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Trades, Workouts and Rumours - 6 Days till the NBA Draft

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It sure is busy in Raptorland...

As Raptors fans know by now, Toronto acquired center Rasho Nesterovic in a trade yesterday, in the process having to part with fan-favourite Matt Bonner and a second-round pick in 2009. Toronto also divested themselves of Mr. Happy, Eric Williams, who probably won't be shedding any tears about leaving the T-Dot. In fact besides dumping Rasho's contract, I'm not really sure why San Antonio made this trade. Will Bonner or Williams ever even play for them? Of course as one of our readers so eloquently put it, that second-round pick will probably turn into the next Drazen Petrovic.

In addition to this transaction, the long-rumored signing of Maurizio Gherardini as the club's vice-president and assistant general manager finally occured today as GM Bryan Colangelo continues to remake the franchise. Gherardini of course is the former GM of European powerhouse Bennetton Treviso and he brings with him to Toronto a wealth of international experience.

And finally today six more players were on tap for workouts including Torin Francis, Aaron Gray, Patrick O’Bryant, Rajon Rondo, Justin Williams and Marcus Williams. Gray of course has opted to return to Pitt next year so the Raps may have found someone to take his place. We'll be updating this workout later this evening to keep you abreast of any changes in addition to our usual breakdown of the players present.

Yesterday's workout was apparently the "best one yet" according to Raps officials and all four prospects (Denham Brown, Rudy Gay, Adam Morrison and Randy Foye) came out like gangbusters. To hear interviews with each player in addition to the Raptors' Jim Kelly discussing the workouts, click here to hear footage from Raptors.com.

In fact it's interesting that the trade the Raptors made occured when it did and you have to wonder whether yesterday's workout didn't confirm some things for Colangelo and co. thus giving them the final information they needed to make yesterday's deal. Colangelo is denying as much but it does sure sound like he's leaning towards keeping the pick more than ever before. In fact Chad Ford at ESPN.com furthered this today with the following:

Colangelo reiterated on Wednesday that it would have to be something "much bigger" to move the (top) pick at this point.

That probably shoots holes in some other trade scenarios currently out there.

The most popular has the Portland Trail Blazers packaging No. 4 and No. 30 along with Travis Outlaw or one of their young point guards to get up to No. 1. The deal would allow the Raptors to pick up a few extra assets and still be in a position to take Andrea Bargnani at No. 4. However, the word is that the Raptors aren't interested and that the Blazers are unwilling to sweeten the pot. They want Adam Morrison badly but apparently won't mortgage the franchise for a guy who could very well be there when they pick at No. 4.

The Houston Rockets have also tried to move up to get the No. 1 pick but just don't have the assets. Ditto for the Memphis Grizzlies. They'd be willing to offer just about anyone on their roster for No. 1 with the exception of Pau Gasol -- who is the only guy the Raptors would consider.

At this point, it appears the Raptors are leaning toward keeping the pick. But they're probably not done trading. Look for them to work a sign-and-trade deal to move Mike James this summer.

In his Blog, Ford further elaborates on Toronto's thoughts at the top:

The Toronto Raptors have traded Eric Williams and Matt Bonner to the San Antonio Spurs for Rasho Nesterovic, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo told me Wednesday afternoon. (According to the AP, a 2009 second-round pick and cash were involved as well.)

Will the trade affect the Raptors' plans for the No. 1 pick in next week's NBA Draft?

Colangelo said not to read anything into the deal. "To be honest," he said, "we're still as wide open as ever. We have a lot of options right now and are just trying to find the best player."

But a month ago Colangelo said the team would try to address its needs at center and point guard via trades and free agency in addition to the draft. And adding a center making more than $7 million per season would seem to quench some of the thirst the Raptors might have had to draft a center.

In other words, it seems to make LaMarcus Aldridge a less likely choice and boost the chances of perimeter players Andrea Bargnani, Adam Morrison and Rudy Gay.

The Raptors worked out Morrison, Gay, Randy Foye and Denham Brown Wednesday, and Colangelo had glowing praise for all.

"It was a very good workout for everyone involved," Colangelo said. "It was by far the most impressive group we've had in. Everyone competed at a really high level. They were all really aggressive. I think we saw a couple of guys who definitely are in the mix for No. 1."

It sounds like the Raptors are still considering five players: Bargnani, Morrison, Gay, Aldridge and Tyrus Thomas, probably in that order.

What about a trade? The Toronto Sun reported this morning that the hot rumor had the Raptors swapping the No. 1 pick and Alvin Williams for Brevin Knight and Charlotte's No. 3 pick.

Not being considered, according to Colangelo.

"We have had some interest in some Bobcats players," Colangelo said, "but we're looking to do something much bigger with the No. 1 pick."

Does that mean a trade is in the works? For weeks it seemed the Raptors were likely to trade the pick. Now, maybe not.

"I'm feeling less and less that it's an option right now," Colangelo said. "The more we zone in on the prospects of the draft, the more I think we're comfortable keeping the pick. There are several players in this draft that could really help us."

Now with Rasho on board does that mean that Aldridge won't be an option? Or after his workout and paired WITH Rasho does his selection make more sense than ever? Tyrus Thomas? Rumors of a promise to a "top 3 club" were out there but it looks like those are bogus too. What about Rudy Gay or Adam Morrison? Maybe after yesterday's workout one of them is the top choice, especially now that Colangelo has his big. Rasho is no Shaq...but in the East he could be a double-double threat every night and as fantasy basketball players know, he's a legit shot-blocker thus giving Toronto a huge boost in that area. Will he be able to play an up-and-down, fast-paced style? Perhaps not but he'll be quite useful in many sets and Chris Bosh must be breathing a sigh of relief right now.

Oh and that rumor mill...yes, it's spinning at top speed with rumors about the Raptors having talks with everyone from Charlotte to Indiana. Bryan Colangelo has shot down many of these rumors (O'Neal would hurt their cap flexibility, Dalembert is overpaid, Magloire isn't worth the No. 1 pick, Knight isn't enough to motivate a swap of the No. 1 pick for Charlotte's No. 3 pick...etc) but others keep popping up. Our resident draft-mastah Jeff Chapman just passed this rumour involving the Seattle Sonics along the wire to the rest of us here:

The Star's Doug Smith looks at a trade with Seattle, with the Raps trading CV Smooth and the #1 pick to the Sonics for Luke Ridnour, Ray Allen and the #10 pick.

Chapman's verdict? - Doubtful as it would take many pieces thrown Seattle's way to make it work cap-wise. In fact even Smith admits it's doubtful Seattle would pay this high a price to move up to #1.

Agreed. Especially since the Sonics seem to be in such a cost-cutting mode.

In any event, with all this going on it's tough not to be excited about the draft next week and the rest of the summer. Colangelo's moves seem to keep pointing the franchise in the very opposite direction of Larry Brown...oops, I mean Isiah Thomas and the New York Knicks.

More to come tonight...

The HQ TEAM