Today the Toronto Raptors made the news after trading for Magic bigman Serge Ibaka. This move can be seen from many different angles, ranging from an Eastern Conference contender finding the final piece, to a reeling Raptors team desperate to shake things up. Regardless of how you see this move, the Raptors obviously made it to get better.
Trading for a solid big man was on the top of the Raptors to do list. They needed someone who could protect the rim, and his ability to space the floor so their all star guard can maneuver through the paint freely just adds to his attractiveness as a piece for their team. Serge Ibaka fills the biggest hole on the Raptors roster, and though he’s just a rental, he definitely makes them an even more serious contender than they already we’re.
Now, let’s all stop for a second. Does what I just wrote look familiar at all to you? In anyway? I’ll help you out if you’re getting confused. Go back and reread the last paragraph except whenever you see the word ‘Raptors’ replace it with ‘Celtics’. It’s funny, because it fits perfectly. The whole idea of this upcoming trade deadline was to add a rim protector behind Isaiah Thomas, and the Celtics just let a great one go to their biggest rival.
Serge Ibaka wasn’t perfect, but he was one of the only guys out there that fits what the Celtics needed. If you look around the league there’s really only 1 other guy available that’s a good rim protector, and that’s Nerlens Noel, And look, I like Nerlens Noel, I’ve made a lot of the fact that I really like Nerlens as a player, but that doesn’t mean Brad Stevens will. Brad Stevens likes to space the floor, and right now the Celtics only have 2 players shooting under 30% from. One is Tyler Zeller, who has a nice little mid range jumper, and the other is Jordan Mickey who doesn’t get any playing time anyway, to the dismay of a small group of C’s fans. So who’s to say Brad wants anyone on his team who can’t stretch the floor a little, nevermind his projected starting center? On top of that, now Philly can hold you over a barrel if you do end up trading for Noel, because they can say “Where else are you gonna go? There’s no other rim protectors available. Plumlee’s off the market, Ibaka’s off the market, so give us what we want.”
The biggest knock on a Serge trade is that he would be a rental, but so was Plumlee, and Noel would be one too, so Serge seems like he was the best fit. He spreads the floor like Brad wants, and he is a great rim protector, and by all accounts the Celtics wanted him, but according to CelticsBlog, they refused to include Terry Rozier in any potential deal.
Oh Danny… the Raptors are giving up their 4th leading scorer and a 1st round pick and you wouldn’t give up Terry Rozier? Really? I don’t want to get into all my problems with Terry Rozier right now, a point guard who was supposed to be a good finisher at the basket and isn’t, can’t shoot, and is a worse defender and passer than Marcus Smart. The point is, that Terry Rozier is not a piece you withhold from a trade that turns you into a legit contender. And this is where the Trader Danny persona hurts the Celtics, because I actually think Danny would have parted with Rozier, but Trader Danny was too busy playing poker.
This is what Bill Simmons said this on his podcast Monday, 1 day before Serge Ibaka was traded, about a potential Ibaka trade. “There’s really only 2 teams, Boston and Toronto, that have the contracts and the assets to actually get Serge Ibaka. So now this is like a poker match.”
Oh how right you are Bill, and there’s nothing Trader Danny loves more than playing poker. With a perfect fit to his Eastern Conference darling Celtics, a piece that could cement them in as the 2nd best team behind Cleveland, Trader Danny put on his poker face and withheld Terry Rozier, and Orlando called his bluff, and dealt him to Toronto, leaving Danny holding the bag.
Trader Danny wanted to rob another team blind, and he failed. He folded. He wouldn’t part ways with the 3rd point guard on his roster for a real piece for the upcoming postseason run. We’ve used a lot of gambling terminology in this one, and on the surface, ‘folded’ doesn’t the right word, but it so is. Danny had a winning hand, and what did he do? He folded! He folded a winning hand! Why would anyone fold a winning hand? He didn’t cash in on his winning hand, and let Toronto take his winnings.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the Trader Danny mentality. I enjoy getting Jae Crowder and a pick for the corpse of Rajon Rondo, and getting Isaiah Thomas for Marcus Thornton! But Danny needs to know when to turn it off, and he should have here. Now Toronto, a team the Celtics have already struggled with, is a whole lot better. Which makes the fold by Trader Danny do much more costly. Hold your chin up high Danny Ainge, but you lost this one.
Photo: (The Boston Globe)