The Toronto Raptors have pulled off a deal sending Terrence Ross to the Orlando Magic, along with a 2017 first round pick (acquired from LAC) for Serge Ibaka. The Magic are not in a great position in the Eastern Conference at the moment, and they had a problem at the Power Forward/Center position with Ibaka, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo all vying for playing time. Gordon has spent some time playing at the 3, but this trade clears up their problem at Center, giving more opportunities to Vucevic and Biyombo, as well as adding perimeter shooting from the small forward position in Ross. Ross is not an amazing player, but he will add scoring and depth at the 2/3 position for Orlando, and could possibly tap into some unseen potential, given that he might be seeing more shots now that he doesn’t have Demar Derozan or Kyle Lowry playing next to him.
What this means for the Raptors, though, is that they feel they are ready to take the next step in the Eastern Conference playoffs and really give Cleveland a run for their money. Before this trade, I believed that Toronto or Boston are the only teams in the East that could possibly give Cleveland a hard time in the playoffs, but probably not before making a trade. This trade really helps the Raptors on the defensive end, with Ibaka’s shot blocking ability coming into play. Ibaka is also still fairly young with a team friendly 1 year contract, and does have valuable Finals experience from his Thunder days. A starting frontcourt of Demarre Carroll, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas is a very strong defensive front, and Ibaka can also help stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting ability from the Power Forward position. Pair that new defensive ability with the stellar play out of All-Stars Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan, and that looks like a real championship team. While Jared Sullinger tries to return from foot surgery, and Ibaka gets acclimated with his new system, there might be a few early weeks of struggle, but I believe that by playoff time, this Raptor squad now has a real chance at dethroning the defending champion Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals and moving on to the first NBA Finals appearance in Toronto Raptor history.