36, and it’s seemed unclear if they know what the hell they’re doing down there, constantly tinkering with their lineup in perplexing and frustrating ways. Every morning, I go to Basketball-Reference and check out the box scores from the previous night, and more often than not, I find myself shaking my head when I’m looking at an Orlando box score. They’ve been worse than the Nuggets when it comes to settling on a lineup, and with this trade, they’ve at least helped clear up their glut of big men. Maybe now they can just start Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo together, and move Aaron Gordon to small forward where he belongs. I’m not even a Magic fan, and this team has been frustrating me all season long.
Back to the Raptors. After a few years of staying the course at the trade deadline, they’ve finally addressed their biggest need. Their biggest question is, will this be enough to get them past the Cavs? Probably not, if the Cavs are healthy, but that’s been a pretty big if this season, and their power forward is now out for the next six weeks. This is why it’s worth it to just go for it. Real shots at the Finals are few and far between, and if the Raptors are going to make a run, the time is probably now. They’ve been struggling lately, having been passed in the standings by the Celtics, Wizards and Hawks. This trade bolsters their lineup on both sides of the court, and could point them back in the direction of the second seed in the East. It will be interesting to see if those teams ahead of them, especially the surging (no pun intended) Celtics and Wizards react and make a move to try and bolster their lineups. For now, one thing is clear. The Raptors aren’t messing around anymore. They’re taking their chance and seeing how far it can take them.