Previewing the Toronto Raptors: Q&A with Raptors HQ

Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Adam Francis from Raptors HQ was kind enough to to answer a few questions about the Toronto Raptors before they tip-off against the Mavs tonight.

The trade that sent Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy, and Aaron Gray to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson, and Chuck Hayes is still fresh. What has been the overall reaction to the trade and how have the Raptors been playing since they made the move?

For Raptors' fans, I think the overall reaction to the trade has been one of happiness. Gay still had a lot of backers amongst Raptorsnation last season despite statistical evidence that indicated that he might not be the best bang-for-the-buck. But this year, that goodwill evaporated with each errant jump shot and ill-advised three-pointer. I'm not sure anyone thought the team COULD move him so indeed, even though the Dinos didn't receive a ton back for him talent-wise, the reaction to the trade was mostly positive. To put things in perspective, when we polled our community, of the near 1000 responses we got, 78% loved or at least liked the deal. Another 4% was indifferent so over 80% were certainly not upset by the trade with the Kings:

Also, the team has played much better post-trade, mostly thanks to a much more free-flowing offensive attack without Gay's ball-stopping tendencies.

Trade rumors are now swirling around Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. If they are traded what do the Raptors hope to gain in return?

I think Masai's been pretty clear in his first two moves (The Bargnani Miracle, the Gay trade) that he's seeking future assets and financial flexibility. The club isn't winning a playoff series as presently composed (although hey, it's the East so...) and needs an influx of building-block level talent which it currently doesn't possess in heaps so Ujiri will need to get as many shots at the draft as possible, and as much flexibility to bring in new talent via trades and signings as possible too.

Over the summer, general manager Masai Ujiri traded Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks. Now Gay is off the books. This has freed up roughly $20 million in cap room. If Lowry and DeRozan are moved that number would grow to just under $36 million. What is Ujiri's plan/endgame in Toronto?

I think his end game is simply to build a team that consistently wins, and build in his own style. To do that, as per my previous answer, he'll look to assemble as many young prospects and draft options as possible, and break the club free from its larger salary shackles. It's important to note though that I don't think Masai necessarily sees "tanking" as the end game. I see him as much more of an opportunist so he'll tank if he feels that's the best option, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him switch things up and grab some players who could help the team win now if he thinks there's an opportunity he just can't turn down.

Jonas Valanciunas clearly factors heavily in the teams future (unless Ujiri trades him too). He entered this league as a young, raw player. In many ways, he still is. How has his game been progressing and where does he need to improve?

Up until the Rudy Gay trade, it was hard to say his game had progressed a ton. We saw the progression in Summer League but back with the club this year the Rudy Gay/DeMar DeRozan-centered offence didn't provide much opportunity for him on offense. And his defensive growth stalled as well with head coach Dwane Casey pulling him from late-game situations, favouring veterans like Tyler Hansbrough. He needs to improve both facets in addition to things like rebounding and now with Gay gone, hopefully Casey will loosen the reigns a bit.

The Brooklyn Nets have been going around the league bullying mascots. While The Raptor tore its Achilles earlier this year, it was replaced by Stripes (is Stripes really just Rob Ford?), The Raptors' cousin. The inflatable Raptor is also still plodding around. How would Stripes and the inflatable Raptor, who is rather notorious, fare against the goons from Brooklyn?

I don't think Stripes would make it. He's no Rob Ford (who would simply rush through the Nets like this) and is certainly no "Raptor." The aging and decrepit Nets wouldn't be able to catch the Raptor in the first place and if they did, they would face his wrath.

I mean, HE EATS CHEERLEADERS FOR FUN!

Thanks Adam! For more on the Raptors, head over to Raptors HQ.

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