Toronto Raptors End of Season Grades: Part III | Raptors HQ

Masai didn’t draft the core of the team. He didn’t trade for them, or sign them via free agency. But he did do something that tends to define the best GM’s in the league: he knew what dead weight to remove from the team’s roster, and when to leave the rest, well enough alone. To that end Ujiri got rid of not one, but two of the team’s biggest headaches, and two players in fact that seemed virtually untradeable, Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani. For that reason alone he gets an A. It was addition by subtraction but on top of that, Ujiri also ended up with some very useful pieces in return, both current (Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, Steve Novak etc) and future (the Knicks’ beloved draft picks.) Whether Ujiri made the moves expecting to send his club to the lottery, or if he secretly knew things would turn around is up for debate. But after the reported Kyle Lowry deal with the Knicks fell through and the team began to take off, Masai put down the phone, not forcing through a move that could have not only ruined the club’s present, but also its near future. Add in his small tweaks like Nando De Colo and his offseason bargain-basement signings like Tyler Hansbrough and it’s hard to find much to pick at in Masai Ujiri’s first season. His fifth-place finish in this season’s NBA Executive of the Year race was probably too low in fact.

NBA: Draft combine gives second-tier prospects chance to shine | Toronto Star

There is little doubt what kind of player Ujiri might be looking for. He spoke this week of needed size and speed on the wing and an inside presence. It’s doubtful he will find at No. 20 the kind of player who can step in and contribute to a playoff team immediately but the long-term needs would suggest he’ll try to fill either of those gaps. Joining Ennis in the ever-growing list of potential Canadian draftees are guard Nik Stauskas of Michigan, forwards Dwight Powell of Stanford, Melvin Ejim of Iowa State and big men Khem Birch of UNLV and Jordan Bachynski of Arizona State. Ennis and Stauskas are seen as virtual first-round locks in the draft; the others will have to impress GMs at the combine and in any of the follow-up private workouts that may be scheduled after this week.

Lewenberg: Raptors’ Vasquez lays his cards on the table | TSN

“Imagine if we get KD, Kevin Durant in 2016 and he leads us to a championship,” the Raptors’ point guard added, unprompted in an interview with Bryan Hayes on TSN 1050 the following day. “I think he’d have statues right outside the ACC.” Well played, sir. Vasquez, the quote that keeps on quoting, is angling for a new deal and with the offseason barely a week old, he has positioned himself favourably. In case you haven’t heard, Vasquez is quite fond of being in Toronto. A week ago, on a day in which Kyle Lowry’s impending free agency took centre stage, it was his backup, Vasquez, that stole the show delivering an emotional 19-minute soliloquy, with the occasional question sprinkled in. He thanked the city, its fans, his teammates, coaches and general manager. He thanked the Toronto school board. “My son cannot wake up at 8:00 in the morning, he wakes up at six because he’s excited to go to school.” He thanked his waiter at the local all-you-can-eat Brazilian steak house.

How can the Raptors become the Beast of the East? [Part 1] | Raptors Rapture

The Raptors had team chemistry, a mysterious quality, but one missed greatly when not on hand. Masai Ujiri has emphasized its importance to our side’s success, which I’m happy about. Presumably he’ll retain the services of as many of our guys as he can, particularly those (like Amir, Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson) who’ve made it clear they want to return. Not all was beer & skittles for our guys. A 1-6 record in overtime was damaging, and of course starting the season 6-12 before turfing Mr. Gay overboard didn’t help. The Raps showed a marked lack of interest in wiping the floor with bad teams. For example, we were 8-0 against the dismal outfits from Philadelphia and Milwaukee. On the surface that’s fine, I suppose, but the largest margin of victory was 11 points over Philly, and 12 over the Bucks. Before our team can truly frighten anyone, we’ll need to prove our ability to destroy the injured, tanking or just plain bad opponents we face.

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  • dunkmycat7

    Hey Phil !
    Everything Zen ?
    I don’t think so
    (sorry couldn’t resist).
    Seems like nobody wants to come out and play with either Kobe or Phil anymore.

  • Beagle17

    What would it have been like if Vasquez and Calderon were here at the same time?

    • Moe

      Every single PG on opposing teams would light up with glee seeing raptors as their next opponent

  • elbow

    I don’t understand this fixation with attempting to lure Kevin Durant to Toronto, or why Kevin Durant would be interested in joining Toronto. My quip isn’t regarding the fact that Toronto could never please a superstar like him, I find the Vince Carter syndrome to a product of many things, the least of which is related to this actual city. The “problem” as I view it is that, why would Durant want to be in the same league as idiots like Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano? Again I would posit that money and ego were a deciding factor for those incredibly selfish professional athletes but lets be real here.

    In St.Louis they had already built a statue of him, players like Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, and Roger Hornsby, also had statues. These guys are Hall of Famers in a baseball city. I’m not even going to get into Robinson Cano and the Yankees because it’s basically the same thing. These guys, don’t give two shits about their legacy, because people will always remember how they spurned their ridiculously historic franchises, the chance to win World Series (which neither Cano or Pujols will ever achieve in two haphazard lackadaisical markets ie. people in greater Los Angeles area Dodgers fans, and the only thing relevant about the Mariners is Ichiro… haha).

    The point that I’m saying is that, Kevin appears to be an incredibly humble player – to whatever extent that is – he’s got a chance to become a legend in a city that he has captivated and turned upside down, along with Russel Westbrook. Basketball players, in particular the good ones, in the past decade have begun wising up to the fact that they can’t do it alone, this is why Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, but KG in particular is hypocrite, and that is about as negative of a comment for another human being as I can make. But anyways, he’s got the foundation, he’s got the city, he’s got the fans, and he’s going to get the money no matter what happens in OKC, why would he leave something he’s worked so hard to build?

    The wise tale of the dog with the steak that sees his reflection in the puddle and out of jealously and gluttony he attempts to grab both, loses whatever he has. Our chances to win a Championship with this squad, and the PLAUSIBLE and LIKELY moves that CAN be made, not the ones we want to ENVISION, have far greater odds of occurring than us “living on a prayer” and trying to sign Kevin Durant. For the record I equate Lebron’s chase of Championships to be an ego driven behavior, that will never be sufficiently “filled”, since there will always be Kobe & Lakers, Jordan & Bulls, and Duncan & Spurts. Intangibles between those that he will never replicate in his career after all of the negative “goodwill” he has amassed.


    • Will

      I agree that I don’t see why Durant would want to leave OKC. However, I disagree with your point about LeBron. It’s commendable to stick with the team that drafted you, especially if it’s your hometown team, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be on a better team. Cleveland was going nowhere and Miami’s two championships and three finals appearances, and counting, are evidence enough that he made the right choice. The only knock on LeBron should be the way he made that choice. Not every superstar is lucky enough to have a great supporting cast throughout his career on the same team.