Raptors Shift Their Focus Towards Free Agency

After a week of outside speculation leading up to the 2018 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors did not make any moves to add to their roster on draft night. Toronto entered the draft without a pick after trading the 29th and 40th overall picks to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for DeMarre Carroll last July, and trading the 59th overall pick along with Jared Sullinger to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for P.J. Tucker in Feb. 2017.

It was a relatively quiet draft around the league. Picks were traded, but the night was absent of any of the blockbuster trades that often go down. After 11 non-rookie players were traded a season ago, there were zero to switch teams on Thursday.

“We were thinking this has to be the first time in history that one actual player under contract hasn’t gotten traded,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said when he met with the media after the conclusion of the draft.

Though the Raptors didn’t end up making a trade or acquiring a pick, it wasn’t for lack of conversation. Toronto’s front office had conversations with various teams early and late in the draft, but ultimately didn’t make a deal.

Webster talked about the difficulty of getting into the draft without a pick when he met with the media on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s always tough,” he said. “We always say you fall in love with your picks at this time of year so it’s hard to get rid of them. We’ve been in the opposite situation where we’ve had a lot of picks and we haven’t moved them.”

Webster acknowledged that there were players the team liked in this year’s draft class. He also said that despite the team not holding workouts with top prospects in Toronto because they didn't have their own pick, they felt good about their scouting and early season looks at players. Perhaps most importantly, Toronto already has a collection of young players on the roster that they’re excited about.

“We’re happy with our young guys and their development,” Webster said. “Adding another guy to the piece is always nice, but also the continuity of having that young group continue to grow.”

Toronto’s highly-touted young core came by way of the draft. The team selected OG Anunoby with the 23rd overall pick in 2017, Jakob Poeltl (9th) and Pascal Siakam (27th) in 2016 and Delon Wright (20th) and Norman Powell (46th) in 2015. All five players have featured prominently for the Raptors in the past few seasons, with Anunoby a member of the starting five in both regular season and playoffs last year.

With the draft now in the rear view, Webster had a simple answer for what’s next for the organization.

“Get ready for free agency,” he said. “July 1 is 10 days away.”

After announcing Nick Nurse as Toronto's head coach a week ago, the organization is gearing up for a busy summer. Nurse is the process of finalizing his coaching staff, and, as Webster mentioned, free agency is creeping near. The NBA’s free agency period will officially begin on July 1. Though free agents can reach verbal agreements after this date, teams cannot officially sign unrestricted free agents until 12:00 A.M. July 6, when the moratorium ends.

Also on the schedule for the Raptors is a trip to Las Vegas to participate in the NBA’s annual Summer League. This will be the first season that all 30 teams will participate and the event will run July 6-17. Toronto has not yet named its Summer League roster and coaching staff, but has announced that Jama Mahlalela, newly named head coach of Raptors 905, will be part of the team’s coaching staff in Las Vegas.

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