This is normally the time of year when Bryan Colangelo is successfully climbing a mountain of information.
But as the Toronto Raptors head into what will surely be a franchise-defining few weeks, even their general manager acknowledges that, like almost every executive in the NBA, he's feeling for an elephant in a dark room. There's something big in there, but what exactly it is, he can't be sure.
Welcome to the off-season of 2010, unlike any other in NBA history and almost unique in professional sports, where some of the biggest names in basketball - not just LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Raptors' Chris Bosh, but all-star veterans like Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki and Amare Stoudemire - may be free agents angling for long-term contracts even as the league's salary cap is shrinking and most insiders are expecting a labour stoppage prior to the 2011-12 season.
The uncertainty will affect Thursday night's entry draft.
The Raptors are selecting 13th and have narrowed their list of desirable prospects to about a half-dozen after working out 36 or more players. Uncertainty abounds, however, because of Bosh's unknowable decision, the desire of forward Hedo Turkoglu to be traded, and an apparent log-jam at point guard, where the Raptors have $17.7-million (all currency U.S.) tied up in Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack and Marcus Banks.
"There's a lot of uncertainty with the roster, and with that uncertainty there's a lot of uncertainty around this pick," Colangelo said after the Raptors' final predraft workout Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre. "But we've said we're going to take the best available player, the one we feel has the most talent, the most upside, that we feel will fit this organization long-term."
Bosh hasn't helped matters by keeping silent on his intentions. He chose not to file the required paperwork for him to exercise the option year on his existing contract, which had to be done by June 20, making him a free agent on July 1, though that was not a surprise. But even though Bosh has indicated that he wants to work with the Raptors to find a partner for a sign-and-trade, Colangelo has no special insight into Bosh's plans.
"We all want a clear picture," Colangelo said, "but it seems those guys are holding their cards close to the vest right now and rightfully so. They've bargained for this opportunity and they're going to take full advantage."
So Colangelo is proceeding on multiple fronts. If Bosh leaves, the club would need front-court help, and that's why the Raptors had Kansas big man Cole Aldrich in for his second workout Tuesday. Also returning was Devin Ebanks of West Virginia, who would be a candidate if the Raptors picked up an additional first-round pick.
But the chances of drafting a franchise-shifting big man in the middle of the first round are relatively slim compared to finding an impact back-court player, which explains why the Raptors had University of Texas freshman guard Avery Bradley in town this week for further meetings and medical examinations. The 6-foot-1 speedster has drawn comparisons to the Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo, a No. 21 pick in 2006.
The Raptors' choice, and how he'll fit on a team that is in flux, will only become clearer as the next few weeks unfold.
"How the roster looks today, it will look entirely different a few weeks from now when it all plays out, I'm sure," he said. "We're going to try and keep it together, but some of it is out of our control."