Right move for the Raptors, right now

Toronto is currently in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, and in 5th place [overall] in the Eastern Conference standings, with a 26-23/.531 W-L record.

After starting out 7-13/.350, with a difficult road-heavy schedule, the Raptors have since played 19-10/.655 basketball, with an easier predominently home-based schedule, that has effectively balanced out their season to-date.

If the Raptors can now manage to play .531 basketball for the remainder of the campaign they will finish with an overall mark of 43-39, or 44-38, which should then be good enough to qualify for the Eastern Conference playoffs and earn a mid-level seed [i.e. #5 or #6].

In a 1st Round playoff series of this type the Raptors would then be most likely to face one of:

1. The Atlanta Hawks/#4, who were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers [i.e. 2006-2007 NBA Finalists] last season [in the 2nd Round] and the Boston Celtics 2 seasons ago [in Game 7 of the 1st Round];

2. The Boston Celtics/#3, who were 2007-2008 NBA Champions; or,

3. The Orlando Magic/#2, who were 2008-2009 NBA Finalists;

each of which is a team with more experience than Toronto, having qualified for the post-season elimination tournament for the last two seasons.

If the Raptors are indeed able to compete successfully in this type of series … by winning at least 2 [or, possibly, 3] games … the challenge they would then face, in the off season, is trying to re-sign their best player, Chris Bosh, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer [July 1, 2010].

The NBA’s in-season trade deadline is now two weeks away [Feb 19], and the most important question on the minds of Raptors fans is:

QUESTION

Should Toronto make a trade, in advance of the deadline, in an effort to further improve their team right now, in hopes of being able to win their 1st Round playoff series this spring and, in the process, demonstrate to Chris Bosh that he will have a legitimate chance to compete for a league championship, in the immediate future, if he decides to renew his contract with the Raptors this off season, as a maximum salaried player? 

ANSWER

No, the Raptors should not make a trade of this sort, in advance of the deadline, in an effort to win their 1st Round playoff series this spring.

RATIONALE

Young teams like the Raptors need to be able to grow together, gradually, over an extended period of years, which involves taking 5 DISTINCT STEPS:

STEP 1. Learning how to make the playoffs, and then losing a 1st Round series;

STEP 2. Learning how to make the playoffs and, then, after making minor player acquisitions, advancing to the 2nd Round;

STEP 3. Learning how to make the playoffs and, then, after making a key player acquisition, advancing to the Conference Finals;

STEP 4. Learning how to make the playoffs and, then, after making another key player acquisition, advancing to the NBA Finals; and,

STEP 5. Learning how to make the playoffs and, then, after making minor player acquisitions, winning the NBA Championship. 

The Raptors’ current roster looks like this:

ROLE

PG

OG

SF

PF

C

Starter

Jack

DeRozan

Turkoglu

Bosh

Bargnani

Key Subs

Calderon

Belinelli

Wright

Johnson

Nesterovic

Reserves

 

Weems

Evans

 

Extras/Out

Banks

 

 

 

O’Bryant

and is ”good enough”, as is, to compete successfully in a 1st Round playoff series this spring, if their GM and head coach can [i] create the proper atmosphere around their team, and [ii] use their resources effectively.

RESOURCE

SERVICEABILITY

Bosh

- One of the best young All-around Big Men in the NBA

- Multi-faceted: Strong Rebounder; Strong Team Defender; and, Efficient Scorer … with Good character

Bargnani

- One of the best young Scoring Big Men in the NBA

- Scorer’s mentality … fearless

DeRozan

- Young, athletic Wing player

- Scorer’s mentality … needs added strength and crunch time PT

- Significant “upside”

Johnson

- Young, athletic Big Man

- High energy Rebounder/Defender’s mentality

- Significant “upside”

Calderon

- Ultra efficient Point Guard: High % perimeter shooter; Outstanding Ast:TO

- Emotionally Stabile and Unselfish

Turkoglu

- Veteran All-around Wing player

- Clutch scorer/shooter … fearless

Jack

- Still youngish, All-around Point Guard

Belinelli

- Still youngish, scorer/perimeter shooter

Weems

- Young, athletic rebounder/defender/slasher/mid-range scorer

Nesterovic

- Veteran Big Men; strong interior defender

Wright

- Veteran Wing player; adequate perimeter defender

Evans

- Veteran Big Man; strong rebounder with good toughness

Banks

- Veteran back-up Point Guard

O’Bryant

- Still youngish back-up Center

Stability is what the Raptors need most right now … and, to be able to find out exactly what they’ve got from their current group of players, when it comes to being battle-tested in a 1st Round playoff series against a veteran team like the Hawks, or the Celtics, or the Magic. 

What the Raptors do not need right now is increased Instability … in hopes of blithely skipping over Step 1 with this specific collection of players.

If Chris Bosh is actually the Right Person to lead the Raptors team into the future, then, he will decide on his own that Toronto is the best fit for him, and his long term goals/objectives, both, as a marquee player in the NBA, and as a person.

If Chris Bosh eventually makes the decision to resign with Toronto, the Raptors will then be in a “good” position to attempt to take Step 2 next year, after making minor player acquisitions during this coming off season. 

3. If Chris Bosh is not actually the Right Person to lead the Raptors team into the future, then, he will decide on his own that Toronto is not the best fit for him, and his long term goals/objectives, both, as a marquee player in the NBA, and as a person.

If Chris Bosh eventually makes the decision to sign with another team, then, the Raptors will still be in an “okay” position … i.e. with his vacant salary slot … to once again try to accomplish Step 1, in the gradual process of building a legitimate contending team in this league, over a number of years.

The major problem with this specific scenario is that this is precisely where the team has been before, on more than one occasion, during the Raptors’ first 15 years of existence:

A. With Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady;

B. With Vince Carter and Chris Bosh;

C. With Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani;

and, subsequently,

D. With Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan; etc., etc., etc.

Each time the Raptors have gotten to this same point before …

they have somehow managed to !@#$%^&* it up, royally, by trying to ”Swing for the fences”, prematurely, and in hopes of skipping Steps along the way.

Hopefully they [i.e. MLSE, Bryan Colangelo, and Jay Triano] have finally learned their lesson and, this time, are finally able to exercise the type of sound basketball judgment it takes to eventually build a legitimate NBA championship contending team in Toronto.

——————————

For the Raptors …

It is time to batten down the hatches.

Let the current season play out.

Allow Chris Bosh to make his own call.

And, sail the ship forward, regardless, on a straight [and well-charted] course. 

In this world, it takes time, to build something truly worthwhile.

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19 Responses to “Right move for the Raptors, right now”

  1. brothersteve Says:

    I assume you mean it takes time unless you are Boston? lol

    Raptors are young (Even Wright), and will likely get better if Colangelo just keeps the group together.

    Still its is very tempting to make a change – provided the player coming in isn’t a disruptive personality and the person going out isn’t in the starting line-up/ isn’t a key piece now.

    NO one over 29 should be considered as an add. Young with 5 years experience being ideal.

    Any trade has to be a clear win – or why do it?

    I’d say its 50/50 we see a significant transaction.

  2. khandor Says:

    brothersteve,

    Thinking that the Celtics took only 1 year to turn around the fortunes of their franchise is an error in judgment, IMO.

    If you take a look at the history of their team …

    Boston Celtics Results

    … what you should be able to see is evidence of a long and sometimes painfully slow process that actually begin in the 1999-2000 season.

    Those who think that 1-yr wonders can just happen overnight, with a single trade or two; or, that the best way to go about traveling from the outhouse to the penthouse is by changing courses incessantly, are simply wrong. :-)

  3. Hardcore Raps Says:

    I don’t disagree with your ideas regarding the Raps (maybe for the first time) but,

    How exactly did Boston not take 1 year to turn around their team?

    In 2007-08 they almost completely revamped and their team and ended up the season with a ring (only 6 returning players from 06/07, of which only 1 of which had playoff experience).

    From 1999-2001 they were a non-playoff team… then jumped to the Conference finals… then regressed each year (not in season win/loss but in playoff distance) until the were no longer a playoff team for 2 years (2005-07). The Celtics actually went in the exact opposite direction to your ‘steps’ above.

    The 1999 team is a vastly different team to the 2007/08 Champs (only 1 player who stayed the same). The 06/07 team was vastly different from the 2007/08 team (only 6 players returned) To say it was stability and letting players develop together is simply not accurate here.

    What is accurate is Boston went out and ‘bought’ talent and was rewarded with a ring (and they are not the only team to do that recently). I’m not criticizing them for it, or advocating for it, but sometimes when you roll the dice you win.

  4. FAQ Says:

    The Eastern Conference is in deep doodoo when a team like the Raptors with essentially 12, yes 12 new players can reach the 5th seed. (The only true ‘veterans’ were Bosh, Bargs & Jose.)

    It would be a miracle if the Raps win the first round, and their opposition (Atlanta, Boston, Orlando) would have to have a total meltdown with massive injuries to their roster .. and even then …

    It’s reasonable to assume that Bosh will not re-sign (or resign from) with the Raptors. My contention is that Nike will want Bosh to relocate to a prime US market team, and they will compensate him for any loss of salary. The Nike US market is over 300 Million .. while the Canadian market is puny and really only the ~6 Million Toronto market (and TO is over 50% new multicultis who don’t buy Nike bball shoes).

    You can bet that Bosh’s agent is lining up US endorsement sponsors even now in anticipation of the move .. because ad programs require many months to produce .. Bosh is gonezo .. believe it …

  5. Morning Coffee – Feb 6 | Slam Dunking Says:

    [...] khandor’s sports blog » Right move for the Raptors, right now Should Toronto make a trade, in advance of the deadline, in an effort to further improve their team right now, in hopes of being able to win their 1st Round playoff series this spring and, in the process, demonstrate to Chris Bosh that he will have a legitimate chance to compete for a league championship, in the immediate future, if he decides to renew his contract with the Raptors this off season, as a maximum salaried player? [...]

  6. Brain Colangelo Says:

    Khandor,

    I agree with you. They should wait Bosh out and, if he’s not coming back, S&T if possible and the right deal is there and otherwise live with it…

    The team is very, very young. Bosh -25, Bargs -24, DeRozan -20, Amir -22, Weems and Belinelli -23… They have a core that can be built around in order to peak in three years, when Bosh and Bargs are 28 and 27. The Hedo contract may be a problem by then and we’ll see what he and Jose have left at that point, but that’s what they should be building towards.

    I think the key for Bosh is to decide whether he wants to lead a team to victory or to be on a team that has a shot at winning. I think he’ll stay.

    Yours,
    Brain Colangelo

  7. Scott G Says:

    Great article… as even-handed an evaluation of the Raps as I’ve seen here, IMO. Not to say that 99% of your negativity isn’t warranted; I just think you aren’t always the first person to give the Raps credit when good things happen.

    The reality is that the future of this team is still in limbo, because of Bosh’s future, but ALSO because of the “loose cannon” we have for a GM.

    Re the celts, I’d agree that franchise was not a single-season re-build. It’s certainly true that they acquired the most important parts in a single year, but they also acquired guys like rondo, perk, etc who have proven equally important (this year should be clear evidence of that). They put themselves in a good position to rebuild by acquiring young talent (Rondo, Jefferson, Perk, jeff green, gomes, etc) and ONLY when the opportunity present itself did they go for the big moves. While the Allen and Garnett trades were no doubt advantageous for the Celts because they made deals with teams looking to re-build themselves, that fact in itself should NOT be chalked up to “chance,” “mchale’s friendship with ainge,” etc. Knowing the right time and place to strike is a HUGE skill for a GM to have.

  8. Brain Colangelo Says:

    To my earlier point, the Raps are young and inexperienced. See below, compare to other teams in the east and note, in particular, how young the Cavs still are… Stay the course, BC!

    NBA Teams Sorted by Average Experience

    Avg. Avg.
    Team Exp. Age
    Memphis Grizzlies 3.13 25.25
    Sacramento Kings 3.43 25.40
    Oklahoma City Thund 3.47 25.35
    Houston Rockets 3.60 26.66
    Minnesota Timberwol 3.80 25.91
    Portland Trail Blaz 4.00 25.48
    Indiana Pacers 4.20 26.70
    Milwaukee Bucks 4.20 27.13
    Utah Jazz 4.29 25.83
    Philadelphia 76ers 4.38 25.77
    Toronto Raptors 4.47 25.95
    Cleveland Cavaliers 4.53 27.40
    Golden State Warrie 4.73 26.52
    Chicago Bulls 4.86 27.57
    Phoenix Suns 4.93 27.15
    New Jersey Nets 5.00 27.04
    New York Knicks 5.00 26.17
    Miami Heat 5.13 27.04
    New Orleans Hornets 5.13 27.87
    Detroit Pistons 5.14 27.22
    Charlotte Bobcats 5.36 26.73
    Washington Wizards 5.40 27.63
    Los Angeles Clipper 5.47 27.15
    Atlanta Hawks 5.92 26.96
    Denver Nuggets 5.92 27.77
    Boston Celtics 6.40 28.33
    San Antonio Spurs 6.53 29.17
    Los Angeles Lakers 6.62 27.74
    Orlando Magic 6.71 28.71
    Dallas Mavericks 7.27 29.17
    Average 4.95 26.96

    NBA Teams Sorted by Average Age
    Avg. Avg.
    Team Exp. Age
    Memphis Grizzlies 3.13 25.25
    Oklahoma City Thund 3.47 25.35
    Sacramento Kings 3.43 25.40
    Portland Trail Blaz 4.00 25.48
    Philadelphia 76ers 4.38 25.77
    Utah Jazz 4.29 25.83
    Minnesota Timberwol 3.80 25.91
    Toronto Raptors 4.47 25.95
    New York Knicks 5.00 26.17
    Golden State Warrie 4.73 26.52
    Houston Rockets 3.60 26.66
    Indiana Pacers 4.20 26.70
    Charlotte Bobcats 5.36 26.73
    Atlanta Hawks 5.92 26.96
    New Jersey Nets 5.00 27.04
    Miami Heat 5.13 27.04
    Milwaukee Bucks 4.20 27.13
    Phoenix Suns 4.93 27.15
    Los Angeles Clipper 5.47 27.15
    Detroit Pistons 5.14 27.22
    Cleveland Cavaliers 4.53 27.40
    Chicago Bulls 4.86 27.57
    Washington Wizards 5.40 27.63
    Los Angeles Lakers 6.62 27.74
    Denver Nuggets 5.92 27.77
    New Orleans Hornets 5.13 27.87
    Boston Celtics 6.40 28.33
    Orlando Magic 6.71 28.71
    Dallas Mavericks 7.27 29.17
    San Antonio Spurs 6.53 29.17
    Average 4.95 26.96

  9. Brain Colangelo Says:

    Khandor – I tried to post something here re average team age and experience to demonstrate the raps’ relative youth and inexperience which does not seem to have posted… got it from here – http://rpiratings.com/NBA.html

    The rap’s are very young and have room to grow…

  10. brothersteve Says:

    Treating the Cs as a developed team is revisionist history at its best. They got lucky on draft related trades and getting desperate teams to trade them a couple of stars for what was mostly potential. A good GM has to be lucky and there was a lot of luck there. (If Boston was the Clippers – Rondo would have 2 broken legs)

    Oh and the Raps are now 28-23 as predicted in my Jan 22 blog. (Just bragging – I guess those 4 possible losses you had circled were possible wins?)

  11. khandor Says:

    Brain,

    1. Agreed that the Raptors are still a youngish team, at this point.

    2. Everything which Bosh has shown to this point says that he is someone who is willing to do what’s necessary in order to win.

    IMO, he will resign with the Raptors … if he believes that Bryan Colangelo knows how to construct a championship-winning team in Toronto.

    If, on the other hand, Bosh believes that Bryan Colangelo does not have this ability, despite the number of regular season W’s his teams have put up over the years, then, Bosh will not re-sign with the Raptors and will leave for a different situation that gives him a better opportunity to win.

    IMO, Chris Bosh is also smart enough to realize that Bryan Colangelo’s penchant for making rapid-fire changes to the roster of his teams is not the best way to go about cultivating a championship-winning atmosphere within an organization in the NBA.

    3. Bosh’s eventual decision will be a strong indication of his actual faith [or not] in the Raptors’ GM.

    PS. Your stats-based comment was original directed to my spam box.

  12. khandor Says:

    Hardcore and brothersteve,

    re: the Boston Celtics’ this past decade

    The key decision the Celtics’ management made was to draft and then, most importantly, hold onto Paul Pierce.

    The key decision Paul Pierce made was to stay with the Celtics, through thick and thin.

    The key decision the Celtics’ owners made was to get a GM with the ability to prioritize winning-it-all in the NBA.

    The C’s under Danny Ainge have not been merely trying to make a profit and be “competitive” on an annual basis with the other good-to-top teams in the NBA … what they have been doing, sometimes in a long and difficult build-up sort of way was geared toward trying to win-it-all in the not too-distant future.

    What they did in the Draft and thru trades, specifically, was acquire what they felt was going to be the best NBA talent down-the-road, regardless of position, with the intent of eventually trading some of those developing pieces for the necessary parts to put themselves into championship contention, when the time was right to go for it.

    You can choose to see each of the following steps, in an isolated way, if you wish:

    - drafting the likes of Chauncey Billups/1997, Paul Pierce/1998, and Joe Johnson/2001
    - Wyc Grousbeck becomes the principal owner/2002
    - hiring Danny Ainge/2003
    - hiring Doc Rivers/2004
    - drafting the likes of Al Jefferson/2004, Delonte West/2004, Tony Allen/2004, Ryan Gomes/2005 and Gerald Green/2005
    - trading for Kendrick Perkins/2003
    - trading for Sebastien Telfair/2006
    - trading for Leon Powe/2006
    - trading for Rajon Rondo/2006
    - deciding to keep rather than trade [or S & T] Pierce
    - then trading some of their burgeoning young talent + picks for an aging-but still All-Time Great Warrior named Kevin Garnett
    - deciding to keep Perkins, Rondo and Powe
    - drafting Jeff Green/2007
    - then trading for Ray Allen & Glen Davis [in exchange for Jeff Green, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak]
    - then adding solid under-rated vets like Eddie House, PJ Brown, Brian Scalabrine and Scott Pollard

    but, I am in agreement with Scott G., instead, that the Celtics’ championship was built on the strength of much more than “just getting lucky with a single roll of the dice.” :-)

  13. khandor Says:

    Scott G.,

    Agree with everything you’ve said here.

  14. khandor Says:

    FAQ,

    IMO, Bosh will re-sign with the Raptors, or not, because of the actual level of faith he has in Bryan Colangelo’s ability to build a championship-winning team in Toronto.

    Nothing more and nothing less than that … and, not based on dollars and cents.

    The most $$$ Bosh can get is by re-signing with the Raptors.

    If Bosh leaves it won’t be because he believes there’s more money and fame to be had for him in a different NA location.

    If Bosh leaves it will be because of Bryan Colangelo.

  15. khandor Says:

    brothersteve,

    As the off season progressed it was my opinion that the Raptors would finish the 2009-2010 campaign with somewhere between 38-44 wins.

    To this point, however, nothing which has happend has led me to change my mind about this eventual possibility/probability for Toronto.

    Hopefully, I am eventually going to be proven wrong, and the Raptors will finish with more than 44 wins this season.

    It’s a long and winding road, however, in the NBA, and things can sometimes change for the better/worse very quickly.

  16. brothersteve Says:

    “It’s a long and winding road, however, in the NBA, and things can sometimes change for the better/worse very quickly.”

    100% in agreement!
    Every prediction for every team can be dashed in a second by bad fortune or changed in a heartbeat by one of the dogs dropping an all-star in your lap for nothing (Lakers should have a “with special thanks to the Grizzles” engraved on their last 2 seasons successes.)

    NBA provides great entertainment and room for passionate discussion.

    I greatly enjoy your blog!
    (And I am hoping the Raps hold it together to beat your your best guess)

  17. Hardcore Raps Says:

    The only “important part” Boston had long term was Pierce. KG, Allen, Posey were brought in during the offseason. Perkins, Rondo (as rookies) the year before. That is very short term.

    When you go from one of the worst in the league the year before, to the hands down favorite (and eventual champs) after changing more than 50% of your team (almost all rotation players)… you did it overnight.

    The prior drafts, signings etc. may have left them in a position to take advantage of an opportunity (ie. trading for Allen and then KG). But it did not create the opportunity itself. It was a completely seperate isolated event.

  18. khandor Says:

    brothersteve,

    1. So, too, am I hoping to eventually be proven wrong this season in my best guesstimate for the Raptors’ end of year win total [i.e. 38-44].

    2. Thanks for the kind words about the quality of the content you find here.

    3. Your blog is a pleasure to read, in return.

    Your perspective is always appreciated, whether agree with or not.

  19. khandor Says:

    Hardcore,

    IMO, important Celtics parts included each of:

    - Paul Pierce
    - Wyc Grousbeck
    - Danny Ainge
    - Doc Rivers
    - Kendrick Perkins
    - Rajon Rondo
    - Leon Powe

    and the assets which were then used to obtain,

    - Kevin Garnet

    and

    - Ray Allen

    In my book, that’s a long term build-up which involved identifying core pieces, discarding others, adding new vital ingredients at the right time and, most importantly, staying the course with a coherent Plan of Attack, even in times of trouble when your team takes a step or two backwards, by winning fewer games in a particular season and perhaps missing the playoffs entirely.

    IMO, it’s a short-sighted approach to think of the Celtics as taking a different tact than that, as well.

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