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Toronto picks uncertain as draft nears Add to ...

And now there are five.

The Toronto Raptors have had nearly 40 players come to them to work out in advance of the NBA draft. They have had representatives travel across North America and Europe for more opportunities to see draft-eligible players show their wares and will have two more prospects in Toronto this week for "under-the-radar" private sessions.

And they still don't know who they will pick Thursday night.

But Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo says he at least has a list of five he expects to choose from when the No. 9 pick comes around: DeMar DeRozan, Jonny Flynn, Gerald Henderson, Jrue Holiday and James Johnson. All are perimeter players, split between point guards (Flynn, Holiday), shooting guards (DeRozan, Henderson) and small forwards (Johnson).

Some - Johnson, Henderson and Flynn - could be contributors as rookies. Others - teenagers Holiday and DeRozan - might be more long-term plays.

"I think it's safe to say one of those players will be a Toronto Raptor unless something crazy happens and there's a trade and we don't pick at nine," he said.

Colangelo gave little indication the Raptors might be part of a draft night trade. If anything, he implied the opposite. While he had raised the possibility of using the $3-million (U.S.) in cash they received from the Miami Heat for Shawn Marion to buy an additional first-round pick earlier this spring, Colangelo said that was unlikely now as he wanted to preserve the money he had to spend under the luxury tax threshold.

Similarly he said that while he'd been approached to move up in the draft - the Washington Wizards are dangling the No.5 pick and NBA sources say picks two through six are all being offered - Colangelo said it was unlikely the Raptors would pay the price.

If they stay on the sidelines they may be the exception on what is expected to be a busy night for trade activity.

"There are two things going on," said one Western Conference executive. "The salary cap is going to be flat or come down this year and may shrink again next year, so teams are really watching their costs. The other is that after Blake Griffin [the unanimous first overall pick]there isn't a lot of difference between the next group of players, so teams will be looking to move down and get a player they like at a cheaper price."

With a buyer's market for talent looming, Colangelo says the Raptors' best move may be to resign their own free agents and then - once over the salary cap - use the mid-level exception to add a quality player.

The Raptors have already made a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Carlos Delfino, who is expected to return from a season in Russia. They also have had positive feedback from Marion about the possibility of him returning to play small forward.

With a tight job market the Raptors are hopeful an offer in the range of three years for $21-million might be enough to keep him in Toronto.

"The indication is he wants to be here," Colangelo said. "And the message we've given him is we'd like him back, he fits this roster and we'll try to make it happen."

The future of Anthony Parker remains a question mark as the veteran shooting guard is weighing interest from Europe as well as some other NBA teams.

The recent acquisition of Reggie Evans from the Philadelphia 76ers also makes it unlikely Toronto will use their money this summer to sign another big man, making it unlikely former Raptor Rasho Nesterovic will be repatriated from Indiana.

Instead the summer spending will likely be determined by what comes out of the draft. If the club ends up with a point guard, look for the Raptors to target a small forward or shooting guard and vice versa.

The Milwaukee Bucks traded Richard Jefferson to the San Antonio Spurs in a move obviously driven by the Bucks' need to shed salaries, a trend Colangelo expects to continue this summer.

"You're going to see a lot of strange and interesting deals," he said. "Some predicated by competitive reasons, some based on financial considerations."

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