Have you wondered why the Raptors have been inundated with 6-foot-9 and above players in recent years?
Ponder no longer, because in a recent interview with Sportsnet’s Donnovan Bennett, Raptors' president Masai Ujiri revealed his reasoning for having a proclivity to signing lengthy athletes.
Before Ujiri explained his penchant for 6-foot-9 players, Bennett prefaced with the fact that those athletes are now perceived as "Raptors players", because they fit the mould that has become synonymous with Toronto's roster as of late. The former Executive of the Year agreed.
“Yeah, it’s those players,” Ujiri explained. “It’s clear that this is what we want to do. We look for basketball players, talented players, but I believe that's where the game is going — to have these big athletes on the floor that can play the game that way.
"Precious [Achiuwa] is that way, Dalano [Banton] is that way, Christian [Koloko] is that way, and Chris Boucher is that way; all these guys continue to develop and become better and we want to look for that certain type of player. It doesn't mean we’re not going to have other types but we're going to develop like this and build this team around that. We just have to give Freddy some stilts.”
Ujiri went on to say that he was inspired to build around jumbo-sized players after watching former Duke University and Team USA head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, run a practice. He details how, when all the players stretched their arms, it was virtually impossible for the opposing team to penetrate.
“Well I remember him saying, you know, I think it was Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant, [Andre] Iguodala — five incredible long guys and he told everybody to stand on the court, take their positions, and put your hands out. They all put their hands out and he looked at the court and said, ‘who can come through this?’ Like, nobody can come through this. So, it struck me at the time, you got to have players that play both ways, and handle the ball.
"Bobby [Webster] and I talked about it and I tried to do it in Denver for a little bit, with those big players. I just believe it's where the game is going.”
Of course, Ujiri couldn’t end an interview without lauding the team’s leader, Fred VanVleet, so he extolled the miniature guard for having a “6-foot-9 heart.”
“You need guys like Fred with a 6-foot-9 heart. He's a giant, he’s taller than all those guys, better in terms of leadership, that’s what you need to build your team and we believe that’s where the game is going.”
The Raptors currently have a record of 11-10 and will roll out their mega-sized roster against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.
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