The acquisition of Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic was a move that immediately addressed areas of concern for the Toronto Raptors, but there are issues that could arise as a result of Terrence Ross’s departure.
Much of the enigmatic 26-year-old’s tenure with the Raptors was defined by inconsistency—be it on defence or with his outside shot. But in his fifth season with Toronto, Ross appeared to be growing comfortable with his role as an offensive spark off the bench.
In fact, the former Washington Husky was the only non-starter on the roster averaging more than 10 points per game, scoring 10.4 points a night—good for fourth overall on the team. Using multiple advanced metrics from basketball-reference.com, Ross was having the best scoring season of his career with highs in points per 36 minutes (16.7), points per 100 team possessions (23.4) and true shooting percentage (55.8 percent).
There were many nights Ross would be able to ignite Toronto’s stagnant second unit while its All-Stars rested on the bench. It’s a luxury the Raptors may no longer be afforded.
Though the arrival of Ibaka will ease the burden placed on the bench there is now an element of reserve scoring that seems to be missing for the Raptors. With Patrick Patterson hampered with injuries it remains unclear if he will be able to be that consistent contributor off the bench. It appears Toronto is grooming second-year guard Norman Powell to be the primary bench weapon but he hasn’t shown the same aggressiveness as Ross—for better or worse.
The NBA trade deadline looms in the shadow of All-Star weekend and although the Raptors made a big splash before the festivities got underway there is still time for some tweaks to be made to the roster via trade.
With the help of ESPN’s trade machine, here’s a look at a few deals that could fill the hole on Toronto’s bench.
To Minnesota: Jakob Poeltl and Bruno Caboclo
To Toronto: Shabazz Muhammad
If instant offence off the bench is what the Raptors are in search of, then 24-year-old Shabazz Muhammad could be the answer.
Looking at the advanced metrics, the fourth-year wing player has posted better numbers than Ross in points per 36 minutes (17), points per 100 team possessions (23.9) and true shooting percentage (56.6 percent).
The Timberwolves are in need of a centre to play alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Poeltl has shown flashes of being a serviceable big man in his brief moments of court time. At this point Caboclo has become a salary dump in all trade scenarios. Even at 21 years old on a bargain contract, he holds no redeemable value.
Finding minutes this season under defence-minded coach Tom Thibodeau has been difficult for Muhammad and one would imagine a similar problem could arise under Raptors bench boss Dwane Casey given the UCLA product’s ineptness on the defensive end. But his knack to fill the basket and cheap expiring contract outweigh the glaring deficiencies he brings to the defensive end.
To Brooklyn: Delon Wright, Bruno Caboclo and a top 1-14 protected 2018 first-round draft pick
To Toronto: Bojan Bogdanovic
Another player on an inexpensive expiring contract playing for a team heading out of playoff contention that could become available is sharpshooting Nets guard Bojan Bogdanovic.
Playing in just his third season, the native of Bosnia and Herzegovina has increased his scoring every year, averaging 14.2 points per game this season. Using the same advanced metrics from earlier it becomes evident Bogdanovic could easily fill the void left by Ross. His numbers in points per 36 minutes (19.1), points per 100 team possessions (25.1) and true shooting percentage (57.2 percent) are all vastly superior to both Ross and Muhammad.
Though the Nets have expressed interest in re-signing the 27-year-old forward, the chance to obtain a first-round pick in 2018 could be too much to pass up given Brooklyn currently has no selection in next year’s draft. With a roster filled with uncertainty, obtaining a solid prospect such as Wright would likely be welcome.
Bogdanovic is also a defensive liability but if scoring off the bench is what the Raptors are in the market for the Nets guard is the prototypical reserve gunner they’re looking for.