The Toronto Raptors are finally making a move at the Cleveland Cavaliers.
According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Raptors have agreed to a trade with the Orlando Magic that will send power forward Sergie Ibaka to the Raptors in exchange for guard-forward Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick.
The Raptors are already being applauded for the deal.
For two years, the Raptors have been viewed as being just short of truly being able to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for Eastern Conference supremacy. This was obvious last season when the Cavaliers beat the Raptors in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, practically surrendering two wins when they didn’t play Toronto at full speed.
Ibaka helps narrow that gap for the Raptors. While Ross has played well this season, Ibaka is a potential game-changing big man for the Raptors, who have been beaten badly on the glass by the Cavaliers or have proven too slow to match the Cavs when they spread the floor.
Ibaka is not a prolific rebounder, but he’s certainly capable of gobbling up boards. He’s also an elite rim protector when engaged, quick enough to switch onto guards on the perimeter, and capable of spreading the floor on offence. In 56 games with the Magic, Ibaka has averaged 15 points, seven rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game, while shooting 38% from beyond the arc. In seven seasons with the Thunder, Ibaka averaged over 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game, while shooting 35% from three-point range.
Power forward has been the Raptors’ biggest position of need, and Ibaka can slide in right away, provide spacing on offence for Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, while also helping the slow-footed Jonas Valanciunas on defence. And if the Raptors opt to go small, Ibaka can easily move up to center and provide those same benefits.
The Cavaliers have missed having a true center to back up Tristan Thompson this year, and with news that Kevin Love will six weeks to get a knee scope, they’re even thinner upfront. The Raptors don’t have LeBron James, but on paper, they match up much better now.
Only time will tell if Ibaka can fill the role the Raptors need, but it seems the Eastern Conference playoff picture just got tighter up top.
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