Ed’s Note: Please welcome Tamberlyn Richardson as she writes her first piece for the Republic.

Following Rudy Gay’s departure, NBA analysts and media pundits immediately jumped to the assumption this trade signalled Ujiri’s tossing of the white flag to enter full on tank mode, and yet again, another rebuild in Toronto. Since I’m one of those people who won’t eat everything on my plate just because it’s put there, you’ll pardon my musings on why I think Masai literally has a full vernacular of “T” verbs other than tank such as tease, think and triumph.

Granted, I’m taking a completely different view of the Raptors’ direction than the masses and may in fact find myself with egg all over my face should Lowry literally be traded as I write this. (Of note: I wrote my initial draft prior to Friday’s game vs. Philly; the Raptors have gone on to win two straight games including a thrashing of 2nd best defensive team, Chicago). Regardless, I’m committed to my Ujiri theory with or without Kyle here, so this post will endeavor to explain why I’m convinced we aren’t fully committed to tank or at the very least open a dialogue on the possibilities.

guyhanging

Entering our sixth season without playoff basketball, it’s understandable why many Raptor faithful are open to tanking, especially with the prospect of a bonafide franchise player who happens to hail from our fair city and better still, has earmarked Toronto as his desired destination. The problem is, aiming for abject failure and delivering on that promise isn’t as simple as it seems.

First, even if Ujiri wanted to bail there are no guarantees of a top, or rather bottom 3 finish, which would be the desired result to obtain one of Wiggins, Parker, Randale or Joel Embiid who might actually end up being better than all of them; especially given the East’s feebleness this season.

Moreover, trading away all of the Raptors top talent won’t guarantee one of the coveted top 3 selections since almost every team with picks to spare in a trade scenario have the caveat of top 12 draft pick protection. While teams positioned to select those precious first three to five picks won’t want to part with them having tanked themselves. Nor will it ensure a future of rapid ascent if all we’re left with is one or two core players surrounded by a mediocre cast. Remember Seattle/OKC took several years to get to the promised land and although James brought Cleveland to the postseason he was never able to deliver the Holy Grail because the Cavs didn’t surround him with enough talent.

raptorslookingdepressed

So, let’s assume the Rudy Gay trade was not a signal of a blow-out sale but a move made to accomplish several team objectives:

  • Create cap space.
  • Improve team chemistry via on court ball movement while simultaneously increasing touches in the paint.
  • Allow additional playing time for Ross and Valanciunas to gauge their long term potential.
  • Move DeRozan up to assume the “closer” role and diminish redundancy on the wings via better spacing, since Ross will either take 3’s or slash to the bucket for dunks.
  • Vastly improve team depth, specifically off the bench.
  • Gauge the success of new squad during a busy January then revisit team’s position prior to February trade deadline when upper seeded teams will be more desperate (i.e. willing to offer more) to fill gaps in their squads.

Looking at the new team, immediate upgrades are obvious with ball movement drastically improved and it’s resulting in increased assists. Prior to the trade, Toronto sat at a league worst 18 APG but the four games since the trade have resulted in a steady increase of 19, 23, 24 and 26. In fact, the assists in the two games Toronto has played with the newly acquired players would have us ranking second in the Association! Obviously Gay’s departure helped in this regard, however better ball movement, floor spacing, Lowry controlling the ball more and multiple players utilizing the pass has produced this impressive leap.

Meanwhile, social media has been blowing up with Lowry trade speculation involving one of Brooklyn, New York, LAL or GSW but given the brief success of the new squad I­­ believe Ujiri won’t make any significant moves until the end of January. December offers a brief window to view the potential of the new squad as they face solid Western Teams: Dallas, San Antonio and my pick to win the West: OKC and will close out the month with a critical back to back vs. New York. January brings 17 contests but only 5 are against the West, while Boston plays 9 Western foes with most of these matches featuring seeded teams. In fact, by the end of December, Toronto only has 18 games remaining out of 53 vs. Western teams while most of our Division have 25 remaining; given the disparity of conferences this season those 7 additional contests could prove to be pivotal in the race to claim the division.

To that end, my “Ujiri Theory” involves him keeping the masses wondering (i.e. everyone from fans, media and most importantly the competition) what his intentions are while he assembles a team who can win the division/a top playoff seed and still work the phones to not only make the current squad better but also pick up some valuable additional draft picks in the process.

As I outlined earlier, trading away core assets won’t result in a top 3 pick unless Ujiri can convince cellar teams like Utah, Philly or Milwaukee to give away their own first round pick. The odds of that happening are slim to none even for Masai the Magician. Therefore, his best bet might involve trading “specialist” players who’ll improve upper seeds to amass multiple picks and in turn package those to garner one of those coveted picks.

I’d be surprised to see Masai trade Lowry to a team within his own division; especially considering any move he makes could help that team past this season. Therefore I think his plan has been to create the illusion of a team on the precipice of tanking. Brilliantly this has resulted in New York and Brooklyn trying to outbid each other and shifting their focus from the product on the floor that is currently losing. Simultaneously, Ujiri can work with other teams to fulfill their pressing needs with players who Toronto can afford to lose, especially now that he’s improved their depth.

To wit; Golden State has not performed as expected and now find their front court somewhat thin, losing O’Neal to wrist surgery while both Ezeli and Kuzmic are out another 4 weeks. The addition of Patterson who can rebound and hit from the field allows for the option of trading Hansbrough who only signed a 1 year deal. Certainly GSW offers a talent base much more appealing than either New York borough and better still they’re in the West.

If my theory is correct, Ujiri will bide his time, observing the newly formed team and await the February trade deadline where we might see him pull a trade involving multiple teams. The ideal scenario would feature involvement with Phoenix who has publicly said they’re willing to part with a couple of their 4 first round picks. As mentioned these picks won’t kick in until the 12th round, however if Ujiri could manage to grab two of these picks or amass two picks from different teams then he could barter with the bottom teams to trade these two or three picks to grab one of those coveted first three picks. This option in my opinion presents the best case for Toronto to get Wiggins and it also keeps most of the core intact.

ujiriplayingwithaball

Masai is a patient, charming and intelligent GM who has amassed an impressive resume specifically when it comes to ridding his team of albatross salaries. We remember the Carmelo, Bargnani and Gay trades but don’t forget he also was able to rid Denver of Nene’s contract; one that had more years and more money on it than Andrea’s and Nene is three years older!

Given Ujiri’s penchant for ridding his team of unwanted contracts I think he may actually spend some time trying to oust Landry Fields’ contract either in a straight up trade or married in a package. To be honest I think that feat would impress me more than his Bargnani or Gay achievements.

The other factor to remember is while Toronto has pinned their future hopes on Jonas, ridding the team of Lowry, DeRozan and specifically Johnson actually serves to set back his progress since they are the players Valanciunas has worked beside since the onset. Even if the Raptors falter I wouldn’t expect to see all three traded, it’s more likely only one would depart. Obviously Lowry is that player given he’s in the final year of his contract but losing him means the Raptors once again become weak at the point even if Vasquez steps into his starting shoes. Conversely, if the Raptors improve, having two quality guards who can run the offense and finish games on the court together makes more sense.

Bottom line; simply blowing up the team won’t deliver a top 3 pick and crossing our fingers we get Wiggins won’t translate into a guaranteed top seed next season.

I expect we’ll see some changes moving forward but the only one I’m willing to count on is Masai the Magician improving the current squad, driving other GM’s crazy guessing what he’ll do and ultimately putting the most important “T” front and center: TEAM.

In closing, I’m thrilled to be writing for Raptors Republic and look forward to talking hoops.  You can follow me on Twitter: @TTOTambz.

Tipping Off to another exciting Raptor Week!

  • rob

    “Vastly improve team depth, specifically off the bench.”

    its like saying, “Vastly improved FG%, specifically when shooting the ball”

  • Sudbury rapsfan

    I agree with most of your article Tamberlyn. I think the Raptors should keep Kyle Lowry, unless they get an equivalent guard (Rondo, or a young prospect like Bogdanovic). I am pleased with the changes to the team so far.

    • truth be told

      You won’t be once they start losing again, which is inevitable.

      This team is slightly below mediocre. With this roster in an 82 game season they would win maybe 30-32 games.

      If this is the team you’re looking to ride until the “playoffs” (not happening) you’ll be sorely disappointed within a week.

      • wrooster

        The next week is the toughest part of the schedule (on the road at 3 elite western teams). By the end of January I think it will become apparent that this team as currently constituted can easily make the playoffs because they’re in the east. Any future trades could change the picture of course.

        • 2damkule

          so, you’re thinking that the other east teams that have been crap so far will continue to be crap, but the raps will improve?

          • wrooster

            Well, actually if all the teams stay the same or improve about the same, Raptors have the advantage of fewer remaining games against the west and more against the east. They’re currently in a playoff spot and can hold it unless there’s a tanking type trade or serious injury to a key player.

    • 2damkule

      haha. you’re awesome. you used ‘kyle lowry,’ ‘equivalent’ & ‘rondo’ in the same sentence, and i’m pretty sure you weren’t being sarcastic. good for you!

      • Dr. Scooby

        yeah, saw that too.

    • Dr. Scooby

      I like Lowry too…at 6million per season that is. Next season he’ll likely ask for 10-12 million per season…at that price…I’m not feeling quite so sure on keeping him.

  • ac1011990

    Ripping apart our team does not guarantee a top 3 pick, but trying to get in the top 10 and draft pick accumulation could potentially get us there. If the raptors did go through with the New York deal, which would bring us Felton, MWP and a 2018 first, that would be a good deal for Lowry. I didn’t like the deal back when it was reported, but now that i think about it, it could be pretty useful. If the Raps manage to get into the top 10, a package of our 2014 first round pick, and the Knicks 2016 and 2018 picks might be enough to entice a team in the top 6. Everybody knows that this draft isn’t a one player show. Wiggins, Randle, Parker, Exum, Gordon and Embiid are all guys who could be good players down the line. We don’t have to rip apart our team like most people think. Masai has shown he can get a lot out of players and if we continue to accumulate assets, we might be closer to a high pick then most people think

  • JC

    Good stuff, Tamberlyn!

  • Ds

    Trading Lowry will make or break this team. The minute Stone/Buycks take over as backups to Vasquez, the team will sink. To the bottom.

  • Mark Kowgier

    Nice fresh perspective! Great read.

  • ItsAboutFun

    Nice to read someone who sees the reality of MU’s moves having nothing to do with tanking, as well as such good sense as to see the importance of keeping some of his key current teammates, for the development of Jonas, and Ross I might add.

    • truth be told

      “we won’t be caught in no-man’s land”

      Raps are far close to the bottom than the top. You better believe these moves have everything to do with tanking. Get used to it!

      • 2damkule

        / puts fingers in ears
        // nananananananananananana CAN’T HEAR YOU!

        • ItsAboutFun

          wearing a training bra yet?

      • ItsAboutFun

        Get used to the idea that you have no effing idea what’s actually going on in MU’s mind, except that “we won’t be caught in no-man’s land”. I’m not sure what you mean by “moves” (plural), because nothing but rumours has happened with Lowry yet, and until we know what comes back, nothing can be claimed.

        Let me remind you: the term “tanking” was coined to describe management moves to make the team worse, so that they would lose more and chase a high draft pick, usually coupled with accumulating young prospects and/or draft picks along the way. The Rudy gay trade accomplished NONE of that. They got rid of the guy who was killing the team’s offense, otherwise unloading only 2 very end of bench guys, and got better, not worse, by upgrading the bench at every position.

        So what are these moves you speak of that “have everything to do with tanking”, and how?

        • truth be told

          LOL. Touchy aren’t we?

          You apparently know the “reality” of Masai’s moves not being towards tanking but I have no idea whats going on? Glad we have a poster on this site so dialed into managements plans.

          The Rudy Gay trade was obviously getting rid of a garbage player to bring in critical pieces to having this team contend in the division right away no? or it was to get rid of Gay so the all-star talent on this roster could shine uninhibited?

          I don’t care where the origin of the word taking is coming from. What did the Rudy Gay trade accomplish other than ‘flexibility’? It made the team better? and you know this based on the huge sample size of two games? Good try bro. Sacramento emptied their bench to acquire Gay as well. Raps gave up the best player in that deal no matter what you say.

          When they end up trading Lowry or DD what will you say then, internet tough guy?

          • ItsAboutFun

            Nope, I lay no claim to knowing the details of MU’s plans. I just try to judge trades based on their merits, not how they fit into my fantasies or predefined narrative. Okay, little mouth that roared, what is your definition of “tanking”, and how does that trade fit?

            Freeing up cap space is tanking? lmao, you tankers keep re-defining what the hell it means. Oh, you mean getting rid of “best player” is tanking? The same guy whose excessive TOs, extreme poor shooting, all while being a black hole killing any flow to the offense? That “best player”? Regardless of how you rate the players coming back, there’s plenty of reasoning to argue that the team got better, not worse,,,,, which is a basic premise of tanking, no? So sunshine, back up your mouth and tell me how they got worse?

            As for what will I say when, and if, he trades others,,,,,, there’s nothing to talk about, or in your case babble about and make claims about, until some reality actually happens. You know, actual moves where we know what MU did, not what we imagine he might do, if given the chance, in your dreams while hugging your teddy, maybe.

        • FLUXLAND

          So let me get this straight… she “sees the reality”… but this poster “has no effing clue”?

          I see. When someone writes something that you approve of, you guys see the reality and everyone else is effing clueless? Interesting stuff p00ka.

    • Dr. Scooby

      Does the term ‘rebuild’ worry you less? I don’t care if we never use Tank again in discussions…

      • ItsAboutFun

        I’d love to see the term “tanking” disappear from conversation, but the concept I’m referring to is brought up constantly, no matter what terminology someone tries to cloak it in. The need for some re-building is obvious, but tearing down everything to chase high draft picks is not. Unloading AB was brilliant, and the return was fantastic! Same for Rudy! Those moves, getting rid of the n2 highest paid players, surely big parts of re-building, but nothing to do with tanking, unless you wish to re-define the term, in which case we’re talking about two different things.

        • Dr. Scooby

          It is rather divisive; on one hand fans want to keep good players going forward which is fine, on the other hand, is building around Amir, Val & DD a recipe for success? I like these guys and would rather keep them, but to build around them to be a contender really stretches this narrative into the fantasy genre.

          • ItsAboutFun

            lol, funny how both sides think the other is living in a fantasy world, but opinions of what route SHOULD be taken isn’t the topic of this particular discussion I started. As usual, that’s what every discussion turns into these days, but my point, in support of the article, is that anything MU has done TO-DATE does not fit any version of “tanking”, all of which involve getting worse to chase a high draft pick. Could I feel different about subsequent moves by MU? You bet, but there’s nothing to discuss yet, so to claim a tank is in full swing is nothing but blowing smoke out of the wrong orifice, imo.

        • truth be told

          We’ll see what Masai thinks won’t we. Just because you don’t feel it’s necessary to tear down everything, doesn’t mean squat.

          • ItsAboutFun

            Your fantasies mean squat to anybody but you and your teddy bear, but my opinions mean something to me. Get over it. We’re here to discuss opinions, but all you want to do is derail the subject of what the Rudy trade, or moveS as you call it, represent in relation to tanking. Try and focus, grasshopper, and tell me how ridding the team of Rudy is making the team worse so they can chase lottery fantasies for impressive high school kids

  • drg

    “I’d be surprised to see Masai trade Lowry to a team within his own division; especially considering any move he makes could help that team past this season.”

    I never would have considered that but it makes sense.

  • Regina raps fan

    Really like your article tamz. Masai is very tactical, just by shopping Lowry he caused a stirr in New York with both their teams. This caused confusion and tenseness for them. Now players can’t concentrate 100% on the game cuz they worried if they’ll even be around at half time. We lucky to have Lowry who’s a pro and can handle this pressure. Masai is awesome! What a refreshing change from BC and his predictableness. Raps goin to playoffs baby!

  • A G

    Nice piece, some of it seems a little bit much but my god, it is SO nice to have someone speculating on something other than all out tanking for a draft pick and a s**t team around it. Also, I have been hoping to see this core make it through January for awhile now since looking at the schedule, hope you’re right there.

    • Dr. Scooby

      You have to have a good team to be worried about rebuilding or tanking or whatever you want to call it, do you really cherish this sub.500 team so much that you can’t bear to improve it through the draft?

  • desktom

    Do you know what I’m really sick of , These writers on here saying we don’t have elite talent. Amir Johnson since the black hole has left us is shooting around 70% Jonas is killing it , and only gonna get better , Terence Ross is hitting clutch shots and can only get better, Kyle Lowry is balling out there and making a real connection with Jonas. Demar is silently slipping into a leadership role by setting the example. Running varying offensive sets is getting everybody involved. The bench has become incredibly stronger over what we have seen the first 20 games. Yes its been 4 games , yes it hasn’t been against the elite teams, but watching this team look tougher inside is changing things for everybody on this team you can see it. Give these guys their due. The word tanking should be banished to the evil black hole that was Rudy Gay’s offense. Cheering for the team to do well is not a crime, get off the fence and start backing this team.

    • GoingBig

      The talent is showing itself to be above average and maybe, could-be, possibly 1st rank.

      But you’ll know the difference when the Raptors face a +0.500 team. That is a true test of talent because the weaknesses will be shown. Rudy and the team could knock down points against weakies but died against an elite team.

      Fortunately for Masai, he’ll see and analyze the Dallas game and especially the games against OKC and SanAntonio teams this coming week.

    • SR

      Amir and DeRozan have both elevated their stock this year. Unloading either of them would have to be for a damn good return, because you’d have to be pretty confident in a draft pick to expect him to turn out better than what those two guys have become. Many lottery picks don’t achieve the success that DD and Amir have developed into. At the same time, some lottery picks become much, much better.

      But yeah, you don’t just unload them for any old first round pick. At this point, I’d only trade them for a top 5 pick in 2014 – but I’m not sure anybody would give you that in return.

      • Dr. Scooby

        Of course nobody is going to trade ‘non-elite’ Amir & DD for elite top 5 2014 picks. Do you mean to say that they are players to build a team around going forward? I see DD and Amir as good complementary pieces on a competitive (a.k.a. 55 plus win team)…neither is an all-star though, so even though I like them and would prefer to hold on to them, keeping them at all cost sounds like a Colangelo recipe for mediocrity.

    • Mexiballer

      Desktom. We dont have elite players. There are not that many elite players in the league. I love Amir and Demar too, but they are not elite players.

    • sleepz

      The Raps don’t have elite talent. That much is obvious.

    • 2damkule

      you have as much knowledge of what constitutes ‘elite’ talent as you do of jeffrey loria.

    • lewro

      Troll!

  • Dale

    One of the better reads lately.

  • jjdynomite

    Good article Tam. One other issue I found strange in the Lowry-to-NY trade talk — more relevant than not trading within the division (which Masai already did with Bustnani) — is why in the hell would Masai want to take on ADDITIONAL salary over the next 2 years in Fatty Felton, coupled with TRoss being a more experienced (and likely more talented being an 8th pick) version of Tim Hardaway Jr. (24th pick), plus Shump and Hardaway would create a 2/3 logjam with DD and TRoss (unless they’re traded out). I don’t think the Knicks are a great partner in many respects; at least the Nets and Bulls have Euro guys with promise playing overseas — who wouldn’t object playing in Toronto — and would involve a trade that wouldn’t dump on us $9 million of Cheeseburgertits Felton beyond this season. If the Raps are to get worse, at least don’t trade Lowry for 2.5 years of cheeseburger.

    • Lucas

      I really don’t understand how Lowry’s name hasn’t come up in rumours with Chicago. They are DESPERATE for a PG who can create his own shot, and missing it terribly. Lowry would be such a great fit it’s not even funny (especially since Hirinch can play some minutes at the SG position).

      Plus, they have Charlotte’s pick this year, which is a fantastic asset for us. While Lowry alone might not be enough to pry that from them (he really isn’t), I would include Amir in the deal to make that happen (toss in Daye going their way, in exchange for Boozer, that pick, and Marquis Teague coming our way).

      BAM! Chicago is back in contention (and ahead of the Bobcats), we’re tanking, and we got ourselves another solid 2014 pick.

      Also, I much prefer “Cheeseburgeritis” to “Cheeseburger TITS.” The former sounds sophisticated and satirizes his laziness as a medical condition; the latter sounds juvenile. Plus, I actually laughed out loud when I read “Cheeseburgeritis.”

      • 2damkule

        maybe they’re going to this as a reload year? similar to the spurs when robinson went down & they won the lottery (and drafted duncan), maybe the bulls figure that even if they don’t bottom out completely, they have enough assets (as you mention, charlotte’s pick, but also desirable trade chips if they really want to bottom out (deng, noah, even boozer MIGHT be attractive) to do a decent little mini-rebuild/retool while rose recovers.

        there’s question as to whether thibs will be back next year anyway, and i doubt he’d want to throw in the towel on this year (and it would take buy-in from him to actually tank, because he’s a good enough coach to win when he shouldn’t). if i was running the bulls, it’d have to at least be something to consider.

        oh, and cheeseburgerTITS is my vote. yes, juvenile, but it perfectly encapsulates that he’s fat (i.e. man boobs).

  • Phat AlberG

    If Masai wanted to tank he would’ve kept Rudy Gay.

    • Joshua

      Totally agree. I wonder at the stupidity of these writers and fans.
      Most people blamed Gay’s style of play for the major reason why the
      Raptors were losing. If the major reason is traded it means
      one isn’t not tanking.
      What we got in place is a really strong bench. A necessary to be a top team. Our bench is now as good as any bench in the NBA.
      Which means if our starters can play against any other teams starters
      we can beat any team.
      This trade was a move to compete and win.

      • sleepz

        ‘Compete’ and win what?

        • FLUXLAND

          Obviously another Titanic Division banner, baby!

          You reading this? Just like last year, our bench is deeeeeep!

  • GoingBig

    I think that the Lowry deal was so close that the tanking is there.
    I do like the multiple picks for higher swaps scenario

  • Saskatoon Raps Fan

    Excellent article. Good job

  • raptorspoo

    Everybody jump on the Masai bandwagon!~

    It’s funny but it seems like every new GM, the fans buy into their empty promises. This is not a knock on Masai but rather on gullible fans. I remember first thing BC saying when he came in was that “you always pick the best talent available in the draft – regardless of position”. What a load of BS!!!*@!

    Now Masai tells us “we’re not going to be stuck in no man’s land”. Well boyz and girls, that means that we’re either going to be winning right away or we’re tanking and since we’re not going to be beating the likes of Mia, Ind or the bunch, we’re probably tanking. But wait, we seem to be winning again and heading into late lottery AKA = No Man’s Land.

    Sure he created some cap space but I’ll wait for some bigger moves to make my judgement. Hopefully he’s got something up his sleeves.

    • Duke

      I’m not gonna say Masai is a saviour or anything like that, but I’d much rather be optimistic than pessimistic. The one thing that stands out to me about Masai that Colangelo couldn’t do, is pull the trigger on a trade involving the team’s best player and get something of value back, as opposed to letting them walk. When was the last time this team traded it’s ‘best’ (and by best, I mean the biggest name/salary) player? Since he’s been here, we’ve traded 2 in a few months. For whatever reason, Colangelo didn’t have the balls to make those kind of moves.

      • Duke

        Masai also isn’t one to hand out large, pre-mature contracts..but like I said, I’m in no rush to call him our saviour just yet.

        • 2damkule

          just for the sake of argument…who signed javale mcgee?

          • Duke

            You mean the same Javale McGee who has posted a PER between 17 & 20 every year he’s been in the league up until his recent injury? The legit 7-foot rim protector that helped anchor the Nuggets to a 50+ win season last year? He may make some boneheaded plays but he’s still young & hasn’t reached his prime yet. I’m sure plenty of teams would take him on their team. Doesn’t make MU a bad GM. Name one thing he’s done here that you consider to be a ‘bad move’… Ya know, just for arguments sake.

            • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

              McGee is the perfect example of why PER is not a good indication of how good a player is. He’s also the perfect example of why blocks do not necessarily equal good defense. While I have my issues with George Karl, one of the reasons Karl was fired was because he wouldn’t play McGee enough. And the reason he wouldn’t play McGee enough is because McGee might actually haver a negative basketball iQ.

              • Duke

                As much as your opinions are highly valued in NBA circles, I think I’m gonna trust Masai on this one. I’m pretty confident he knows a thing or two about evaluating talent and making positive-value trades.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  I remember people arguing the same thing about Colangelo. I’m not suggesting they are the same, but Colangelo’s tenure taught me never to assume the GM knows best until they actually prove they do (see R.C. Buford).

                • sleepz

                  Glad you finally came around on him.

                  it took a little bit but when you did see the light regarding BC, you never steered away from it afterwards.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  Yes, I wanted to think, even though I kept disagreeing with his moves, that we just had different ways to get to the same place. Eventually the evidence became just too overwhelming.

                  This is how you learn, though. I won’t make that same mistake again.

                • Duke

                  The big difference is that much of what BC accomplished (or didn’t accomplish depending on how you look at it) as an NBA executive would probably have never happened if his daddy wasn’t already in a high position. He rode his last name into the NBA circle, and combined that with slick-talking and fancy suits. MU on the other hand, had to work his ass off to get to where he is now. Nothing was handed to him and I admire everything he’s accomplished, considering he came from a different continent. One of the biggest reasons why he’s come up the ranks so quickly is his ability to judge NBA talent.

                • Duke

                  It earned him respect and got him to where he is today. Like I said in my initial post, I’m reserving all the ‘saviour’ & ‘messiah’ terms until this team actually accomplishes something of significance. But it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t made a positive impact on this franchise & roster. All the pundits talked about how handcuffed he was with the roster and contracts, and in a few months he’s managed to trade our 2 most ‘untradeable’ players, give us a lot of financial flexibility going forward & didn’t have to take any negative/bad contracts in return. You mentioned how he should have got a draft pick for Rudy, but like another said, that was due to the fact that every GM in the league has at least half a brain.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  Seems like hindsight, to me. Colangelo had won an Executive of the Year award, just like Ujiri, and was considered the mastermind behind one of the best teams in the NBA for half a decade. And Colangelo’s suns actually made it to the Conference Finals.

                  Ujiri inherited a team with an All NBA player and was able to cash in on his value and create a team that did well in the regular season but couldn’t make any impact in the playoffs.

                  I’m certainly hopeful that Ujiri is a guy who can build a contender, but there’s certainly no evidence so far that he can. I’m not suggesting he can’t, but I’m not going to keep giving him the benefit of the doubt, like I gave Colangelo for too long.

                • Duke

                  I find that this thinking is far too common among raptor fans. Well the previous guy didn’t get the job done so the new guy must be the same. It’s a very bitter way to look at things. What exactly could Ujiri have done in 6 months that would make you think he does know what he’s doing? It’s very short-sighted and poor on your part to judge a guy after a few months. I really don’t know what teams or sports you’re used to watching, but contenders take years to build.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  Maybe you could point to the passage or sentence where I judged Ujiri. All I have said is that I’m not going to give him the benefit of the doubt, like I did Colangelo. That’s not judging him. That’s NOT judging him. I’m not simply assuming, as some seem to do, that Ujiri will be able to transform the team into a contender.

                  What I don’t understand is that because I’m not jumping on the Ujiri train whole-heartedly, then I’m suddenly being negative? In what world? My only criticism of him so far has been a luke-warm review of the Rudy Gay trade. That’s it. Yet you’re calling me short-sighted?

                • Duke

                  Seriously man I don’t get you. Often I don’t agree with your written pieces or opinions, but most of the time it’s not cause you have a lack of knowledge or understanding about the game. I think you’re simply too negative & jaded (I guess being a Raptor fan can do that to ppl). I understand you’ve decided to fill a certain role on this forum- a voice of objective reasoning, and I get it…but I think you focus way too much on the negative. Then when someone debates with you and brings up a positive point about a player or person, you kinda brush it aside. Like “ya, they can do this well” but bla bla bla. You try to act like you see people’s point, but in a very narcissistic “I’m right” kind of way. And you bring up some great points a lot of the time, but it’s almost always negative. Let me ask you this.. If someone were to judge your job performance (or even worse, judge you as a person) and they only brought up negative things, mistakes or things you don’t do well: do you think that would be fair & accurate? We’re all bitter and a lil jaded regarding the state of this team and how things have gone pretty much since inception, but I think if you shared a more balanced opinion on things, your views would be much more respected on this site. This is my opinion…you don’t have to take it as advice but I’m sure a lot of readers feel the same way.

                • Duke

                  Oh and I wasn’t at all implying that you were being dick-ish in this debate, just that’s the kinda vibe you give off sometimes. You make some great points, but focus a lil too much on the negative aspect.

                • JustinN

                  I understand Tim. I have a friend just like him. He always tells me I’m overly optimistic about the Raptors, and 100% of the time… he is right. He has been telling me we should blow the team up for years now…because the current make-up of the team is built to be Championship contenders. I know he is right… but being optimistic always gets the best of me. I seriously can’t help but see the positives and the progression of the team…even though long term, it is probably a recipe for mediocrity. I am probably the type of fan that Tim shakes his head at the most….. just can’t help it…..I wish I could but I can’t.

                  As frustrating as Tim’s “negativity” is…it’s crazy… I often look for Tim’s comments / posts so I do see the “non optimistic” view on things… because personally, I need that.

                  I just don’t try not to let his comments bug me…and perhaps Tim shouldn’t be bothered as much by us overly optimistic fans that should know that our players aren’t championship contenders…I feel Tim, you try too darn hard to convince everyone that your opinion is right.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  I don’t have to convince people I’m right. Time seems to do that for me most of the time….

                • Justin

                  precisely. As I said, your typically always right. And I appreciate having your opinion.
                  Back when you were writing all the Bargnani pieces, I would read your stuff and say to myself “Tim is right, he needs to go” or “Colangelo needs to go” “Rudy” needs to go…
                  In fact, a few years back you said to me something along the lines of “I don’t understand your optimism for Bargs” but I just can’t help it haha.

                  So let me be optimistic dangit! haha … and time will continue to prove your cases… and I’ll say “Tim was right…. and I knew it at the time” but couldn’t help but choose illusion instead hahaha.

                  Nobody here is saying we are going to be contenders…well hopefully not… I think we’re just appreciating a bit of short term success…even though… long term.. it makes absolutely no sense to make the playoffs this year, and it would jeopardize our success….it’s just the way it is.

                  In fact, as I’m sitting here writing this, I’m saying to myself, ya, I’m pretty crazy. I should probably demand more from my team….. but gosh dang, if only I had another canadian team to root for lol.

                • Justin

                  it really would make things to much easier haha

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  When fans don’t demand excellence from their team, their expectations are rarely exceeded.

                • Justin

                  Like I said, it really would be a lot easier if there was a second canadian team. Unfortunately, I have no interest in cheering for the Heat or any other american team for that matter. But I do want to watch the Raptors.

                  For example, I feel it’s easy to demand excellence as an NHL fan, because I can easily switch between two canadian teams. I go back and forth from Montreal and Edmonton.. that is my version of demanding excellence. Bandwangoning. In fact, I feel bandwagon fans actually should motivate management to strive for excellence… because there are sooo many bandwagon fans out there. Look at the HEAT for example.

                  If Vancouver was still around, I probably would have boycotted the Raptors a long long time ago.

                • Justin

                  So basically, I am acknowledging that my logic is flawed… but explaining it at the same time.

                • lewro

                  hey i got the same fortune cookie! is the nba infiltrating china?

                • lewro

                  Eistein is alive and… he’s a moderator on raptorsrepublic? we’re doomed!

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  I don’t understand your problem with my position on Ujiri. As I pointed out below, all I’m saying is I’m not going to assume Ujiri will be a great GM until I actually see evidence that will back up that position. It has nothing to do with being negative and everything to do with simply being practical. NO ONE knows how well Ujiri will do, but a lot of people are already anointing him the saviour of the Raptors with no evidence to support it.

                  I’m simply saying let’s wait and see what he does before judging him, but that apparently is judging him?

                  I’ve heard the negative comment a lot, but it’s also hard to point to a lot of instances where my negativism has been misplaced. The amount of negativism is directly related to the amount of success the team has. And right now they’re 9-13 in one of the worst conferences in the history of the league.

                • Duke

                  I’m not clueless, I know this isn’t a contender… But I also see shrewd business moves on his part. The biggest complaint about the mess left by BC was that we didn’t have a contender and we were over the luxury tax. Ujiri has already fixed the latter within a few months, the amount of financial flexibility the team has into next season is exciting. That combined with getting rid of 2 overpaid, underachieving players & didn’t have to take any bad contracts back (even getting a pick) is positive and moves that needed to be made. He has the right players to tank if he wants, but he’s also made the team better than he got here. The job isn’t done, but I’ll give the credit where it’s due.

                • Duke

                  And by right players to tank, I don’t mean having past their prime or just bad players. This team does have some good young pieces. No superstar but maybe an all star in Jonas. If we did tank and get a high pick, the team would have a great chance at being a legit contender. If he kept our young pieces and built around them with all the new cap space, I think we’d have a shot to be pretty good too. Whichever way he goes, I don’t think the future is as bleak as most would have you believe.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  I’m not sure why you say many think the future is bleak. I certainly don’t. And nor do a lot of fans on this site. I am VERY hopeful about the future, but I also think the team is at a very precarious position, and wrong moves will hurt the future of the team.

                  I think the short term prospects don’t look good, but that’s not important to me because I’m looking at the big picture.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  And I’m giving credit where credit is due. I thought the Bargnani trade was excellent and I thought the Gay trade was pretty good. I certainly like the fact he did both, that’s for sure, but until I get a better understanding of what his strategy is, I’m not going to automatically assume anything.

                • raptorspoo

                  Agreed! So we made cap space. Now what?

                  If I’m not mistaken, BC did the same thing and created cap space, no? (memory’s a little fuzzy but I do remember BC clearing room only to do little to nothing with it)

                • raptorspoo

                  Tim, some people are just difficult to reason with. I’ll correct myself… I meant “a lot of people” on this site I’m afraid.

                  I say that we should trade DD and automatically people assume that I hate DD and start telling me what an idiot I am. They don’t take into consideration the logic behind it. It’s like i’m talking to a parrot and wonder if I’m the idiot that’s arguing back at it.

                • Duke

                  Being a ‘parrot’ is better than being a negative nancy. Look at you, you’re a supposed fan of this team yet you choose a name like raptorspoo. This is cause you think this team is shit and always gonna be shit. I read your responses on here and they’re always negative and trashing the team. Most of us optimistic fans are not dumb or clueless, we’re fully aware of all the problems and mis-management this franchise has been through. But you have to believe at some point w’re going to return to relevancy. We’re not gonna be a treadmill team forever and if you think that then I feel really bad for ya, that being a fan of a team that plays basketball has caused you to be so damn negative. Sad really… Some of you act like depressed, tortured children the way you come on here and bash the team n every move they make.

              • TheTyrant

                Toche

          • Duke

            He also only had to give up an aging Nene to get McGee, who is considered to be a big piece of Denver’s future.

          • sleepz

            Boom! lol

  • SR

    Here’s the futility of all our fan-fueled discussions:

    Ujiri is a patient guy who clearly demands a good return on every transaction. According to league sources and the players themselves (Gay post-trade), almost everyone on this roster is available for the right price. For the right price.

    Ujiri would want picks, prospects, and flexibility first of all, but would, I think, take an offer that clearly improved the team with a more established player. Does anyone honestly think he’s ruled out any opportunities that present themselves, just because he’s already decided on a course of action (i.e. tank/don’t tank)?

    I’d summarize my take on his MO like this:
    1) Keep all your options open. Don’t rule out anything.
    2) Get a good return on every deal.
    3) Maintain flexibility while acquiring assets.
    4) Improve the team with every transaction – whether with short-term or long-term benefits

    To the anti-tankers, I’d say Ujiri’s comments (and TL’s) seem to indicate that he’s willing to absorb some short-term pain for long-term gain if he thinks that’s the best road forward. He wants this team to be much better than it has in the past, and if that means some more losses this season for a payoff down the road, then so be it.

    To the pro-tankers, clearly he’s not so set on scoring big in the 2014 draft that he’s going to fire-sale the entire roster. He’s going to be patient and see what the opportunities there are for transactions. Maybe the offers are good enough to unload several players and hit a home run in the next draft. Maybe the offers just aren’t there and he moves forward with some of the current core, current 2014 picks, and an eye to future transactions.

    Basically, I don’t think that even he knows how the “rebuild” will play out. His goal is to improve this roster, dramatically. How he gets there will depend on all these variables that are outside of his control.

    • Mexiballer

      I agree completely. And there is nothing wrong with making the team better with a series of on going moves that builds the team up in stages. When the team is at a point where it is ready to jump to a higher or contending type level, an elite player can be added and in fact more easily attracted to a solid playoff team that the Raptors can become through steady building and growth. Until then why not climb the ladder. There is no need for a complete tear down when parts of the foundation are already in place.

  • Richard Garcia

    Great article Tam,
    Next up is the Rapcast!

  • Mihkel Bafter

    It’s almost as if mediocrity is written in the Raptors mission statement.

    • 2damkule

      mediocrity doesn’t begin with a ‘t,’ so obviously, like, no.

  • consmap

    Masai and his stupid pearly-white smile.
    TELL US WHAT YOU’RE DOING ALREADY OIHGOAHGOAEG

  • nyStef

    “Therefore I think his plan has been to create the illusion of a team on the precipice of tanking.”

    Interesting take and knowing Masai – the little anyone actually knows about how he thinks (but it’s easy to guess he does so at a different level … or at least, bigger picture than what we’re used to), it’s a toss-up as to whether-or-not that IS what he’s thinking. Right now, at least.

    I used to hate the idea of tanking as much as a lot of others still do, but once I really started thinking about just what it was I wanted to see happen with this team, I started thinking longer term. I’m damned familiar with the empty feeling that hangs on once it’s over when your team has been quickly bounced out of the playoffs, and it isn’t much better than how it feels to have not even gotten that far. (For me.) So with those ducks lined up in my head, I put myself firmly on board, not to *tank* necessarily, but to give-it-up to a good GM that came in with a plan. And if he had a goal that included positioning the team for a top pick, however it might be done, I’d be (and am) firmly on board and I wouldn’t argue with him or anyone else about it.

    [That said … it’s impossible to not cheer good play by our own team. I’ve seen it said here by one or two others and I definitely concur. It’s a DNA thing, it can’t be helped. But I am willing to defer my own gratification on it all, if Masai & company steers us to that direction. (An aside: how is it that Casey has suddenly remembered how to coach again? A lot less calls for his head these last couple or so days, I’ve noticed. Curious, no?)]

    A bigger aside that I sometimes wonder, about the (even) BIGGER picture (and sorry for how long this’ll ending up being):

    Considering how huge a multi-Billion-dollar-business the NBA is, some of the thinkers up at the top of the NBA food-chain MUST be, at least on occasion, drooling over how flush the city of Toronto is with sports-ticket-cash, not to mention the country-wide tv ratings possibilities that could, with the right conditions in place, totally explode. And they also must know that if we had a genuine local-boy-home-town-hero, those conditions might suddenly be ripe enough to put the NBA in a position where they might actually be able to challenge hockey (in the future). Don’t laugh. Hockey is still king (I grew up on it; once loved it; hardly ever watch it anymore), but there’s a whole generation of sports fans growing up now who are loving THIS game (hoops). I don’t know if hoops’ll ever unseat hockey as THE game in these parts, but, I’d wager that as the years roll by, especially if we were to have that home-town-hero to light the fuse (as it were), it wouldn’t be so outrageous an idea as some would now bluster about. I sure wouldn’t bet against it. (Hoops may not be as ‘wildly exciting’ as what hockey is at its best, but … it is a more three dimensional game with more going on than what hockey has … and you don’t need thousands of dollars worth of equipment to play it.)

    The point of this (I think) is that while none of us can know what’s gonna happen over these next months in the league and where the Raps will be sitting once the final horn goes this season, I think the NBA would LOVE to see us get A.W. How, is a whole other question, of course. And whether or not any of it ends up meaning anything (seems doubtful, but …), I’ve no idea. It’s just something I think about. Liked your column here, T.R. Cheers, northyorkStef.

  • Roarque

    My favourite stat is delta assists. Here are the top teams west and east on Dec 15:
    Portland 23.6 avg for 18.6 avg against equals +5.00 delta
    San Ant 25.3 19.87 +5.43
    MIA 23.74 19.78 +3.96
    IND 20.74 17.17 +3.57
    Now here aren’t the top teams west and east:
    SAC 20.64 22.64 – 2.00
    TOR 18.32 22.64 -4.32
    I plan to track these for a while and see how Agent Rudy affects the SAC delta over, say, 10 games

    • Roarque

      Oh, I forgot to add TOR has been +0.20 for the last 5 games while SAC has been – 4.20. Thank you Agent Rudy!

  • pran

    the big T that comes to mind when I read this is “treadmill”.

    • 2damkule

      ding. ding. ding.

  • Mexiballer

    I dont see that Masai has any fear of trading Lowry to N.Y. I like Lowry a lot but its not like he’s an all star. For sure Masai would trade Lowry tomorrow if the right trade came along. No need to wait until January unless he has a serious intentions of extending his contract. Which is fairly unlikely.

    • noname

      well; it’s 4 months later, you may now eat your words with a big smile on your face! lol aren’t you glad it turned out like this?

    • Mexiballer

      Im very glad it turned out this way. But I stand by my words at the time I said them. I said Masai had no fear of trading Lowry to N.Y. And he didnt have any fear. In fact he has said in so many words that he was ready to make that trade. It was N.Y. that nixed that trade…not Masai. I also said it was fairly unlikely Masai would extend Lowry’s contract…and he didnt extend it. Ill bet Masai is thanking his lucky stars that James Dolan is clueless and missed out on an all star caliber point guard. So am I and all the other Raptor fans.

  • RaptorFan

    Very good read Tamberlyn! Refreshing to read someone with such a interesting perspective. I look forward to more articles from you. Keep up the good work!

  • AB4EYE

    Need to send Hansbrough to the Heat who need rebounding and cheap players but what do they have we could use, other than clearly the stars.

  • Trace Fairley

    You absolutely cannot tell your coach and team to go out there and try to lose. It goes against the grain of everything an athlete is about. MU will let the chips fall, observe, and react. If we truly have a playoff team here, there will be numerous benefits clearly stated by many on this blog. If, on the other hand, the team sputters down the road and plays itself out of it, then more moves are warranted and a lottery pick will happen. MU will not force it one way or the other, at this point. This is almost a new team and a hell of a lot more fun to watch btw. The next 15 games will be interesting!

  • lewro

    “Given Ujiri’s penchant for ridding his team of unwanted contracts I think he may actually spend some time trying to oust Landry Fields’ contract either in a straight up trade or married in a package.”

    Agreed. Good insight. You’re thinking like Ujiri. Food for thought on “Asset Valuation and Redistribution” Volume 2 by Tim W.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Oh, god. Do we really need another volume?

      Besides, as I said in my original, I don’t see the point of getting rid of Fields at all. He’s not tying up much cap room, he’s a smart player who plays good defense, and he’s only got one year on his contract after this one. And if he gets his shot back, he’d be a very valuable role player.

      Both Bargnani and Gay had to go for the health of the team, both in the short and long term. Fields is a non-issue and spending time trying to find someone to take him is energy better spent elsewhere.

      • lewro

        Glad I got your attention. That’s a shame; I expected a re-evaluation around the trade deadline in february.
        Uriji is enigmatic to be sure but i think w.lou’s article demonstrates that it is entirely possible to speculate as to his intentions. For example, I agree with your assessment of fields and i think masai would concur. however, i dont think he will get his shot back. and i think you understate that 6 million dollars next year. that’s a BC mindset. ujiri doesn’t think like that. obviously he’s concentrating on lowry for now but i agree with w.lou’s assessment of fields bc it is more aligned with a Ujiri mindset. This point is bared out by his record. He moved gay and bargnani out quick! took BC 6 years to get Gay and he failed to get rid of Bargnani for 6 years. Took Masai 20 games to get rid of both. Your right, Fields is not a malignant tumour but he stills needs to be cut off.

        • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

          We’ll see about a re-evaluation come the middle of February. Right now the thought of doing it again is a little much.

          The thing about Fields is that his contract doesn’t change anything. The Raptors will be well under the cap with or without Fields’ contract, and this summer is the only one left it will affect. And unlike Gay and Bargnani, I can’t see any team giving up anything of value for Fields, and mostly likely the Raptors would have to give up something of value, and I simply don’t think it’s worth it.

          • lewro

            yeah, i didnt mean another article in the near future but i think it’s pretty typical/expected for trade deadlines. hence the dec 12th publishing date.
            the value of what you give up is relative to your needs at the time and the needs of the other team. if someone needs an asset badly and you have little use for that asset than fields works as a salary dump. 6m can get you a player that will contribute. lowry makes 6m. some people here think he is worth a mid round pick right now. just bc they have some flexibility doesnt mean they’re limber. ujiri covets this and to end the BC era. fields was a blunder. ujiri wants to change that culture.

  • lewro

    “I’d be surprised to see Masai trade Lowry to a team within his own division; especially considering any move he makes could help that team past this season.”

    Disagree. Short term = higher pick. Long term = pick is better than lowry
    You couldnt trade lowry for a top 8 pick so we will have to use our own pick to claim a spot in the congatankline of shameful prosperity before adam silver declares NO SOUP FOR YOU! I am not saying that the NBA is run by Nazis; quite the opposite… jk shalom.

  • Mihkel Bafter

    I love how this article praises Ujiri for getting rid of Nene’s monstrous contract and completely ignores the fact that Ujiri was the one who gave it to him in the first place

    • noname

      he probably signed him knowing he was going to trade so he made a big deal to save big cap space *and* acquire something in return. I concur: he’s a genius.

  • lewro

    “if Ujiri could manage to grab two of these picks or amass two picks from different teams then he could barter with the bottom teams to trade these two or three picks to grab one of those coveted first three picks.”
    Not gonna happen. That’s the only thing the Utahs of the world are playing for this season. I will trade you every player drafted 6-14 in the 2003 draft for lebron james. here is your team: Kaman, Heinrich, tj ford, sweetney, hayes, pietrus, collison, banks, ridnour. benefit of the doubt, masai could still fool someone to take this rabble for lebron.

  • webfeat

    Ujiri GMs like he is playing chess: keep multiple lines of attack open so that every path leads to check mate. Every move he makes is calculated to give him as much negotiating flexibility as possible. It’s quite obvious that cap flexibility is one of the moves he values very high. Another is gradually building assets whilst not giving up much in return. The man is a savant.

  • http://www.GCConnected.com/ Chris

    lol @ the wiggins tease. Raps aren’t tanking. Masai is a smart, talented GM. He knows if the raps start doing bad he will start to move his big pieces and go into complete rebuild teardown. Don’t see that happening though, they are playoff destined http://www.gcconnected.com/?p=339