Toronto Raptors Reaching a Crossroad as They Take on the West

Toronto Raptors Reaching a Crossroad as They Take on the West
© USA Today

The Toronto Raptors are climbing out of bed this morning in a very similar spot as their NHL brethren across the hall at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s Toronto offices. 

The trade deadlines are fast approaching in both the NBA and NHL – Feb. 9 for the basketballers, March 3 for the hockey guys.

We’ve touched on the debate on what to do with the second-line left-wing situation with the NHL’s Maple Leafs.

Should the Raptors Make Trade Deadline Moves?

The Raptors’ situation is getting more interesting as they make their way through a tough West Coast road swing. On Wednesday, they took down the upstart Sacramento Kings 113-95, a game that may have pushed the argument that GM Bobby Webster and team president Masai Ujiri should add to this current core, rather than dismantle it (Bill Simmons yesterday was talking the possibility of a Russell Westbrook for Fred VanVleet trade).

The Kings are no longer pushovers: Third in the Western Conference, 27-20, six games back of the first-place Denver Nuggets. When was the last time the Kings made the playoffs? In 2005. 

Sacramento is tops in the league in offence – 119.7 per game average, third in the NBA in team field goal percentage (49.5), eighth in 3-point FG percentage (37.2). 

Power forward Pascal Siakam played like the all-star he is on Wednesday (26 points on 11-of-24 shooting, 11 rebounds, seven assists). Small forward Scottie Barnes, with seven points, didn’t score the ball (he had 10 assists though) but stood out with his defence, helping to stop that powerful Kings attack. 

VanVleet continued with his resurgent play of late – 17 points, five assists, four steals to lead the team there. The Raptors, fully engaged and energetic, blocked lanes and had arms and hands everywhere, making passes and catches difficult. 

Could Raptors be Looking at Playoffs?

It was the type of effort that makes one optimistic for a play-in tournament spot. The Raptors are 22-27, in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, still too close for comfort next to bottom feeders like Orlando and Charlotte. According to BetMGM this morning, the Raptors are +3300 to win the Eastern Conference, and +6600 to win the NBA championship.

The Atlanta Hawks are currently in eighth spot in the East – three games up on the Raptors. 

Next up for the Raptors are the Golden State Warriors, the strongest in the West despite their .500 record (24-24), according to some insiders. Then the Portland Trail Blazers (23-25) Saturday night, the Phoenix Suns (25-24) Monday night, and the Utah Jazz (25-26) Wednesday, the Houston Rockets (11-37) on Feb. 3, and the Memphis Grizzlies (31-17) Feb. 5, before, mercifully, returning home Feb. 8 to host the San Antonio Spurs.

Some winnable games in there, especially considering Wednesday’s performance, but enough to convince Ujiri and Webster to stand pat, even improve the roster (even wait to make roster moves this summer)? This team’s core and coaching always has the potential to make a run, with its pedigree and record, one of the NBA’s winningest franchises over the past decade. 

DraftKings has the spread for Friday’s game against the Warriors at -6 (Warriors are getting 88% of the handle and 79% of the bets on that so far), Moneyline at Warriors 1.44, Raptors 2.9.