Is Jake Gardiner the DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Maple Leafs?

A star of a different iteration of the current, better team. A proposed team leader. Offensive upside but inconsistent. Failure to take the next step towards a championship caliber team, and eventually forcing the team to move on from them. There are a lot of similarities between Jake Gardiner and DeMar DeRozan.

Recently, amidst questions of his role in the current Raptors success, DeRozen stated that he was the “sacrificial lamb” for their success this season. And while the statement was extremely self-righteous, it is fair, if not disrespectful to the greatness of Kawhi Leonard.

Masai Ujiri made the extremely difficult decision to go all-in on the 2018/19 season, moving on from the star player, face-of-the-franchise talent that DeRozan was. It was a gamble, but it wasn’t underthought or done half-heartedly.

Dubas isn’t looking to trade Gardiner as Ujiri did with DeRozan, though. No, instead Dubas has to decide whether bringing back the polarizing defenseman is the right move. Or, perhaps letting him go will provide a fresh start for both parties.

The Raptors used the inked DeRozan (plus a late first round pick) to leverage the return of Kawhi Leonard to Toronto. It’s now clear that the Raps have never had a player of Leonard’s level before. And while originally a heavily criticized move, the Raps underpaid for him. The Leafs aren’t going to b bringing in a generational player of Leonard’s caliber, but Gardiner moving on could free up the cap space to resign Mitch Marner, a uniquely talented generational player.

The situations aren’t mirrors of each other, but the sentiments really are similar. Jake Gardiner is a very skillful offensive defenseman, and if he the exact same player was available on the free agent market the Leafs would be going after him 100%. However, Gardiner’s contribution to recent playoff failure has not gone unnoticed. Are his past transgressions too great to overcome in the mentality of Leafs nation?

Yes, Gardiner is a great skater with poise on the puck and a sense for the net. He can chip in with plentiful assists and can skate himself out of a tough situation most times. Is his time up in Toronto, though? Yes, and just like DeMar DeRozan, his team needs to move on from him to take the next step forward.

Too Soon To Take Out The Broom?

By Kimberly Daniels

After a thrilling win in game two which saw all 13 players on the Raps roster hit the hardwood and DeRozan tie a playoff career high of 37 points in 37 minutes, it’s hard to deny the sense of pride Raptors fans are feeling.

We’ve never been here before: up two games in post season before hitting the road and damn, does it feel good to make our way to Washington with confidence rather than fear.

The last time we played the Wizards in playoffs it was a completely different story. So what’s the difference now?

Lowry says “he got slimmer and got more hair” but all jokes aside, we are watching a Raptors squad that is playing some of the best team ball we’ve ever seen.

Our starting unit found an offensive rhythm that produced 44 points in the first quarter of game two. The Raptors had a strong 20 point lead and when John Wall and the Wizards made a fourth-quarter surge, team members like C.J Miles and Delon Wright were there to help with some key plays to revive the lead and stop the Raptor fans’ heart-attacks.

Dwayne Casey is known for mixing up his lines and trying different player combinations but at any point that a player is called to the court, they’re ready to play with passion and energy. This series has seen our crew playing unselfish basketball, taking chargers, diving on the floor for loose balls and attacking the glass for defensive rebounds. Playoffs have come with the team mindset that every game is a game 7 and we need to do whatever it takes to win.

And while some team members are not as productive as others in this series – Normal Powell has struggled all season and Fred VanVleet only saw 3 minutes in game two before being taken off still not fully recovered from his shoulder injury – we know they don’t lack heart. Powell has promised fans “you may see me struggle but you won’t see me quit.”

If the Raptors can continue to build off of this electric team momentum they have worked so hard to create, all while being told by most that they’d never make it, you can guarantee fans will be seeing more wins.

The Raptors are clearly looking for revenge; DeRozan told the press post game two that he was feeling like Neo from the Matrix. So, how do we pull off a sweep? In the words of Morpheus “You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind…don’t think you are know you are.”

Or DeRozan and the Raps can just stick to his game plan and #ProveEm