Ups and Downs
When the Raptors look good, they look really good. But, they haven’t been really good as consistent as fans would like. Sure, they’re knocking on the door, and it’s not that there’s nobody home. The homeowner in this analogy is just napping or having a “rest” day? A couple weeks ago, Toronto squeaked out an overtime victory against the Wizards after being up huge, then they lost to Boston after crunch-time domination by Kyrie, and then they just about blow it to the lowly Suns. They seemed to get back on track with back-to-back convincing wins against the Grizzles and Kings, but then turn around and post two disappointing performances in a row against the Pacers and Rockets respectively.
The swagger that this team exemplified early in the season seemed to peak with Nick Nurse’s style on Craig Sager night. The guy can rock electric blue, what can I say. So what seems to be the issue? There’s not one major issue. It’s a plethora of tiny ones: inconsistent shooting, transition and rebounding weaknesses, injuries/ “resting” and poor decision-making. These are all common issues that crop up during the regular season – for all teams. The great teams, however, generally trend in a positive direction over the course of a season.
The Warriors and Bucks for instance are pushing forward at a healthy rate. Not that the Raptors aren’t continuing to play well overall. Things have simply stagnated. Growth has stalled. Consider a stock market metaphor. There are peaks and troughs along the way, but that thing just keeps chugging along in a positive direction over the long haul. Toronto seems to have plateaued. It’s not a recession, but a lack of progress on trading discussions seems to have no end in sight.
Earlier in the season, Jimmy Butler became a potential target. It just never felt like the right fit. Nothing against Jimmy Buckets, but he doesn’t swing the pendulum from Eastern Conference title competitor to legit NBA title contender. Perhaps Mr. Buckets could have swayed the odds a few points in favor of a Finals appearance, but Masai was right to retain our vital cogs in lieu of a more potent opportunity should it arise.
Now, finally, that opportunity rears its head. Toronto can potentially pick up another top five player in the entire league. Anthony Davis dominates this game. He’s just never had a chance to truly prove it on the big stage, be it injuries or a severely deficient supporting cast. His time is now. And that time is with the Raptors. With Davis and Leonard, and hopefully Kyle retained, you have yourself a legit title contender. A team that not even the biased ESPN NBA analysts can ignore. Instant respect. It’s crushing to consider losing Pascal after watching him blossom into a likely all-star this year. Lord knows we’ll miss those spin moves. We don’t know what Spicy’s ceiling is, but we know what it’s not. It does not involve him growing a sexy unibrow and becoming the most dominant big man in the league.
In the absolute worst-case scenario – assuming the Raptors did somehow pull off this trade – and Kawhi walks this summer, the Raptors still have Davis for another season. That’s the same situation that the Pelicans are currently in. It’s not the worst predicament as they’re in line for a massive haul on this deal. Beyond losing Pascal, it’s somewhat fair to say the other pieces are replaceable, assuming a deal that involves fellow young guns such as OG, Delon, JV, Norm or even Freddie. It’s heartbreaking to lose any of those guys, but CJ and Moose aren’t going to get this done. Pascal is key. A single tear for Spicy. It sounds all right dripping into the Larry O’Brien Trophy, though.
The time is nigh Raptors fans. Let’s go, Masai. Get ‘er done, like you always do!