I think it would be fair to say few people expected the Raptors to be sitting second in the Eastern Conference at the NBA trade deadline. In fact, I believe you’d be hard pressed to find anyone south of the 49th parallel who assumed Toronto would be less than a few weeks away from hitting their Vegas win total over for the ninth-straight season. Yet, that’s exactly where Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster found themselves on Thursday. They weren’t looking to sell the expiring contracts of veteran players like Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol as so many anticipated; instead, there’s a case to be made that they should have been buyers.
The difficulty with such a drastic change in course is keeping realistic about a team’s ceiling. Yes, the Raptors have won 12 consecutive games coming into Friday’s slate. Yes, the Raptors have lost more man games than any other “contending” team in the NBA to this point in 2019-20, suggesting the potential for even more success when fully healthy. Yes, a huge chunk of the Raptors’ rotation has always coveted the intangible of championship experience. However, considering the lack of actual series-changing assets on the market this year, I think Toronto was right to sit on their hands, even if the team’s 25/1 title odds on the DraftKings Sportsbook aren’t overly optimistic about what’s to come.
To be blunt, up against the luxury tax, nothing of substance was getting done for the Raptors without including OG Anunoby in a prospective deal and I don’t think Toronto saw anything tempting enough to fork over one of the few players it has on its books for 2021. With a powerhouse Milwaukee squad lurking and no pressure from a satisfied fan-base to make a splashy, win-now move, Ujiri likely made the correct call in not mortgaging the future for what’s likely fool’s gold, anyway. The Raptors are just going to continue to play with house money.