Eight great for Raptors

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo will pick eighth at this year's NBA draft. (MARK...

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo will pick eighth at this year's NBA draft. (MARK BLINCH/Reuters file photo)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:53 AM ET

TORONTO - The Raptors didn’t move up, but they didn’t move down either.

In a year when the only team that made a positive move in the draft was the New Orleans Hornets — whose new owner Tom Benson now has a first overall pick (moving up from the fourth-best odds) to go with the honour of hosting another all-star game — Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo was content with his lot.

“We didn’t move back,” Colangelo said minutes after the lottery draft concluded. “You have to consider that a success. Last year we came with the third-best odds and moved back to five. We still got the guy we wanted, but having said that, you sweat that one out.”

Now the big question is what does Colangelo do with the pick and, based on his conversation immediately post-draft, Colangelo is definitely leaning toward keeping it.

“I’ve seen some people speculate that we may move the pick,” Colangelo said. “Obviously, if there is a transaction that warrants moving the pick, we will consider that. But we are not actively shopping it. We actually like this selection at eight.”

Colangelo has been on the move for the better part of the last month watching players in various workouts. He likes what he has seen.

“The pool of players at eight, just through some of the preliminary work that we have done here over the last four weeks, we have walked out of a number of gyms excited by what we have seen and thinking that if a particular player were on the board where we select, we would be very happy.”

Having said that, Colangelo would not discount trading the pick.

“I think it will all be a matter of what is on the board,” Colangelo said. “And, as you know, the $12 million of flexibility that we have as a result of the (Leandro) Barbosa trade gives us some options to take on contract. It may be committing some or all of the cap space moving forward and we would consider doing that. And if it was the right player, a player of a significant calibre, then we would obviously consider upping the ante and including the pick if necessary. But that’s not to say we are actively shopping it.”

Bottom line, Colangelo is leaving his options open, but seems quite willing to use the pick and bring in another young gun. He said he has no concerns about making an already young team that much younger with both last year’s pick Jonas Valanciunas and whoever the eighth spot would bring both making their NBA debuts.

“I’m okay with it in that coach (Casey) has already shown that he can get through to this young group and he gets them to compete day in and day out,” Colangelo said. “Particularly with Valanciunas coming in as a 20-year-old, he’s not your average 20-year-old. He has been playing pro basketball against grown men so he’s to some degree advanced in that regard.”

Colangelo also said he would not let what he has already on his team dictate which way he goes in the draft.

“I think you look at our team and you have to say we have a lot of good young potential on the roster, but some of that potential has not yet been realized,” Colangelo said.

“We do have a good feel that several of them will move forward based on our projections, but at this stage we can’t afford to pass on the best talent even if that means stacking ... We’re very deep at four (power forward), there’s no question, but if it means the best player on the board is a four, we will look at taking the best player.”

The next step in the process is continuing to build on the mountain of information the team has already collected on this draft class.

Picking eighth, Colangelo conceded, is obviously tougher than picking first, where consensus No. 1 pick Anthony Davis of Kentucky seems to be everyone’s no-doubter.

“Of course it’s more difficult,” he said. “You move up to one and it would be fairly simple. But I wouldn’t even say at two or three, if we had moved up, it wouldn’t have been some work.

“Clearly, at eight it expands it exponentially, but that’s what we do,” Colangelo said. “We have a good pulse of this draft. With the lockout-shortened season we had an opportunity to get out and see a lot of games. We’ll take advantage of that now with all that knowledge that was obtained and the work we put in will come in handy.”

The Raptors also have two second round picks to work on, the 37th overall and the 56th that came to the Raptors in the Barbosa trade with Indiana.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, who was on stage representing the Raptors, gave Colangelo a look as if to say he was sorry, but Colangelo was having none of that.

“Hey, we didn’t move back and the No. 1 pick went to the west and it doesn’t hurt that Brooklyn has one less asset now to deal with in terms of shaping their roster,” Colangelo said referring to the sorry Nets who had to move into the top three to retain their pick. But they remained at sixth, meaning their pick will now go to Portland as part of the Gerald Wallace trade.

“Obviously things worked out fairly favourably,” Colangelo concluded.


Photos