TORONTO — Moments after Thursday afternoon’s NBA trade deadline passed, Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri walked into a room full of reporters and joked: "You guys are busier than I am."
Ujiri opted to keep his roster intact as the 3 p.m. ET deadline came and went, saying there was "nothing there good enough for us."
He pointed to Toronto’s momentum. The Raptors (35-17) are winners of 14 of their last 16 games, and sit second in the Eastern Conference, just three games back of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Ujiri said there’s sometimes an urge to take a risk for a short-term gain when a team’s doing well.
"You play with that in your mind a little bit, but I just don’t think we’re there yet, as a team, as a ball club, we’ve got good momentum coming in here, we’re a good team in the East, and we want to keep plugging along, and figure out the playoffs," he said. "But if you want to make that big jump, it means that you’re going to have to give up something.
"And one, there was no deal that came to us of that calibre, and secondly, it would be tough to give up to mortgage our future."
Ujiri spoke of DeMarre Carroll as the Raptors’ figurative mid-season acquisition. Carroll has played just 23 games this season, and is on the mend from arthroscopic knee surgery.
"We’ve played this long without him and hopefully he continues to improve and gets back into the lineup," Ujiri said. "That’s the player we add, and we play on and see how we go from there."
Ujiri has his sights set on the summer — the NBA draft and free agency — to upgrade his roster. The Raptors could have as many as four first-round picks over the next two drafts, including a possible lottery pick this year from the 2013 trade that sent Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks. The Raptors receive either Denver or New York’s first-round pick, depending on which team finishes with a better record.
"You’re always looking to make your team better, but it’s something I’m looking to do in the summer more than the trade deadline, just if you are trying to build long term in my opinion," Ujiri said. "Or picks are assets and I feel we could use them better in the summer, in the draft."
Ujiri said keeping the status quo will bolster the confidence of the players he has.
"I think it showed in the past that we are willing to give our players a chance. And we have great chemistry, we won 14 out of 16, why can’t it continue to grow?" he said. "That’s the way we feel and this should give them confidence. Trade deadlines are usually hectic and everybody’s thinking about it, but our history says we’ll get better in the summer if we have to and in terms of our players, we will give them the platform to perform, and this should give them all the confidence in the world we hope."
Trade speculation had the Raptors potentially interested in Atlanta’s Al Horford and Chicago’s Pau Gasol, as well as Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker from Phoenix and Brooklyn’s Thaddeus Young.
The Raptors return to action Friday in Chicago in their first game since the NBA all-star break.