TORONTO – There is really no silent trading period in an NBA front office. In the days and weeks before, you are in constant phone and SMS exchange with your colleagues in the league, exchange ideas and concepts that could benefit all sides, and report to your own what could be possible. It's called due diligence. If you don't, you don't work in basketball.
"calm" is not the word to describe the experience of the Toronto Raptors' front office at this year's deadline, in which the third best team in the NBA was neither increased nor withdrawn from it.
According to the club's general director, Bobby Webster, a number of trades were discussed – substantial, marginal, and everything in between. Of course they were. It is Webster's job to have these discussions. Getting an agreement with another party and then pulling the trigger is the hard part.
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"There are always a lot of deals and things on our board," said Webster. "We had everything. Big trades, handicrafts, things on the edges. So it was a typical trading period."
Just not transformative, as was the case with most of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat certainly improved, adding Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill to a roster that was already in place for every team in the conference. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76s extended their bank and improved their three-point shooting with Glenn Robinson and Alec Burks. But no other team the Raptors had to worry about made a significant step.
And there was no tremendous incentive to do so. Milwaukee is clearly the toast of the conference – actually any conference. What they are currently doing has worked so well that there is no point in bothering them. In the meantime, teams made up of teams # 2 to # 6 in the east can rightly believe that they can beat each other. And they can all rightly believe that they haven't played their best basketball with what they currently have.
This is certainly the case for the Raptors, who have spent the season in a constant state of fluidity and flow and who are constantly reinventing themselves in the face of absurdly bad luck with injuries. It is impossible to say what the raptors are at all, except that they are adaptable. And relentless. And the defense wants no one to see more than seven games.
And that's a pretty good place. Given the events that were happening in the league this week, it is extremely difficult to imagine how the Raptors could have participated in a way that has been shown to improve their lineup without sacrificing the players who are currently playing important roles.
To do anything substantial, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka or Norman Powell would have to be moved. And all three of them have proven that they contribute significantly more to the raptors on the floor than they would as capital for the acquisition of someone who is not familiar with the Toronto systems and procedures. The Raptors front office, overwhelmed to take a step that only serves to run the risk of overcooking the special sauce that takes this versatile, resilient roster to where it is today.
"I think there is always this fear," said Webster. “You want to find the right balance between pushing yourself, thinking about the team and building the team and the future of the team. But also respect what this team did and respect what they did last year and how they grew this year. "
Well, if Webster and the Raptors want to add to their list before the playoffs, it has to be on the buyout market, which will be populated with offshoots of non-competing teams in the coming weeks. It is too early to reliably predict which players can be dispensed with – point guards Trey Burke, Tim Frazier and Isiah Thomas are expected to launch soon – but any capable veteran with an expiring contract with a non -Playoff team is one way.
Of course, finding a significant impact on the buyout market is a rare task. The way the Golden State Warriors added a playoff starter to Andrew Bogut last spring was the exception, not the rule. Adding a rotation player who is saying goodbye to the buyout market is a big win.
Remember, it was last season when fans and watchers of Raptors asked for Jeremy Lin, who was eventually taken over by the Atlanta Hawks after his unexpected sellout. He immediately took on a significant role with the Raptors and spent the following weeks completely torpedoing the coaching staff's confidence in him. At the playoffs, he only saw the floor during the garbage season. Now he's playing in China.
That doesn't mean that the Raptors wouldn't be worth adding one or two veterans to their list this month to build depth and protect against possible injuries. If the Raptors just don't use Malcolm Miller or Stanley Johnson, they could certainly make better use of these roster spots.
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But you always have to look at things from the player's perspective. If you've been bought up, look for a way to stay on the ground as much as possible to show off your skills and increase your summer value. The Raptors, as deep as they are, don't have much time to award prizes. A typical example: You liked Johnson enough to sign him for a two-year contract in July, but you haven't been able to find him regularly since then.
Toronto is probably not the preferred destination for players with options that are underpaid, although they have the ability to go deep into the playoffs. But it's always worth keeping an eye on it. Expect the Raptors to report to all available players who meet their needs by the end of the season. Any player who waived before March 1st can play in the playoffs.
"It's something we've dealt with here in the past. We're unable to say," Here's 25 minutes a night, "Webster said." But I think that's part of our assessment of the team. Which one, in the playoffs of recent years, do we have the right skills? Do we have the right position size? I think we will continue to evaluate it. We are here three weeks before the date of March 1st. So we'll keep looking at it. "
Webster added that the Raptors front office appreciated the ability to evaluate the team's squad at full force before making any inference decisions. With the NBA losing the fifth most common game against men this season, the Raptors have rarely been complete since the ball went up almost four months ago on the opening night.
But with only eight games between now and March and 31 between now and the playoffs, these evaluation options remain limited. The chances will also improve significantly. More or less the Raptors roster you are seeing now is the one that will try to defend its NBA title this spring. And this roster has proven to be pretty good.
"We're in second place in the east, which we're all happy with," said Webster. “I think the good thing is that we feel like we're growing. We weren't healthy all year round. So I think where we are now, we all take. With some improvement. "