clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Masai Ujiri Ushers in Tides of Change for Raptors

A look at Media Day 2013 and a theory that has been brewing in Kinnon Yee's mind over the summer

I'm banking on those eyes being better so we can increase your value
I'm banking on those eyes being better so we can increase your value
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

I hope you all enjoyed your summer.

As usual, I take some time off from writing about the Raptors to get back into doing other things in life.

Hang out with friends.

Attend weddings.

Get caught up on work.

Media day for me is the true beginning again for the Raptors season. It's where we get to be filled with optimism and see where things are going.

This year, though, would be my first under a new GM, and new MLSE President. And while a lot of it remained the same, some things definitely had changed.

For one thing, the 2016 All-Star announcement completely overshadowed the entire Raptors Media Day proceedings. Having the announcement in the morning probably meant that the Raptors, at best, were a #2 story of the day. And it probably meant that Drake got more press than most of the Raptors did.

Certainly more than any of their new acquisitions.

Another theme was that it seemed a lot of players had babies over the summer. This is a team that is composed of a lot of fathers already, and I also hope that guys like Kyle Lowry and Steve Novak will make sure that Amir Johnson and Landry Fields manage to get some sleep once the season starts.

Overall though, the proceedings were much more organized, and you have to give some of that credit to Masai Ujiri.

In previous years, Bryan Colangelo would share centre stage at the podium, where the All-Star announcements were made and where Dwayne Casey addressed the media. This meant that he was often seen as the highest profile interview of the day, along with whoever is the franchise player of the team and the coach at the time.

Masai Ujiri took his questions as the players did, almost informally, in front of the make-shift backdrop to the side of the former Brian Burke hot dog stand. Content-wise, there wasn't a heck of a lot of difference, and I wouldn't put too much stock on what Ujiri said on Media Day since he's the kind of GM who likes to hold the cards close to his chest.

But I've also been thinking about this team in my down time over the summer.

I've been thinking about what Tim Leiweke has said about building contenders and not being satisfied in the horrid 7-10 place area of the NBA. I've been thinking about the Raptors lack of movement in the summer and what Raptors Media Day has brought forth.

I think about how Masai Ujiri handled the Allen Iverson situation in Denver and that he is a patient man who is willing to trade for draft picks and for younger assets when needed.

I think about the Raptors current situation and where they are headed over the next year.

So yes, for one, I would not have traded the bulk of these players over the summer. It's not because I'm in love with any of them, it's just that their value was relatively low for what I believe the players values could have been.

Andrea Bargnani's case, of course, was special, but for guys like Rudy Gay and Landry Fields, both had some pretty major medical challenges throughout the season (if you believe the Raptors medical staff).

Stats being what they are, and the players having various injuries, I think most would say that there really were only a couple players who were playing at or above their contract level. I'm speaking of course of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas.

I also believe that while this team may be stuck in that 7th-10th place range in the conference, this team was never going to be bad enough to be able to have a realistic shot at taking Andrew Wiggins. Even if the Raptors could get low enough, they'd still be counting on the lottery coming up in their favour.

So what would I do?

This is a deep draft class by most accounts, and even those players behind Wiggins are projected to have some good potential, so I want to get quantity of picks. I let my players play to their potential and get them playing so that they begin to have at least some value greater than what they had last year. Guys especially like Kyle Lowry, Rudy Gay, and Landry Fields.

I look at moving these guys to get more picks, regardless of how I'm doing by the trade deadline, because at the core of it, we may have only have one possible future All-Star on this team right now, and he has at least a few more years to get there..

I can then use those picks to move up and down in the draft as needed in the next year, hoping to land a few young players to go along with my stud center.

That's how I would build my team, and that's how I hope that the Raptors are going. And if I take Tim Leiweke at his word, he at least knows about the conundrum the Raptors face right now and has hired someone who sees the team how he does.

After all, the mentality that this team is merely one player away from being a contender was always Bryan Colangelo's thought, and if Tim Leiweke saw it that way, we'd still have Colangelo as GM.

Instead we have had change and a new man is now the GM in charge of running a new vision.

However, as much as I like to say things have changed, one thing hasn't.

Masai Ujiri is very good at not revealing exactly what he is thinking about this team. So don't expect him to just come out and say it.