Masai Ujiri’s Next Move

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Fans of the Toronto Raptors breathed a sigh of relief this week when Kyle Lowry decided to stay north of the border and sign a four-year, $48 million deal.

Patrick Patterson followed suit re-upping with Toronto for three-years and $18 million.

It looks like another mid-season acquisition from last year, Greivis Vasquez, may be also coming back next season.

Throw in the trade for Lou Williams, and it appears Masai Ujiri is having a solid start to the NBA offseason.

On the other hand, there were two key areas that Masai indicated needed to be addressed at the end of last season: size at the wing position and a rim protector.

Although the moves mentioned above were necessary to ensure roster continuity from a 48 win season, Ujiri now needs to either find some bargain deals in free agency, or pull of a trade to fill out these two remaining areas.

So what’s more important? What are his options?

I believe that size on the wing position is the next area that needs to be addressed. The Raptors don’t have the cap space to flat out sign the likes of Luol Deng, Gordon Hayward, or Chandler Parsons; and I believe that Ujiri is comfortable with going into next season having Terrence Ross as his starting small forward. Ross showed flashes last season that he could be a legit starter in the NBA, which will allow Masai to focus on acquiring a second tier talent to come off the bench next season.

So who is left on the market that fits this mold? Here are three wings that I would like to see the Raptors make a run at.

Trevor Ariza

At 6’8” and 200 pounds, it would have been nice to have Ariza matched up against Joe Johnson in the playoffs. In Washington’s six game series with the Pacers, Ariza held Paul George to 19.6 points per game. Although George did put up a 39 point performance in game four, Ariza held George to 15 points or fewer three time in that series.

Ariza also was a contributor on the offensive end for the Wizards, averaging 14.4 points per game, and shooting 41% from three point land.

However, based on these numbers and with the type of money being thrown around this offseason (Jodie Meeks getting signing a 3 year, 19 million dollar deal), Ariza is probably out of Masai’s price range and will likely cash in on a strong contract year with either Washington or a championship contender.

Marvin Williams

It’s hard to imagine that Marvin Williams was drafted ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the 2005 NBA draft. Although Williams has been a solid NBA player, he has never quite lived up to being selected #2 overall, averaging 10.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

At the age of 27, and having two mediocre season in Utah, Williams may be just what the doctor ordered for the Raptors of the bench.

At 6’9”, Williams fits the mold of a big wing, who could guard both the small forward and power forward positions for the Raptors. Coming off a season where Williams averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds per game, the Raptors can offer Williams a chance to play (first wing off the bench) and a chance to play in the East where it’s easier to make the playoffs.

The only issue with Williams is that with Patterson now re-signed, there may be a little bit of redundancy up front. His numbers were slightly below Patterson’s, so the Raptors may be able to get him at a similar price, possibly around 5.5 million a year.

Al-Farouq Aminu

When you look at the Raptors cap situation, Masai would need to work some serious cap magic to sign either Ariza or Williams next season.

That’s were Al-Farouq Aminu may be a good option.

After being drafted 8th overall in 2009, Aminu has been somewhat inconsistent early in his career. However, at only 24 years of age, and his ability to guard multiple positions, Aminu could be had on the cheap and in a winning environment, he may develop into a solid option off the bench for Toronto.

After making 3.7 million last season, my guess is Aminu won’t demand any more than 3-4 million next season, which would make him an affordable option for Ujiri.

2014 NBA Mock Draft

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1. Cleveland Cavaliers | Joel Embiid | C | Kansas | Yes, I know that injury issues might scare teams off, but the Cavs need to draft the best player, and the best player in this draft is Embiid. The chance to add Wiggins should be too much for the team to pass up, but with Anderson Varejao getting older – and already being injury-prone – they could draft Embiid as their center for the next decade… that is, assuming his body holds up. The past few drafts (Anthony Bennett and Dion Waiters) have shown this franchise is anything but predictable.

2. Milwaukee Bucks | Jabari Parker | SF | Duke | Parker might slip to Philly, but Parker is a “hometown” guy as he grew up just over a hour away from Milwaukee. He’s also the most NBA ready player in the draft and will average better than 20 points at least a handful of seasons in the NBA. Getting the chance to pair Parker with Giannis Antetokounmpo gives the Bucks a fantastic duo to build around.

3. Philadelphia 76ers | Andrew Wiggins | SF | Kansas | Somehow the player the Sixers covet will fall into their laps. Philly hasn’t been shy about their torrid love affair with Wiggins, and despite the Embiid question marks, they won’t have to trade up to get their man. Having the chance to build around current Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, Noel and Wiggins is a great foundation for Philadelphia.

4. Orlando Magic | Dante Exum | PG | Australia | The chance to pair Victor Oladipo and Exum is a match made in heaven for the Orlando Magic. Julius Randle will probably win Rookie of the Year, but Exum is the better long-term fit.

5. Utah Jazz | Noah Vonleh | PF | Indiana | Utah will probably flip this pick for veteran help, but, if they do keep this pick, Vonleh could step in immediately and play alongside Derrick Favors. The two twin towers would give the Jazz a big edge on the glass. Julius Randle is the better player, but not a good fit on Utah’s roster.

6. Boston Celtics | Julius Randle | PF | Kentucky | This would be a great pick for the Celtics.. if they keep the pick. Look for Boston to be aggressive in trying to obtain Kevin Love and using this pick as leverage.

7. Los Angeles Lakers | Marcus Smart | PG | Oklahoma State | Smart is one tough hombre and he’s a sponge. Look for the Lakers to draft their point guard of the future and for Kobe Bryant to act as a great mentor for Smart.

8. Sacramento Kings | Aaron Gordon | PF | Arizona | Having Gordon drop to Sacramento – when he could go as high as #5 to Utah – is like manna falling from Heaven. Gordon is a bit undersized to play the 4 in the NBA, but when sandwiched between DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay he’ll fit in just fine. Gordon’s height (6’8″) scares me because he’ll have the dreaded tweener label, but at this point in the draft, he’s a nice pick.

9. Charlotte Bobcats | Dario Saric | PF | Croatia | I was tempted to give the Hornets another wing – Gary Harris and James Young are options here – but the Hornets need more bigs. Enter Sandman Saric.

10. Philadelphia 76ers | James Young | SF | Kentucky | Gary Harris is a player I’ve been high on all season, but his draft combine measurement of 6’2″ isn’t going to cut it in the NBA as a shooting guard… even if Philly’s point guard has height to spare. Young is a player who can step in right away and start for Philadelphia.

11. Denver Nuggets | Doug McDermott | SF | Creighton | This might be a bit high for McDermott, but he could also be great insurance for if danilo gallinari isn’t able to return to form after issues with his ACL’s that kept him off the court all of last season.

12. Orlando Magic | PJ Hairston | SG | NDBL | A bit of a stretch, but Orlando needs another young wing and Hairston is the best on the board.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves | Rodney Hood | SG | Duke | Kevin Martin will likely be packaged with Kevin Love this summer, so Hood could step in and start for Minnesota next season. Hood could also be long gone as he will be an option for Charlotte at #9 Philly at #10.

14. Phoenix Suns | Gary Harris | SG | Michigan State | Harris be a little small, but that won’t matter as the Suns rolled with two point guards for most of last season. He could act as insurance in case Eric Bledsoe bolts town or act as a perfect third guard.

15. Atlanta Hawks | T.J. Warren | SG | North Carolina State
16. Chicago Bulls | Nik Stauskas | SG | Michigan
17. Boston Celtics | Adreian Payne | PF | Michigan State
18. Phoenix Suns | Jerami Grant | SF | Syracuse
19. Chicago Bulls | Jusuf Nurkic | C | International
20. Toronto Raptors | Tyler Ennis | PG | Syracuse
21. Oklahoma City Thunder | Kyle Anderson | PG | UCLA
22. Memphis Grizzlies | Clint Capela | PF | Switzerland
23. Utah Jazz | Shabazz Napier | PG | UCONN
24. Charlotte Bobcats | K.J. McDaniels | SF | Clemson
25. Houston Rockets | Clearanthony Earl | SF | Wichita State
26. Miami Heat | Jahii Carson | PG | Arizona State
27. Phoenix Suns | Zach LaVine | SG | UCLA
28. Los Angeles Clippers | Spencer Dinwiddie | PG | Colorado
29. Oklahoma City Thunder | Damien Inglis | SG | France
30. San Antonio Spurs | Jabari Brown | SG | Missouri