What a difference a week makes.
Just one week ago the long standing debate over the direction of the Toronto Raptors roster was alive and well, Rudy Gay was still untradeable and the possibility of a top five pick in a loaded draft seemed unthinkable.
Then, with one swift move, things changed drastically.
Masai Ujiri finally put his stamp on the team, trading away Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes -- a collection of players whose worth was determined almost exclusively by the amount of time and money remaining on their contracts.
With the roadblock that was Gay's contract out of the way, Ujiri has now put the Raptors in position to make franchise-altering moves in the coming months, armed with financial flexibility and some degree of roster certainty.The first of which is sure to be the trade of Kyle Lowry.
Unlike Gay, Lowry's contract makes him easy to deal, but finding the right move may take some time. Ideally, Toronto would get some sort of young player or a first-round pick in return. But, both of those commodities are not easy to come by in the post-lockout NBA where (most) teams place young players and picks at a premium.
The rumoured deal with the New York Knicks is interesting. The Raptors would get either a young player (Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert) or a first-round pick in 2018; however they would have to take back Raymond Felton's contract. He is owed $4.2 million next year, $4.3 million the year after and $4.5 the following.
On paper, that may not be the most adventitious avenue for the Raptors to go down. Taking on money beyond next season is potentially detrimental to the rebuild Ujiri is attempting to undergo. Felton, also doesn't have the best reputation as a teammate, being deemed a "cancer" in Portland before he was shown the door. The alternative would be to simply cut Felton and eat his cap hit, but again, that may not be worth a first-round pick in 2018.
Time is also beginning to become an issue. On the court, the post-trade Raptors have become an offensive juggernaut, sharing the ball in a way that hasn't been seen for quite some time in Toronto. The Raptors are 2-0 since the trio of former Kings made their debut.
In the wake of his most recent trade, Ujiri has been faced with yet another dilemma. Does he rush to move Lowry in hopes in breaking up the competitive team, earning a few more ping pong balls in the process? or does he stick it out to try and get the best deal for Lowry, allowing the team to freely compete for wins?
The obvious answer is that Ujiri will be patient. That was his M.O during his tenure in Denver and it continues to be that way a quarter through his first season at the helm of the Raptors. What that means for Toronto's win/loss column remains to be seen.
What we do know is this: Ujiri is going to be as active as possible, trying to improve the Raptors by any means necessary. Regardless of the outcome, that is at least something for Raptors fans to be excited about.
All eyes are now fixed squarely on Ujiri.