And as quickly as it began the Leandro Barbosa era in Toronto has come to an end. The Brazilian Blur has been routed to the Playoff-bound Indiana Pacers to act as a reserve scoring punch to the East's fifth-best team. In return the Raptors get a second-round pick and a $7.6-million trade exception that they have one year to make use of. While neither asset holds the excitement for fans that an actual player holds, both are plusses as the Raptors look to return to relevancy next season.
While the Raptors wait for the modest payoff for this move in terms of personnel, the immediate effect on the team will be unpleasant. The Raptors rank 28th in the NBA in points per game at 90.1 and Barbosa was a major contributor to what few points the team did manage to score on a night-to-night basis. At 12.2 ppg Barbosa represented the team's third-highest scorer and the only player on the roster that could consistently create shots for himself. When the offence stalled, which happened often, he was an easy way to shift defences and get a good look at the basket. While the Raptors will finally get to take a look at how Jerryd Bayless will fare in that role once Jose Calderon returns from injury, it is doubtful that he can replicate what Barbosa provided while also manning the backup point guard spot.
Of course, the practical Raptors fan is ecstatic at that development. With only six weeks left in the regular season and 23 games left on the schedule, all eyes are on the NBA Draft and the 2012-13 NBA season. Currently the Raptors have the fifth-worst record in the league and they'd love to drop a couple of spots to ensure as high a pick as possible come June. Shedding Barbosa's scoring will probably help ensure that the Raptors accidentally win as few games as possible down the stretch of the season. While it's unlikely that they can be bad enough to catch the pitiful clubs in Charlotte or Washington they may be able to sink below Sacramento and, if they're lucky, the New Orleans Hornets before the season runs out.
With Barbosa gone now (and, with him, Anthony Carter, who was released) two roster spots for the Raptors open up to go D-League shopping with to round out their backcourt a bit. With only Bayless and Forbes coming off of the bench when the team is fully healthy the club could really use a real backup point guard, for instance. There is also the slim chance that the team tries to lure an expiring contract into their newly created trade exception before the afternoon is out, but I really wouldn't hold my breath on that one.
So, while it may not have been what people were expecting this is about right for what Colangelo and the club were looking for at the deadline: picks and flexibility. While neither asset acquired necessarily changes the course of the future for the club it offers the team more than they would have gotten had they just let Barbosa expire in July. It's all part of a bigger picture, and while the payoff can be hard to see today it will be a lot clearer once the team starts taking wins seriously again next October.