Raptors GM Ujiri Prepared To Stand Pat After Swinging Bargnani Trade

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Masai Ujiri is some kind of miracle worker.

How else do you explain how he was able to get rid of Andrea Bargnani less than a month after taking over as general manager of the Toronto Raptors and get three draft picks in return? When it comes to addition by subtraction, it’s hard to remember a better trade.

Bargnani is a no-D, tunnel-vision shooter who hasn’t shot well over the last three seasons and is owed more than $22 million over the next two. The Raptors should have been sending picks out to grease the deal, not getting picks in return.

So put another notch on Ujiri’s belt for the deal that netted Toronto a first-round pick and two second rounders from New York. After taking over in Denver, he turned Carmelo Anthony into a package that helped keep the Nuggets near the top of the Western Conference. Now, he’s turned Bargnani into assets that could be used to add another piece to the Raptors’ young core.

Is that other deal coming soon? Probably not.

Speaking with the media on Wednesday, Ujiri made it sound like he’s sticking with the team he has for now. The Raptors will likely head into training camp with a rotation that looks something like this…

PG: Kyle Lowry, Julyan Stone
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross
SF: Rudy Gay, Steve Novak
PF: Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough (reported deal, but not yet signed)
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Aaron Gray

The wing combination of DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay is not optimal, especially at $27 million a year. The way the league is going, you need shooters at those positions to space the floor. Neither DeRozan (28 percent from 3-point range last season) nor Gay (32 percent) is much of a threat from the perimeter, a situation made worse by the lack of a stretch four (that doesn’t mean they should have kept Bargnani).

It would be understandable if Ujiri wanted to make more moves to add shooting, make better use of his team’s capped-out payroll, or maybe even sacrifice the coming season for the sake of the future. But he seems content with fielding a team that will neither be terrible nor very good.

“We’re going to take it as it comes and see what comes our way,” Ujiri said Wednesday. “We’re going to be aggressive out there, but we also owe it to see what we have on our team instead of doing something stupid, like quickly. If something reasonable comes our way and we feel that it’s something that’s going to help the Toronto Raptors, then I will do it.”

Ujiri also said that its his job to put together a team that fits its coach. Dwane Casey is a defense-first guy and the Raptors were much improved defensively after the Gay trade. They allowed just 101.3 points per 100 possessions (a rate which would have ranked in the top 10) and were a plus-60 (despite the shooting issues) in 923 minutes with DeRozan and Gay on the floor together last season.

Furthermore, Ujiri has two second-year players — Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas — who could take major steps forward this season. The summer between a player’s first and second season is critical, and how much the pair has improved over these few months will certainly help determine the direction the Raptors go in.

Right now, Ujiri says, “I don’t know what direction that is.” He just knows that he doesn’t want to tank, because “winning is what you want to build around.”

There are some minor things Ujiri has to take care of. He needs to work out a trade or buyout for Marcus Camby, who has made it clear that he doesn’t want to be in Toronto. He has to decide if he’s going to waive Linas Kleiza via the amnesty clause. And he needs to find a back-up point guard. (Ujiri may like Julyan Stone, but he played a grand total of 27 minutes in Denver last season.)

This roster is basically what the Raptors will look like come October. And maybe that’s good enough to make the playoffs in an Eastern Conference that has experienced quite a bit of change over the last two weeks. Maybe it’s not.

Either way, Ujiri has already put his stamp on the franchise. And given his track record, it’s hard to question anything he does.

19 Comments

  1. Why not says:

    Why don’t the Raptors go after Nate Robinson. He’s not perfect but he could fire them up when they need it.

  2. Huddle. says:

    Ujiri made a wise move to get rid of Bargnani. He has very low basketball IQ.

  3. to much! says:

    Knicks Gave up way to much than they had to aquire this guy, I am a knick fan and I dont like bargani, Ive got an impression that he is lazy, doesnt put in much work to get better. and he is as bad as amare on defense.

  4. J says:

    i’m sure he’ll make some good moves

  5. Ralph says:

    Oh, one more point. The lack of shooting could have at least been addressed by trying to sign Chris Copeland, a relatively cheap free agent pick up.

  6. Ralph says:

    John says the Raptors won’t be “terrible.” I beg to differ. The current roster stinks. It lacks any personality — which, is to say, a clear leader with a fierce desire to win. Moreover, the pieces don’t fit together that well.

    Ujiri has his work cut out for him. I think he understands that the trades won’t ultimately improve this team much, unless he gets very very lucky. The longer, but ultimately most reliable path to success is through the draft and free agency. The Raptors are officially entered into the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes and are content to stay there. Which you really can’t fault.

  7. Raptors Fan says:

    If you ask me, I’ll tell u what it is, Ujiri is the same as BC… He aint gonna do nothing to improve raptors. all that he is gonna do is keep in the 9th or 10th spot so they never get a good draft pick or never improve nuff to ever make past first round playoffs (if they even make it to the playoffs). NBA just doesnt give a damn about raptors and They’ll always make sure playoffs doesnt happen in toronto. That Said, Still RAPTORS FAN FOR LIFE…, hopefully the mindset changes in the NBA so you can actually let the one and only canadian team to improve whether that’s through drafts or trades. Let’s give Ujiri little more time and see…where he takes this team.

    • Symosky says:

      Are you suggesting a conspiracy to keep the Raptors out of the playoffs? You’re an idiot. Dumbest thing anyone has ever said. Everyone is bashing John, but you guys seem to be forgetting the he makes 22 million a year! That’s a huge chunk of change for a one way player that’s not even your 3rd best scoring option on the Knicks. But that New York for you. Spend tons of money on bad defense. JR smith, Carmelo, Amare and Andrea have never shown any interest in playing defense. With 09-10 Tyson chandler they’re doomed because they can’t get crucial stops in the 4th quarter.

    • Raps4Life says:

      Alright, first off Ujiri is a FAR superior GM so far than BC. BC sure as HELL wasn’t going to win GM of the year, and if he had, he’d be right outta Toronto to find a better team that would take his “talent”. Ujiri just pulled off a Bargs for SOMETHING, and that SOMETHING was a LOT better than anyone coulda expected. 3 draft picks and 3 players for a player that had no value to the organization? That’s essentially 6 players for a dump of cap. That was in his first two weeks as GM. If that’s normal, where will the Raps be in a few years? So, no, if you’ve actually followed Ujiri and his first month, he has said “winning is what you want to build around” so obviously he is going to work and experiment his way to the playoffs- my guess is in 2 years.

  8. Gary says:

    I dont know when is this team gonna be compatitive never in the hunt for front line players

  9. LAKERSAREGARBAGE says:

    realistically speaking
    masai ujiri is making moves to enhance the teams current core.. given that we are building around JV Rudy and DMDZ..
    An upgrade on lowry.. trading Kleizas expiring contract and moving fields to get addition bench players would be a bonus
    terrence ross would be a great 6th man for the raptors and we still need an efficient player at PF since chris bosh left

    • balla4lyf says:

      i completely agree with getting rid of fields, he barely plays and makes almost 6.5 mill a year, he is aliterally a waste of space on our bench, i can see why raptors signed him initially, but he just hasnt been the same player he was on the knicks. and i cant wait to see how ross and valancuinas improve this season, along with amir johnson

  10. Wes says:

    Ujiri is the same GM that also gave up Affalo/Harington and a 1st round draft choice for rent a year Iguodala. In other words you have to take a little bad with some good.

  11. Uhm says:

    We get it, you despise Bargnani and don’t waste an occasion to show it. And that seems to obfuscate your judgement quite badly. Ok, he surely has huge gaps for what concerns defending and getting rebounds. But those are mental things, that in the proper environment, with a proper coach and a proper organisation around (which, in Toronto, were completely absent), can improve. But don’t forget that he holds a set of skills that only Dirk has, as a 7 footer. Tell me one other who, at 7 feet, can dribble and shoot the way he does. Don’t forget that the last 2 seasons have been plagued by injuries, so what you saw, especially in 12-13, was not the real Bargnani. He obviously cannot be the leader of a team, and needs a team with an inside-outside game that he never had, so he can spread the floor with his shooting and penetrations, with other players keeping the paint busy.
    In New York, I see him as a much better fit for the offence than Stoudemire (although it’s quite clear that the two of them cannot spend a single minute on the floor together on the defensive side), and I’m sure that he will make you regret the way you called him.

  12. Kimmy says:

    I don’t know. I followed this team last season. They are a good team, always seem to “just miss a win”. There is something missing with this team, even w/ getting Rudy Gay. I can’t figure it out. They seem and play frustrated and not sure about their chemistry. Maybe that’s what it is. They will not make the playoffs. The Washington Wizards have a much better chance than this team. Line-up looks pretty much the same to me w/minor changes. Still rootin for them though.

  13. rap says:

    landry fields
    acy green

  14. ac says:

    Everyone’s saying the Knicks got screwed by this deal, calling Bargnani a “complete bust.” I think that’s overly harsh. A complete bust of a number pick calls to mind Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown, Greg Oden, Darco Millicic (not a number one, but still you get the idea), certainly not a guy who holds career averages of almost 16 points, as Bargnani does. I’m not denying that there are huge holes in his game, but he’s also not that old that they aren’t correctable. He’ll never be the next Dirk, but the guy can score and we really needed that in the playoffs.

    I’ll admit, as a Knicks fan I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of sending more draft picks away, but I don’t think its fair to give all the credit to the Raptors on this one John. You’re conveniently leaving out the fact that we traded away three worthless players on our roster for a guy that only two seasons ago averaged almost 21 point a game. Ujiri is a miracle worker for bringing in Steve Novak, Marcus Camby (who’s already demanding a trade), and Quentin Richardson, who will most likely be cut before the season starts. Pretty mediocre miracle if you ask me!

    At 27, there’s no reason to think Bargnani can’t find that form again and there’s no reason to suggest that he can’t correct his inadequacies on defense and rebounding. He has to, otherwise Woodson won’t put him in the rotation. If he stays healthy, our bench is that much more deadly.

  15. Tor Runo Haga says:

    Marcus for Jimmer.