The Toronto Raptors were unable, or perhaps unwilling, to move into the NBA’s 2013 Entry Draft on Thursday night. There had been a lot of speculation leading up to the event that new General Manager Masai Ujiri, a man with a scouting background and a desire to reshape the team in his first offseason at the helm, would be aggressive in acquiring a pick.
Early on, there were rumors that the Raptors were trying to acquire the #13 pick from Dallas, with their eyes on Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. Instead, Boston moved into that spot to take Canada’s own Kelly Olynyk, and Antetokounmpo went 15th to Milwaukee. (Thank Shamgod I won’t have to spell that name for the next few years.) He’s an interesting proposition for two reasons – that he’s not considered NBA ready but will be coming over, and that Bucks’ Assistant GM Jeff Weltman was part of the group responsible for drafting him. Weltman will be joining the Raptor organization after the draft.
Then there were rumors the Raptors were trying to acquire the #26 pick from Minnesota, perhaps with an eye on North Texas forward Tony Mitchell. Instead, the pick was dealt to the Golden State Warriors and then the Oklahoma City Thunder. Mitchell ended up being selected by Detroit 37th overall.
And then there were very light whispers that the Raptors would try and acquire a later second round pick with any number of targets in mind. They didn’t though, and you can’t blame them when you look at some of the undrafted names they can try to sign, without having to give up a non-financial asset.
When the draft hit the 50th pick mark, it was pretty clear that there would be some good names left over – why would Ujiri give up an asset, a Quincy Acy or a future 2nd round pick or even cash, for a player that he could probably grab after the draft? It’s an early hint that, while aggressive, Ujiri won’t be the type to get tunnel-vision for a move and make it at all costs. If a deal wasn’t there to be had, he didn’t make it, and that’s commendable.
Of course, we don’t know what offers were out there and what the price of said picks were. Ujiri obviously deemed them too costly, in terms of future assets or player exchanges, or other teams simply wanted nothing the Raptors had to offer.
From here, Ujiri will set his sights on a handful of undrafted players, the free agent market (which opens July 10) and, of course, trades. That includes Andrea Bargnani, who the team allegedly believes they can trade without using the Amnesty Provision on him, freeing that maneuver up for Linas Kleiza.
The easiest but riskiest hole to plug from the undrafted group would be the backup point guard position – Canadian Myck Kabongo, along with a few other semi-attractive names, went undrafted and could be had for even a semi-guaranteed deal, I’m sure. But if nobody drafted these guys, even in the second round without guaranteed money or a cap hit, how certain can the team be that these players will be more capable than, say, John Lucas III, the incumbent PG2? It’s worth a Summer League invite, for sure, but I’d still be perusing the free agent market.
As for other positions, well, nobody is safe on this team. Ujiri is not beholden to any player or contract, and it could make for a wild offseason. In fact, the Raptors have already leap-frogged Philadelphia and Boston in the Atlantic Division hierarchy (the C’s dealt Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry for cap relief and picks last night, while the 76ers dealt Jrue Holiday and are apparently dealing Evan Turner and letting Andrew Bynum walk). Hopefully this doesn’t signal to Ujiri that it’s time to go “all in,” though his modus operandi certainly doesn’t feel like one that misjudges the competitive environment that egregiously.
Anyway, there’s still a lot to come in the offseason. The NBA calendar year officially ends on Monday, I believe, and then there’s the 10-day holding period for free agent negotiations (even though a bunch of deals will be announced anyway). So, two more weeks to speculate on trades and free agents.
Don’t assume the lack of a draft pick signals a timidness on the part of Ujiri or a move to veteran players or anything like that; the price simply wasn’t right this time.