Sitting on second place in the Eastern Conference with a 36-17 record, the Toronto Raptors are enjoying the best season in franchise history. But given the current roster makeup, are they good enough to make a deep playoff run?
This has to be the question going through Masai Ujiri’s mind as tomorrow’s NBA Trade Deadline creeps ever closer.
With the Raptors’ success owed at least in part to a weak conference and great team chemistry, Ujiri finds himself in an awfully difficult position. Particularly while working with a roster that still obvious needs—a rim-protecting big and a confident and consistent three-and-D wing—with expectations for the club at an all-time high.
So, does Ujiri pull the trigger and make a move for short-term gain or stick with the guys he has? Earlier this week, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reported that the Raptors are listening to offers involving Terrence Ross. Ujiri countered that claim Tuesday night, telling Sportsnet’s Michael Grange, “I would be shocked if we did something with Terrence.” But the spectre of a shake up will continue to loom until 3 p.m. tomorrow.
With all this in mind, here are five players the Raptors have been linked to in the lead up to the deadline.
The most prominent name connected to the Raptors in the Grantland piece, West would be an intriguing add, bringing grit, toughness and a little extra offensive punch to Toronto’s frontcourt.
As good a player as West is, though, he would come at a significant price. The Pacers forward has a $12.6-million player option for next season that he’s unlikely to opt out of given his age. Not to mention, he wouldn’t solve the Raptors’ need for a shot-blocker as he’s more of a positional defender than rim-protector, a description that fits just about every big already on the Raptors’ roster.
Most recently reported by Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, the Raptors have apparently expressed interest in acquiring Kenneth Faried from the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets are looking to blow things up. As such, they’ve made pretty much everyone on their roster available, including Faried, despite signing him to a huge extension (that will kick in next season) back in October.
It’s understandable that the Raptors would be interested in Faried. He was originally drafted by Ujiri and his rebounding prowess could immensely improve Toronto’s bottom-third ranking on the glass.
The issue with him is that five-year, $60-million contract extension—a commitment the Raptors would take on, rendering the prospects of re-signing Lou Williams extremely difficult in the off-season. And that doesn’t take into account the positional conflict adding Faried would cause, as he can really only play the power forward spot on the floor.
Garnett was also identified as a potential Raptors target in Lowe’s report.
A sexy name for sure, but at this stage in his career Garnett is nowhere close to the enforcer he once was, while also lacking the lateral quickness needed to defend the pick-and-roll—a fact the Raptors exploited in last season’s playoff series.
Intriguing, yes, but adding Garnett just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Raptors.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported the Raptors’ interest in West a few weeks ago, but the more intriguing name mentioned was that of Bulls big Taj Gibson. This came from a Sporting News report citing frustration on Gibson’s part stemming from a lack of playing time in Chicago.
From Toronto’s perspective, a deal involving Gibson would be absolute money. He’s the rim-protector the Raptors need and likely wouldn’t disrupt chemistry too much as he and DeRozan were college teammates at USC.
If you’re the Bulls, however, things aren’t quite so rosy. Gibson is locked up for another two seasons, so he figures to be a key part of Chicago’s championship window. He’s also just too good a player for the Bulls to give up for anything the Raptors have on offer—apart from maybe the 2016 first-round pick they acquired from the Knicks in the Andrea Bargnani trade.
According to Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops, Ujiri has coveted Blazers do-everything man Nicolas Batum for a long time and would give up just about anything to land him.
Batum has struggled this season after off-season wrist surgery, putting up career-lows almost all the way across the board. Still, when he’s healthy, he’s an incredible jack-of-all-trades who can really play defence and would be a clear upgrade over Ross.