The Toronto Raptors could have settled and attempted to head into the playoffs as the clear cut number two roster in the Eastern Conference with no changes.
Currently standing as the fourth seed with a 33-24 record, the Raptors have become playoff regulars behind an All-Star backcourt and one of the deepest benches in the NBA. It would have been easy not to make a serious push considering the three teams ahead of them (Cavs, Celtics, Wizards) did not make any serious moves of note. However, President Masai Ujiri and GM Jeff Weltman managed to aggressively improve the roster without compromising the future of the franchise or the core of the team.
Toronto got busy last week adding Serge Ibaka who immediately gives the Raptors a stout rim protector who has the ability to stretch the floor out to three-point range on offense. PJ Tucker is another “3 and D” player on the wing who can provide physical defense against the strong wings that the team will face down the stretch in the playoffs. Tucker also provides insurance for the talented but often injured DeMarre Carroll. The only key loss is long time fan favorite Terrence Ross. Ross, however, can be easily replaced by Norman Powell in the rotation.
Teams largely stood pat yesterday leaving the DeMarcus Cousins trade to New Orleans the biggest splash of trade deadline 2017. However the Pelicans still have much room to grow and still will not make a significant dent in the West in the near future. This leaves the Raptors as the winners of the day. Toronto was the only team to significantly improve without gutting their assets in the process.
The Raptors can now employ a crunch time lineup of Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, Tucker/Carroll, Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas. Even with these seemingly subtle moves that is the starting five in the Eastern Conference most capable of standing up to the beasts of the east in Cleveland. Kudos to the Toronto Raptors’ front office for getting the key help needed to make another deep playoff run.