The Toronto Raptors have been struggling to achieve consistency in their performances, both individually and as a team. This lack of consistency has made it difficult for decision-makers to determine the direction they should take before the upcoming trade deadline on February 9th and next summer. When many of their key players will be free agents, extension eligible, or one season away from one or the other. The Raptors’ 130-122 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night is a prime example of this struggle. Despite playing well in some areas, the Raptors were unable to secure the win they needed & dropped to 20-25. While the Bucks improved to 29-16.
One positive from the game was Fred VanVleet’s performance, as he tied his season-high with 39 points, 7 assists, and 9 rebounds. One of his best games of the season. Gary Trent Jr. had 28 points and Pascal Siakam had 23 points and 9 assists. But the Raptors‘ shooting from the free throw line was poor, with the team shooting just 17-of-27. The Bucks, on the other hand, were led by Jrue Holiday’s 37 points and Grayson Allen’s 25 points, and had four other players in double figures as they shot 53.5% from the floor and a scorching 19-of-39 from deep.
Jrue knew what to do
The Raptors’ defense was lacking, and the Bucks kept the momentum going throughout the second half. VanVleet stated, “It felt like they would slow down at some point but they never did.” The game also featured a scuffle midway through the fourth quarter. Resulting in four technical fouls and an ejection for the Bucks’ Brook Lopez. The Raptors did push in the final minutes, but they were unable to get the stops they needed to secure the win.
Throughout all the discussions and scenarios regarding the future of the team. There has been one constant message internally – win and everything will take care of itself. With the Raptors losing, it is likely that Raptors president Masai Ujiri will make moves to improve the team. There have been reports that some Raptors players may be on the trade market. At least one player, Fred VanVleet, seems to have absorbed the message and is determined to do something about it.
VanVleet is not used to having his name rumored as a potential player on the move. But with the possibility of being a free agent this summer, the Raptors veteran might as well get used to it. However, it is unlikely that he will be traded to Orlando. The Magic have the money to sign him in free agency if they want to. It is also hard to see a fit for VanVleet with the Phoenix Suns, either by trade or as a free agent. The Dallas Mavericks may be interested. Adding VanVleet as a replacement for Jalen Brunson, but it is uncertain if the Mavericks have players the Raptors want.
The simplest solution for what ails the Toronto Raptors is to play better and win more games. With many key players on the verge of free agency or extension eligibility. The Raptors need to find consistency in their performances to determine their direction before the trade deadline and next summer. The Raptors have the means to sign both VanVleet and Trent Jr.. But with the team struggling, it remains to be seen if they will make big or small deals to improve the team. The Raptors need to focus on winning and let the rest take care of itself.