Toronto Raptors Shake Up Eastern Conference With A Blockbuster Trade

The struggling Toronto Raptors have been at the center of trade rumors for weeks and have finally pulled the trigger on a move that could sway the balance at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The Raptors have agreed to send swingman Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick to the Orlando Magic in exchange for power forward Serge Ibaka.

Toronto has gone a pedestrian 10-15 since late December and have slipped to fifth place in the east. A move seemed necessary, and by executing a trade with these parameters, the Raptors fill a need without dealing away their core pieces. Ibaka is one of the few players in the league that can shoot the three and legitimately protect the rim for lengthy stretches. He’s essentially an upgraded version of the injured Patrick Patterson, and Ibaka is no stranger to deferring to other stars from his time playing alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Lowry and DeRozan will love Ibaka’s ability to stretch the floor and cover up any mistakes they make on the defensive end. And with playoffs in their mind, Toronto knows they will have to eventually match-up with great point guards such as Kyrie Irving, John Wall and Isaiah Thomas. Ibaka is excellent in defending the pick and roll, which will give the Raptors an extra edge on that end of the floor.

For the Magic, they are cutting their losses from what seems like a poor trade on their behalf. They sent away Ibaka who they acquired for Victor Oladipo and Domanatas Sabonis on draft day last year, which didn’t seem like too great of an idea at the time, and this trade only further cements that previous sentiment. With free agency looming for Ibaka, the Magic brass must have thought they were better off acquiring assets for him before he had the chance to walk for nothing in the offseason.

Ross, at the very least, has plenty of potential. He just didn’t quite fit in with the rest of Toronto’s rotation. The former Dunk Contest champion deserves a more in-depth look on a lottery-bound Orlando Magic squad, and could prove to be a quality player for them down the road. The Magic have their own rotation problems though, and hopefully moving Ibaka will give more clarity to coach Frank Vogel and allow players to settle in their more natural positions.

Theoretically, Ibaka should assimilate to the Raptors lineup fairly quickly, hopefully hitting their collective stride once the playoffs roll around. The deal may not get the Raptors over the hump in the Eastern Conference, but certainly makes the last couple of months of the regular season far more interesting.

Sources: Yahoo Sports, Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports