Break up the Raptors.
No, really. Break them up.
The new-look Raptors look too good to fail, as in, too strong, following the trade of Rudy Gay, to sink into the lottery abyss that the franchise so badly needs to be a part of in order to be relevant long-term.
On Saturday night, the team won its second consecutive game and third of four — 99-77 over the Bulls — since moving Gay to Sacramento for four players and looks completely different — and miles more effective — than it had earlier in the year.
Kyle Lowry, not bothered at all by being on the trade block, led the way with 16 points and six assists, Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 11 rebounds, the rest of the starters were strong as well and two of the new faces — Patrick Patterson (12 points) and Greivis Vasquez (seven points, six assists) — fit in seamlessly as the Raptors notched a season-high 26 assists.
Now, the question for Raptors president/general manager Masai Ujiri is, does he take apart a team that looks easily good enough, considering the East is at a historically poor level, to not only make the playoffs for the first time, but perhaps even win a round? Or, knowing the team is still just 9-13, does he start shipping out parts with eyes on both getting into the race for the potential franchise-altering players atop this draft and also, to add future assets to an organization that could use them?
His boss, Tim Leiweke, has made it clear he prefers the latter and the betting still is that Ujiri will send out Lowry and possibly others — once teams start making respectable offers, something that hasn’t happened yet.
But, as is, this group looks too strong to hang with the NBA’s many putrid outfits.
“Everybody on the floor contributed, Valanciunas was huge ... the new guys came to play,” head coach Dwane Casey said.
“We’re excited about the way the team played.”
But how excited should they get and what if this is just a short blip?
Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge recently said he’d rather see his Celtics get into the high lottery, instead of making the playoffs with a record below .500. The Celtics currently lead the Atlantic Division, but have been a contender for much of the last decade and Ainge knows winning the division this year is no great achievement.
Break up the Raptors.