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Magic Want A Scorer, Should Raptors Listen?

The 9-12 Orlando Magic are exploring the trade market for a scorer according to Josh Robins of the Orlando Sentinel and the move shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. This team created a logjam with their big men that forced players out of position and it seems like they have no one to go to when they need a bucket. The Raptors on the other hand are filling the net on a nightly basis, but they have taken a big step back in the rebounding department, so just maybe these two teams should talk?

It’s been obvious for a while that the moves Magic general manager Rob Hennigan made this past summer have had a significant adverse effect on his one-time 19 point 10 rebound starting center Nikola Vucevic who head coach Frank Vogel recently bumped from his starting lineup. While Vucevic is still grabbing double-digit rebounds, his minutes have been reduced and his scoring is down by a third from last year and Vucevic is likely the Magic’s best trade asset by far.

The Magic have plenty of big men needing minutes at the four/five spots with the additions of Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green and the odd man out has primarily been budding potential future superstar Aaron Gordon who has looked uncomfortable playing out of position at small forward. Trading away one of the bigs to create minutes for Gordon just seems to make sense and with the low value assigned to players with expiring contracts, Vucevic with two more seasons after this one left on his deal may be the only big man Hennigan can swap for a player that can help now.

The Raptors have scoring and if anything, their scoring as been increasing with each passing week and with a 14-7 record, they are a solid second place team in the East on track for another +50 win season. However, this season is starting to take on some of the flavor of two years ago when the scoring came easy, the defense was good, but they couldn’t finish off opponent’s misses with a defensive board and it cost them big time in the playoffs.

Toronto is better than two years ago, but they are getting outrebounded on average and it’s one of the reasons the Cavaliers are still just a little bit better. Toronto is a -0.3 on the boards, but in three games against the Cavs they are -3.4 rebounds and in losses, all with the potential to have been wins, those extra possessions given up matter.

With Sullinger on the shelf with an injury that, in fairness, has an unpredictable return date, Toronto only has Jonas Valanciunas who is reliable on the glass (19.1 percent of the available rebounds). Patrick Patterson, Lucas Nogueira and rookie Pascal Siakam have not been good rebounders, grabbing between 11.2 and 12.4 percent of the available boards.

The obvious scorer on Toronto that should grab Hennigan’s attention would be Terrence Ross. Ross holds the Raptors high water mark for points in a game at 51 and this year he’s expanded his game beyond a three-point threat and is making much better decisions driving the ball, pulling up and using the midrange. At least for the moment, it looks like Ross has finally figured everything out and is becoming the player envisioned when he was drafted five years ago.

If you are looking for scoring, Ross’ value is high and it isn’t going to be easy for Ujiri to let him go. However, the Raptors have their own mini-logjam on the wing with the return of a healthy DeMarre Carroll. Second-year wing Norman Powell has been putting up offensive numbers that rival Ross when he gets a chance to play and there’s a good argument that Powell’s defense is better. Coach Casey keeps looking for reasons to put Powell on the court because he’s earned more minutes, unfortunately minutes are hard to find and as Carroll rounds into form, they’ll get even more scarce.

The mystery in Toronto is whether or not president Masai Ujiri is satisfied with another year developing young talent without any real expectations of getting past Cleveland in the playoffs? Another Eastern Conference Finals appearance would still be pretty satisfying, but are the Raptors really that far behind the team they took to six games in the postseason last year?

Ujiri can stand pat. He has good young talent that will keep getting better, but his (likely) stop-gap measure to cover the loss of Bismack Biyombo’s rebounding broke his foot in the the preseason and as well as the rookie Siakam has played, he’s not going to rebound well enough to replace the more experienced Sullinger – at least not this year.

And then there’s the three-point shot the 26-year-old Vucevic appears to have discovered this season that should garner some serious attention.

The contracts of Ross and Vucevic are very similar and both players would fill an immediate need on the other team. Maybe Ujiri and Hennigan should talk.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
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