Although there weren’t many expectations heading into the season, the Toronto Raptors are currently the hottest team in the NBA; winners of eight straight and sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
It hasn’t always been pretty, but the young Raptors core has proven to be moving a bit ahead of schedule, and with the NBA Trade Deadline passing this past Thursday, there was a call from Raptors fans to make big moves and push this team’s chances of contending forward.
One of the biggest names on the rumour mill for the Raptors was Indiana’s Myles Turner, but that talk was quickly displaced when it was reported that the Pacers were seeking OG Anunoby in exchange.
Once those plans fizzled and Bobby Webster spoke to the media, it became more and more clear that a blockbuster deal would not be happening, and instead a smaller bench move would be more likely. With Toronto currently sporting the worst statistical bench in the association, these potential plans were good news, and they came to fruition just a few hours before Thursday’s deadline.
The Raptors traded Goran Dragic and a protected 2022 first round pick to the Spurs in exchange for Thaddeus Young, Drew Eubanks and the Detroit Pistons 2022 second-round pick. Although he was included in the deal, it was announced shortly after that Eubanks had been waived by the Raptors.
With the dust settled, the Raptors essentially moved Dragic for Young, while dropping about 10 spots in this year’s draft. The Pistons second round pick will surely be around the 31st-33rd range as the Pistons are currently last in the league, and the Raptors pick is protected if it falls within the 1-14 range. Considering Dragic made it abundantly clear that he didn’t want to play for Toronto and it seemed as if he wouldn’t be returning, the move is a solid one by the Raptors front office.
Young doesn’t turn the Raptors into the East-favourites or anything like that, but he’s a veteran forward that can help out an extremely understaffed and inexperienced bench unit. Despite being 33, Young is a player who can still be productive with the right opportunity, and is a valuable locker-room presence.
At 6’8, Young fits the mold the Raptors are trying to fill perfectly, and will definitely be one of the mainstays off the bench moving forward ahead of guys like Yuta Watanabe.
With how poor the bench has been it is a bit unfortunate that the Raptors were only able to add one piece, but Toronto’s front office made their vision clear with this move.
They aren’t going to throw away the team’s future because of how hot they are right now; instead giving the team a small boost and allowing them to continue to improve at their own pace. The reality of the matter is that the Raptors are not ready to contend yet, and trading away key pieces or multiple draft picks wouldn’t have made much sense.
It isn’t exactly Turner from Indiana, but Young is going to be a valuable bench piece for a young Raptors team looking to obtain postseason experience and continue to move in the right direction. Ideally the addition of Young and potential emergence of other pieces will allow for the starters to get a bit more rest during the stretch as they are currently logging some of the heaviest minutes in the league.
With the trade deadline behind us, the chances of a 2022 NBA Championship banner in the Scotiabank Arena rafters are admittedly pretty slim. Fear not though Raptors fans, this team is continuing to move in the right direction, just at a pace that lines up with their young core instead of on the fast track.