Why the Raptors didn't utilize bench players more

Raptors president and vice-chairman Masai Ujiri discusses whether or not Toronto needs a traditional center, why Nick Nurse didn't give more minutes to a few developing bench players and skills they could aim to acqiure through free agency. Full availability is on our Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube.

Video Transcript

- Do you see that a big area of need for this team? Or based on the way that you want to play, does it almost make more sense to have guys like Precious and Khem than maybe a traditional big?

- Man, if I can't find more Preciouses, and more, like, Pascals, and OGs, trust me, we'll have 15 more of them on this team. We'll continue to pile them up. Those are the players that play in this league, and they play big time.

But it doesn't mean that we can't find, like, bigs that play and fit how we play. And if we see those bigs-- if we find those bigs that fit in how we play, 100% we are going to try and get them. There's no question about that. There's no discrimination here.

Yeah, we're trying to win. And we're trying to rim protect as much as you can. You saw defensive rebounding wasn't one of our best areas. And I think that will get better with these guys learning to play with each other more. I think you'll definitely get better. But we definitely put that on the table when we're evaluating our team.

- Nick mentioned yesterday that he was questioning-- or had room for more depth. And you mentioned that you wanted to grow from within. Can you do enough growth from within to have that many on the bench be all-- like, nine, 10, 11, 12 and be servicable and usable?

- We are going to make, like, little changes here and there, you know? And obviously, we have a mid-level exception that we can use. And we'll try and find some flexibility and be trades or to add players if that comes about.

But the core is the core. And barring injuries and things that, like, you feel kind of hinder your team a little bit along the way, we will-- we feel that there's going to be growth internally because Precious was not the same player he was in the beginning of the season. Neither was Boucher. Neither was Malachi.

I think players like Delano, Justin-- those guys will make a jump. They'll get better. And they need to be given the opportunity, too, because if we call our program a developmental program, we have to give those guys opportunity, too.

- Sorry, on that theme, what happened with that issue? You kind of look at how the minutes were distributed, and after the top seven guys or so fell off, even with injuries and stuff, they never really had that run through the year where the guys who would be in your development pool, I guess, really took a step forward or were given the opportunity. So was that because they weren't ready for that, or was that more philosophical on the coaches' side? How come that kind of eight to 13 or 15 roster or part of the roster was so-- wasn't able to contribute?

- Yeah, I think sometimes it's both of what you said, is some players develop faster than some others. And we saw Malachi do a little bit of it towards the end of the year. And that's on Malachi. That's on us. That's on coaching. That's on everything, right? It's a combination of everything.

I think we've-- because these guys that we had that were in that top seven, top eight needed to have a lot of development, too, and needed it. There's no question about it. We needed to see Pascal in these situations. We needed to see Fred in these situations-- OG, Boucher, all those guys.

And you have to do it intensely. You have to do it-- you have to be intentional, you know, about these things. And that was an understanding with all of us.

Yes, we're getting to coaching. And obviously, Nick is going to coach. I'm never going to tell Nick how to coach or what to do, you know?

And I think he got the best out of those players in some ways. Now, the guys from seven to 13 that you are saying-- they'll develop some more. Like, these things sometimes take time with different levels of players. And hopefully, some more time, d they'll develop even more.

- Could we see more-- a lot of movement in that kind of bottom half of the roster, or do you like what you have and they just need this-- they just need more time together?

- I think we'll continue to evaluate between now and the summer-- and now in July and see what we will change or what we'll keep.

- If this is your [? core ?] as you just said, does there not have to be-- I mean, your team relied on its starters more than any other team in the league-- its top five players. Does there not have to be, especially for Fred but other guys too, to get more depth added that you know the coach will use and just allow them to get to the playoffs as healthy as possible?

- Correct.


- As you're looking to add pieces, do you have any non-negotiables, like you have to check this box to come to our program or organization to play, whether that would be a first [INAUDIBLE] or your 15th guy?

- Yes, we're trying to get as many athletes as we can shooting premium in the league. They're not easy to find. And that's why, Eric, to your question, like, we try to develop as best as we can. And the best way to explain it sometimes is patience, you know, and within.

And not all players are going to develop as fast as the other. Sometimes it takes time, you know? That's why sometimes a guy like O'Shea goes somewhere else, you know? And you see. Like, it takes time, and it's developed, and he's playing on another team, right? Like, you just give that example. I don't mean to mention another team's player.

But these are the examples you have, where sometimes, like, it takes time for them to develop, and sometimes you shut the door too quick. We have to make that judgment. And then we have to bring other players to our team.

I think character, athletic ability-- we like two-way players. Everybody does. [CHUCKLES] You know, they are hard to find. But we're trying to build from within. [LAUGHS]

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