Masai Ujiri offered this comments on the hiring of Weltman in a press release released yesterday:
“Jeff possesses a wealth of experience and a solid reputation in basketball circles,” said Masai Ujiri, Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations. “I had the pleasure of working with Jeff in Denver and I’ve seen first-hand the basketball acumen he will bring to our staff.”
Masai also said in his opening remarks when he was asked what direction he would be taking this team he responded saying that it would be “Obvious” the direction there were heading. The trade of Andrea Bargnani might suggest the start of a rebuild but not definitively really. Realistically Bargnani’s time was up and everyone knew it.
If you have been following the rumour mill it sure seems the Raptors are looking to join the party in pursuit of Andrew Wiggins. But these are just in theory and not in practice. DeMar DeRozan never found his way to L.A as part of a trade with the Clippers. A recent offer from Detroit of former Raptor Charlie V and Rodney Stucky both on expiring contracts for Rudy Gay has been declined it would appear. So don’t get the keys to that tank so fast? It would be a logical move to unload Gay if possible if the goal is to simply tank.
Guess the point I am making is Ujiri has yet to put a clear stamp on if this is going to be a full dismantling of this roster. Tim Leiweke has also stated the Raptors are not interested in being a team battling for 7-11 every season. Let’s be honest with all the moves made by other teams like Philadelphia who parted with Jrue Holiday. The Celtics have cleaned house with Doc Rivers off to coach the Clippers and the remaining to members of the “Big 3” now off to Brooklyn.
The temptation to just make some minor changes and likely get in the post season has to be great. It is clear if Bryan Colangelo had remained that would be the case. He talked before he was relieved of his duties about adding some veterans to the mix and making a push for the post season. Hoping for internal improvement from the pieces they already have.
The large temptation might be the chance to get a difference making superstar in Andrew Wiggins in the draft next season. In the form of a young man that comes from right in your own back yard. The NBA be fate or fixed tends to see players wind up in obvious landing spots that would help franchises. Former MVP’s like Derrick Rose to the Bulls and Lebron James to the Cavs.
Keep in mind that the worst team does not always land the prize at the end of the day. It might be a safe bet that the Bobcats and Celtics could be the front runners in the tank race. This is assuming the race is on the level. The Draft lottery only offers at best a 25% chance at getting the number one pick. It also has a history of the worst team not winning as often as you would expect and as mentioned above some questionable or conveniently lucky results.
Regardless of the direction the Raptors decide to head some good will has been made by Ujiri being able to do what Colangelo couldn’t or wouldn’t in trading Bargnani. Not unlike what Colangelo did when he traded Rob Babcock’s draft bust Rafael Aruajo. Colangelo would go on to have a surprisingly successful first season. Raptors would be able to win their Division in a year where the Atlantic Division was at a very low point. When you look at the division, aside from the Nets it hard to see a team that looks like a contender in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks think of themselves as on but their move to trade for Bargnani has been widely slammed by media around the league.
In any case change is never easy and some people at the end of the day are going to be upset at least at the start of things. There is clearly a large portion of fans and media that want to see Ujiri strip this roster to the bare bones. While others want to see this young group get a chance to continue on. Given the salary situation that option might not make a lot of logical sense.
Change is always going to be upsetting but at the same time no one can deny that change was not needed.