NBA Draft Notebook: Ujiri, Raptors have ‘all kinds of options’

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri says the club is in a great position for the NBA Draft, there might not be an immediate impact player available at 9th overall, and is definitely entertaining offers to trade the pick.

Masai Ujiri met with the media Tuesday to talk about this week’s NBA Draft and the Raptors’ two first round picks— nine and 27 overall. Naturally, he held his cards close to his vest, but here are some of the most interesting statements that came from today’s press conference:

On the two first-rounders: “First of all, we are blessed to have that pick. The ninth pick and our pick 27. We aren’t complaining at all. It’s great to have these two. They’re not players yet, I call them assets.”

Takeaway: The word ‘assets’ is key. There is real question wether or not the Raptors can afford to carry two more young development players when they need to use open roster spots to get better today. Even with the presence of Raptors 905 it is unlikely Toronto decides to take two more players they are going to have to groom. It’s very hard to compete for a championship and simultaneously carry six developmental players on your roster. However, as Ujiri mentions, Toronto is “blessed” to be picking this high, as the perennial playoff team won’t be able to draft in the lottery in the near future.

On the decisions Raptors face at No.9: “You can look at different options. You can look at trading the pick. You can look at drafting a guy that doesn’t come [to the NBA] right away. You can look at drafting a player to develop slowly…I don’t know if it is a draft where we can get somebody to impact our team right away. If it is a player that is three or four years away and has a high upside, we have to look out for the organization that way.”

Takeaway: Based on that, Ujiri isn’t expecting to see a player at nine that can command minutes right away. Toronto has had great success at number nine with Demar DeRozan and Tracy McGrady being chosen there and eventually becoming NBA all-stars. Instead of searching for the best fit as a rotation player Masai may address the team’s current needs via free agency and draft the player who projects to be the best over time at nine. This line of thinking may mean a Skal Labissiere, Henry Ellenson or even Deyonta Davis might be options over safer picks like Jakob Poetl, Domantas Sabonis or Denzel Valentine.

On trading the 9th overall pick: “Yes. It’s something I’m entertaining. Were talking to a few teams. There are all kinds of options. There are a couple options where teams want to know who is going to be there and there is a couple options where we want to know to who is going to be there. You never know who slips.”

Takeaway: This isn’t the strongest draft so you’d think it may be tough to move a top pick. In fact, the opposite might be true. Behind Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram a group of six (Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, Marquese Chriss, and Jaylen Brown) have separated themselves from the pack. They all have warts, and one or two may slip because of need.

If rival GM’s have a player close to the top of their board and they start to fall Toronto could be the perfect axis to get back in the lottery because the strength of the Raptors current day roster means they don’t need their top pick to help them in 2016. The other thing to remember is the salary cap is going to jump from $70 million last season to $94 million in 2016-17, which is above most projections. Having a cost controlled acquisition via the draft under control for five years is very attractive considering most teams have lots of cap space thus free agent contracts will be high for mediocre players.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.