The dream of every general manager in the league is the red paper clip scenario. Essentially, you are able to turn what seems to be a useless item, a paper clip, into tangible assets through shrewd trading.
When Masai Ujiri took over the Raptors’ two summers ago, he really got to work remaking the useless items Brian Colangelo had left behind. He somehow snatched a first rounder for draft pick for Andrea Bargnani. That draft pick looks better by the day as the Nuggets officially entered the rebuilding process with the trade of Ty Lawson. While that may sound amazing, I would contend that the Rudy Gay trade could potentially be even better.
Consider this: Raptors fans would have been ecstatic with peanuts in exchange for Gay. Seriously, the expirings of Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva were seriously considered. If that trade came to fruition, all benefits could have ended by last summer. Instead, Masai got the gift that kept on giving. Let’s go over the return, a textbook example of asset accumulation.
Resigned last season to a team friendly contract that looks minuscule with the cap explosion, PatPat is now slotted as the starting power forward, in hindsight an excellent insurance policy for Amir Johnson’s ankles. There really is no need to wax poetic on what Patterson is: a useful starter.
- Lou Williams
- Lucas Nogueira
While John Salmon’s play was nothing to write home about, his contract ended up being extremely valuable. Lacking cap space to pursue a top free agent last summer, the Hawks ended up giving up two very nice pieces in exchange for the opportunity to ultimately sign…. Thabo Sefolosha. In exchange, the Raptors received a year of 6th-man of the year winning play from Lou Williams, whose stock was at an all time low when the Raptors acquired him. While his chucking ways were incredibly painful to watch (a trait carried over from his old team no doubt) , he was nevertheless the Raptors’ third most important player last year. All of this while staying healthy and weathering the storm as the top 2 options nursed their own injuries. If some hardware wasn’t enough compensation for John freaking Salmons, Masai also poached Nogueira, whose high leaping and smooth passing play this summer reignites hope that he can a solid rotational piece in the future.
- Norman Powell
- Clipper’s lottery protected first round pick in 2017
The Vasquez trade is great in isolation, and straight up terrific when viewed in the prism of this trade. He was held in impossibly low esteem by a Sacramento front office that goes through more quality point guards than Charles Barkley does fat jokes. Another buy low opportunity that Ujiri pounced upon. With two useful seasons ultimately tainted by allergies to defence that often coincided with the Spring, Vasquez was able to rehabilitate his value to the point that I’m not sure if the package for Ty Lawson is any better. However low, first round draft picks have incredible value in an era where continuity is very hard to accomplish. With the cap boom, the relative stability of the pay of draftees has reached maximum utility. In addition, the Raptors were able to parlay that second round draft pick, normally of little consequence, into an intriguing prospect in Norman Powell. Powell’s ceiling was and still is relatively low due to his age and lack of spacing, but Ujiri again bought low to secure what looks is hopefully another solid rotational piece. An excellent breakdown of his abilities can be found here. Basically, Powell can be useful on account of his defence even if his jumper never develops. Normal summer league caveats apply, but gaining First-Team honours is nothing to scoff at. If nothing else, Ujiri bought low on what looks to be the most likely so succeed out the 2015 second round.
A useful situational player brought in as a stretch 5.
In the end, which deal would you rather take? Two expirings that had no impact going forward? Or would you rather have a solid starter on the cheap, one year of an award winning sixth man, 2 young prospects looking to crack the rotation, a first round draft pick right as its value peaks, and two years of a solid 6 foot 6 backup point guard and the 6 foot 6 version of Dirk? (I still can’t get over how Vasquez and Hayes are the same height).
Granted, if Ujiri had stayed pat, the original return would have been uninspiring. However, by buying low on 3 separate occasions, Ujiri has been able to turn the untradeable Rudy Gay into a large stable of assets. As Bill Simmons would point out, this haul could have gotten you James Harden. At the end of the day, red paper clips are the name of the game.