On the possibility of trading up in the draft: “Like I said the first time I talked to you guys a couple of weeks ago, I don’t do heartbreaks very well. Those trades and talks — people don’t understand: We talk about like maybe 100 trades and then two happen. That’s the nature of our business. We will be aggressive but our energy is focused on 20 rather than wasting our time on [something else]. If there is anything [that makes sense], I almost feel like those kind of things come to you rather than you chase them. We will be aggressive if we smell anything anywhere, but 20 is where we will concentrate.”
The Raptors have done their homework. Monday was their 12th pre-draft workout, each with four-to-six players in them. I can’t recall the team ever bringing in more players. And they’re bringing in players who have got the message: There is a job here for the right kind of person, not simply the right kind of basketball player. As Ujiri said, whoever is coming in will have their work cut out for them in order to earn playing time on a roster that is young but well established.
Bryant may see a future role as a Paul Pierce-type until his health dictates otherwise. Until then, Lowry and Bryant in the backcourt is a scary tandem. Having either player set up Julius Randle in the paint makes for a triumvirate of scoring punch. Randle handles the paint duties. Bryant handles isolation plays and everything in the midrange area. Lowry provides the primary playmaking and 3-point shooting. Offensive balance is a key to success, but it all starts by drafting Randle. If the Lakers acquire Lowry, it’ll be a big success for the team.
That would seem to make Lowry a perfectly logical signing, but the Lakers are stuck between competing in Bryant’s window and finding stars for the future. Lowry is a great player, but he probably doesn’t move the needle enough to justify the contract he’ll likely demand. Unless the lack of buyers on the market drives his price down somewhere closer to the $7 million-a-year range, which seems unlikely given his play this year, the Lakers are probably better off finding a more movable asset at an even bigger position of need in free agency.
Ujiri has also been consistent in his assessment of team needs. The Raptors want to add a big wing and a rim protecting big man and while Ujiri won’t commit to filling those needs through the draft, he has looked at a pile of prospects over the past couple of weeks who do just that. “We need a big wing, a three position and we need some kind of shot blocking like a big,” Ujiri said. “We have good skilled bigs. We have a shooting big. We have a big down low and we want to figure out how to protect the rim a little bit and that may come now, it may come later, but it is something that we know that we need on our roster. So those two positions are something we need.”
The Raptors conducted their final workouts for the draft on Monday. Brought back for a second time after an ankle injury prevented him from working out his first time around was Arizona State guard Jahii Carson, who is as confident off the court as he is fast on it. Stanford graduate and proud Toronto native Dwight Powell was also there, rounding out an impressive crop of homegrowns to go through these workouts for the Raps. Powell joins Ennis, Sim Bhullar, Jordan Bachynski, Melvin Ejim and Khem Birch among the Canadian-born contingent to come through the Air Canada Centre.
“It’s a huge bonus,” Ujiri said of finding a diamond in the rough on draft night. “You look at the programs that have done well in the NBA, they just strike with picks like that. Its takes constant study, and really knowing players, believing in players and a system.” “I think a big thing is you kind of have to be realistic on the expectations of the players,” added Dan Tolzman, Toronto’s director of scouting, who was also a member of Ujiri’s front office staff in Denver. “I think everyone wants to find those diamonds and the guys that will be all-stars and MVPs and this and that but those guys are pretty hard to find outside of the lottery and the top-five even.” “So I think the idea is if you can find guys at 20 or 37 or wherever that have careers,” he continued, “that are eight-year players and they’re role players on your team and they’re doing good things to help you win, that’s a successful draft pick. You might get lucky and hit a guy that’s going to be a big time contributor and he’s pushing for all-stars and that kind of thing, but that’s not really what you’re looking for when you’re outside of the top-five or the top-10.”
“You know it’s going to keep coming,” he (Ujiri) said of the information flow. “There will be something tonight and something else tomorrow morning. That’s just the nature of the draft. I heard something yesterday that threw us off a little bit. But it will keep coming and coming and coming until that last minute. That’s the joy of it, I mean you love it. That’s why we do it. There is always action. As long as we come out on top, then we’re fine.”
The Good: If you watched the 2014 NCAA Tournament, you’ll remember him. Napier led the Connecticut Huskies on a Cinderella run to a championship and was a key offensive cog who thrived under pressure, making big shot after big shot. The vocal 22-year-old averaged 18.0 points, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals and also was lights-out from downtown, connecting on 40.5 % of his attempts. Napier has the intangibles and mental prowess to be a successful player in the NBA. The Bad: Napier isn’t known for his playmaking ability and can be unselfish at times – choosing a contested jump shot over a pass to an open teammate. At 6’1″ and 175 lbs, Napier will have a tough time adjusting to the bullish point guards of the NBA, especially in the loaded Eastern Conference. The former Husky is not athletically imposing and primarily relies on jump shooting, accounting for a significant portion of his offensive production.
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