You didn't need to be Cleo to see this one coming.
Wayne Embry made it quite obvious at his first press conference as interim GM that he wanted to make some moves. And his first gets a big thumbs up from this HQ writer.
Yesterday afternoon the Raptors traded forward/center Aaron Williams to the New Orleans Hornets for two second-round draft picks; one in the upcoming 2006 draft and the other in 2009. As most Raptors' fans know Williams was hardly getting any run here in Toronto and his days were numbered. And while Wayne Embry will undoubtedly start being viewed as the franchise's saviour after finally moving one of the Williams boys, let's not sound the trumpets yet.
I've been preaching for years that the majority of trades in the NBA take place due to misfortune...and this trade is no exception. Sure Embry pulled the trigger but after the deal was announced, I had to ask myself:
Is this trade the result of contacts and saavy that Rob Babcock just did not have but that Embry did?
Is this simply another case of one team seizing the moment due to another team's misfortune?
I guess what I'm saying is that you really have to ask yourself the following questions:
Would New Orleans have made this trade
-had they not traded Jamal Magloire?
-had they not lost The Birdman Chris Andersen for possibly the next two years?
-had they not had Williams' former coach Byron Scott?
-had they been lottery bound again as expected going into this NBA season?
We may never know the true answer to this question, but Embry's move is a great one nonetheless. As I see it, it accomplishes 3 main things:
1. By moving Williams the Raptors continue Babcock's rebuilding process. Another pick in this year's draft (where the 37th pick could very well be better then the 17th) gives the Raps another shot at bringing in more young talent which this team needs. With a number of interesting bigmen in this year's draft (Yemi Nicholson, Hilton Armstrong, Marco Killingsworth, Michael Southall etc) the other thing is that there's a VERY GOOD chance that Toronto can take a flyer on one of these individuals who at worst will be of more use to the team then either Williams or Loren Woods. Also, it wouldn't be surprising if the Raps used the pick (which is originally Miami's but came over to New Orleans from Boston in the Dan Dickau trade) to take Toronto native Denham Brown. While not expected to be an impact player in the league, Brown would be a better PR move then last year's Juan Mendez discussions. Brown has the skills to make it in the league whereas Mendez is just too small to play his natural power forward position.
2. With Williams gone and Loren firmly planted on the bench, Spider-man's here for good. Pape Sow has played quite well, especially on the defensive end since his call-up from the NBDL and it looks like Embry is convinced that Sow will definitely play a part in the Raptors rebuilding plan. What this trade means for Rafael Araujo can't be said at this time. However once Hoffa's shoulder is healed enough to allow him to play, it will be interesting to see what his minutes are like. Only then will we get a true indication of whether Sam and Embry feel that Araujo is indeed a wasted first-round pick.
3. Trading Aaron for the two picks gives Toronto a few more "kicks at the can." Prior to yesterday's trade involving Williams the Vince Carter trade basically looked like VC for Joey Graham and a first-round pick. Now however it looks like Vince for Joey Graham, a first-round pick and 2 second round choices. If even one of these picks pans out then who knows, the deal that probably sealed Rob Babcock's fate a year ago might turn out to be the one that turned this franchise around. Yes, quite optimistic I know, but that's at least what draft picks do...they give you a few more options and a reason for optimism. If Embry can find a taker for Eric Williams in exchange for even another pick or two or an expiring contract then the optimism meter goes up a few more notches. In addition, Embry and co. can always use these picks down the road to bring in veteran leadership if they feel the team will be TOO YOUNG come next season. This flexibility is key for a franchise who's had its hands tied financially for the past three seasons.
In fact, even the second draft pick received in the Williams deal is enticing. With a good draft this year and next, and the development of the Raps youngsters, picks such as these could be used to help solidify the team down the road. Yes once again, the word flexibility comes to mind and hopefully Embry can continue to clean-house without sacrificing the team's youth or cap position.
And as one of our readers so aptly pointed out, one Williams down, two to go.