Masai Ujiri And Toronto Raptors Attempting To Move Past First-Round Controversy

By Ty O'Keefe
Dave Sandford/NBAE via Getty Images
Dave Sandford/NBAE via Getty Images

Now that Canadian basketball fans have had a chance to cool down after GM Masai Ujiri used the franchise’s first draft pick in two years on an unknown project named Bruno Caboclo, many of those who believe that the Toronto Raptors GM is the LeBron James of NBA executives are busy scanning the depths of the internet’s endless basketball library in hopes of finding that one critical piece of statistical gold to justify the decision to draft the Brazilian.

And as Raptors fans attempts to recover from narrowly missing out on Tyler Ennis while simultaneously hoping to find evidence substantiating the whole “Brazilian Kevin Durant” nonsense, the team itself has been left with nothing at a time when it’s supposed to be focused on building for the future.

The justification? According to numerous reports, Toronto had not only been scouting Caboclo since last December, but also promised to draft the youngster with the 37th overall pick, telling him to forget about other pre-draft workouts to ensure that he’d be available. However, this scheme went out the window when Ujiri learned that both the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz were also eying the forward.

With that in mind, why is it suddenly logical for Ujiri to take a bigger gamble than Rafael Araujo ever was in such a deep draft class simply because others were interested in Caboclo, and Ennis was no longer available? Is there some new law of talent that automatically turns an unranked project into a first-round draft pick the minute two other teams are interested?

Or was Ujiri’s decision to draft Caboclo in the first round influenced by something that had little to do with on-court talent, and more to do with a knee-jerk reaction to the news of another team wanting to take a player that Toronto’s GM had essentially been keeping under his hat?

Having just watched Phoenix draft Ennis and then only moments later show interest in Caboclo, the Raptors GM may have decided that he’d simply had enough of the Suns taking players off of his wishlist.

But even if that theory rings true, expecting Raptors fans to believe that Caboclo is so talented that Utah was planning to roll the dice with the 23rd pick, or that Phoenix was willing to risk the 27th pick in order to get him, is insulting to such a knowledgeable fanbase.

At the end of the day, it’s impossible to ignore a decision that not only drew laughter from a panel of respected NBA commentators including Fran Fraschilla, who said that Cabolo was ”two years away from being two years away”, but also one that gave absolutely no consideration to any needs that Toronto could have addressed prior to the upcoming season.

And unfortunately, only time will tell if Ujiri’s genius has found another Pau Gasol or Jonas Valanciunas, or if the Raptors have made an Araujo-sized error at the worst possible time.

Ty is an NBA writer for Follow him on Twitter @abovethefoldTy.

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