Things are finally starting to turn around for the Toronto Raptors after they beat the Charlotte Hornets in two closer-than-you’d-like games (both were decided by three points). The Raps even drummed the Mavs by 23 points and absolutely locked down Dallas’ MVP candidate Luka Doncic.
So, things are looking up. But beware, Raptors fans, the Toronto team temporarily calling Tampa Bay home faces a relatively tough five-game stretch.
It has to play the defending Eastern Conference champ Miami Heat in back-to-back games, then the 8-5 Indiana Pacers twice, and finally the Milwaukee Bucks. In all honesty, the Raptors could easily lose all five of those matchups.
But then again, they could also go 5-0. Toronto’s Norman Powell had himself a week, putting up 17 points against the Mavs in that blowout, and 24 against the Hornets in the second game. Maybe he starts to turn things around for the squad.
As for the rest of the team, the Raptors cut ties with center Alex Len by waiving the former lottery pick. The emergence of big man Chris Boucher made Len a waste of a roster spot, and while Aaron Baynes, a 6-foot-10-inch Australian export, continues to struggle, the Raptors may look to free agency to fill that spot with a more well-suited big man for their system.
Or maybe Toronto starts to engage other teams in a trade for the aforementioned Powell. Despite his struggles this year, he’s a solid scorer that could be a great spark plug for a contender. He has a player option on his contract for next year, and is likely to decline it. The Raptors could decide to beat him to the punch and try to include him in a trade for a young big man of the future (I’m still on the train for the Sacramento Kings Marvin Bagley III), draft compensation, or young prospects.
Given, the Kings aren’t exactly a contender, so Powell may not make a lot of sense, but they could be added as a third team in a trade with a team like the Trail Blazers, the Heat, or even the Phoenix Suns.
The Trail Blazers could give up a guy like Zach Collins and a future first-round pick for Powell, or they could send that package to the Kings for Bagley to go to the Raptors. The Heat is a bit of a tougher fit, as Miami would have to give up a guy like Kendrick Nunn or Precious Achiuwa for a guy like Powell that would be competing with rising Heat star Tyler Herro, Avery Bradley and Goran Dragic for minutes. But the Heat can lack offensive punch at times, and Powell is a decent upgrade that wouldn’t require them giving up the farm.
The Suns really could use some backcourt help, too. Despite Phoenix’s fantastic record, its guard depth is a huge question mark. Right now the Suns backup guard rotation consists of guys like E’Twuan Moore, Langston Galloway, and Jevon Carter. All of those guys are, at the very best, average contributors. Powell would give Phoenix some real firepower off the bench, and the Suns could probably get away with only giving up a future first-round pick and one of two big big men Dario Saric or Jalen Smith in the transaction (Saric and Smith could also be packaged to the Kings for the trade for Bagley).
All in all, a good week for the Raptors. Tortonto has options, and depending on how this next week goes, it could decide what direction they want to go. At least the Raps are inching their way to .500.
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