Mar 31, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) drive to the basket between Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) and forward Landry Fields (2) in the second half at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 93-83. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors: GM Weighs In On Draft, Trades, Free Agency


The Toronto Raptors will continue working out draft eligible players on Wednesday and Thursday at the Air Canada Centre as well as on some additional dates that were announced for next week.

But it would seem that these workouts in general are more of a formality rather than a way of uncovering something new about a player during the up close and personal visit.

In a wide-ranging interview on Sportsnet 590 The Fan with Bob McCown and Raptors’ play-by-play announcer Matt Devlin, general manager Masai Ujiri offered some insight into how he plans on shaping his roster for next season.

May 9, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri during the press conference naming him NBA executive of the year at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

May 9, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri during the press conference naming him NBA executive of the year at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

With respect to the upcoming draft, Ujiri was clear in saying that the bulk of the evaluation of potential picks is done before a player arrives in town for an individual session. To Ujiri, the best way to get a sense of a player’s true ability is to watch him in real life five-on-five scenarios.

Along those lines, Ujiri indicated that his intention is to take the best talent available as opposed to drafting by positional need. And with the Raptors holding the 20th pick, Ujiri warned against hoping for a player that is ready to compete for a spot in the rotation.

“It’s going to be tough for a prospect at 20 to come in and make an impact now,” Ujiri told The Fan. “Can we develop one? That’s what we’re hoping. Somebody that can come in and show that they can go and play a couple minutes here and there and our coach can start trusting them and developing them.”

Ujiri added that he is hopefull of finding a player who fits that mold based on the homework done by himself and his scouting staff.

Draft day could be busy

As for moving up in the draft, Ujiri didn’t rule out the possibility. While teams often fall in love with where they are slated to pick and with whom they are hoping to draft, he said that he has had conversations and interactions that suggest June 26 could turn out to be an active day on the trade market.

In terms of adding pieces to the roster through trades and free agency, it certainly doesn’t sound like Ujiri intends on doing anything drastic and that is very much in line with the emphasis that he placed, after their first-round playoff exit, on keeping the core group together.

Feb 19, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) with center Jonas Valanciunas (17) and guard Terrence Ross (31) against the Chicago Bulls at Air Canada Centre. The Bulls beat the Raptors 94-92. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ujiri expanded on this point in the interview.

“We have to use our instincts now to grow our roster and add pieces that are somehow not going to stop other guys from progressing. Players progress with playing time, with experience. We have to get them to keep growing. I think staying together and consistency are very important for our program now.”

The general manager also said he is not looking to accelerate the path to contention.

“We’re not a team that is going to say that we are going to win a championship next year. Obviously we want to win a championship — that’s our goal — but we’re not just going to swing (for it) unnecessarily. We’re going to grow this team where these players make a lot of progress, even if it’s steadily.”

Not swinging for the fences

This style of team-building is in stark contrast to that of former general manager Bryan Colangelo, who opted to swing for the fences on several occasions, with acquisitions such as Jermaine O’Neal, Hedo Turkoglu, and Rudy Gay.

A lot can change between now and the draft and the free agency period and it’s quite possible the Ujiri is just doing whatever he can to avoid tipping his hand.

However, if chemistry and consistency are as important to him as he has led us to believe, then there must be some truth to what he is saying.

What I take away from all of this is that Ujiri is serious about building a championship contender, but he won’t fall into the trap of trying to take shortcuts to get there.

Tags: Masai Ujiri Toronto Raptors