Raptors Active on Trade Talks

Over the last month and a bit the Toronto Raptors have begun showing some signs of weakness. Before their schedule begun to get tougher the Raptors were 22-6, since they have gone 11-11. The .500 basketball began when the team took off to Chicago, followed by five games out west. It was a long, tiring road trip for the Raptors, who haven’t been the same since.

They did miss guard DeMar DeRozan for a portion of the last 22-games. Since the return of DeRozan the Raptors have gone 8-5, however, over their last two games the team has gone back to their struggles. They didn’t look right versus a young Milwaukee team and were blown away at home versus Brooklyn. “For whatever reason, we’ve lost that work ethic, that fight, that grit, that grime and we’ve got to get that back,” said Dwane Casey after the loss to the Nets.

A lot of focus has been pointed at the Raptors lack of interior defense. Some call for third-year center Jonas Valanciunas to get more late game minutes, but Casey has been sticking with his rotation. Amir Johnson has been banged up, and Patrick Patterson is no interior presence. Tyler Hansbrough and Chuck Hayes have done their part, but it hasn’t been enough.

On Thursday night Basketball Insiders reported that the Raptors have been actively pursuing a big man with just a couple days till the NBA trade deadline. General Manager Masai Ujiri has been known to keep a tight lip in around the Franchise so these rumours are tough to give credit too. Nonetheless, the Raptors do need to find a way to improve if they look to make a deep playoff run.

If the Raptors are in the market for a big man some names that have been mentioned are David West of Indiana, Kenneth Faried from Denver and Taj Gibson from Chicago.

West is a veteran power forward with playoff experience. He’s in the final year of his contract with a $12.6 million player option for next year. He’s not exactly the defensive presence the Raptors are looking for, but he could help in the playoffs.

Faried was drafted by Ujiri when the GM was with the Nuggets, after the departure of Ujiri the big man received a 5-year deal worth $50 million. The contract is questionable as many argue if Faried is worth that contract. His name has been mentioned as a possible trade candidate, but his contract could hold the Raptors back.

Gibson is another interesting name. The same night the Raptors were linked to be in the market for a big man, the Sporting News’ Sean Deveney reported that the Bulls could make Gibson available for trade. It seems that this season Gibson has been slowed down by some sort of physical issue as defensively he’s been blown by on most occasions. The Bulls will be looking for a good return if they trade Gibson, who is set to make $8-$9 million over each of the next three seasons.

A free agent option for the Raptors could be Andray Blatche, who played in China this season. Blatche will be eligible to sign with an NBA season this year, however, he has been known to be an issue in the locker room. The big man played for the Nets last season and was a big reason why the Nets were able to beat the Raptors in the first round.

Possible players the Raptors could trade are; Landry Fields, Amir Johnson, Chuck Hayes, Louis Williams and Tyler Hansbrough. Williams is less than likely, and it would take two of the other guys to possibly make a trade come to life, along with draft picks. Terrence Ross is a guy many teams will ask the Raptors about, but it has been reported that the team is not interested in trading the third-year wing.

Dwane Casey on the Hot Seat?

Yes, the Raptors have begun to decline, in away. Teams have learned to defend them and attack them offensively, but that does not mean Ujiri is looking to fire Casey. It has been a discussion on Twitter recently if the Raptors would consider it. The fact is, it would take a huge collapse for Ujiri to even consider letting the head coach go.

There’s a long list of people who like the Raptors and their potential. The list of people who would like to coach them is never-ending. Jeff Van Gundy being a top that list. Still, don’t look for the Raptors to even consider firing Casey.

DeRozan Fined for Flagrant Foul

In Wednesday night’s frustrating loss to the Nets, DeRozan was ejected for body-checking Bojan Bogdanovic, as the Net went up for a breakaway layup. For the hit the NBA has fined DeRozan $15,000, but no suspension came with the flagrant foul two. “They got to rumbling like they were the number one team in the East. I just wasn’t going to let them get anything easy,” DeRozan said after the game.

The Nets have been in the behind for the Raptors since the 7-game series in last year’s playoffs. Ujiri was also fined $25,000 during the playoffs for his obscene language about the Nets.

Kyle Lowry More Than an All-Star

Also announced Thursday night, the Raptors lone all-star will be participating in the NBA Skills Competition on the Saturday of the NBA All-Star weekend. Lowry will take on the Bulls Jimmy Butler in the first round of the competition.

Other participating names; Utah’s Trey Burke, Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams, Milwaukee’s Brandon Knight, Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, Phoenix’s Isaiah Thomas, and Washington’s John Wall.