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

Masai Ujiri gets value in exchange for John Salmons – is that positive?

May 1, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons guard Lou Williams (3) shoots against the Indiana Pacers in game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports


The headline to this post was designed to let you know up front how ambivalent I feel about the trade the Toronto Raptors made with the Atlanta Hawks. GM Masai Ujiri swapped over the hill swingman John Salmons, and received guard Lou Williams and Brazilian prospect centre Lucas Nogueira, who’s playing in Spain until 2015. Whether Lucas actually makes a trip to this side of the pond is unknowable, and I’m going to drop him from the discussion. Similarly Salmons, who is likely to be waived by the Hawks, is departing this post.

Lou Williams is not a stiff by any means, and I’m happy he’s a Raptor, but not now. I confess I don’t understand Ujiri’s thinking here. The team could have waived bye-bye to Salmons with a $1M going-away present, and freed up $6M in salary cap space. That headroom will definitely be needed as the team enters serious negotiation with Kyle Lowry, yet there’s less of it. Tyler Hansbrough was extended, another move I didn’t expect, given the whispers about how Psycho-T had alienated his ‘mates with his refusal to play through injury.

The NBA is roiling this week. Rumours are rife of new alignments in Miami, Houston, Chicago, the Lakers, of free-agent pitches and fast rebuilds by the league’s sexy teams. Whither Carmelo, LeBron, Dwyane, CB4, Luol Deng, Jeremy Lin, Kevin Love? Is it conceivable Masai is calling teams desperate for cap space and offering them our expensive ballast (Landry Fields, Chuck Hayes, Steve Novak) for draft picks or foreign players’ rights? When our former guys arrive, they are offered a fat cheque by their new team, and told to go away. The glamour squads get the space they need, and we get futures for players who are clogging up our bench and our cap. I think building a team by the frantic collection of free agents is a strategy guaranteed to flop, but that appears to be the course the Lakers, for instance, are taking.

I re-read the above, and wonder if I’m losing my sanity. Yet the NBA currently is more than a little nuts, and Masai is going to do his level best to take advantage. I wouldn’t have believed it possible we could receive value for the shell of John Salmons, yet Masai did, just like when he dealt Andrea Bargnani, then Rudy Gay.

Lou Williams may be nothing more than a trading chip, but he’s also a keeper if needed. In other words, if Kyle re-signs, Lou can be moved on for frontcourt help. If not, he’s a useful backup to Greivis. In that sense, I like the deal, as it’s a “heads I win, tails you lose” proposition. On the other hand, we lose the cap space.

I think I need an aspirin. Can you help me out, Rapture Nation? Please offer some Comments that will clear the smoke.

Tags: Masai Ujiri Toronto Raptors

  • bcjay

    Just a thought, Bebe was last years 16th pick. A genuine 7footer if he can come across this year it would mean less wear on our power forwards.
    If Williams bounces back it is a contract year. Just look how Kyles stats jumped this his contract year.

    Good luck

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi bcjay:
      Yes, we need more help up front. Expecting JV to hold the fort almost by himself is not reasonable.
      If Williams wants to make some serious money next contract, and has a big year in ’14-’15 as a Raptor, we’ll take it.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • raffa

    I take it as a positive. I figure Masai has calculated the maximum he will pay Lowrie and from where he can pay that. He probably has decided he will not pursue any other big name free agents. Which means improvement has to come organically from the young core and any other pleasant surprises (like Patterson, Ross and Greivis were last year). The Brazilian draft picks (20th this year and the 16th overall draft pick from 2013) and Williams seem like decent home run swings .. if they connect then great if not then not too onerous to get out of.
    If I read the strategy correctly then I am fine with it. Beats the heck out of chasing Hedo – or even Nash (sacrilege) – type free agents every off season.

    Hansbrough: I don’t question his toughness in any sense. He invites a good beating on himself with his style. If he wouldn’t play I expect he had a reason. The hockey teams always value greatly guys that allow other skill players to play with a little less fear and I think Hansbbrough did that for Raptors last year. Bargnani out, Hansbrough in changed team toughness drastically.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi raffa;
      I concur that Masai is not likely to pursue other big name FAs, but that could change if Lowry bolts.
      I also concur about the Brazilians – stockpiling assets is a solid tactic.
      Tyler is OK, but his career so far has been a little disappointing given his sterling college record. We could do with more scoring from the guy.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • chris johnson

    Are you out of your mind? You are the only commentator I see that was shoked on Psycho-T’s extension for Raptors.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi Chris:
      I wasn’t “shocked”; I said I didn’t expect it, and for sound reasons based on information. Maybe other commentators didn’t know about the issues in the dressing room.
      I don’t ming Pyscho-T being re-signed.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • Jack Kirchhoff

    I think Nogueira is the sleeper in this deal. A legitimate 5 who’s been playing in Spain, against men, for five years? What’s not to like? If Lou Williams also works out, that’s win-win. And I was much relieved that the Raps re-signed Hansbrough. You can’t teach that kind of toughness.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi Jack:
      We’ll be watching Nogueira’s progress. I haven’t heard if he will come over for summer league, but I hope so.
      Hansbrough is certainly tough enough. I wish he could shoot.
      Thanks for commenting.

      • Jack Kirchhoff

        I wish all our players could do everything, but I’ll settle for three or four put-back buckets and a half-dozen rebounds per game from T. And I wouldn’t mind a couple of hard fouls.

  • Guy

    Getting what he did for Salmons was an incredibly positive move by Ujiri. The only way, in my opinion, the Raps would have been big players in free agency this summer is if Lowry had not re-signed. That would have left a fairly big hole at Pg & Ujiri would have had a lot more money at his disposal….$12 million as it turns out. But with Lowry now signed & the likelihood that at least one of Vasquez/Patterson(maybe not both) returning, the cap space for this summer is minimal. I doubt the $6 million that could have been saved by letting Salmons go would have had little impact in regards to a free agent pick up.

    The only way Ujiri would be able to add a significant player prior to next summer is via trade. And to make a trade, you need assets. Sweet Lou Williams is an asset. A veteran combo guard that provides scoring punch off the bench on an expiring deal. If an opportunity to make a trade fails to materialize, so be it, but Williams contract does nothing to ruin future cap space. The Raps would have over $20 million coming off the books next summer. With the core under contract & that kind of money available, next summer is when Ujiri can be more active.