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Toronto Temperature: Finding positive signs, even in an off-week for the Raptors

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The Raptors are coming off a shaky road trip, but after three days off they’re still sitting pretty at 37-15. It’s time to take the Temperature.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has happened over the past week for the Raptors, even if they haven’t played any actual games for the past three days.

For one, Kawhi Leonard bought a new Tuscan estate in San Diego. For two, Anthony “The Brow” Davis wants a trade from the Pelicans and, naturally, the Raptors could be in the mix. For three, the Raptors went 1-2 on a three-game road trip that saw close losses to the Pacers and Rockets. And finally, OG Anunoby was named on the Rising Stars Team World for the All-Star Weekend.

With the trade deadline fast approaching, Toronto remains in good shape at 37-15, five wins clear of Philly and Pacers. Here’s what’s hot and not for this week.

Who’s Hot?

Ibaka’s Double-Doubles

Serge Ibaka had a workman-like week on the boards posting rebounding numbers of 11, 14 and 11 against the Pacers, Rockets, and Mavericks, respectively. On offense, Ibaka scored 46 points combined in the three road trip matches. His double-doubles are providing much needed support in the absence of Jonas Valanciunas (who may be back soon!).

It’s also clear that the Raptors could use some help in the frontcourt. We won’t dog on Greg Monroe here in the Hot section, but it’s definitely felt like Toronto has been playing without a useful pivot for long stretches of the past month — which only highlight’s Ibaka’s value.

Winning January

Still, despite our usual anxiety, the Raptors have continued their winning ways into the first month of 2019. Toronto has claimed 10 wins out of their 14 matches — with one remaining against their rivals, the Milwaukee Bucks.

What’s more, the Raptors have an average winning margin of 9.7 points per win. Their best wins have come against the Pacers (without Kawhi), Grizzlies (with Danny Green going off) and those same Bucks (in a fantastic road win). At 37-15, the Raptors are still on course for a record-breaking year.

On the Rise: OG

Anunoby has had a tough year, both on and off the court. Call it the Sophomore Slump, call it some remnant of the Rookie Wall, or chalk it up to his changing role on the Raptors — Anunoby hasn’t quite looked like himself so far this season.

Nevertheless, the good word here is that Anunoby was still chosen to represent Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend. The cool thing about it: he will be the only Raptor participating in the game. In fact, he’ll be the first Raptor in the event since Valanciunas back in 2014, and if nothing else, that’s worth celebrating.

Who’s Not?

Trade Bait

There’s been a lot of talk about who the Raptors would have to give up during the trade deadline (if they had to) to get Anthony Davisand it would indeed be a lot. Setting the dramatic swings aside, the Raptors may need to look more seriously into trades for more shooting. On paper they should be set, but in practice it’s an area in which the Raptors need to improve. My Toronto chopping block right now: Delon Wright, OG, C.J. Miles, Valanciunas — and Siakam, if the Pelicans were in fact ready to deal him this way.

Wright and Miles haven’t shot the ball well for most of the season. JV would net a decent pick in return. Siakam and OG are both on the rise and could return some key parts to assist on defense. Safe for now, the usual suspects: Kawhi, Kyle Lowry, Ibaka, Green, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell (his contract is still too big and long), Monroe (he may not be an NBA player anymore).

Kawhi’s Tuscan Estate

So, the two trains of thought here: is it just an off-season pad or have the first seeds been planted for some sort of Lakers or Clippers future for Kawhi? Whichever side you fall on, I think we can all agree that at least Kawhi’s new place is dope.

Long term though, my gut feeling does indeed say Leonard is west coast bound at the end of the 2018-19 season. It’s hard for the Raptors to come up with a deal that beats Kawhi going home and being close to family. Yes sure, there’s like an extra $50 million, and the chance to compete in the relatively easier Eastern Conference. But still, there’s just no beating that. The only real thing the Raps can hope to do is the thing we all want: bring home a championship in Toronto.

Toronto

Just stick your head out the window for a second. It’s cold as hell. You saw that last paragraph there about Kawhi living in and loving San Diego — the mood outside certainly does not help the situation.