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Raptors Q&A with Blake Murphy!

Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic was kind enough to answer some Raptors questions for us.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Rufus on Fire: Lets start off with a bang and jump right into the Rudy Gay trade. Gay was a player brought in by the old regime. Do you see the original trade to bring him in as a complete and total failure? What were your opinions on him when he was in Toronto? How do you feel about the trade that sent him to Sacramento?

Blake Murphy: It was definitely a failure. At the time, it reeked of Bryan Colangelo trying to save his job with a splash, and it's a little ridiculous in retrospect a board that planned to fire him allowed it to happen. The two trades together are a net loss in terms of value, but at least the deck is cleared now, with an added benefit of more watchable basketball in the interim.

Rufus on Fire: Masai Ujiri might be the most popular GM in the blogosphere right now. I know it's early, but what are your early thoughts on him?

Murphy- So far, so good. The big thing with Ujiri is that he's now done a pair of impressive tear-downs but we've yet to see him truly build something. I have faith, but I've been hurt before.

Rufus on Fire: One thing I've noticed about the Raptors coach Dwane Casey is that a lot of people out there feel he was given an impossible hand with the Raptors. Then there are those who feel, despite the hand he's been given, that he has not been a good coach. What are your thoughts on him? What about the general consensus fans and other writers?

Murphy- I pretty much feel those two somewhat conflicting takes get to the point of it. No, he hasn't been given a fair shake, with a constantly changing roster and now a situation where his goals may not align with the organizations. With that said, there are basic elements of coaching (plays out of timeouts, clock management) where he's obviously lacking, regardless of circumstance. I think the consensus would be that he's a great guy, a bad head coach, a good assistant and a terrific tank commander.

Rufus on Fire: DeMar DeRozan is in his 5th season in the NBA. At some point you just have to say this is the most we're going to get out of this guy. Have we seen all we're going to get out of Derozan?

Murphy- DeRozan has actually taken a step forward this year, and not just based on a few extra field goal attempts. He's added a 3-point shot which, even if it's below-average, was a necessary addition, and he gets to the line at an impressive rate. And, as he's done every year, he's made an improvement to his passing, specifically off the bounce, without seeing an uptick in turnovers. He's still a poor defender and "just a scorer," but it's a role he's gotten a bit better at.

Rufus on Fire: The Raptors look like a team that's going to tear down everything and start over. Who, if anybody, do you think could be around for the long term?

Murphy- Jonas Valanciunas is reportedly close to untouchable and the asking price for Amir Johnson is said to be high. I'd guess that Terrence Ross will stay put, too, unless a team puts their foot down on him being in a deal (not that he's awesome or anything, but he's the type of player the Raptors would be looking to get back, not deal, and I doubt his trade value is that high). Really, though, nothing is nailed down and Valanciunas is the only player I'm confident will be here in 2015.

Rufus on Fire: Jonas Valančiūnas is loved by many but some feel he's a little over hyped. What areas of his game does he really need to maximize to become the type of center many believe he can be? Also on a side note, his Free Throw rate is down this season despite a higher usage, is that just the system?

Murphy- It's difficult to evaluate Valanciunas because the way he's been used has been pretty odd, especially before the Gay trade. But yeah, he's been disappointing, and the over-hype was something I was worried about before the year. He's still got tonnes of potential and I'm not at all down on him long-term, but among other little things, he needs to be more decisive in face-up situations, set stronger screens (he's a strong dude but he tries to slip into the lane too early) and fix the body language when he doesn't get a look.

Rufus on Fire: Toronto has always had a difficult time attracting free agents. It's really an awesome city, despite the cold weather and needing a visa to play there, do you think that if the team had a little more history of success they would have a better time attracting free agents or is it really just the weather and that it's a completely different country?

Murphy- The different country stigma is hard to overcome, I guess, but the other complaints don't hold much water. It's not geographically far from most cities, other big markets (New York, Chicago) are also cold and you can, in fact, get the good cable if you try. Colangelo exploited the international aspect a bit to attract non-U.S. free agents, but I think success is obviously important. Perhaps most important, though, is maintaining roster and cap flexibility so that trades are always a realistic option to improve the club.

Rufus on Fire:

Okay last question, I know I told ya these would be Raptors related but I can't let you leave without asking you one thing Bobcats related. What are your thoughts on the Bobcats right now?

Murphy- I like 'em! The defense has been impressive and I'm so enamored with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, jump shot or not, it's unhealthy. I also like Josh McRoberts (sneaky fantasy stud), Chris Barnewall, Cardboard Gerald, Rufus on Fire and please like and follow me, I'm lonely.

Follow Blake Murphy on twitter @BlakeMurphyODC. He likes basketball, long walks on the beach, and funny gifs.