Jan 3, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT
Toronto has won 9 of its last 12 games — since the Rudy Gay trade they have been the third best team in the East.
The question in Toronto has to be whether to throw out the tanking and lottery plan along with that 2013 calendar. This is a team that should win the Atlantic, likely be the four seed at least in the East and they have a real shot at the second round of the playoffs. Is that the best course of action, or should they get worse now to get a lottery pick and be better later?
At the heart of that debate: Should the Raptors trade Kyle Lowry?
In addition to the Lakers, Knicks and Nets, the Timberwolves, Warriors and Celtics are among the teams that have inquired about a deal with the Raptors for Lowry, league sources say. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has been encouraged by the team’s recent play, as Toronto has gone 9-3 since the trade with two of the losses coming against the Spurs But despite the Raptors’ fourth-place status in the pitiful East, Ujiri is determined to take the long-term view. With the deadline less than seven weeks away, Ujiri is said to have multiple deals he could do for Lowry that would involve receiving an expiring contract in return or slotting him into another team’s trade exception. Taking back future salary would come at a high price, i.e. a first-round pick.
This is the smart play by Ujiri — winning this Atlantic Division and reaching the second round is really fools gold. There are two good teams in the east (in reality there are two elite teams in the East) then the drop is steep. Winning now is not really building a team that will win in the East in a couple years.
If the Raptors can get a deal that helps them long term they should do it.
That said, advancing like that in the post season (and the playoff gate and other revenue it brings) is hard for ownership to turn down. In Toronto, they may not.
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