The Toronto Raptors are considered as a breakout team this NBA season. With the Cleveland Cavaliers attempting to keep the lead in the Eastern Conference, the Kyle Lowry squad are surprisingly gaining on the LeBron James team. Despite a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love back in the roster, the DeMar DeRozan squad are only three games away from leading the Eastern Conference - a feat that would see them potentially face the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals.
Hence, it came as no surprise when the Toronto Raptors revealed their plan to sign players who can bolster the team. With only a few steps away from dominating the King James-led conference, the Cory Joseph squad reportedly attempted to shop some players to lure more experienced ones. The Toronto Raptors star who almost got shipped out of the roster was Jonas Valanciunas.
According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, the Houston Rockets asked the Toronto Raptors about the availability of Valanciunas. With the center dealing with back injuries, some fans thought that the Canada team would be eager to sign a veteran NBA star instead. However, it appears that the Toronto Raptors are not interested in letting go of the center.
"I know they called up Toronto and talked about Valanciunas and Toronto hung up the phone," revealed Lowe in his radio show.
Valanciunas has been noted to show signs of improvement as of late. With the growth of the center, the Kyle Lowry squad now becomes reluctant in parting with him especially if the deal involves a heavy contract and an unstable veteran. Moreover, some sports analysts feel that Valanciunas might just be developing into the crucial player the Toronto Raptors need to dominate the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.
After starting off slow since making his return to the court late December, Valanciunas is starting to round into form and one could make a case that he's playing the best basketball since he came to Toronto four years ago.
"Valanciunas' ongoing development will certainly answer those questions on his long-term fit with the team, but if that matters to the Raptors with an unpredictable offseason ahead will be another intriguing thing to watch," noted Jordan Treske of Hoops Habit. He continued to point out, "At 23 years old, there's still plenty of room for Valanciunas to grow, but it's safe to say that he's showing why he deserves his place as a starting big man in this league."
Meanwhile, the James Harden team is still trying hard to reportedly unload Howard from the team. With a heavy contract and underwhelming plays, the former Los Angeles Lakers star has become the center of NBA trade rumors during the past season. Moreover, his failure to communicate properly with Harden has cost the team some games in the past.
Despite their efforts, it seems that Howard will only leave the Houston Rockets when he is good and ready. That is, the Ty Lawson cannot get rid of the center easily. Howard intends to seek the best deal for him and his future - even if it means sacrificing the cap space freedom the Houston Rockets eagerly attempt to get.
"The obvious stumbling block to a trade was how could a team justify giving up important assets for a player who was about to become a free agent in a few short months?" note Marc Stein of ESPN. He further revealed, "Not surprisingly, as the deadline approached, several teams called stating they had worked out the trade parameters with Houston for a Dwight deal but were not prepared to give up their assets unless Dwight agreed to opt in to the last year of his contract and forego free agency. Dwight declined."
As for Lawson, the former Denver Nuggets star is content with the opportunity he has with the Houston Rockets. Ever since he signed with the NBA team, Lawson has been the topic of NBA trade rumors. However, it looks like the James Harden squad opted to keep him beyond the deadline.
"They kept me past the deadline, even though there were a lot of rumors," shared Lawson via Chron. He added, "It was definitely a vote of confidence. The way I've been playing, up-and-down, with up-and-down minutes, for them to still want me after the trade deadline means a lot."