Since shedding the contract of Rudy Gay to the Kings, months after dealing what was thought to be an untradeable Andrea Bargnani contract, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri hasn’t made any major moves. The Gay trade was perceived as a signal by many that the Raptors were prepared to punt on this season. Toronto’s roster was believed to be highly available, with the only untouchable being Jonas Valanciunas. Kyle Lowry was very close to being dealt, before Knicks owner James Dolan stepped in to stop that trade.
Since that turbulence, the Raptors have maintained a record above .500 and currently sit as the third seed in the Eastern Conference, atop the Atlantic Division. While Ujiri has been praised as one of the best front office minds in the league (he won NBA Executive of the Year last season), the assumption that his go-to strategy would be tanking might be misguided. While continuously overhauling the Nuggets roster, Ujiri never oversaw a losing season in Denver. Despite parting with big names like Carmelo Anthony and Nene and receiving a potentially premium draft pick in return (the Knicks’ unprotected 2014 first rounder), Ujiri still managed to acquire players that kept the Nuggets a perennial playoff team. Of course, the draft classes during his Nuggets years were not as highly touted as 2014’s loaded crop, which is a significant variable.
Chuck Myron recently featured Kyle Lowry in our Trade Candidate series, noting that Lowry’s stellar play this year could be due to his entering his prime, or an aberration awaiting a regression back to his career norm. Lowry could be a microcosm for the Raptors roster as a whole. With a bunch of young pieces playing pretty well (especially DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson), do the Raptors have a legitimate core to build upon for this postseason and the coming years? Or do they have an over-performing team destined to plateau, one that isn’t worth keeping together for a playoff run in light of the potential talent they could land in the draft?
Odds are, Ujiri has a firm grasp on his team’s talent and its value around the league, and has a strategy to match that. What do you think that strategy is? Will the Raptors blow up the roster as they look ahead, or hang on to what they have?