Now that the Toronto Raptors have made their plans for this year and beyond abundantly clear, they need to make sure to refrain from a blind fire sale. They need to be diligent about not just getting assets, but the right ones. The trade for Rudy Gay was a financial deal all the way; they needed more flexibility going into the summer of 2014. They got that. The players were of minor importance and will not be a major factor in the plans moving forward.
We surmised in our last column that Kyle Lowry may be the next to go, as he could be the one that returns some noteworthy players or picks. But now that we know that GM Masai Ujiri has his sights set clearly on the upcoming draft and beyond, the Raptors have to go into negotiations with a clear objective about what kinds of players they want. It has to fit into the goal of “not this year.”
Ever since reports came out that the Raptors were looking to move Lowry, it seems that there is no shortage of suitors, from the curious to the desperate.
If the market for Lowry is as robust as it seems, the Raptors need to make sure that they can get players that can help them down the road, not this year. One of the reasons why we were uneasy about the Raptors getting Greivis Vasquez in the Rudy Gay deal was because we felt like he could be a more effective point guard than Lowry and, in an unfortunate turn, the Raptors would win more games.
So the objective the rest of this year is clear: Rid themselves of players who would keep them respectable this year but are not going to help them in a total rebuild; and get players that can make valuable contributions in future years, while losing maximum games this year and setting themselves up for an early pick in a draft loaded with franchise changers.
In looking at some tentative offers that have been reported, there are some interesting scenarios. It would only benefit Ujiri if he could get more teams in the fray in an attempt to play one offer off another. Having the Knicks involved would be ideal, given that they are in desperation mode right now with a multiple week injury to Raymond Felton.
According to reports from the Daily News and others, there appears to be a fascinating dance right now between the Knicks and the Raptors that involves an interesting twist: James Dolan’s apparent bitterness and resentment toward Masai Ujiri’s fleecing of the Knicks on more than one occasion over the past few years.
We assume Dolan still stings from giving Ujiri everything he wanted in the Carmelo Anthony deal when Ujiri was GM of the Nuggets. It is still viewed as a lopsided trade where Ujiri got more than he should have, being as handcuffed as he was. Generally, we would dismiss the idea of pride being a real roadblock to a beneficial deal getting done. But this is the Knicks; this is James Dolan. We think that anyone that could have such blind support for a front office inept Isiah Thomas may be capable of anything.
Either way, we are not sure this is the deal that the Raptors should pursue. We have never been big fans of Hardaway, but he is a young player with some promise. A 2018 first-round pick? That is a lifetime from now. We are not sure that any deal should be contingent on such a pick; who knows what that class would look like or where the pick would be.
Instead, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Nets and Warriors are also interested. Even though Uriji does seem to want a future first-round pick, the discussed package with the Nets would give the Raptors the young players that could develop into assets down the road. The deal would include Tyshawn Taylor, Mirza Teletovic and Bojan Bogdanovic, who is currently overseas but highly valued. He is the type of player that the Raptors want to accumulate.
We know that Ujiri would prefer get a first-round pick and young players for Lowry. He can continue to dangle him, but we do not see a first-round pick in this draft coming. That’s fine, as long as they can be assured of getting young assets while being able to field a team that, for the rest of this year, can develop their young guys while losing enough to set themselves up for a premium pick next summer. The Raptors have made a commitment to escape their purgatory. We have to commend them for that.