The NBA’s Feb. 6 trade deadline is two weeks from now and with it comes questions about whether the Toronto Raptors are good enough to compete for a title as currently constructed.
If they aren’t, then a move to put the club over the top — as seen last year with the acquisition of Marc Gasol — will be front of mind for Raptors fans.
That’s only if this group isn’t good enough, however, and according to Raptors general manager Bobby Webster, this Toronto squad has what it takes to defend its title.
“Yes, I think we’ve proven it before. I think guys have stepped up into roles this year,” Webster said on Tim and Sid, prior to Wednesday’s tip-off against the Philadelphia 76ers. “We’re always looking around the edges to see if there’s something better here or there, but I think it would be a disservice to this group to say that they aren’t ready and they haven’t proven it. We’re all excited to see where they can go.”
At first glance that sounds like obvious lip service by Webster, because of course the GM of one of the top four teams in the East should have confidence — especially since his team just returned to full strength.
However, looking a little more closely at that quote reveals something that could be far more enlightening in regard to Toronto’s deadline strategy.
“We’re always looking around the edges to see if there’s something better here or there,” sounds like a throwaway line, but it could also be an indication that the Raptors will be approaching the deadline with an eye toward only improving the back end of their roster and that fans shouldn’t expect a big, splashy move such as the one that brought Gasol to town last year.
Of course, the caveat is the Raptors virtually never leak their plans and specifically talking about “the edges” could be an elaborate smokescreen.
But in his interview Wednesday, Webster made a point to draw attention to how much belief he and the rest of Toronto’s front office had in this current group they assembled dating back to last year’s free agency bonanza.
“I think going back to last July, when Kawhi (Leonard) decided to leave, I think there was a strong internal belief that we had a really strong group of players that were gonna compete again this year, and I don’t think that’s ever wavered,” Webster said. “I think there’s always been a unified spirit within the team. These guys believe they can do it.
“Last year’s run in the playoffs gave them all a huge shared experience to build off of, and we’ve tried to bring in a few guys this year that have similar character and work ethic and that can fit with this group. So more than anything, I think we were all rooting for this team to be successful and to make it.”
Standing pat at the deadline or just making a move to help improve the 12th or 13th man on the roster would be a great confidence boost for this team that would align with what Webster was alluding to.
Still, there are two weeks remaining until the trade deadline, so you can never count out anything. Especially because this is a club that did only recently return to full strength, giving Webster and his team a truncated evaluation period.
Regardless of how much (or little) time he has to prepare, this time of year is one of the main reasons why Webster is in the role he’s in. And it’s a role he appears to have a lot of faith in navigating once again – even if he doesn’t end up making a big deal this year.
“I think this is exactly the time where teams are calling every team, and that’s where we are,” Webster said. “There’s no meat on the bone as far as deals go, but I think this is the time where we do our due diligence. So over the course of the next two weeks you guys and the fans and everybody will eat up every rumour, whether it’s true or not.
“I love it, too.”