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.


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Tags: Kyle Lowry Masai Ujiri Toronto Raptors

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