Masai Ujiri just gave Toronto fans yet another reason to love him this Valentine’s Day. While the rest of the NBA world was busy rubbernecking at the latest Knicks tire fire (#TeamOak, just for the record), the Raptors GM was working the phones, landing Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic in exchange for Terrence Ross and a (hopefully late) first-round pick in this year’s draft.
And here all we’d gotten Ujiri was a few angry calls into sports radio to bitch about the Raps’ latest slump. Well, this is embarrassing… Here’s our take on today’s trade.
The Timing Was Right
After losing 10 of their last 14, the Raptors have been free-falling down the East standings, tumbling from second all the way to fifth. Frustrations were mounting, both inside and out of the locker room. Words like “change” and “help” started slipping into postgame press conferences. If the Raptors were going to make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals, the front office needed to do something – and fast – to keep the team from just running in place.
Ujiri (Finally) Gets His Man
It feels like Toronto’s been making eyes at just about every big-name power forward on the trade block for years now, and this isn’t the first time Ujiri has tried to swing a deal for Ibaka. The only difference is, last summer, it reportedly would’ve cost Norman Powell, Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson and the ninth-overall pick to pry Serge from the Thunder. Now, the Raptors GM gets his man, only at a much friendlier price.
What This Means for the Raptors
On the same day the Cavs found out their own star big man Kevin Love would be out for six weeks, the Raptors finally got the power forward they’ve long been coveting. Current record aside, Toronto’s still considered to be the second-best team in the East, and acquiring Ibaka and his shot-blocking and athleticism keeps them squarely in that conversation. It also pushes Patrick Patterson and rookies Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam back to a bench role, where they’re a better fit.
What Ibaka Brings to the Team
The 6’10” big had been having an up-and-down year with the Magic – his blocks are down, but he’s shooting a career-high 38.8% from 3. If Ibaka can rediscover his shot blocking form, Ujiri found himself another steal, filling the void left in the team’s front court by losing Bismack Biyombo. If not, they can move on from the impending free agent in the offseason, no harm, no foul. But either way, a rim-protecting, playoff-tested power forward who can space the floor? Pretty sure Raptors fans would choo-choo-choose that any day of the week.
What This Means for the Magic
They essentially traded Victor Oladipo and the 11th pick in last year’s draft for three months of Ibaka, Terrence Ross and a pick that’ll probably end up in the late 20s. As much as we love T-Ross, that… that’s not a great deal. You’ve got to think Orlando’s experiencing a little buyer’s remorse right now.