Mar 30, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Adreian Payne (5) reacts after a three pointer against the Connecticut Huskies during the second half in the finals of the east regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors: Picking 20th Not Exactly Risky Business


In just more than a year on the job, general manager Masai Ujiri has done nothing but good things for the Toronto Raptors.

He wasted little time in shipping former first-overall pick Andrea Bargnani out of town and then seemingly out of nowhere, he engineered a trade that ended Rudy Gay‘s brief stint in Toronto.

With a fresh pair of eyes and no allegiance to the roster that he inherited, Ujiri simply went about doing what he believed was right for the team. In both cases, he struck gold and won over fans while boldly putting his stamp on the team.

On Thursday, Ujiri will have another chance to put his basketball smarts on display when the Raptors are slated to pick 20th, 37th, and 59th in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Of course, the main focus will be on what the Raptors can come away with in Round 1.

Looking for best talent available

Ujiri has gone on record as saying that he has narrowed his wish list to five players, not including guys that might fall. Ujiri also indicated, that although his approach will be to select the best player available, he will be on the lookout for a big wing player and a forward with the ability to block shots and protect the rim.

Furthermore, Ujiri made it clear that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of choosing a point guard, if that player happened to be the most talented option left on the board.

Some of the names being linked to the Raptors include 6’10″ forward Adreian Payne, 6’11 center Clint Capela, and 6’2″ point guard Tyler Ennis.

Feb 24, 2014; College Park, MD, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Tyler Ennis (11) runs the offense against the Maryland Terrapins at Comcast Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto-born Ennis was outstanding in his only season at Syracuse, averaging 12.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. He would likely be one of the more popular picks the Raptors could make, but it all comes down to whether he would fall into the category of best talent available.

Focus is on growth and development

While it would be nice for the Raptors to add a piece capable of making an immediate impact, that is not an expectation that Ujiri is trying to create. Instead, he has given out the impression that at No. 2o, he is hoping to find a player who can grow and develop as a result of being in the right environment.

As reported by Eric Koreen of the National Post, here is what Ujiri was quoted as saying on this topic and what will ultimately influence his decision.

“We have to figure out where a player is now and where he could be four years from now, two years from now and how much growth he can have with a good program, good coaching and good players around him. You have to put that all into the situation.”

Ujiri has had some notable success in unearthing talent when faced with the task of picking late in Round 1.

Jan 13, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried (35) dunks during the first half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011, while working as the general manager for the Denver Nuggets, Ujiri used the 22nd pick to select forward Kenneth Faried. The 24-year-old just completed his third year in the league and holds career averages of 12.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

Nothing to lose

Despite what Ujiri has said to downplay the hopes of finding a rotation-ready player, there is no reason to believe that it can’t happen – especially given Ujiri’s track record in both Denver and Toronto.

But in no way is Ujiri’s reputation on the line with the selection that he makes, assuming he doesn’t go in a different direction all together and decide to trade the pick. In any event, I fully expect fans and media to see the bright side of whatever Ujiri decides to do on draft night.

The real test for Ujiri will be this July when a lot will be riding on his ability to re-sign Kyle Lowry and the other core pieces from last season, Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson.

A year or two might pass before we fully know the impact of the player the Raptors decide to pick, but until then, it’s not as if their chances for success are solely dependent on it.

Tags: 2014 Nba Draft Masai Ujiri Toronto Raptors Tyler Ennis