You might’ve seen the tweet from Stein talking about the Raptors shopping for a pick, and even settling for a second-rounder if they have to. We’ve come a long way as a franchise if we’re actually looking to buy a pick instead of giving them away. It’s welcome news seeing how the current salary situation puts premium on drafting well. Any trade the Raptors might execute with Bargnani, Kleiza, or even Fields is unlikely to yield returns that excite, making it imperative that the Raptors have a secondary plan as well. The chance of “fleecing” anyone is a trade is low to nil, but in the draft you do control your own destiny.
The general consensus about this draft is that it may not have any superstars in it, but will have serviceable players throughout the first round, thus making it a “deep” one. For example, looking at the small forwards in this crop, a shooter like Tony Snell (projected to go early in the second) could provide the shooting that Fields and Kleiza failed at. Swapping Kleiza (let’s say via amnesty) for Snell instantly makes this team better. It’s a low-risk move which can pay dividends, and if it doesn’t, nobody loses sleep.
The Raptors can peruse all the free-agents in the world, but getting at any of them (say, Tony Allen) isn’t even possible without getting under the cap, and that would be a feat in itself. Fans are generally sympathetic to the situation that Masi Ujiri has inherited, and there are enough ‘problems’ on the roster that Ujiri has plenty to aim at to win support. To be concise, there’s low-hanging fruit everywhere and simply getting a draft pick, picking a player, and shedding an unwanted contract would be considered progress. Yes, that bar is set that low here.
A fruit that I didn’t even know hung this low was that of coaching, and the recent piece by Cathal Kelly which suggested that Dwane Casey is finally being “allowed to coach his way” by Ujiri already makes for some excellent PR at the expense of Bryan Colangelo. Personally, I don’t like punching a guy when he’s down, but it seems the press is taking some pleasure kicking Colangelo now that he’s out. That article basically reads, “Bryan Colangelo was holding Dwane Casey back”, and even though I’ve always believed that Colangelo’s had say in coaching moves (especially under Triano and Mitchell), playing this card for Casey doesn’t quite sit right and is, in my opinion, an unwarranted criticism. There’s plenty to criticize Colangelo for, but preventing Casey from succeeding isn’t something you can lay at his feet.
Back to the draft and Portland (10), Dallas (13) and Atlanta (17, 18), are looking to move their picks, and if the rumour that the Raptors are looking to strengthen at point guard is true, there are a few options – projections in parenthesis: Schroeder (21), Canaan (26), Jackson (35), Wolters (38), Pressey (51), Kabongo (52), and Siva (53). Schroeder’s my pick, and if you add 2 and 2 here, it seems like if the Raptors are able to grab a pick from a team looking to off-load theirs, a point-guard is in reach. Unfortunately, acquiring a pick by shedding a contract (say, Kleiza) alone probably isn’t enough. For example, if the Raptors were to acquire Atlanta’s 17th pick, the Hawks would save $2.75M in salary over the two guaranteed years of the rookie deal, but Kleiza’s deal is at $4.6M.
The Raptors could also simply swap picks. If a team is betting on the Raptors to be terrible next year, they might even give up two of their picks this draft for one next year, assuming it isn’t protected. This could very well be a simple deal for Ujiri to make, only because it doesn’t involve selling teams on players that clearly have little to no market value. You would think that a potential trading partner could be Ujiri’s former team, the Denver Nuggets, who have the 57th pick in this year’s draft. However, with a payroll of $72.6M and 12 players on the roster, they might just use their pick to fill a roster spot.
Considering the Raptors don’t even have a pick in this draft, I’m surprised at how exciting this time of the real really is.