Picking an Eastern Conference Favorite After NBA Trade Deadline: Raptors? Bucks? 76ers?

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(CBS Sports Radio) The NBA trade deadline came with a flurry of activity Thursday, as several top teams in the Eastern Conference – including the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers – positioned themselves for deep playoff runs.

Ultimately, which team improved the most?

“I’m torn between those three teams in the Eastern Conference,” CBS Sports NBA analyst Reid Forgrave said on "Taz & The Moose" on Friday. “Look, there was just a massive Eastern Conference arms race over the past couple days. To me, I think the Bucks getting Nikola Mirotic is an absolutely huge move. He fits in perfectly with what they’re doing. Giving up essentially Thon Maker for Nikola Mirotic is a steal for them. Thon Maker was essentially out for their rotation. That, I think, is a huge move.”

The Raptors, meanwhile, parted with Delon Wright and Jonas Valanciunas, among other assets, to acquire Marc Gasol from Memphis.

“Delon Wright is a player with potential, and Valanciunas obviously contributes to that team,” Forgrave said. “But I think Marc Gasol – that high-IQ basketball, the leadership that he’ll bring to that team – I think that is huge. I think those teams did a great job.”

And, last but not least, the Sixers acquired Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers. Harris averaged 20.9 points in 55 games for the Clippers this season.

“On the surface, the Sixers getting Tobias Harris looks awesome,” Forgrave said. “They got a Big Four there. But I think if you dig a little bit deeper, that trade is divisive. I’ve heard people say they love that trade and that’s the Sixers going for it. But it’s also – I’ve heard the word reckless being tossed around, just the idea that they gave up so much to get him. Two of your four superstars are unrestricted free agents. Who knows how this thing goes? I like that they’re going for it this year, but they very well might have sacrificed the future in this one chance of going for it in a year that, even if they make the Finals, they’re getting swept by the Warriors anyway.”

If Forgrave had to pick a favorite in the East among the Bucks, Raptors, Sixers and Boston Celtics (who were mostly idle at the deadline), he would pick Toronto. 

“Those four teams, it’s hard to slide a piece of paper between them,” he said. “The top of the Eastern Conference is so strong. That second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs is going to be awesome. But the reason I take the Raptors, I think their defense has the potential to be elite. I think they can make shots. They can match up against a whole lot of different teams.”