The Toronto Raptors and the Utah Jazz face a fork in the road post-trade deadline, and today’s “Day 1” of their soft reset. The Raptors’ front office injected this team with a new lease of life and gave this core a chance to redeem themselves this season at the trade deadline by acquiring Jakob Poeltl and keeping the core intact. On the flip side, “Trader Danny” used the trade deadline to signal a change in direction by unloading talent to make a late run for the Wembanyama sweepstakes.
The Jazz embarrassed not just the Raptors team when these two teams met nine days ago. Walker Kessler, the Jazz’s behemoth rookie, towered over the Raptors’ “Vision 6’9”,” en route to an emphatic 17 points 14 boards, and seven blocks that made the Raptors fanbase question the front office’s draft/trade decision of giving up their 20th pick to acquire Thaddeus Young while getting back the 33rd pick that turned out to be Christian Koloko. Valid criticisms, as Young and Koloko, haven’t solidified the position that an “NBA-ready” Kessler could have filled easily. But are we even sure that Masai won’t draft Koloko 20th if they didn’t trade their pick?
Toronto will be facing a totally different Utah team tonight. The Jazz shipped Mike Conley to give Collin Sexton the keys. They also lost their depth, shipping out Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley; both guys were a pain on the Raptors’ side the last time they played. However, the Raptors can’t sleep on this team, as they still have good talent remaining, and Lauri Markannen’s improvement is so drastic that the Jazz needs to consider sitting him to tank games. Jakob Poeltl is still questionable (trade pending) as of this writing, so we’ll see if he gets cleared for tonight’s game.
The Raptors have 26 games remaining to keep this core’s window open, and Game 1 starts tonight. With the Jazz signalling their intent to tank, the Raptors MUST win this game tonight.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 7:30pm EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Utah – Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, Lauri Markkanen, Kelly Olynyk, Walker Kessler
Toronto – Jakob Poeltl (Trade Pending - questionable), O.G. Anunoby (wrist - OUT), Otto Porter (foot - out for season)
Utah – Russell Westbrook (Trade Pending - OUT), Juan Toscano-Anderson (Trade Pending - OUT), Damian Jones (Trade Pending - OUT), Jordan Clarkson (Non-Covid Illness - Questionable)