Friday afternoon, the Cleveland Cavaliers fired head coach David Blatt.
It was a surprising/not surprising move, coming after the club won back-to-back games, but also following a first-rate ass whipping at the hands of the defending champions earlier this month. Blatt was brought in pre-LeBron declaring he was heading back to “The Land” and the relationship was contentious from Jump Street, even though the club is currently in first place and went to the finals last season.
Now Cleveland is trying to regroup under new coach Tyronn Lue, Blatt’s top assistant who has never coached a minute in his career. They’re still the favourites in the Eastern Conference, but there could also be an adjustment period and perhaps some regression, which means now is the time for the second-place to take their shot.
Yes – as recently as a couple weeks ago, I was using this space to suggest the Raptors hedge their bets and not roll the dice with this group as constituted, believing the uncertain DeMar DeRozan situation was too risky to bet on. But the situation has changed and as well as Toronto has been playing lately, they appear to have a real chance to make some waves, with a run to the Finals not being out of the question.
But rather than just rolling with the crew they already have assembled, this feels like the time for general manager Masai Ujiri to make some upgrades to improve Toronto’s chances going forward.
Below are some Trade Machine-approved deals that would make the already solid Raptors real contenders.
To Toronto: Derrick Favors, Gerald Henderson
To Utah: Patrick Patterson, Cory Joseph, Toronto’s First Round Pick
To Portland: Terrence Ross, Trey Burke
Favors becomes the shot-blocking presence this team needs inside, as well as a consistent scorer and rebounder to help balance out the jump shot game of DeRozan and Lowry. Henderson is a more complete player than Ross and an upgrade to the second unit who can do a little of everything.
Losing Joseph means the club is down a back-up point guard, so…
To Toronto: Devin Harris
To Dallas: James Johnson, Bebe Noguiera
Harris is one of four point guards in “Big D” and he’s playing just 19 minutes per game, so chances are he’d welcome an upgrade. The 32-year-old is a veteran with more playoff experience than just about anyone currently on the Raptors, which makes him a solid choice to quarterback the second unit, which wouldn’t see as much time once the playoffs rolled around.
If those two don’t move the needle for you, how about this?
To Toronto: Kenneth Faried, Will Barton
To Denver: Patrick Patterson, Terrence Ross, New York’s First Round Pick
“The Manimal” would be an amazing upgrade at power forward for the Raptors – a guy that just crashes the glass and is happy to get out and run the floor, play defense and change momentum with massive dunks.
Barton has been a great second-unit scorer for the Nuggets and could fill a similar role for the Raptors, providing more stability (and confidence) than Ross has shown in the last couple years. Turning over the Knicks’ first is a must to sweeten the deal, but if you can add an All-Star to the starting five and a quality reserve to the bench, you have to do it.
And here’s one more, just to get you thinking…
To Toronto: Al Horford, Kent Bazemore
To Atlanta: Patrick Patterson, Terrence Ross, Toronto’s First Round Pick
Atlanta may not want to trade within the conference, but the chance to get a solid return for two players that might not be back next season could be too good to pass up.
Toronto gets a stud rebounder and solid face-up shooter in Horford, plus a more consistent three-point threat in Bazemore. Additionally, Horford is close with his former teammate and current Raptor DeMarre Carroll, which means there is more potential to bring him back next season than your typical free agent-to-be.