Anybody still mad at Danny Ainge for doing nothing at the trade deadline needs to take a good, hard look at the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors and Boston Celtics are in the same position right now, down 2-1 with game four coming on the road. Fans across New England seemed to envy Toronto when they struck two deadline deals – coming away with Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker – while the Celtics stood strong with the roster they had.
Boston was only three games ahead of the Raptors coming out of the All-Star break and these movies failed to help them catch the Celtics while the two teams are also in the same position in the playoffs, down a game to a worse team. It now appears that Ainge was right in holding firm at the deadline, especially when you take a deep look into each player the Raptors got.
Ibaka only cost the Raptors a first round pick and Terrence Ross, who is basically the guard version of Kelly Olynyk as a guy who was playing a little over 20 minutes per game and floating his scoring average around double figures. He’s a solid, young role player who can get hot at any moment to help break a game open but it’s also not the biggest loss in the world when you’re getting a guy like Ibaka in return.
This trade was awesome for Toronto at face value but the big issue is what happens next. Ibaka will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and he’s sure to cash in, especially now that he’s added a reliable three point shot – 39.1% this season while averaging 4.0 attempts per game – to his skillset. Some crappy team with cap space to burn will likely wind up throwing a max contract in his face and that will force Boston to either lose him after one playoff run or wind up paying Ibaka a lot of the money that they would like to give out to other free agents or guys on the roster deserving of pay raises like Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas.
The veteran power forward also doesn’t fix the Celtics rebounding woes. While he is a fantastic rim protector, Ibaka only pulled in 11.1 rebounds per 100 possessions this year which puts him behind Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson in that category. He and Horford would be the two big men averaging over 30 minutes per game and they’d also be your two worst rebounding bigs, which might actually make them a slightly worse rebounding team in the end.
Acquiring Tucker was the other deadline move that the Raptors made, this one costing them even less. The Raptors gave up only Jared Sullinger – who was set to lose the rest of his playing time with Ibaka coming in – and a second round pick, but let’s be honest for a quick second; P.J. Tucker doesn’t add anything to a roster that’s already deep. The likely trade would have been Jonas Jerebko and a second round pick for Tucker and it’s not like Jerebko would be leaving him with a big role to fill. The Swedish swingman has played just 14 minutes so far this postseason, eight of which were in the fourth quarter of last night’s win after Boston already had the game in hand. Toronto has a top heavy roster led by two All-Star guards but needed the depth to sure things up, Boston didn’t ever need that and Tucker would probably have that super limited Jerebko role if he was here right now.