At a press conference prior to the NBA Draft on Thursday night, Toronto Raptors general manager Bobby Webster was asked all the usual questions. Is it better to recruit for talent; for adjustment? And the rest. Which aren’t that convincing, given that the Raptors have all 33dr he’ll pick and, by definition, pick any prospect the rest of the league doesn’t deem good enough to make the top 32.
He was also asked about any reports, rumors or speculation (pick your adjective) that Raptors forward OG Anunoby was unhappy with his role, so much so that he might even be open to being traded.
The noise has died down for the most part, but for a sleepy Tuesday, it was at least worth mentioning that Webster didn’t take the opportunity to grab the mic and yell loudly that it was all bullshit and that the Raptors would never, ever they moved the fifth year forward they took with the 23dr he picked draft night in 2017 and has seen a high-end wing 3 and D flourish between injuries.
“We have great communication with OG,” is what Webster said. “He is even here [in Toronto] now. On the one hand, there is no point in commenting on all the trade speculation. If we talk about every call we get or every player we discuss, we’d be here for hours, so I don’t think it’s that remarkable.”
Which sounds pretty good: why get caught up in what is mostly speculation?
But it’s hard to read that quote and not think that at least the door remains open, just a crack, and that Webster at least hasn’t backed into a corner.
And it gets a little more interesting when combined with another comment Webster made regarding the Raptors’ overall offseason picture, with free agency starting July 1.
“You look at it two ways: We have a couple of free agents, we have a mid-level [exception to offer]. Maybe, in that sense, it just adds to the group,” he said, assessing how busy the offseason could be. “Obviously if you have trade discussions, it’s different. There are two different paths you can follow.”
Again, the most likely scenario? Not much happens. The Raptors reach contract deals with Thad Young and Chris Boucher, their two free agents, and use the midlevel exception to add a solid veteran who can help raise the floor for a team that arguably overperformed along the way. to an amazing 48-win season and exit from the playoffs in the first round.
But there is that different path, where Webster tries to change his way to a better roster, either now or in the future, and in that scenario it’s easy to see why Anunoby’s name would come up.
But be clear: the extent to which Anunoby is less than satisfied with his role as the off-the-ball offensive option while Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes are being portrayed as high-use playmakers, the job that pays the most. dollars in the NBA economy, is believed to be exaggerated.
Would Anunoby like to have a more prominent role, offensively? Sure, which makes him no different than just about every other NBA player who believes they could do a bigger job given the chance.
But, on the scale of problems the Raptors have had to deal with, these aren’t the mutual frustrations they’ve had to work out with Siakam over the past two years, or the nearly decade-long slow trickle of headaches that was the The Kyle Lowry experience. And by the way, both situations worked out well for everyone involved.
However, the only benefit of having a report that a key player may not be perfectly happy is that you get most of the league calling to find out what it would take to change that. Not surprisingly, the market for a playoff-skilled 24-year veteran who can man the shop at both ends with one term remaining on a favorable contract is dynamic.
Fast enough even that if the Raptors wanted to move into the top half of the draft lottery, they probably could.
What could interest them there?
Just for fun, it turns out there are some highly regarded athletic forwards with Canadian passports projected to go in the 4-8 range in Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin, a two-way sharpshooting forward from Montreal, and Shaedon Sharpe, a prototypical two-guard from London. , Ontario, who is considered the most athletic player in this draft and perhaps in many drafts.
The problem with moving up in the draft is that it requires a leap of faith. When you’re choosing 33dr in the draft, the players projected to be in the top 10 aren’t flying across the continent for a job interview.
• From Montreal to the Top 10: Raised in “a town of underdogs,” Bennedict Mathurin’s path to the NBA Draft was determined by where he came from.
• Small trajectory, great potential: That Shaedon Sharpe grew up to be an athletic kid in London, Ontario, was no big surprise. But what came next? That part has been unscripted.
• The Nembhard and Houstan whirlwind: Their ways were different. However, they ended up in the same place, striving to keep each other’s opinions from creeping into their conscience as the big night approaches.
On that front, the Raptors have the advantage that Mathurin was in camp with the Canadian national team last summer when Raptors head coach Nick Nurse wore his Canada basketball cap.
If there was a chance to make a move and Mathurin was available, the Raptors could play with confidence. That’s not the case for Sharpe or any of the other top names in the draft.
All that said, it’s highly unlikely the Raptors have any plans to use Anunoby as a way to get to the upper reaches of the draft for the simple reason that the versatile wing represents a bird in the hand: What are the chances of that someone in the 4-8 range will always be better than Anunoby is now, let alone two or three years from now when you factor in Anunoby’s advantage, which most believe has yet to be tapped by complete, mainly due to injuries that have cost him 63 games in the past. two seasons?
The Raptors will most likely take the best player available at No. 33 and then turn their attention to free agency, where, again, Toronto is expected to keep its own free agents and add to some of its roster shortcomings by add a free agent Though if the Raptors decide to get involved in the trade at that point, Anunoby could turn up again, unlikely as that is.
But, as they say, never say never. Webster didn’t do it when he had the opportunity Tuesday, so we’ll be watching.