Title: HOW THE RAPTORS’ TRADE FOR SERGE IBAKA IMPACTS THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
Date: February 14, 2017
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: For my latest at Vice, I wrote about the Raptors’ acquisition of Serge Ibaka and how it could change the Eastern Conference hierarchy.
The Toronto Raptors were presumed to be the biggest threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference this season. After pushing the Cavs to six games in the East final a year ago, the Raptors had room for growth, had built experience, and had bucked the notion that their core—Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Dwane Casey—was not good enough to escape the first round of the playoffs.
Even after a 22-8 start, there was obvious work to be done. The gap between the Raptors and Cavaliers remained, and fans clamored for the addition of a Paul Millsap (unlikely) or DeMarcus Cousins (off the table entirely). Instead, what the Raptors found was the worst stretch of play they’ve experienced since The Day Everything Turned Around, save for maybe the Washington Wizards series in the 2015 postseason. The Raptors have dropped 15 of 25 and 10 of 14, their offense sputtering and their defense failing to improve to league average with any consistency.
And so panic set in. The Cavaliers remained the Cavaliers, and the Boston Celtics emerged as perhaps a bigger threat (albeit an unproven one). The Wizards, the hottest team in basketball, looked a stiffer challenge than the Raptors of late, too. Things reached a boiling point Sunday, when the Raptors choked away yet another close game, forcing Kyle Lowry to suggest something needs to change and DeMar DeRozan to admit that help would be welcome.
On Tuesday, Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Jeff Weltman answered the call from their stars. Change is coming. So, too, is help.