1. Which team that traded a clear negative away become better as a result?
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: The Raptors are the answer here and it’s not even close. While Cleveland has gotten better since losing the human anvil that is Andrew Bynum, the Raptors have begun to maximize everything that they do well. Without Rudy Gay disrespecting box scores and being highly inefficient, the Raptors are getting more production from both DeMar DeRozen and Terrence Ross. Kyle Lowry has also stepped up his game and is getting good production from role players like Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez that fit their system. Toronto maximized everything that its personnel does well without Gay. Comparatively, the Cavaliers are better with Deng, but he hasn’t really gotten into a groove on either end of the floor. This makes Toronto the clear answer.
Marlowe Alter, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: Although the Cavs are hot right now, the Raptors’ record post-Rudy Gay speaks for itself. The team was 6-12 with him, but since his departure in early December, Toronto is 23-13 and sitting comfortably atop the Atlantic Division. Everything has fallen into place, with 2012 lottery pick Terrence Ross sliding into the lineup to provide excellent perimeter shooting and point guard Kyle Lowry playing his way off the trade block. Toronto turned its season around by subtracting Gay and if they continue to play winning basketball, the Drakes will lock up a top-four seed and home court in the first round of the playoffs.
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: The Cavaliers got the better player in Luol Deng, certainly. However, I think the easy answer here is which team improved as a whole more as a result of the trade? That would be Toronto, who picked up a legitimate backup point guard in Greivis Vasquez, the stretch four they desperately needed in Patrick Patterson, and got rid of a black hole on offense. Since that deal, Toronto is a better offensive team with much better spacing, and a better defensive team, and has moved firmly into the playoff picture as a top-four seed in the East. I think the clear winner here was Toronto.
2. There is a group of people that think the Cavaliers made a mistake in passing on Jonas Valanciunas in favor Tristan Thompson. In year three for both players, are these people correct?
CM: As I am sure that Trevor will fairly note that the Cavaliers were never really seriously considering Valanciunas because he wasn’t going to play in America right away. I don’t think there is overwhelming evidence that Valanciunas is worlds better than Thompson. He is still rather slow and immobile on defense and doesn’t have a consistent offensive game. Thompson doesn’t these traits either, but he has clearly developed into a power forward who can rebound and defend, even if he is inconsistent. And while Valanciunas does have a higher ceiling that Thompson, what we have seen from him so far doesn’t indicate that his ceiling is exponentially higher.
MA: Valanciunas is a seven-footer, a year younger and has more offensive potential. But right now, both players are putting up similar numbers and neither provides any rim protection. I think Thompson is basically the player he will be for his career, while Valanciunas has growing to do. If Valanciunas wasn’t on the radar, he should have been so that’s a mistake all in itself (Dan Gilbert needs to learn patience). The jury is still out and I don’t think it will ever be a big miss, but I do think Jonas becomes the better player two or three years down the line.
TM: I will continue to argue that they are not, based on the fact that Jonas Valanciunas was never on the radar for the Cavs as a legitimate possibility. When the Cavs were drafting in this position, their sights were set on a player that they could develop with Kyrie as a potential defensive ace to go along with Kyrie’s offensive abilities. Thompson at the time showed more potential as a defensive player than Valanciunas, and was thought to be a potential rim protector. While Thompson hasn’t exactly developed into a force on either side of the ball, I wouldn’t argue that Val has exactly lit the world on fire either. This argument also excludes the significant factor of player development. We do not really have any idea of the impact this had in either case, and it could be argued that had the Cavs taken Valanciunas and the Raptors grabbed Thompson, we could be having this exact argument only flipped right now. It’s just not really an argument worth having at this juncture, in my opinion.
3. The Raptors just traded Austin Daye for Nando de Colo. How can de Colo help them?
CM: The Raptors didn’t need Austin Daye, and while de Colo isn’t a necessity for them, he gives them some more depth on the wing. At 6’5”, he can play both guards spots and fill in behind Lowry, DeRozen and Ross. He also gives them a cheap young guy that can be part of their future a versatile role player. He’s not a exactly what Toronto needs (as I’d argue that they still don’t have that one guy to carry them to the elite class of NBA teams) but he helps as they try and make a decent playoff run this seaosn.
MA: De Colo, 26, finds himself stuck behind Lowry and Greivis Vasquez as the third point guard. De Colo has great size at 6’5” and is a solid defender, and I could see him competing with John Salmons and a returning Landry Fields for minutes backing up DeRozan at the two-guard. That said, I’d be surprised if he garners more than 10 minutes a game on this team full of guards and wings.
TM: De Colo gives the Raptors another backup wing, which will be helpful. I could see him stepping in and filling the role Matthew Dellavedova fills for the Cavs, and the role the Raptors tried Dwight Buycks in earlier this season. De Colo isn’t much of a shooter, but he’s a decent defensive player, and more importantly, is a low-usage ball-handler the Raptors can pair with their guards that need the ball in their hands, like Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan. De Colo should be someone who steps in and plays a small pocket of minutes in the Raptors rotation, but if he can play solid defense and facilitate the offense alongside the current Raptor wings, he’ll fit in way more easily than Austin Daye did.