The NBA’s trade deadline is February 23rd. That’s a mere 15 days away. It’s a time of high anxiety and excitement in NBA circles, even if it often amounts to nothing more than a hill of beans. Speaking of which, the last time the Raptors pulled off a deadline deal was 2014, in which they traded Austin Daye, a trade exception (TPE), and a bag of cash (always my favourite commodity) for Nando De Colo. (The league has been in an obvious uproar ever since.)
This season for the Raptors has essentially coalesced into one specific narrative: the team needs help. Specifically, they could use some front court help, or a starting-grade power forward. You’ve heard this all before. More existentially, the Raptors could use a third player of a high enough quality to allow for some easing of the burden on Kyle Lowry (leading the league in minutes) and DeMar DeRozan (4th in usage). It’s proven to be a particularly difficult spot to fill.
Now, I know you armchair GMs have it all figured out. The Raptors just have to trade Terrence Ross, or DeMarre Carroll, or the draft picks coming this off-season, or even [whispers in a pitch only dogs can hear] Norman Powell, and they’ll get some quality player who fits in perfectly — be it Paul Millsap, Serge Ibake, Wilson Chandler or some other high quality name. Post-trade, the Raptors will come together and mount an full-blown and thrilling charge on the Eastern Conference and its king, LeBron James. We can see this all happening in our mind’s eye and, let’s be honest, we want nothing more than to believe in it.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, given that he is incredibly smart and we are all a bunch of jamokes on the internet), the Raptors actual GM, Masai Ujiri, probably sees things a bit differently. He has information, and data, and the phone numbers of other GMs who can tell him in no uncertain terms, yes, no, maybe, on any perceived deal. Ujiri is undoubtedly reminded daily of the old adage from the street philosopher Marlo Stanfield: "You want it to be one way... but it’s the other way."
This brings us to a crossroads. It’s a crossroads with a literal deadline. A decision will have to be made one way or the other. And I, for one, love a good crossroads because it means exactly one thing: it’s time for a poll.