The Raptors are a boring team, managerially-speaking. This is by design. Team president Masai Ujiri rarely says anything of significance, preferring instead to re-state the facts, bide his time, and play it cautious. When Ujiri does let loose with something that seems incendiary — e.g. the “culture reset” a couple months back — the resultant action is eventually buried in obfuscating language, and we circle back to the boring ethos. While one third of the NBA is consistently on fire, the Raptors stay cool.
Today, a couple days removed from the NBA Draft, Ujiri addressed the media on the state of the Raptors, the off-season, and the ongoing NBA drama of the summer months. Here’s the video:
No surprise here: Ujiri doesn’t say anything too surprising. Still, let’s recount some of the reassuring things Ujiri mentioned.
Ujiri still believes in the idea of the NBA draft, and values player development. He’s keeping all his options open with the 23rd pick. The Raptors will probably keep it — as Masai notes, the team will now have 17 roster spots to work with — but the idea of a draft-and-stash pick is something else to consider. The point here is, as Masai makes (vaguely) clear: the Raptors have prepared to go in various different directions.
Ujiri doesn’t name any names, re: the 23rd pick, so it remains unclear which player the Raptors are considering at this time. We’ve reported on the various pre-draft workouts Toronto has held, and we’ve studied the mock drafts (like you). There remains no clear answer here.
Likewise, the situation of Kyle Lowry. At the start of the off-season, even with the disappointing end to the season, it felt like Lowry’s return to the Raps was assured. But then, the Toronto Star’s Bruce Arthur went scorched earth yesterday, implying the Raptors may be further out on the Lowry sweepstakes than we realized. Who do we believe? Does Lowry actually want out?
Masai did not sound particularly perturbed. He even acknowledged Lowry’s tweet from yesterday:
I dont do this ever but :— Kyle Lowry (@Klow7) June 20, 2017
Don't believe what you hear !! Especially if it didn't come from me, and that bs FOR SURE didn't come from me..GN
Ujiri also noted that he “can only believe what [Kyle] tells me... not the famous ‘sources’.”
Putting these two pieces of information together suggests that Ujiri is comfortable with the relationship between the Raptors and Lowry. And that Lowry himself does not have “zero interest” in returning to Toronto, as Arthur implies. Where that percentage number actually rests is up for debate, but the sky does not appear to be falling just yet in Toronto.
For everything else, we’ll just have to wait and see. My money is on the Raptors making a sound, if slightly surprising pick (as per tradition the last few years) in the draft, re-signing Lowry come July 1st or thereabouts, and then sitting back and assessing where they stand as compared to the rest of the league.
It won’t make for much drama. But this is by design, and it is also a good thing.