By: Javon Walker
Even the most casual of basketball fans have heard that the Toronto Raptors have traded Terrence Ross and a first round pick for Serge Ibaka, making this the most hyped Raptors trade since we committed highway robbery in a deal for Andrea Bargnani in 2006.
It’s a great trade, really. We got Ibaka for one of the few players Raptor fans have expected to be traded. Just a few months ago, when Ibaka was still with Oklahoma City Thunder, his team was asking the Raptors for Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson, Norman Powell and our 9th overall draft pick. The fact that we finally got our guy by giving up no depth makes this great.
Ross was our best three-point shooter by percentages, but his being gone opens up more playing time for Powell and Delon Wright. There’s just so many positives that I can’t help but ask:
What could possibly go wrong?
I’ve been optimistic about a lot of things in regards to the Raptors over the past few years. I thought Jonas Valanciunas was the future of the Raptors. I never saw Demar DeRozan becoming one of the greatest Raptors of all time. I thought Bargnani would be a life-long endorser for Primo Pasta. But even for someone like me, this Ibaka trade raises a bunch of red dollar flags.
The issue is not whether we can afford to sign him. Because we got Ibaka via trade, we have his ‘bird rights’, which is an exception that allows us to go over the salary cap to re-sign him. The issue is the future. Kyle Lowry this summer is eligible for a 5-year, $207,060,000 max contract, and if he chooses not to take a pay cut then we have to pay him every dollar. Patterson is not a max contract player, but if we choose to keep him after this summer then he’ll for sure be at least doubling his current $6,050,000 salary.
With the way NBA salary caps work, the Raptors will not be able to acquire expensive talent for years after this summer after re-signing Ibaka. This could be disastrous for a team that’s probably still not talented enough to knock off the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Golden State Warriors.
We’ll probably trade Joseph and Valanciunas at some point to get more wing depth, because lord knows Powell’s 6’4 frame is not the long-term answer at Small Forward.
Maybe I’m just being far too cynical. Maybe Ibaka will suddenly turn the Raptors into title contenders that will outlast LeBron James. That’s the best case scenario
Worst case scenario? Raptors lose early, we max out Ibaka and then we find out that he doesn’t move the needle enough against the Cavs or the Warriors.
My opinion has been bred by close to two decades of Raptor letdowns. It’s only natural for me to doubt every move this team makes. DeRozan’s contract from the summer still scares me a bit.
The only thing I can hope for is that the best case scenario happens.