Masai Ujiri explains Raptors' underwhelming trade deadline

Ujiri preached patience and reiterated his belief in the current core after Thursday's NBA trade deadline came and went with little noise from the Raptors.

After not dealing O.G. Anunoby, Fred VanVleet or Gary Trent Jr. — who were all heavily involved in a slew of trade rumours — at the deadline, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri spoke to the media, revealing the reasons for his decisions.

Ujiri explained to reporters that there wasn’t a deal on the table which would move the needle for the Raptors, stating, “Why it didn't happen? The opportunity was not there for us for a blockbuster trade.”

The reported return for some of Toronto’s core players would have been a haul, but in Ujiri’s eyes, it wasn’t worth jeopardizing the team’s future.

“The way I look at the deadline, it's really not a great place to make long-term decisions ... in terms of some of the things we were getting,” Ujiri said.

Furthermore, the former Executive of the Year believes that any moves they would have done today will still be available come this offseason. The organization wasn’t going to make a rash decision after deciding that the market for their players would still be prevalent in a few months' time.

“Everything we could have done today maybe we can do in the summer,” he said of his decision to keep the Raptors’ core together for the remainder of this season.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri did his best to break down what many feel was a disappointing trade deadline for the club. (CP Photos)
Raptors president Masai Ujiri did his best to break down what many feel was a disappointing trade deadline for the club. (CP Photos)

The Raptors traded for Jakob Poeltl

The one move Toronto did make, however, was acquiring Poeltl from the Spurs for Khem Birch, a protected 2024 first-round pick and two future second-round picks.

While the deal was somewhat under the radar because it transpired around the same time Kevin Durant got traded to the Suns, it assuages a key issue for the Raptors — their lack of a consistent defensive anchor in the paint.

Ujiri shouldered the brunt of the blame for Toronto not having a reliable big-man presence, stating that it was a position that “we've lacked on this team.”

“I think [a big is] something we've lacked on our team, to be fair … on this team, I think, I hadn't done my part maybe for this team to maybe play a little bit better. I think we needed a big like Jak,” Ujiri said.

Ujiri went on to say that Poeltl will add an element of passing to the Raptors, noting that “sometimes we've played a little selfish.”

“He's gonna pass the ball a little bit better for us. Knowing him, knowing his style of play, just knowing the guy, it already brings a little bit of spirit, seeing that.”

Poeltlt was drafted ninth overall in 2016 by Toronto and played two seasons with the franchise before being traded to San Antonio in a blockbuster deal centred around DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard.

Ujiri believes in this iteration of the Raptors

Despite sitting in the tenth spot in the Eastern Conference and boasting a record of 26-30, Ujiri told reporters that this group has what it takes to turn it around.

“I believe in these guys, Ujiri said when talking about this year’s team. “We believe in them. We think growth sometimes takes a while ... Hopefully we can have a little bit of patience.”

Ujiri also touched on the Raptors not meeting expectations, admitting that they might have gotten ahead themselves and that team-oriented basketball got lost in the process.

“We went too individual. The ups and downs of a season, young players trying to come together, success that came very fast. The expectations, maybe we jumped it a bit.” Ujiri explained.

Never without prudence, though, Ujiri also said that the organization will reevaluate things again in the summer.

“We want to solve it, but I want to caution everyone that it’s not going to happen overnight … We're always focused on trying to retain our players ... We'll see how we perform the rest of the season and make that assessment,” he said.

Poeltl is set to make his second-season debut on Friday when the Raptors host the Jazz.

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