The Toronto Raptors are in a weird position through 20 games. They’re not good enough to compete for an NBA title, but they’re not bad enough to tank for a high draft pick. Being stuck in no man’s land is the most frustrating position in professional sports, especially when you’re a franchise like Toronto that has become a perennial playoff team of late.
Nobody on this team should be content with just making the playoffs. If the team is going to get there, they’re going to want to be competitive and have a real chance at getting back to the Finals. However, this current roster isn’t good enough to do that, so they need someone to come in and flip the script.
The answer to Toronto’s prayers could be trading for Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine. LaVine may not be a top-10 player in the NBA, but he could be an answer to Toronto’s issues right now. The 25-year-old is single-handedly attempting to get the Bulls into the playoffs, averaging 26.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. A player of his caliber has shown that he can lead a franchise, and his scoring talents could be better utilized on a team like the Raptors that has better surrounding infrastructure in place than Chicago.
Zach LaVine’s scoring and clutch play are qualities that will be valued by Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors.
When you think of closers in the NBA, LaVine probably isn’t a player that instantly comes to your mind. However, if you look over the tape, he’s a stone-cold killer in the final minutes of a ball-game. Look no further than his game against the Charlotte Hornets, where LaVine willed his team back to victory despite being down eight points in the final minute. Within those final 60 seconds alone, LaVine scored nine points, including a game-winning three-pointer.
An NBA game is won or lost in the last possessions. Unfortunately, the Raptors have been on the losing side during close games more often than not this year. One of the reasons they haven’t been able to win is because they don’t have a go-to player to hit that game-winning shot. Pascal Siakam has tried and failed, at being that guy this season, but LaVine has shown that he has ice in his veins in the biggest moments.
LaVine would fit perfectly into this roster. Obviously, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet still run the backcourt right now. However, if they are able to acquire LaVine, they should trade Lowry immediately. He’s more likely than not going to walk as a free agent next year, so use this opportunity to get an asset for him before he leaves. The Raptors are a young roster and should be building around VanVleet and Siakam, so the addition of the 25-year-old LaVine would fit nicely into this system.
It would probably take a first-round and multiple second-round picks, plus a roster player like Norman Powell, to get LaVine, but that’s well worth it for a talented scorer. LaVine would instantly improve a Raptors team that is 17th in points per game and remains one of the league’s more inconsistent offenses.
This wouldn’t solve their frontcourt issue but it would make the Raptors a nightmare to guard every night. With LaVine in the line-up, they’d have a great opportunity to outscore their opponent instead of relying on shutdown defense.
Contenders and division rivals, like the New York Knicks, are currently circling the Bulls, waiting to pounce on LaVine of the Bulls fall out of contention. Watching LaVine go off as a Raptor is better than watching him dominate on a rival team several times every year.
The Raptors aren’t built for a rebuild or set to tank anytime soon. VanVleet and Siakam have shown flashes of brilliance, but it’s clear they need a third wheel. Currently only making $19.5M until 2022, LaVine would be a perfect backcourt addition to this young Raptors roster.