Raptors GM Ujiri hints at using extra picks as trade bait

Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri (Nathan Denette/CP)

Sitting on a 24-15 record and a second-place seed in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors appear to be in good shape, but the same could be said about the team at this point last season and we all know how that ended.

Thus, the only question that really matters when it comes to the Raptors this season is whether this team is good enough to win a playoff round … or more?

If Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri and coach Dwane Casey don’t believe this squad is good enough to win in the post-season, then there are options should they try to reinforce the depleted wing or go out and get the starting power forward they’ve missed all season long.

Armed with four first-round draft picks between this year and next, including one that will become the lesser of the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks picks this year, the Raptors have attractive trade pieces.

“We already have so many young players,” Ujiri told ESPN’s Zach Lowe. “And those extra picks over the next two years – we can’t use all those picks. So (a trade) is always something you’re looking at.”

In all likelihood this would be the most effective way for the Raptors to add without giving up too much, especially because the team doesn’t necessarily need to, nor have room for freshly-drafted talent.

Of course, only using their many first-round picks as trade bait isn’t the only way the Raptors can make a deal; the valuable young players they have, like Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, could also bring back something if the Raptors are willing to part with those roster pieces.

ESPN’s Lowe is also reporting that NBA sources have discussed a Valanciunas trade for Memphis Grizzlies all-star centre Marc Gasol:

“And how about this doozy multiple executives pitched to me: When Memphis throws in the towel, how many extra goodies would Toronto have to attach to Jonas Valanciunas to entice the Grizzlies into a Valanciunas-Marc Gasol center swap? (The answer, it appears: way too many).” | More from Zach Lowe

The idea that the Grizzlies are just going to throw in the towel right now seems a little farfetched seeing as they’re one of just six teams in the Western Conference with a record above .500 and locked into a playoff spot.

The NBA trade deadline is only 37 days away. If the Raptors are going to make a move, then expect to see more reports, both outlandish and very real, tied to them as the hot stove starts to warm up.

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