Raptors Rumors: Masai "loves" this overhyped draft prospect according to agent

As the NBA Draft approaches the rumors swirling around prospects are increasing. A player agent reveals the prospect that Masai Ujiri "loves" this year.
Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors Media Day
Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors Media Day / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

There is something of an understanding between NBA teams, NBA reporters and NBA player agents. The sides all talk regularly, but they usually only reveal information to the public in two scenarios: when either a team or agent specifically wants the media to report something, or when there is a falling out between two parties.

The work of NBA newsbreaking and "Woj Bombs" largely falls into that first category; either a team or a player agent wants information to get out, be that information about trade discussions, a new contract signed, etc. There is real investigative reporting that occurs, but that's being done by Baxter Holmes at ESPN, not Adrian Wojnarowski. Woj is holding water for what teams and (usually) agents want public, not cracking open trade secrets.

Rich Paul did the unexpected

That context is important to understand in order to realize how truly surprising and bizarre it was when Klutch Sports owner and agent Rich Paul publicly spoke in detail about the strategy they were pursuing with his client and draft prospect Bronny James. He shared details that were usually understood but not stated explicitly, laying out a plan to manipulate Bronny's landing spot to a team that they liked. That happens every year, but it's not usually talked about, and certainly not ahead of the draft by a prospect's agent.

Then the conversation went from surprising to beyond the pale. In the weeks leading into the draft it's common for NBA newsbreakers and draft experts to share reporting about which players are in the mix for which teams; that information often is coming from agents, who know which teams brought in which prospects for workouts and interviews. That information is always presented by media, however; never by player agents directly.

That changed when Rich Paul started listing off teams who were interested in Bronny, many of whom hadn't even brought him in for a workout (largely because Paul has turned down a number of workout requests to further control the situation). In a shockingly candid interview, Paul started naming teams and executives who loved his client:

That last mention obviously perks up the ears of Toronto Raptors fans. Masai Ujiri loves Bronny James? That's the kind of information that is never stated publicly before the draft, and about a second-round pick, no less. Bronny is obviously as unique of a situation as they come, but for an agent to be name-dropping NBA executives is incredibly bizarre.

What does it mean for the Raptors that Masai "loves" Bronny James? It could mean that the Raptors are seriously considering drafting him with the 31st pick of the draft. That would likely be a mistake; Bronny is small and has a tremendous amount of growth needed just to be useable on offense. He isn't worth the 31st pick. But when you factor in his athleticism and pedigree, it's at least possible that the Raptors could consider him at 31.

The other possibility is that Paul is merely leveraging Masai, someone he likely has a good relationship with, in order to drum up interest in teams trading up to draft Bronny James. If teams as high as 31 are considering drafting him, anyone else interested in Bronny (be that the Los Angeles Lakers or someone else) will need to trade up to ensure that they get him. It's not merely a matter of trading ahead of the Lakers at 55; you may need to get all the way to 30 or 31.

With the NBA Draft moving to two nights this year, Rich Paul and Klutch Sports would like nothing more than the media coverage for the 17 hours or so between the first and second round to be absolutely dominated by his client and discussions of which team could trade up for him.

For Ujiri's part, being name-dropped by Rich Paul is probably a win for him and the Raptors. If he is in fact interested in Bronny James he has the first pick in the second round and can almost certainly just take him; no harm no foul. However, Paul driving up trade activity can incite a bidding war to which Masai Ujiri holds the key: teams that want to take Bronny James may need to deal with Toronto, driving up the price on the 31st pick.

The trade activity around the 31st pick is already expected to be high; insert a polarizing name like Bronny James into the mix and the chatter will only get louder. How much will be a media construct, and how much will be teams actually trying to trade up for Bronny James remains to be seen. The most likely outcome continues to be Lakers or bust. At the same time, it only takes one team to shake things up.

Rich Paul broke into the industry in a unique way and he continues to write his own rules for being an NBA agent. His latest interview was shocking and revealing, but if it helps his client get the most money and the best landing spot, he will have done his job.

If it ends up benefiting the Toronto Raptors in the process, all the better.

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