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NBA Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri

Toronto Raptors Will Draft Coach Casey Type Players

The Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri hasn’t changed his message about team building since he arrived in Toronto. It is his job to acquire basketball players that fit with his coach. As Head Coach Dwane Casey stresses defense first, no one should be looking for the Raptors to draft anyone that doesn’t fit the mold in Toronto.

Ujiri has also been consistent in his assessment of team needs. The Raptors want to add a big wing and a rim protecting big man and while Ujiri won’t commit to filling those needs through the draft, he has looked at a pile of prospects over the past couple of weeks who do just that.

“We need a big wing, a three position and we need some kind of shot blocking like a big,” Ujiri said. “We have good skilled bigs. We have a shooting big. We have a big down low and we want to figure out how to protect the rim a little bit and that may come now, it may come later, but it is something that we know that we need on our roster. So those two positions are something we need.”

The messaging from Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman and Ujiri has also been consistent on drafting the best player available at 20, 37, and 59, unless of course the pick is traded. However, the best player available for the Raptors may not be the best player available in other people’s eyes. Ujiri is not about to stick Casey with talent that doesn’t fit his style – that just wouldn’t be fair.

“We will go for the best player available, that’s 100 percent,” Ujiri said. “We’ll try getting the best player we can and if it so happens that it’s a wing player or a shot blocker then fine.

“I have always said it all along that my job is to – once you have your coach in place – figure out the players that fit the system of the coach and we tried to do that in Denver and we are trying to do it here. I think defensively the player has (to fit). We have to figure out those kind of players that will come in and give Dwane Casey what he wants. In terms of growth, it might not be immediate production, but in terms of style of play, I think it’s an aggressive team that is going to play tough, play hard on the defensive end, stop people and are going to play up-tempo on the offensive end. We have to bring in those kinds of players, we can’t just draft anybody to come here and just throw to Dwane Casey. I don’t think that would be fair.

Assuming the Raptors do not trade up or out of the draft, the players likely to be available when Ujiri gets to pick will have some measure of uncertainty about their game. The Raptors will be looking at attributes that indicate their prospect can defend or learn to defend at the NBA level. Ujiri is a lot less concerned about prospects figuring out how to contribute at the offensive end of the court.

“In some kind of way, maybe they will have some of the attributes that lead to being a good defensive player – length, foot speed, size or I.Q. or quickness, all those things, we really have to study them,” Ujiri said. “Most players play basketball on the offensive end, they’ll figure it out offensively that’s probably what motivates them to play basketball – 99 percent of them. The defensive end with our philosophy is the important end. We have to bring in the kind of players that will fit.

After all the workouts, the two potential first round prospects that have stood out the most in terms filling the Raptors needs are the alley-oop finishing and shot blocking Swiss big man Clint Capela and the rebounding shot blocking small forward K.J. McDaniels. Both players have work to do at the offensive end of the court, but they would fit in terms of need and defensive potential with Coach Casey’s Raptors.


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