By David Arruda That’s right, it has happened again. Masai Ujiri came out of a trade with everything he wanted. His latest success demonstrates how Ujiri can make trade magic in almost any feasible situation. His move brought in Serge Ibaka from Orlando in exchange for Terrence Ross and a first round pick. Though it occured weeks ago, it was the perfect Valentine’s gift for Raptors fans. Many questions arise from this trade like: “Will Ibaka stay past this year since he is a free agent at the end of the season?” Or “will he be a bust?” But let’s focus on what’s to be expected.
Chris Vernon of the Ringer’s NBA show said that he “hated the trade”—for the Magic, and it’s hard to blame him. The Magic rid of the organization of a player who has made 3 All-NBA defensive teams (2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14), for Terrence Ross and a late first round pick. One thing that should fly off the sheet immediately is the fact that the trade didn’t include Patrick Patterson. Patterson was included in every possible trade for Paul Milsaup earlier in the year, so it is surprising that he was somehow not included in the trade for Ibaka. Majai knew that it was unlikely for Serge to stay with the Magic past this season, and the organization would make a trade soon because they didn’t want to lose him for nothing. This allowed the Raptors to add a prolific defender, on top of keeping a good defensive player in Patterson. This also allows for the Raptors to play a “death line up” of their own with Kyle Lowry–Demar DeRozan-Patterson-Ibaka, with some Corey Joseph, Demarre Carroll, and NormanPowell into that mix. Not only does this allow the Raptors to improve offensively, but when this line is on the floor the Raptors will have optimal floor spacing with every player, excluding DeRozan, shooting at an admirable 3-point percentage. Ibaka is impressively shooting a career high 39% from behind the arc this year.
With Terrence Ross now out of the Raptor portrait, it cannot be denied that this will open up Powell’s development more than he has already shown throughout his second year in the league. Powell is the team’s most valued trade asset and if there is no future for Powell in the organization, then it gives him the opportunity to show his potential and increase his value. This has been the biggest trade of the season thus far and the potential of its impact on the Raptors organization is incredible. The Raptors are now 3-0 since the addition of the new surge of Ibaka.
By David Arruda The NBA eastern and western conference finals are set and for the first time in history it includes the Toronto Raptors. While Raptors fans attempt to celebrate, they also try push away the doubt that comes from the lethargic effort their team has put fourth thus far in the playoffs; now approaching the King, Lebron James, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It is no secret that the Raptors have not played well in their first two series. They struggled to beat a Pacers team that they were expected to trounce, limping out of a 7 game series, and again revealed their flaws against the Heat. Meanwhile the Cavaliers demonstrated why they are the favourites to represent the east in the finals. The Raptors have underachieved primarily due to the performance of their two all stars, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Lowry has increased his atrocious shooting percentage from 31% to an abysmal 37% , while DeRozan is not fairing better shooting beyond 36%.
The conference finals may seem bleak for paleontologists residing in the North, but there are reasons to be positive. The Raps have faced their fare share of setbacks—primarily the ankle sprain that Jonas Valanciunas suffered and is likely to keep him from participating in the first two games against Cleveland. However, there has been positive reinforcement, specifically from replacing starting centre Bismack Biyombo, and Terrence Ross and Norman Powell off the bench. All three of these players have provided much needed energy and have been pivotal at various times in the playoffs. With the Cavs in sight each of these players, they will need to continue playing like they have if the Raps have any chance of winning.
However, besides these hopes noted above, the one thing that Raptors fans can take away from these playoffs is no matter how terribly they’ve made it—is the mere fact that they made it; scratching and clawing to franchise history. Prior to this season the Raps had never won a seven game series. Now, the Raps have won two seven game series, against while not matching the level of intensity they have brought during this 50-plus wins regular season. If you had to ask Raptors fans for anything this playoff, it would simply to win one series, and here they are surpassed of expectations in the conference finals.
Game one against the Cavaliers takes place Tuesday, May 17th, @8:30pm, in Ohio.