Raptors Rumors – The Toronto Raptors aren’t expected to be a big buyer on the trading front at February 18 deadline, especially with the kind of chemistry the team is showing this season.
Still, National Post writer Mike Ganter thinks general manager Masai Ujiri will come out of his conservative shell if Al Horford becomes available on the block.
The Raptors, 32-16, will enter the All-Star break as the second best team in the Eastern Conference defending champion and favorite the Cleveland Cavaliers (35-12).
Powered by the All-Star backcourt tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan along with their much improved defense, the new-look Raptors seem to be destined to go deep in the postseason with the likelihood of reaching the Conference Finals this year.
Unfortunately, that’s about it. Despite their improvement they put in on the defensive end, the Raptors are still inferior to the Cavaliers in the eyes of NBA pundits. Unless they add another game-changing player, the Raptors will likely have no chance matching the Cavaliers fire with fire if they ever meet down the road.
According to Ganter, he doesn’t expect Ujiri to make a drastic move and ruin the team’s chemistry for the sake of injecting more firepower to their roster. On the flipside of the coin, he also thinks the Raptors general manager will not forego the opportunity of bringing the team to another level by acquiring a player who could make them a legit title contender now.
The player Ganter is talking about is Horford, who emerges as a potential trade candidate at deadline.
“The likelihood is that in a little less than a month from now he will choose to stay the course with this group just as he did a year ago. Of course all bets are off if all of a sudden Atlanta makes Al Horford available,” Ganter stressed.
Horford is averaging 15.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for the Hawks this season. He’s in the final year of his deal and could demand a contract worth $20 million per year in his next year, which is something the Hawks front-office isn’t keen to give.
The Hawks are going to maximize Horford’s value before he gets the chance of leaving without compensation by dangling his name on the trading block.
The Raptors, possessing four first-round picks over the next two drafts and several young talents (Terrence Ross), have the assets to make a serious bid for Horford, as explained by Ganter.
“Ujiri is flush with draft picks, including four first-round picks over the next two drafts. The Raptors have their own picks plus the less favourable of New York’s first-round pick or Denver’s first-round pick this June, as well as the Clippers’ first-round pick (protected 1-14 in 2017,18, and 19) in 2017.”
Other than the Raptors, the Boston Celtics are another assets-rich ballclub being linked to Horford.
Photo Courtesy: Soaringdownsouth.com