Nielsen: Ujiri keeps options open with Daye deal

Austin Daye reached an agreement to join the Toronto Raptors Tuesday. (Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Barring a surprise, Austin Daye will be the final addition to the Toronto Raptors roster this summer.

While the move isn’t likely to tip the scales in favour of the Raptors, the agreement with Daye was another in a series of shrewd moves by new general manager Masai Ujiri.

Daye ended last season with the Memphis Grizzlies, after moving from Detroit in the three-way deal which saw Rudy Gay land in Toronto.

He really doesn’t bring much to the table other than his ability to shoot from downtown but that is a skill that has been highly sought after as the summer’s crop of talented shooters grew thin quickly after the free agent signing period opened up on July 10.

Looking at the current roster, it is a skill that is seriously lacking, beyond Steve Novak and Terrence Ross (unless Gay’s eye surgery and/or off-season work by both he and DeMar DeRozan causes an uptick in the duo’s marksmanship).

Daye will need to become a better defender (and add some weight) or he won’t see much time on the floor for coach Dwane Casey as he will battle for minutes with Tyler Hansbrough, Aaron Gray and Novak behind Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and, on occasion, Gay in smaller lineups.

He could shift over to the three if Casey were looking to go big but you would have to think that Novak would be the first choice there in a bigger lineup.

At this point, the Raptors were not looking to do much more than add cheap depth as Daye becomes either the 14th or 15th man on the roster depending on whether Quentin Richardson is a member of the team or not.

The Raptors do still have some wiggle room with that regard as they have yet to make a move with regards to Richardson but the decision not to introduce him alongside Novak in the Andrea Bargnani deal was pretty telling about his future.

It would also be highly unlikely to see the Raptors pull off another trade as the complicated CBA rules make it nearly impossible to do so until free agents who were signed this summer become eligible to be moved sometime in December.

So heading into the season, they may still dump Richardson to add one more body but it seems unlikely that there will be any more significant moves.
But that is just fine as it will give Ujiri a chance to take a closer look at what he has to work with going forward.

For the Raptors, the best-case scenario is that he likes some pieces on the roster and will look to build upon any success going forward. But if the season starts as poorly as the last one did, which seems improbable, the new Raptors boss could also begin to jettison bodies as well.

Having signed a few bodies to low-budget, short-term contracts makes them easy to move but will also leave plenty of cap space for the Raptors next summer. If Ujiri needs to balance out any contracts in a potential deal, trade partners would be unlikely to scoff at the notion of adding someone they are not stuck with beyond next season.

The only guaranteed contracts going into next summer are Landry Fields, DeRozan, Novak and Gay although the latter have the ability to opt out at season’s end. (Valanciunas and Ross will see their options picked up though.)

Those six deals total around $46 million going forward — plenty of space for Ujiri to play with.

While the Raptors general manager likely still isn’t a 100 per cent certain of the direction he is headed in with this roster, he has wisely done nothing to limit his options going forward.

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