There are no Canadians on the Raptors roster, but GM Masai Ujiri considers it a priority to have one soon, as he told an audience at a forum for Canadian basketball Monday, as Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun relays. Ujiri, who’s in year two of a five-year contract, promised that the team will have a Canadian player even if he doesn’t have a long tenure in charge of the Raptors.
“We are studying it. I even considered last year hiring somebody to concentrate just on Canadian players and I think I’m going to go through with it because the growth of the game here is so big,” Ujiri said. “It’s the fit. We can maybe take our time and study it a little bit so it is the right fit and not do it just to do it. It’s going to come, there is no doubt in my mind. It’s an obligation that I think we have to fulfil. We are a Canadian team and I think to have Canadian players, I think will be phenomenal.”
Ujiri hinted that he’d like to have Andrew Wiggins, but with the 2014 No. 1 pick ensconced in Minnesota in the first year of his rookie scale contract, Ujiri will probably have to look elsewhere for domestic talent. It’s a light draft market for Canadians this year, particularly if Kentucky freshman power forward Trey Lyles doesn’t declare for early entry. Joel Anthony is the only native of Canada who’s up for unrestricted free agency this summer. Steve Nash, who was born in South Africa but identifies himself as a Canadian after having grown up there, will be an unrestricted free agent, too, but the 41-year-old is likely finished with his NBA career. Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph are due for restricted free agency.
The Kings apparently shopped Nik Stauskas before the deadline while the Magic were reportedly willing to trade Andrew Nicholson and the Wolves seemingly raised the name of Anthony Bennett in trade discussions. Dwight Powell has already been traded three times since Charlotte drafted him this past June. The Raptors reportedly attempted to trade for Tyler Ennis around draft time and came up short, though the Suns shipped him to the Bucks at last month’s deadline. Kelly Olynyk is another native of Canada, though he seems entrenched with the Celtics on year two of his rookie scale contract.
It’s unusual for a GM to tether himself to a promise of acquiring a player with local ties, even if Ujiri has designated the entire country of Canada as his target. Anthony is a Montreal native and Nash grew up in British Columbia, but aside from them, the NBA’s Canadians are all from Ontario, with most hailing from Toronto.