As UTM students were just beginning their winter exams on December 8, the Raptors began their worst stretch of play this season. Between December 8 and January 10, they went on a 6-10 run with some extremely tough and even historic losses. They also made a splash in the trade market and brought home a new fan favourite. But how does all this affect their team for the rest of the season?
After dropping out of the in-season tournament early, the Raptors looked to pick themselves back up against the LaMelo-less Charlotte Hornets. Still, they ultimately failed—kicking off their dreadful midseason run. Right before Christmas, they lost three matches: to the Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Utah Jazz. Then, after winning against the Washington Wizards, they lost once more to the Boston Celtics.
That brings us to December 30, when the Raptors entered a game against the Detroit Pistons, who are in the midst of the longest losing streak of all time—28 games. Going into this one, the Pistons hadn’t won a game since October. Raptors fans had a gut feeling that they would be the ones to end this streak—and they were right. Though they fought hard for a win, they ultimately lost 127-129 to the Pistons in Detroit. They played this one without star player OG Anunoby, but that is no excuse for a loss against the worst NBA team in the league.
Anunoby wasn’t out with an injury, he was out because earlier in the day, the Raptors sent him, along with Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn, to the New York Knicks in exchange for 2024 second-round pick, Immanuel Quickley, and Mississauga native RJ Barrett. To casual fans, RJ Barrett is the biggest name in the trade. Having been drafted third overall in 2019, the 23-year-old guard understandably has a lot of hype behind him. But during his time with the Knicks, he has never blossomed into what he was promised to be. He has been an inefficient point scorer with mediocre defence to match.
The real marquee piece of the trade is Quickley, a 24-year-old guard drafted in the first round in 2020. Quickley played off the bench in New York behind Jalen Brunson, but in the 27 games he started, he averaged 21 points, five rebounds, five assists, and one steal on 46-field-goal-percentage and 39-three-point-percentage. He and Barrett immediately slid into the Raptors starting five, bumping Denis Schroder to the bench.
The league quickly saw that the trade was a win-win for both teams. The Knicks went on a 5-0 run when Anunoby was acquired, and Quickley and Barrett immediately jumped in their quality of play upon joining the Raptors. Quickley has strung together a solid 18 points per game, five rebounds per game, and six assists per game line so far in his Raptors tenure. Barrett has been miles more efficient than he was on the Knicks. In plain terms, the Raptors added two young stars with plenty of potential to grow on their young squad.
After the Anunoby trade, it has become a matter of when, rather than if, Pascal Siakam will be traded. Rumours have already started flowing around social media about the leagues’ interest in the Raptors’ all-star, and sadly, his departure is long overdue. Trading Anunoby was a sign that the team intends to rebuild and construct their roster around Scottie Barnes.
In the coming weeks, the Raptors should be expected to move on from Siakam with the NBA trade deadline set for February 8. Their roster is currently better than it was on opening day, and with Barrett and Quickley demonstrating their potential on the team, fans have plenty to look forward to for the rest of the season.
Raptors Wrap-Up Columnist (Volume 50) — Justyn is in his final year at UTM studying CCIT, with minors in Professional Writing & Communication and Computer Science. Sports is his passion and he loves to keep in touch with nearly every single one. Justyn’s always watching sports games, managing his fantasy teams, and listening to music in the music room. You can connect with him on Instagram or LinkedIn.