Do Raptors need “shake it up” trade?


Trade rumours are heating up around the NBA. Should Raptors GM Masai Ujiri make a deal for its own sake?

There are many reasons why an NBA team makes a trade. In no particular order: they need to get under the salary cap, there’s an outbreak of injuries in the backcourt and help is needed, now!, a player can’t stand the coach/team’s best player/the fans, the team needs to get bigger/smaller/faster, Johnny McBuckets is a problem in the locker room…I’m giving myself a headache.

Here’s another reason – the team’s coach and/or GM decides that complacency has set in. The players are too comfortable. This situation arises most often when there’s insufficient internal competition for playing time. Finally, sometimes a team is viewed as a disappointment, and the GM feels compelled to shake up the roster.

This NBA season already has produced(?) its share of underachieving teams. I didn’t expect the Milwaukee Bucks to replicate their great leap forward of last year, but I didn’t think they would be seven games under .500 at this point either. The Brooklyn Nets were certain to be bad, but not 8-22 bad. The Chicago Bulls seem to be at each others’ throats, although 16-12 is hardly a disaster.

Dec 26, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey calls out during the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In the West, the Houston Rockets were expected to breathe down the necks of Golden State and San Antonio, but they’ve stumbled badly. They are in the playoff conversation, but 16-16 is a shock. Utah is another team which was expected to take a giant step, but they’ve gone the other way. The New Orleans Pelicans didn’t expect to lose two of every three games.

So where is our team, the Toronto Raptors, in all of this palaver? Is their record a disappointment, or are they suffering from being too comfortable? Is the lineup being torn apart by internal dissension or a rebellion against the coach? Short answer: No. I can’t find any issues with our squad, and that’s remarkable. Even the most objective and sensible of reasons to make a deal, i.e., an outbreak of injuries, hasn’t damaged their record. As the Raptors prepare to welcome Jonas Valanciunas back, and DeMarre Carroll has already returned from his knee injury, the team sits fourth in the ultra-tight Eastern Conference with a 19-12 record.

The Raptors have the second-most road victories in the league, behind only…you know, those guys. Absurd stat of the year: the Warriors and Spurs are a combined 31-0 on their home floors.

I’ve been doing this gig for years, and I can’t think of a time when I haven’t wanted the Raptors to make a trade – until now. Yes, I still would like to find a “true” power forward, but Luis Scola is proving an admirable stand-in. The Raptors backcourt should be in the All-Star game. Bismack Biyombo has been a revelation at centre; Jonas better be prepared to do his best work when he returns. Terrence Ross…I don’t want to jinx the guy, but he certainly appears to be finding himself, after an agonisingly long search. Cory Joseph has been a most pleasant surprise. It’s true Patrick Patterson has taken several backwards steps, but his coach still trusts him. James Johnson appears to be getting enough minutes to keep him happy, or at least off Twitter. DeMarre Carroll has been hobbled by injuries. We cross our fingers this is just a spell of bad luck and not a glimpse of his future.

With Delon Wright, Anthony Bennett, Lucas Nogueira and Norman Powell all eager to grab some playing time, complacency among the rotation players will be punished with a benching.

Masai Ujiri is the polar opposite of Philadelphia’s Sam Hinkie, who never met a roster move he didn’t like. Masai needs ample proof that any deal he makes will prove positive before he proceeds. Unless something remarkable drops in Masai’s lap, I’m going to suggest the trade deadline will pass without a move by our management.