May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) brings the ball up the court over the Playoffs decal painted on the floor boards against the Brooklyn Nets in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. The Nets beat the Raptors 104-103. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Masai Ujiri: which comes first – the chicken or the egg?

May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets guard Marcus Thornton (10) is fouled by Toronto Raptors forward John Salmons (25) in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports


Faithful readers know I’m exhibiting some signs of frustration about the Toronto Raptors’ off-season. To date, the biggest announcement is the return of  head coach Dwane Casey and all his assistant coaches. That’s fine with me, but hardly quickens the pulse either. We hunger for player news; enough with men in suits.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” – attributed to Yogi Berra

However, as I build trade possibilities and try to understand their impact both on our roster and our salary cap situation, I gradually become aware of an aspect of Masai Ujiri’s mission I haven’t paid sufficient attention to. Our GM needs to make a cargoload of decisions, but more than that – he needs to make them in the right order. Let’s explore what needs to be done, and when.

Without question, Job One is re-signing point guard Kyle Lowry. Until that’s done, Masai will be hamstrung in his moves. If our point guard and spiritual leader is coming back, we can rest easy about the entire back court. After that’s done, the NBA Draft will take place on June 26. All manner of prospect-assessment work is already underway in preparation, so let’s assume the Raps do draft in the 20th slot (we can imagine countless trades involving the pick, but the fact is we’re most likely to stay where we are). Now we have a rookie(s) to sign, whose impact both on the roster and cap is likely to be minimal in ’14-’15. While the new kids’ contracts are being finalized, Masai can safely renounce the team’s rights to John Salmons. The Raps will be under the cap, and still on the prowl for additional talent. We have the parts to make an offer to free agents, or make trades. The positions which need bolstering should be crystal-clear at that point. Do we have Kyle, and a drafted swingman we think can play right away? Then we need to focus on getting help in the front court. Did Kyle succumb to the blandishments of  the Lakers or someone else, and we picked Kyle Anderson, who isn’t ready? Then we may need to trade big for small, in order to have a point guard.

When I consider the off-season in this fashion, I’m able to relax. No (player) news is good news. Let’s hope the first announcement of the summer is the one we all want to hear: Kyle Lowry saying “I’m back”. That’s the biggest domino. Once it’s knocked down, the others are likely to follow in order. We’ll be watching.


Tags: Featured Kyle Lowry Masai Ujiri Toronto Raptors

  • Jensan

    Lee+ Barnes = Salmons+ Hansborough+ Amir Johnson Raptors absorb 1 million in salary than giving up.
    They sign KL for 4/44 .
    Team has 62 million spent before 1st round pick. I just think after you spend 8. Million or 9.5 million on Vasquez, PPatterson and decolo. Totals 73 million for 14 player including 1st and 2nd round pick

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi Jensan:
      I’ll alert Jack to your idea; it may impact how he writes up a potential Lee trade.

  • cd hall

    Can you tell me when can the Raps negotiate and sign Lowry. Example —can they sign him before the draft or must they wait till July 1st.?? This would make a difference as to who they may draft.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi cd:
      From the ambiguous information I’ve looked at, it would seem that July 1 is indeed the magic date. One would hope that Kyle and Masai have been in touch – it does not appear there is any restriction on speaking to UFAs, but siging them is out.
      You’re quite right. Having a sense of Kyle’s plans would be very helpful.
      Thanks for checking in.

  • Take it in

    Management is keeping it all low there isn’t any talks about anybody picking up Kyle around the league they want him but no one is saying Kyle is coming to town I think Kyle is on vacation under the hot sun with his wife and kid with no basket ball on his mind kickin it back

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi Tii:
      Yes, I believe you are right. I’m keeping my ear to the ground, but not hearing anything about Kyle, either where he is at the moment, or what his free-agent plans are.
      As for management “keeping it all low” – that’s a Raptors tradition. Everyone there seems to take a Vow of Silence.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • ac1011990

    Any specific player you like at the 20th?

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi ac:
      Frankly, no.
      I tried to make the case a week ago for trading the pick for multiples. Draft picks after the lottery usually don’t work out, for any team. I’d rather have 4 late picks, in the hope one is a winner. I think we overrate scouting. Sometimes you just have to get lucky.
      I suppose Payne is all right, or Early, if we have to choose.
      Thanks for commenting.