With the Toronto Raptors hitting the road as the first half of the NBA season concludes, the city of Toronto and fans begin to prepare for the NBA all-star weekend. This year Toronto will host the weekend activities from Feb. 12-14. With the top players in the league and celebrities coming to the “416”, the Raptors will be the face of the league.
Their performance on the court has also given them some fame, as they currently sit second in the Eastern Conference. Many NBA experts now suspect the Raptors to be the only competition to the conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers.
To summarize, the chance for the Raptors to win is now! They have had some success in past years, but with the east being as weak as it is, the Raptors are in the best spot to possibly reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
For the Raptors to find that success, it’s time for them to go all-in. In past seasons leading up to the playoffs, the Raptors have seen star players Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan struggle due to fatigue and opposing teams putting extra emphasis on defence against the two guards.
It’s time for Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri to make a splash on the trade market ahead of the Feb. 18 trade deadline. The Raptors biggest need is a power forward and options are at a minimum with Markieff Morris and Al Horford headlining the list.
Many people believe Ujiri should wait until the off-season or for a later date to make such a big move, as they should look for someone who will be a better fit in their system. However, with DeRozan most likely testing free agency this sumer, (and with contract offers reaching the max coming his way), and Lowry only having one more year left on his contract after this year, the window on this team might be closing.
During the MLB season, the Toronto Blue Jays went all-in and made major trades to ride into the playoffs for the first time in over 20 years. The Blue Jays situation was very comparable to what the Raptors are in right now. Obviously, the NBA and MLB are two different leagues but the two teams were and are in equal situations.
It’s most likely that the moves the Raptors make, no matter now or down the road, their chances of competing for a championship will stay slim. A trade can make them better than the Cavaliers, and that’s what the Raptors should be looking at.
This season and possibly next should be the time for the Raptors to maximize their talent. If Ujiri does go out and make a trade, the Raptors are not limited in the amount of draft picks and young players they have to satisfy other teams. The only issue for them will be how can they balance their salary cap when making a major trade.
The Raptors, who currently sit at $71 million in salary cap, will have to look at trading veterans such as Patrick Patterson or Terrence Ross to balance contracts in any trade.
The expectations for this team is to get past the first round of the playoffs, but realistically this team has a chance to move further than the second round. The only way to do so is to make a move to improve the roster.
DeRozan and Lowry are already playing heavy minutes, which will effect them as the season moves on. Offensively this team needs a third option and it can only come via trade.
As much as the Raptors should not make a panic trade, the window of opportunity is now. It shouldn’t be about looking for the right piece anymore, but looking for who can take this team as far as it can go.
The trade deadline is under two weeks away, so Ujiri has some phone calls to make. The Raptors are on pace to becoming the best team in franchise history, but their playoff run will be cut short, again. Help is needed and the waiting period is over. Ujiri and the Raptors need to act, and they’ll have to deal with whatever is on the trade market ahead of the trade deadline.