The trade hasn’t gone down yet, but it’s been in the rumor mill for weeks. The Raptors already made the biggest trade of the year when they acquired Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies. Now it appears they may be making another big move, attempting the acquire the former All-Star power forward. It’s clear that the Raptors are attempting to assert themselves as a contender in the East by bulking up their starting lineup. So, would adding Boozer significantly improve the Raptors team?
Well, considering how little Bargnani has given them this season, it certainly couldn’t hurt. After playing extremely well before getting hurt last year, the former No. 1 pick has been a crushing disappointment, missing tons of time and playing decidedly below-average basketball when healthy. One can’t help but wonder if what Bargnani really needs is a fresh start and a chance to go the Bulls–a team that could use a talented scorer–might be the opportunity he needs. In the meantime, Boozer is still a very good player and after years of looking like he was past his prime, he’s shined with the Bulls this season, coming within striking distance of an All-Star selection, while playing his best ball since he was with the Utah Jazz. Certainly, Boozer looks like an alluring option for the time being.
Additionally, Boozer would likely relish the opportunity to be a first option again. In Chicago, he largely had to defer to Derrick Rose and even after Rose got hurt, Luol Deng began taking the majority of the shots. In Toronto, he’d likely be splitting shots with Gay, but he’d certainly get his chances and never again would he be forced into a background role while a superstar does the major work of running the offense. If Boozer was with the Raptors, he’d be a big part of what they do and that would likely inspire him to continue the excellent play we’ve seen from him this year. His potential to thrive in Toronto is off the charts.
There’s just one problem for the Raptors; even though this trade would make them better, it still wouldn’t be enough to turn them into a title contender. The impressiveness of a Kyle Lowry-Gay-Boozer trio can’t be denied, but no one would mistake it for a team that could take down LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in a playoff series. Much like the Brooklyn Nets did when they traded for Joe Johnson, the Raptors would be positioning themselves to be a No. 4 or No. 5 seed, but not doing enough to really take them over the top. The team would win games and it would be quite entertaining to watch, but unless one of the Raptors’ young bench players (Terrence Ross, perhaps) ends up being much better than we think, this team simply wouldn’t have enough firepower to make it to the ultimate stage.
But would that be okay? Would the Raptors–and would their fans–take the chance to just make the playoffs and be relevant in the NBA again over the decision to keep on rebuilding until they finally build a solid team through the draft? You could see why they’d make the Boozer trade, and just try to win as many games as possible. Not every team is going to win through the draft like the Oklahoma City Thunder did.
Some teams have to build through trades and free agency, taking chances on questionable contracts. If the Raptors choose to make the Boozer trade, they probably won’t win a title, but they will become one of the scarier teams in the East and for the success-starved Raptors fan base, that just might be enough.
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