Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo likely will go the free agent route to improve his squad, and not jump into the draft.
The Raptors do not have a pick heading into tonight's NBA draft, although there's always the chance that Colangelo could trade for one. However, the two-time NBA executive of the year said yesterday that unless someone dangles him a deal for a draft pick that is just too good to turn down, he'll likely use the mid-level exception money available (about $32 million US over five seasons) on a free agent small forward (teams are allowed to sign free agents as of Sunday morning).
Colangelo has identified a top-level small forward as his most urgent need in terms of the Raptors moving forward as a power in the NBA.
Although he said that free-agent swingman Morris Peterson is not officially out of the picture, it appears that MoPete, as he is known to Raptors fans, is likely history, given the minutes head coach Sam Mitchell gave him last season, and his drop in production.
Free agents who have been mentioned as possible replacements for Peterson include Mickael Pietrus of Golden State, Orlando's Grant Hill, Luke Walton of the L.A. Lakers and Jason Kapono of the Miami Heat.
"It's likely," said the Raptors GM when asked if he would use all his mid-level exception money on one free agent. "But it depends on the player. Sometimes in free agency, you have to over-pay and we're willing to do that if we feel we're going to get the right players."
Colangelo added there is a good chance he will sign two free agents this off- season to replace the three or four Raptors who appear to be on their way out, such as Peterson, Uros Slokar, Pape Sow and Darrick Martin (all are free agents).
Colangelo acquired swingman Carlos Delfino from the Detroit Pistons for a draft pick this off-season, but said that an upgrade at the small forward position is still a priority.
For obvious reasons, Colangelo has kept any prospective deals he has discussed with other GMs close to the vest, but he did reveal yesterday that one team offered him a top-10 pick in tonight's draft for one of his current players, although he said the deal wasn't particularly enticing.
Colangelo confirmed that 10 to15 teams have inquired about backup point guard Jose Calderon, but stressed that the Raptors are not actively shopping the Spanish guard.
"He's arguably a solid starter for perhaps 10-15 teams in this league that don't have starting point guards, but we put a pretty high value on him too," Colangelo said.
In other news, Raptors forward Jorge Garbajosa, who fractured his left fibula and damaged ankle ligaments during a game in Boston last March, has been put on Spain's 15-man roster for this summer's European championships, though Colangelo reiterated that Garbajosa will play only if he is 100% recovered from his injuries.
Colangelo added that centre/forward Andrea Bargnani, who was second in rookie-of-the-year voting last season, has become bigger and stronger since the NBA season ended. Bargnani will play for Italy at the European championships.