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Why Did The Raptors Open A Roster Spot?

With little surprise and possibly less interest, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Raptors had waived Quentin Richardson. There still hasn’t been an official press release from the team, but with a long weekend in the making, that was hardly a surprise. Richardson was the throw in contract required by the NBA to complete the Andrea Bargnani trade that the league wasn’t about to let the Knicks and Raptors slip through on June 30th just before the various players involved were about to get their raises for next season. In others words, he wasn’t supposed to be here and Richardson received a very nice $1.4 million gift from the NBA league office. It’s good to have friends in high places.

With another month to go before the start of training camp, there wasn’t any obvious reason for the Raptors to rush Richardson out the door. Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri had suggested earlier he was thinking about inviting some young prospects to training camp and if that is still the plan, Richardson’s expiring/ non-guaranteed after this season contract was still an asset that could be used to help facilitate a trade.

The Raptors now have 14 players under contract and sit $1.7 million below the luxury tax line and $5.7 million below the NBA hard cap that came into effect when they used their salary cap exceptions. That is a lot of room for Ujiri to use if he is thinking about bringing another young prospect on board for this season.

The Raptors biggest need at the moment seems rather obvious. If Jonas Valanciunas is injured or even just gets in foul trouble, the Raptors get small in a hurry. Another center to develop behind Aaron Gray would seem prudent. On the same day Wojnarowski tweeted about Richardson, he also tweeted Fab Melo had been waived by the cost conscious Grizzlies.

The 7’ 255 lb Melo was the 22nd pick of the Boston Celtics in 2012 and is a big strong defensive player that can block shots and intimidate in the lane. While the 23-year-old has only played in 6 NBA games, in the NBA D-League, he averaged 2.9 blocks and had a league-record 14 blocks in a single game. The Big East’s defensive player of the year in 2012 has to be someone that would catch the eye of Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey.

Wojnarowski quotes an Eastern Conference executive as saying, “It won’t be us, but I think someone will [claim] him.”

There are other centers available like Hamed Haddadi and Cole Aldrich, but they have been available for a while and the 23-year-old Melo still has not been given a much of a chance to show what he might be able to do in the NBA. It shouldn’t take long to find out if Melo is in Ujiri’s plans.

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report. You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors