As the 2013-14 NBA season approaches, most teams’ rosters are almost set. But as we take a look at the Toronto Raptors‘ current squad, there is a surprising lack of international players. In fact, there is just one.
Jonas Valanciunas represents the only foreign blood on the team, one that has earned a reputation over the years as a primary destination for some of the world’s best international talent.
After long-time servant Jose Calderon was traded to the Detroit Pistons last season, and with the offseason departures of Andrea Bargnani, Linas Kleiza and Mickael Pietrus, the Raptors appear to have changed their international strategy with more of a concentration on acquiring and developing homegrown talent.
Comparing the numbers from the past five seasons, it becomes more evident of the team’s change of heart:
Season No. of International Players on Roster
Perhaps the sudden drop in internationals has something to do with a new General Manager at the helm. This past offseason saw the return to the Raptors of Masai Ujiri, who took over from, the now idle, Bryan Colangelo.
Ujiri’s first port of call this summer was to strengthen inside the paint with the acquisition of free-agent Tyler Hansbrough from the Indiana Pacers. He also brought in former New York Knicks‘ three-point specialist, Steve Novak, as part of the Bargnani trade. He then signed another former Pacer with the addition of D.J. Augustin, who rounds out a decent trio of acquisitions that will only strengthen the Raptors going forward.
The current roster may well change once more before the regular season starts, but heading into training camp the Raptors sure do look a more balanced team with a far stronger starting lineup than a year ago.
One through five, with the possible exception of Hansbrough at the power forward position, are potential All-Stars with the likelihood of at least one Raptor appearing at this year’s All-Star game in New Orleans.
Like it or loathe it, Ujiri’s Raptors have changed course and have almost scrapped their international player development strategy. Do they look better for it? Of course, but only time will tell if this new direction will ultimately pay off.