TORONTO - Bryan Colangelo is heading into the NBA draft with an open mind.
The Toronto Raptors president and GM said he has plenty of irons in the fire leading up to the draft Thursday, trying to ensure he's in the best possible position to react to and take advantage of any scenario that emerges.
"It's not a matter of just answering the question vaguely," Colangelo told reporters Tuesday. "There are literally so many balls up in the air and so many different scenarios could play out at this stage that it's premature to give any kind of indication."
Toronto holds the No. 8 overall selection and two in the second round at No. 37 and No. 56. Colangelo said he's received plenty of interest in his first-round pick and would consider trading it — to either move up in the draft or acquire a veteran player — if the price was right.
Another factor that could impact Colangelo's draft strategy includes teams potentially trading up past the Raptors for a shot at a player Colangelo covets. With 20-year-old Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto's 2011 first-round pick, slated to join the squad this season, Colangelo could opt to go with a future pick in 2012 while achieving his goal of improving his team now with the addition of a talented youngster (Valanciunas) and an established veteran in the draft, then using the club's roughly US$11 million in cap space in free agency.
"So much is speculated above us," Colangelo said. "All of it is speculation but I truly think there are some legs to some of the conversations because we might even be involved in some of those or feeling our way through a few of the scenarios.
"That's not to be specific about any of them, it's just we know No. 8 is certainly in play because there's a number of teams that have inquired about it and we've inquired about a few picks ahead of us to make sure that if we are going to pinpoint one player that we target that we have to move up to get then we would look to do so if necessary."
However, Colangelo said it's unfair for Raptors fans to put heavy expectations on the seven-foot Valanciunas, who is a member of the Lithuanian national team.
"We're excited about what he brings to the table but no one is putting the label of saviour on him," Colangelo said. "He's not the immediate ticket to the next level.
"But to know we have that level of talent coming in . . . that's a plus and we're looking for as many pluses as possible. If we do something with the pick to acquire a more veteran player that's probably an additional plus. We're going to be an improved basketball team, the question is to what level?"
Toronto missed the NBA playoffs after finishing the lockout-shortened season fourth in the five-team Atlantic Division with a 23-43 record under first-year coach Dwane Casey.
But Colangelo said with the Eastern Conference in a state of flux — the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic both have new GMs with personnel decisions to ponder (centre Dwight Howard's future in Orlando and forward Josh Smith's future in Atlanta) while Boston Celtics veteran forwards Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are eligible to become free agents — there could be an opportunity for an improved Raptors squad to make some noise next season.
"There is a lot of uncertainty in the East right now," he said. "There are all kinds of things in play right now and we hope to be taking our ascension to the next level and that's where we're headed.
"There's nothing that says we have to panic and do something harsh or reactionary. This is just all part of the process of continuing the growth of the team right now."
And it doesn't mean Colangelo will abandon his usual draft strategy of taking the best available player.
"We've always said best player available," he said. "You hope he fits a need and we've got some needs on our roster we're looking to fill.
"But it generally comes down to picking the best talent, the best player."