Masai Ujiri’s first move as GM of the Raptors was a very big one for the franchise. Over the weekend Ujiri agreed to move Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, and three picks.
On the surface this trade is a good one for the Raptors. They add a very competent shooter at the wing and add a number of assets in the draft picks. How Camby and Q-Rich fit into the puzzle remains to be seen, but it is expected that both are unlikely to be with the Raptors on opening night.
This is a very intriguing trade for Toronto and signals a change in direction, if nothing else. The Raptors haven’t added a core building block or star player, but they finally let go of one of the most polarizing figures in Raptors history. Bargnani was no longer popular with the fans, had seen his production decline over the last two years and remained a symbol of the now defunct Colangelo era.
The move symbolizes a changing of the guard and move into a new age of Raptors basketball.
Say what you want about Bargnani, but there is still a very capable player hiding in the lethargic 7-footer’s frame. He has the ability to spread the floor for the Knicks and with Carmelo Anthony firmly entrenched as the teams’ number one, he won’t be relied on to score all the time. On the defensive end, his lack of rebounding and shot blocking ability will be hidden beside Tyson Chandler (one of the better defensive big men in the league). So it remains very possible that Bargnani will thrive in his new home.
But it wasn’t going to happen here and the players and picks acquired by Ujiri in this deal clear capspace, add assets and, most notably, clears out a lightning rod for negativity.
An obvious case of addition by subtraction.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Bargnani came to Toronto with much fanfare as the number one overall pick in 2006. He helped lead the Raptors to their only Atlantic Division title in his rookie campaign and has shown flashes of brilliance in his time as a Raptor. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to gel with Chris Bosh, wasn’t able to lead a team on his own and his deficiencies on the defensive end made him a target for fan frustration. That the team struggled with Bargnani on the roster didn’t help his case. In many ways the fans and Bargnani himself will benefit from the change of scenery.
It is a shame Camby will likely not suit up for Toronto as it provides a nice bookend to his career having been drafted 2nd overall by the Raptors back in 1996. More importantly he could have provided valuable assistance to Jonas Valanciunas. As a former defensive player of the year in 2006-07 Camby would provide Jonas with a tough matchup in practice and a valuable mentor when facing challenges throughout the year. In the end, Camby wants a chance at a ring; he won’t get that here.
The addition of Steve Novak seems to indicate that Ujiri is not finished retooling this roster. The small forward played in 81 games for New York last year and shot a very good 43% from 3-pt range. He joins a very crowded wing position in Toronto. If I was DeMar DeRozan I’d be preparing my exit speech. This team now has a litany of wings and it would appear that at least one of them will be moved.
Richardson was a throw-in in the deal and it remains very unlikely he sticks around, though if he does, he provides a veteran off the bench that is capable of producing.
The Draft picks (probably the most important part of the deal) give the raptors added assets for the future to either draft players or use as trade bait.
Slowly but surely, Ujiri is putting his stamp on this franchise. The next few weeks will no doubt see the continued dismantling of the Colangelo Era Raptors.
Whether the team is in “tank mode” or in the playoff hunt one thing remains clear; this team will look a whole lot different next year.
The Ujiri Era is upon us.
The Zan Tabak Herald