Toronto Raptors Could Be A Threat To Cleveland Cavaliers

With the NBA trade deadline over and done, the biggest news of the 2017 trade deadline cycle was easily the New Orleans Pelicans acquiring the services of big man DeMarcus Cousins. Surely, with the New Orleans Pelicans acquiring DeMarcus Cousins to pair with established All-Star and fellow franchise player Anthony Davis, New Orleans has certainly positioned themselves for future success.

That said, however, while most headlines focus on the big name, blockbuster trades, sometimes it’s the minor tweak to any given roster that can make the biggest difference — and that is precisely the case with the Toronto Raptors, according to FiveThirtyEight. The Toronto Raptors have been on the cusp of greatness for a few years now, but have never quite managed to get over the hump, as it were.

With the All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the pair have been both consistent in terms of play and consistently under the radar in recent years. As talented as the Toronto Raptors pair are, the fact is that the franchise has needed a little more help to go from consistent to a legitimate contender, and, with the NBA trade deadline come and gone, the Toronto Raptors got exactly what they needed as the NBA season begins to wind down and the playoff push begins.

The acquisition of Serge Ibaka from Orlando (while not making as many headlines as the DeMarcus Cousins trade) is arguably one of the better moves of the entire NBA trade deadline cycle this year. Prior to this acquisition, the Toronto Raptors were on quite a skid, at one point losing 11 out of 16 games and dropping from second to fourth in the Eastern Conference in less than a month.

So far this season, Serge Ibaka is averaging 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per contest. Even more than his stats, however, Serge Ibaka fills a position for the Toronto Raptors that has been in need of filling for quite some time. Also, while Serge Ibaka was never able to get over the hump during his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, those years have given him valuable playing experience, and, as a battle-tested veteran, he brings a toughness and a tenacity to the Toronto Raptors squad that may just give them the edge down the stretch.

Serge Ibaka playing for the Orlando Magic before being traded to the Toronto Raptors. [Image by Elsa/Getty Images]

That said, while not quite as big a name as Serge Ibaka, the Toronto Raptors also managed to acquire the services of P.J. Tucker. Originally drafted by the Toronto Raptors in 2006, P.J. Tucker’s stat line doesn’t immediately stand out, however, he is a serviceable player, and, at 6’6, he is another body that the Toronto Raptors can throw at a LeBron James come playoff time. Perhaps best of all, Toronto did not have to give up much to acquire both players, and that will only help them moving forward.

Unlike the Boston Celtics who chose not to make any moves before the NBA trade deadline, the Toronto Raptors certainly did make the moves they deemed necessary to compete and take the franchise to the next level. One of the criticisms of the Toronto Raptors of late is that they have the tendency to play isolation basketball, and/or simply trade off between Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan when it comes to getting buckets. Serge Ibaka gives them a legitimate third option that can play defense, block shots, and space the floor with his shooting.

Ultimately, we will know soon enough if the Boston Celtics made the right decision by choosing not to make any moves, and whether the moves made by the Toronto Raptors will pay off in the end come playoff time. Either way, both the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors have the task of trying to knock off the Cleveland Cavaliers, and, whether or not that happens will be the true measure of success.

[Featured Image by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images]

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