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Raptors Waiting Patiently In Free Agency

Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri gave everyone reasons to expect Toronto to show a lot of patience in free agency. His “we are not going to make any crazy quick fix decisions here” statement rings truer every day.

A man of his word, Ujiri quickly locked up the Raptors unrestricted free agent Kyle Lowry on a 4-year $48 million deal, restricted free agent Patrick Patterson with a 3-year $18 million offer and is waiting on restricted free agent Greivis Vasquez to decide between taking his qualifying offer or the substantial longer term deal Ujiri has offered. Vasquez, however, has made his intentions to return very clear.

The one Raptors free agent that Ujiri didn’t talk much about was Nando De Colo and De Colo is off to Europe on a better deal than he could have reasonably expected to land in the NBA.

This week the team is in Las Vegas getting ready for Summer League and Ujiri has a couple of prospects on his own Summer League squad he is looking at for next year.

This is likely second round draft pick DeAndre Daniels only chance to show the Raptors that they should keep him in Toronto. Ujiri had Daniels pegged as needing a year in the D-League or Europe after the draft and it will not be easy to change his mind.

The 6’10 John Shurna averaged 11.7 points and 37.9 percent from deep for Joventut in Spain last season. The 24-year-old Shurna might be the big small forward/combo forward Ujiri has been looking for or just a budget replacement for what Steve Novak brought on occasion last year. He is definitely a guy to watch.

Every team scouts the Summer League for prospects and Ujiri will be watching opposing players as closely as his own. That is enough of a reason not to rush filling those last couple of roster spots.

Before the Las Vegas Summer League even starts, however, Ujiri has been tied to veteran center Andray Blatche and European and NBA veteran forward Yakhouba Diawara.

Both or neither of these players could fill a role on the Raptors next season. It’s really a question of fit at this point.

Toronto could use a veteran like a slightly younger and healthier John Salmons to backup Terrence Ross and a taller shot blocking version of Chuck Hayes to fill in behind Jonas Valanciunas at center. However, Ujiri will have to be patient to find what he wants. He’ll only be offering a limited backup role and Ujiri needs to know if the player he brings in will accept it. Ross and Valanciunas are not about to lose their starting positions or minutes next season.

It’s not just Toronto that is moving cautiously through the free agent waiting period. The entire process has become the ‘LeBron & Melo Show’ as so many potential transactions hang on where these two stars choose to play next season. It’s hard to find out which veteran free agents that are within one’s budget and could help your team are really available until some of these big names find a home. Having patience and laying the groundwork for future deals is almost the only option at this point.


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.



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