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Ujiri scrums with media

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri Says Draft Is Overrated

The Toronto Raptors will select at 20, 37 and 59 in the upcoming NBA Draft and President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri spoke to the media during the team’s initial pre-draft workouts.

The opening day of workouts in Toronto featured the highly rated local Canadian point guard prospect Tyler Ennis who is not expected to still be available if the Raptors do not move up in the draft. Other Canadians at the workout included the 7’2 shot blocker Jordan Bachynski of Calgary, Winnipeg’s Chad Posthumus and Chadrack Lufile of Burlington. Ujiri believes there have been enough Canadian players drafted in recent years that if the Raptors were to draft a Canadian, he wouldn’t have any concerns.

 

Surprisingly, but not unfairly, Ujiri believes this draft is overrated, but perhaps a better word is overhyped. There is a lot of talent available, however, this draft would have a lot to live up to if it were to match some of the historically great NBA Draft classes.

“We have needs on the team, but at some point you go best player available,” Ujiri said. “Especially in this kind of a draft maybe because it’s a little overrated from the beginning when we first started talking about it until now, but it’s pretty good, there is talent. Maybe the two-guard position there is a couple of younger guys there that are pretty good.”

Ujiri was quick to lay the blame for the excitement about this year’s draft at the feet of the media – he was at least partially joking – and explained the hype was in part created by last year’s draft.

“It’s all excitement,” Ujiri said. “Maybe going from last year to this year, it is a little bit of an extreme you could say. We talked about last year as being not so good and then this year we talked about being very very good and everybody concentrated that way. I think it is still very good, there is some very very good players, but I don’t think you can compare it to a couple of other drafts in the past.”

The Raptors are looking at a lot of potential second round picks, but Ujiri is leaving every option open from trading his two second round picks, to packaging them to try and move up in the draft, to keeping them as prospects to develop.

“(Second round picks) are very valuable now depending on where you see it like (with) roster spots and who is available in trades and how you can package deals to move up,” Ujiri said. “They are very valuable to us and I think this year we are taking them very serious. (We) spent a lot of time and I think our guys have done a great job to watch all these players. My opinion, in the second round if you can wait like the next 5 years and you can get one of two right. It takes them sometimes a longer route. You can get lucky – maybe we can get lucky too.

“I try not to get our guys to emphasize on that age thing, especially when you know where your team is. We are a growing team, but the reality is we were a playoff team so whoever we are adding – sometimes we need someone who will come and do a little something for us and maybe there is a couple players we might get – 15th and 14th players – that can develop, take a couple of years to develop and we know that’s what we are going to do, so in that instance you go a little bit younger.

“We are going to look at all options. The one thing I say about the draft is we all fall in love with it the day of – a couple of days before – so I never get myself or my guys hopeful that we are going to move up. We want to study 20 and figure out 20 because if we are hoping that, 29 other teams are for the same and 29 other teams are trying to do other deals. I have been heartbroken a couple of times so I have learned not to rely on (moving up) at all.”

The Raptors are going through the process of evaluating players who could be available when their picks come and seemingly every other possible scenario as well. However, the workouts are more of the eyeball and instant impression variety, most of the work in evaluating these prospects was done long ago.

“Our jobs are done mostly when they play basketball games (as) that is what they are supposed to do,” Ujiri said. “These workouts you learn a lot of stuff like how they react when you push them a little bit, foot speed, actual size when you see them close to you and just character, getting them up close so you know how they react to some things. Shooting mechanics, you kind of concentrate and put them in difficult positions when they tire out and see how they react. There are things to see here, but most of the work honestly is done when they are playing.”

Ujiri has a good track record at the draft and in making deals. As there really isn’t anything off the table at this point, the next month should be pretty interesting in Toronto.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
 
 

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Will The Toronto Raptors Draft A Canadian In 2014?
Finally, in 2014, the stars may be aligned so Toronto can draft a Canadian basketball player. The Raptors hold draft picks at 20, 37 and 59 this year and GM Masai Ujiri has shown a lot of skill at the art of the deal, so if there is a player to be drafted he wants that doesn’t fit with his available selections, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he can pull off a deal to make it happen.