Masai Ujiri – The New Man in Charge

RAPTORS MASAI UJIRI

Well, after a couple weeks of rumours, and back and forth negotiation, the Raptors finally got their new man in charge of basketball operations. The guy that the supposed “search firm” had pointed out as the best choice to fill the position, and the first choice by new MLSE President Tim Leiweke.

Obviously by now it’s no secret that Masai Ujiri will be the new Raptors General Manager, having signed a five year deal worth about $15 Million. Now, it is definitely exciting to lure the former executive of the year award winner from this past season. However, for those who don’t quite remember, Colangelo had won an executive of the year award before coming to Toronto. He then won another executive award as a member of the Raptors. Now, look how that turned out.

Being the executive of the year on a former team, and your current team for that matter means nothing unless you can continue to carry on those results into the future. Unfortunately for Colangelo, his two awards didn’t help him out with the Raptors team.

Not to jinx it, but the last thing that the Raptors need is Colangelo 2.0 of all hype, and no results to show for it. But the similarities between the two are very much the same.

From a team that only saw regular season success, a team who had no “superstar” player to build around (after Melo left), to a team that really didn’t play much defense. The Denver Nuggets and the Phoenix Suns of the Colangelo/Ujiri eras have some striking similarities. The two teams are almost identical if you ask me.

Coming in to the Raptors organization though, one thing is for certain. That after winning such a prestigious award and having given a huge raise, Ujiri will face some high expectations. Again, just like Colangelo when he became the GM of the Raptors.

To be fair, I’m not going to doubt the Ujiri era already. I’m willing to give anyone a chance. Just like many other Raptor fans, I’m happy to see someone else making the front office decisions from now on. However, I think it’s fair to have some cautious optimism given that us Raptor fans have been through this before.

Moving on, here are some things that I’d like to see from the new Raptors management moving forward.

1. Get rid of Andrea Bargnani. First and foremost. Do just about whatever it takes to get rid of him without taking back another bad salary in return. Amnesty him if you must. But, Bargnani needs to go, and there’s no other way around it. It’s a shame that they had to wait until the point where he has virtually no value left, but at this point, amnesty may be the best option to prevent taking back something even worse.

Even if the Raptors are going to tank next season, for the sake of all of us fans, please get rid of him as soon as possible.

2. Try to get a first round pick. Either this year or next year, or both. The Raptors need to find a way to get involved on draft night, and any first round pick will help build for the future.

This draft may not be good for a “star” player, but you’re always going to find good players in every draft. A few late first round picks in particular that I like right now are Archie Goodwin, Reggie Bullock, and Myck Kabongo. Not projected to be star players, but players that I think have the potential go on to have good careers. All three should be available either in the late first round, or early second round.

It should be easy to come by, assuming that the team is set on moving towards another rebuild. There are players on the roster who probably will bring back a first round pick in return, so that will be my next point here.

3. Trade DeRozan, Gay, Lowry. Obviously, it’ll be hard given the massive salary of Gay, and the recent extension to DeRozan. However, I think that there are teams out there who would be willing to take on at least one of these players.

Dallas in particular, who also happens to have a first round pick available. Being a Mavs fan as well, I don’t necessarily want them to give up a 13th pick for these guys. However, I see it as a very realistic option if they strike out in free agency. With their point guard situation very weak right now, you can bet that they’ll have their eye on Lowry this summer if and when he becomes available.

This will also free up roster space in order to let Ross be the starting SG for the forseeable future.

4. Try and snag a young player with potential, like Thomas Robinson. The Rockets are desperate to create more cap room to spend on free agents. So, it would make sense to try and take advantage of that, and even come away with a talented young player in return.

One offer that I’ve come up with, that I think works for both teams is a one-for-one deal of Kyle Lowry for Thomas Robinson. The Rockets simply decline Lowry’s team option, while getting rid of Robinson’s $3.5 Million salary next season and costs them nothing. The Raptors get a former 5th overall pick with the potential to be a good player down the road, which is perfect if they choose to take the rebuild direction. I really like this idea, and hope that it’s something that Ujiri has in mind.

5. Tank away for the next couple of seasons. The Raptors need an infusion of star talent. As any basketball fan knows, the 2014 draft is likely the best chance right now for the team to add a player of that calibre.

Anyone who thinks that this team is “close” to something, well, I guess you’re sort of right. If the end goal you’re striving for the same as Colangelo’s was. Which was to simply to get to the playoffs with years of mediocrity and first round playoff exits. But, the team needs to strive for more than that.

As Leiweke himself has said, he intends on doing more than simply making the playoffs. He intends on building a team that can compete for championships in Toronto. That’s not going to happen with this roster as is.

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