By now, I think we’ve all come to realize and accept the fact that we are probably going to lose a lot of NBA basketball this season, maybe even an entire season due to the ongoing lockout.
As a fan, it is difficult to find the silver lining and the benefits of going an entire year without NBA ball. But the truth is that like any action, the NBA lockout will create many reactions and consequences, and some teams and organizations will be positively affected, just as some will be damaged.
The question then becomes, which teams will fall under each category? Which teams could a year-long lockout benefit, and which teams could a lockout decimate? Specifically, how could a year-long work stoppage affect the Raptors?
The obvious point being made among NBA fans and commentators alike is that if a hard salary cap is introduced, the immediate effect should benefit smaller market teams while taking some of the advantage away from operating as a big market team.
But what about looking at which teams will benefit and be damaged based on how they are presently constructed? I’ve been debating the affects of a year-long lockout on the Raptors with myself, like a schizophrenic, for the last few weeks, so I think it would be good for my sanity to open up the conversation to fellow fans and readers.
There are some interesting questions to ask. The Raptors are one of the youngest teams in the association – will missing an entire season allow them to gain a few yards on aging veteran teams, or will that missed time on an NBA floor prove costly in the development of players like DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and Jerryd Bayless?
One thing we can look at objectively is who will have money to spend heading into a 2012-2013 season, since no transactions can be made during the lockout. Right now, it looks like the Raptors will have about $39 million committed to players heading into 2012-2013. They would be in better shape than most of the NBA, but would also be miles behind teams like the Nuggets, Kings, Pacers, Nets, Clippers, Bobcats, Suns, Cavs and Celtics, who all have much less money committed than the Raptors do (you can thank the Calderon and Bargnani contracts for that).
Another deciding factor in how the lockout affects the Raptors is how the 2012 NBA draft will be handled in the event that no games are played in 2011-2012. Since the only recent example of this situation is the NHL lockout of 2004-2005, we can look at how they handled the 2005 Draft for ideas.
What the NHL did was give every team in the league a shot at the no. 1 pick, but they weighted the chances based on regular season performance and whether the team had received a first overall pick over the last three seasons. So, for example, a team who failed to make the playoffs in the three seasons prior to the lockout, and never received a first overall pick during that time, would have the greatest odds of snagging the no. 1 pick.
In the NBA, five teams fall into this category based on the last three seasons: the Timberwolves, Kings, Nets, Warriors and yes, the Raptors. Now obviously, we don’t know if the NBA will adopt a similar strategy to that of the NHL’s in 2005, but assuming they use something even mildly similar, then there is a chance that the Raptors will end up with a top-five pick in a loaded draft without even having to stink up the joint for 82 games.
From a personnel standpoint, without a 2011-2012 season, the Raptors should be adding a high draft pick and a Rambo-like Jonas Valanciunas to an already decent young core heading into 2012-2013, so they look to be on the right path with their youth movement.
Add in what looks to be some cap flexibility and a new collective bargaining agreement that could level the playing field a bit, and you’re suddenly looking at a very opportunistic situation for the Raptors going forward.
My personal opinion is that based on some of the points discussed here, the Raptors will be one of a number of teams that benefit as a result of the lockout, but the ramifications of the lockout alone will not push them into the company of the NBA’s elite.
I assume that like me, most of you are basketball fans before you are Raptors fans. Without the game itself, there would be no home team to support. And no pure basketball fan wants to lose a year of basketball.
But if a few years down the road, the Raptors are a perennially competitive team because of some of the results of the current lockout, will anyone really care that we missed one year of basketball, “x” number of years ago?
I doubt it.
Of course, everything could work against the Raptors coming out of the lockout – they could end up with limited cap flexibility and the 30th overall pick, thus rendering the last 700 words meaningless.
In that case, welcome to another decade of the Craptors.
The dog days of the 2011 NBA summer continue…