A Woj bomb hit early this morning, and it has some real implications for the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Toronto was struggling mightily as of late, dropping 10 of their last 14, and have slid all the way down to 5th in the East as of today.
While Raptors GM Masai Ujiri normally likes to build for long term success, he realized the opportunity to grab a player of Ibaka’s caliber without completely mortgaging the future was too good to pass up. The Raptors had 2 first round picks in the upcoming draft (their own and the Clippers’), and the Magic are getting the lower of the two, likely in the 20-25 range. That, along with the fact that trading Terrence Ross freed up more opportunities for Norm Powell to get significant minutes, was enough for Ujiri to pull the trigger.
Slotting Ibaka at the PF position solidifies a weak spot that the Raptors have had in their starting lineup for a few years now. Trotting out a starting 5 of Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, Ibaka and Valanciunas is a unit to be reckoned with, and they will be a difficult out for anyone in the Eastern Conference.
On the other end of this deal, I applaud the Magic for realizing their blunder and getting something for Serge before he walked in free agency this summer. Yes, the deal they made to get him last summer now looks awful in hindsight, but at least the Magic front office knew that they had no chance of keeping Ibaka, and got at least a decent return. Having 2 first rounders in a loaded draft and an athletic wing on a great contract is better than nothing.
Overall, both sides came out better with this swap. The Magic got something for Ibaka, who was a lost cause in Orlando, and the Raptors finally got the PF they’ve desperately needed.
With the news of Kevin Love being out for 6-8 weeks after having arthroscopic knee surgery, the 1 seed is up for grabs in the East. And with this move, the Raptors have made it clear they’re shooting for it.