A lot of the time, when you think of a sports team, you will think of a certain era. For example, when thinking of the Raptors, you think of the Vince Carter era, the Bosh era, and... well, that's where the book has paused! In the Raptors short, less-than-20 year history in the NBA, those have been their two main eras. Throughout those eras, there have been the other good players, like Antonio Davis, Tracy McGrady, Morris Peterson, and a few other notables. And the coaching? The first coach I think of when I'm talking about the Raptors is Sam Mitchell. To be honest, I wish the Raptors hadn't fired him. He was fired by Bryan Colangelo, early in the season following his Coach of the Year campaign. Despite a poor start, I think the decision to fire Mitchell was far more poor. That was the end of what I like to call: a sub-era.
So anyways, when you think of sub-eras, you will think of the Babcock sub-era, and the Bryan Colangelo sub-era. Both didn't turn out so well. Drafting Araujo, drafting Bargnani, trading Hibbert and Ford for Jermaine O'neal, reducing Vince Carter's playing time (which led to him being traded), are just some examples of bad things that have come from those two sub-eras. But finally, as it has just been announced (May 31st 2013), Masai Ujiri, the 2013 NBA Executive of the Year, VP of Basketball Operations for the Denver Nuggets, has been hired to take Colangelo's place at GM, and the Raptors will turn the corner, right into a new era. The era of Masai Ujiri.
So what happens next? My first question is: Is this the Rudy Gay era? The DeMar Derozan era? The Masai Ujiri era? Whatever era this is, Raptors fans (including me), will be hoping that it is a successful one. So what will be done under the reign of Ujiri? Will he conduct a full re-build phase? Will he trade some future picks and young players for current all-stars (which I highly do NOT recommend)? Will he simply re-brand the Raptors and get fans in the seats?
Here are lists of dos and don'ts for Masai Ujiri, should he be looking for a brief re-building phase:
1. DO trade Rudy Gay. If you add in a bench player (or Kyle Lowry), you could get some good draft picks or young players. The two positions to build on are point guard and small forward. We're already covered with Derozan at shooting guard, and Valanciunas and Amir Johnson as our big men. While Rudy Gay is a star player with tremendous talent and the ability to excite the whole ACC, he's entering his prime, and in a re-build, your whole core has to be on the same page. You can't have one guy in his prime, three guys learning the ropes and one guy finishing his career.
2. DO NOT trade ANY draft picks. We need what we can get, and unless we're getting a young star, trading a draft pick would take the Raptors back a step.
3. DO keep Quincy Acy. While he most likely will not become a starter for the Raptors, Acy averaged about 7 points per game after coming back from the D-League last year for his rookie season, pretty impressive numbers for a guy that almost always had a spot on the bench. He's young and can be very valuable backing up Johnson/JV.
4. DO NOT trade Amir Johnson or Jonas Valanciunas. These are both young and quality big men that are great for the Raptors in the present time, and especially in the future, as they are both rapidly improving.
5. DO trade Andrea Bargnani. This one is something we can all agree on. We already have two amazing young big men, and I think Quincy Acy can be our top bench big man, as well as Aaron Gray providing some valuable minutes off the bench (as long as we give them their chances). Andrea Bagnani just eats up cap space and performs nowhere near like a 1st overall pick. The only problem is finding a team that would take on Primo Pasta and Sauce's former spokesman humongous salary.
So, those are my main dos and don'ts for Masai Ujiri and his staff for the time being. Hopefully, Masai Ujiri will lead the Raptors to their most successful era yet. The era I like to call: The Masai Ujiri Era.