The overall direction and eventual landing spot of the current Raptors’ rebuild has been on my mind for much of the summer, as I know it has been for some other Raps diehards, too. Whether you want to call it a rebuild, a retooling, or simply a build, as Bryan Colangelo now refers to this stage, it’s obvious that Toronto is in Year Three of some sort of plan, and that the Raptors will head into training camp next month with what is unquestionably the best post-Bosh roster yet.

In a recent piece for NBA.com, John Schuhmann doesn’t necessarily seem sold on the idea that the ceiling for this Raptors team is very high but he does seem to like the general direction of the franchise in his column titled “Raptors moving steadily along in their rebuilding phase.”

This brings us back to the question of what exactly the Toronto Raptors are building towards.

It would obviously be ideal to aim for championships and iconic dynasties, and while I believe Bryan Colangelo and co. desperately want that (who wouldn’t?), the recent rebuilding models of the Grizzlies and Pacers seem to be much more realistic for the Raptors then that of the Thunder or Heat.

Complain about that all you want, but you can’t really expect a team to purposely tank for more than a season or two, you can’t expect the casual fan to support the team through a prolonged and painful tank, and you can’t expect meaningful NBA players to randomly want to play in Toronto until the team shows that it’s committed to winning and building something meaningful in itself.

Unless your team resides in the New York area, the Los Angeles area or Miami, your team needs to take some sort of next step forward, hoping that a collection of assets and an eventual winning culture leads to an attractive NBA destination for stars.

I maintain that building a team that looks to be on the rise and establishing a winning culture in Toronto would make the city a top-10 destination for stars in the future, and if the Raptors can follow in the fresh footsteps of the aforementioned Grizzlies and Pacers in team building, we’ll get to see if I’m right about Toronto’s appeal.

So let’s see how the Grizzlies and Pacers got to where they are today.

*Note, the far right column includes prospects acquired through the draft, whether by using their own pick or trading within the draft. In addition, I didn’t include 2012 Draft results because I’m focusing on what led to the two teams’ most recent success in 2011-12.*

Grizzlies

Season How they finished What it led to in Draft
2006-07 22-60, 15th in West Mike Conley
2007-08 22-60, T13th in West O.J. Mayo, Darrell Arthur
2008-09 24-58, T11th in West Hasheem Thabeet, Demarre Carroll, Sam Young
2009-10 40-42, 10th in West Xavier Henry, Greivis Vasquez
2010-11 46-36, 8th in West Josh Selby
2011-12 50.9 wins (prorated to 82 games), 4th in West

If you count the 2006-07 season as the beginning of this rebuild for Memphis, you’ll see that it began with two major assets – Pau Gasol and a rookie named Rudy Gay (Ironically, Kyle Lowry and Damon Stoudamire were both on that Grizzlies roster, but neither played important roles in the team’s step forward). The Grizz traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers in the trade that brought brother Marc Gasol to town in 2008 and later traded Quentin Richardson to the Clippers for Zach Randolph in the summer of 2009. So heading into the 2009-10 season, the Grizzlies had a core of Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley, and they improved by 16 wins that year, which would set the table for big steps forward in the following seasons.

In terms of the initial rebuilding stages, the Raptors seem to be on a faster track right now, as Memphis struggled through back-to-back 60 loss campaigns before upping their win total to 24 in Year Three. Toronto lost 60 games in the first year of the current build, but then upped their win total to a prorated number of 28.6 in the lockout-shortened Year Two.

Now let’s take a look at the Pacers. Indiana missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons in 2006-07, finishing tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 35-47 record, though all they had to show for it in the 2007 Draft was the rights to Stanko Barać. Who? Exactly, so let’s begin with the 2007-08 season, which led to a building block acquisition from the 2008 Draft.

Pacers

Season How they finished What it led to in Draft
2007-08  36-46, 9th in East Roy Hibbert, Brandon Rush (both draftees acquired in trades)
2008-09  36-46, 9th in East Tyler Hansbrough
2009-10  32-50, 10th in East Paul George, Lance Stephenson, Magum Rolle (great name)
2010-11  37-45, 8th in East Traded No.15 pick (Kawhi Leonard) to Spurs for George Hill
2011-12  52.2 wins (prorated), 3rd in East

Heading into that 2007-08 season, the Pacers had some good players, or at least somewhat valuable veteran players (Jermaine O’Neal), but looking back on it, the only true future building block they had in place was Danny Granger. And at the time, even Granger was far from a sure thing, as he entered the 2007-08 season with two NBA seasons under his belt where he averaged about 11 points, five rebounds and a Player Efficiency Rating of just 14.2.

Granger was a better defender and rebounder already, but at that stage of his career, you could probably make a fair comparison between the then 24-year-old and what DeMar DeRozan is as a 23-year-old heading into the 2012-13 season. And while I understand how misleading it can be to throw out these kinds of comparisons, I’m going to do it anyway, since I would say the Pacers drafting Roy Hibbert (through the Raptors) and Paul George and trading a few picks for George Hill is very comparable to the Raptors drafting Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross and trading a pick+Gary Forbes for Kyle Lowry.

Heck, I’d even say the drafting of Tar Heel big man Hansbrough 13th overall in 2009 is comparable to the drafting of Tar Heel big man Ed Davis 13th overall in 2010. For what it’s worth, Davis has put up competitive efficiency and defensive numbers with what Hansbrough did through two years, despite being three-and-a-half years younger than Tyler.

The closer comparison to the Pacers might bode well for the Raptors, as although the Grizzlies probably started with more to build with, the Pacers drafted much better, have the higher ceiling now, and also have much more financial flexibility going forward than the Grizzlies do.

Either way, at this point (Dwane Casey’s second season in charge but first full 82-gamer), the Raptors seem to be in a similar situation to where the Grizzlies were heading into the 2009-10 season (Lionel Hollins’ second season, and first full season, which ended up in 40 wins and a 10th place finish out West) and where the Pacers were heading into the 2010-11 season (where Frank Vogel eventually took over and which ended up in 37 wins and an eighth seed in the playoffs).

This pattern seems to gel with what I assume most people will project for the 2012-13 edition of the Raptors, as I can see this team finishing in the neighbourhood of 35-39 wins and a ninth or 10th place finish in the East, with a chance to sneak into the playoffs.

If the 2012-13 Raptors live up to that modest potential, Toronto seems to be in line for the kind of table-setting season Memphis enjoyed in 2009-10 and Indiana enjoyed in 2010-11. And if the organization commits to this build and makes the right adjustments here and there (which I’m not assuming is a given based on MLSE’s track record), it all could mean a couple of big steps forward for the Raptors in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

The Heat are an obvious powerhouse in the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future, but there’s plenty up for debate after them. A healthy Bulls team, the Pacers, the Hawks and the entire Atlantic Division all have high hopes, but they also all have question marks going forward.

There is an opportunity here for the Raptors (and other building teams) to seize, and if they play their cards right, the Raps can achieve the recent success of the Pacers and Grizzlies – sooner than you realize, and in a much better and more sustainable market (sorry, Indiana and Memphis) than either of those teams did it in.

Comments (76)

  1. The Pacers parallel fits the Raptors a lot better where you just load the team with young players who don’t individually possess star upside but might be able to develop together and compliment each other to form a decent team.

    The Grizzlies have botched so many things (blowing the Thabeet pick, trading Love for Mayo and not getting much out of Mayo) but have been bailed out time and time again (by Gasol’s unexpected developed and the gamble on Randolph) so it’s tough to give them credit for following a plan.

  2. Like the point about the Heat, we need to be realistic as fans that as long as the Heat have Lebron, we don’t stand much of a chance, and that its more about being ready for when they start to fall, and Celts get too old and then we can be right there and take our next step.

  3. I agree with much of this – tanking proponents always point to OKC, but they essentially lucked into some phenomenal draft talent. Trying to emulate them is not a plan – it’s playing against house odds.

    I believe more in making the most of your opportunities and accumulating assets, especially after already going to the lottery a few times. By doing that while maintaining good flexibility, you put yourself in position to attract FA’s and/or make a big trade when talent becomes available. I don’t think any pro sports team intentionally dwells in the cellar for more than 1 or 2 seasons – only incompetent franchises end up there.

  4. Talent wise, of the comparisons you can say we have the potential to match or even surpass.

    You can tell it’s September and the optimism is high. If the players all perform as we hope they will this team an make a considerable jump in the Eastern Conference.

  5. I think the comparison to the Pacers is very fair. And that’s exactly what I’m afraid of.

    I think aiming for high-level mediocrity is already failing. I think it’s sad that Raptor fans are so lacking in hope that just being competitive is good enough for many.

    And I realize that the casual fan won’t stick around a team that tanks for more than a season or two, but a team whose ceiling is the second round is not the best way to attract loyal fans.

    I think if a team really wants to win, they have to be willing to sacrifice some fans in the short term knowing that they’ll get back twice as many just by becoming a legitimate contender.

    That’s why the “losing the casual fan” excuse doesn’t fly. First of all, you’re not going to attract a lot of casual fans with a mediocre team, and those you do attract are not going to stick around very long once they realize the team isn’t going anywhere.

    And a team that is actually a contender will attract WAY more fans than a mediocre team, even a high level mediocre team, like the Grizzlies, Pacers or Hawks, all of whom are struggling in attendance. Fans aren’t stupid. They figure it out pretty quickly if a team really is a contender or not.

    That’s why a good GM would do whatever it took to build a contender. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that the Raptors have one.

    • Tim: There is no feasible way for the Raptors to become contenders within the next few seasons because of the existence of the Miami Heat. And intentionally tanking for the next three seasons would make this franchise even more of a laughingstock, and would in no way guarantee long-term success. Also, show me an example of an NBA franchise that willingly signed off on losing as many games as possible for multiple consecutive seasons.

      I don’t think Colangelo has done a great job as GM, but I’m really tired of people who expect him to tank because of the 1 in whatever chance that it might land a Kevin Durant type of player. The problem with fans like you is that you deal in absolutes rather than reality. There’s no golden ticket to a championship. When you’re in the situation the Raptors are in, you’re better off just trying to build the most competitive team you can and hope that you catch lightning in a bottle one season like the Pistons and Mavericks did.

      No team owner wants to be told that they have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fund a team that is going to essentially lose on purpose for several seasons. This isn’t a video game. This is big business and real life.

      • So because of the existence of the Miami Heat, the Raptors should completely give up even TRYNG to build a contender? I don’t buy that.

        You’re tired of people expecting Colangelo to tank? Well, I don’t expect him to tank. I expect him to continue to build a mediocre team and have the team annually compete for a playoff spot but not get anywhere.

        And I also don’t expect that the team owners will do anything. You’re mistaking me saying what I WANT to happen and what I expect to happen.

        What I expect to happen is for the next 17 years to go pretty much the same way the last 17 years have gone for this franchise.

        What I want is for an owner and a GM with some balls to actually try and build a contender, something that is not going to happen the way things are going now.

        And a team has a FAR, FAR better chance of drafting an elite player by tanking, than of winning a Championship without an elite player. So let’s not talk about how little chance a tanking team has of landing a Kevin Durant without talking.

        • I know some of this is obvious and other parts demand further discussion, but try to catch the gist re: how incomplete the “Let’s tank until we land a superstar, then win championships!” strategy is.

          Start with recent championship teams:

          Q: How much did the Lakers tank for Kobe?
          A: They didn’t. They traded Vlade Divac for him.
          (Who helped Kobe win titles? Shaq – FA, Gasol – trade.)

          Q: How much did the Mavs tank for Nowitzki?
          A: They didn’t. They traded Robert Traylor for him(!).

          Q: How many of the Celtics’ big 3 were drafted?
          A: Only Pierce (of course). 2/3 of the Big 3 acquired via trade.

          Q: What kind of help did Dwayne Wade (drafted – after Bosh!) need to win championships?
          A: Shaq (trade), Lebron + Bosh (FA)

          Q: How did the Pistons build their team? Lots of tanking?
          A: Nope. Drafted Prince 23rd, traded for Ben Wallace and Rip, took a flier and signed an underperforming Chauncey Billups.

          Other quick lotto facts re: draft in 30 team NBA (http://blogs.thescore.com/tbj/2012/05/29/eleven-factual-tidbits-regarding-the-nba-lottery/):

          Q: Who has been to the lottery the most?
          A: The Clippers. 17 out of 22 times. According to tanking philosophy, this team must be a dynasty….

          Q: Who has been to the lottery the least?
          A: The Spurs. According to tanking philosophy, this team must be on a pretty lame treadmill…

          Q: Which 4 teams have landed 5 top 3 picks each in the lottery?
          A: Chicago, Clippers, Philly, Grizzles. Again, tanking dynasties.

          Q: In the last 22 draft lotteries, how often has the team with the best odds landed the #1?
          A: 3 times.

          Again, tanking is not a strategy – it’s a crap shoot. Increasing your odds in the crap shoot ever so slightly by being one of the worst teams in the league doesn’t make it more of a strategy, it only gives you slightly better crap shoot odds. All recent championships took available talent, made moves to add to their talent, and generally had a lot of variables go their way. None of them (None of them!!!) tanked repeatedly for multiple seasons to acquire the talent needed to win a championship.

          • Alright, an honest to god discussion. Excellent.

            I’m not suggesting for a second that a team like the Lakers, Heat or even New York needs to tank to land a superstar. You know as well as I do that players are lining up to play for those teams. Even the Clippers have the benefit of playing in Los Angeles, otherwise Chris Paul would never have agreed to be traded there.

            Let’s look at those teams’ record for landing superstars outside of the draft.

            - Kobe, a high school player picked in the middle of the first round, demanded to be traded to the Lakers.
            - Dwight Howard demands to be traded, his first choice being Brooklyn, rebuffs teams like Golden State, but agrees to the Lakers, who have also landed…
            - Nash, who basically decides between New York and Los Angeles.
            - Shaq left a good situation in Orlando in order to play for the Lakers.
            - Then, nearing the end of his contract, agreed to a trade to Miami, where he lives in the offseason and one of the most desirable places for a rich person to live in the US. Pat Riley also was the president of the Heat, which helped.
            - Both LeBron and Bosh agree to sign with Miami and play with Dwyane Wade, another superstar.
            - Amare spurns both New Jersey and Chicago in order to sign with New York.
            - Carmelo soon follows Amare to New York, forcing a trade there.
            - Deron Williams is the only superstar traded without his prior approval, and basically is only able to re-sign him after the move to Brooklyn (Williams said it was a big factor in his decision).
            - Chris Paul is almost traded to the Lakers, but then agrees to a trade to the Clippers, who also play in Los Angeles. Of course the Clippers also have Blake Griffin, who was a #1 pick and was considered a future superstar.
            - Kevin Garnett agrees to a trade to Boston, a team that already has Paul Pierce, who they drafted.

            Basically, if you aren’t one of the two most storied franchises in professional sports, or don’t live in one of the few prime locations, your chance of landing a superstar outside of the draft is pretty much nil.

            Unfortunately, Toronto is not a destination that would be high on most free agents lists. And building a mediocre team isn’t going to change that.

            As for San Antonio, they missed the playoffs 3 times in 25 years, and landed David Robinson and TIm Duncan. Why the hell would they need to tank when they have a horseshoe up their ass? Let’s see how they’re doing in five years when Duncan and Ginobili are gone and Kawhi Leonard (who I like as a complimentary) is their best player.

            Dallas and the Lakers acquired Dirk and Kobe right after the draft at a time when Europe was underscouted and high school players could still enter the draft. A few years later and teams are taking Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade and then Andrea Bargnani is the #1 pick. You aren’t finding gems like those later in the draft anymore. Take a look at the last 10 years in the draft. Only a few players outside of the top 5 have made the All NBA Team. Rondo, Bynum and Love.

            It’s become next to impossible to find elite players outside of the top five, probably due to improved scouting, both nationally and abroad, and the fact that the NBA raised the age limit. In the previous 10 years you’ve got loads. Paul Pierce, Dirk, Kobe, Nash, Ginobili, Parker, Randolph, Garnett, Arenas, McGrady, Amare, Arenas, Ben Wallace, Marion, Peja, Artest, Cassell, Michael Redd, Jermaine O’Neal.

            If that’s not proof it’s getting harder to unearth gems low in the draft, I don’t know what is.

            I also hate when the Clippers history is brought up. The Clippers have been THE worst run franchise in NBA history, and have tone of the worst drafting records in the last 20 years…
            http://www.82games.com/bestdraftingteams.htm

            If you want to bring up the Clippers as an argument that the Raptors should not be horribly run. Fine. I agree with that. But don’t bring them up as a reason not to tank.

            Now, I know that tanking isn’t a guarantee of anything, but you get a WAY better shot at a superstar by drafting high than you do if you’re not (and you aren’t L.A., Miami or New York).

            I don’t LIKE the fact that a team like Toronto needs to tank to build a Championship team, but that’s the way the NBA has made things.

            I’d rather suffer through 3 or 4 years of bad ball in the hopes of landing a superstar, then through what we’ve been through the last 17 years knowing the chances of landing one is slim to none.

          • +1. One thousand, that is. A great counter-argument to the pro-tanking nonsense. There are (a tiny few) times when a team’s outlook is so bad that they need to tank. But it is not a long-term strategy.

          • “Again, nobody has won a title in this millenium with talent acquired through a dedicated multi-year tank. I don’t know how it gets any clearer than that?”

            Nobody has won a title in this millennium by building a competitive team and then either trading for or signing a franchise player, without actually having one in the first place. So what exactly is your point?

            Besides, why does the “anti-tank” argument always assume that ALL the talent will be acquired through the draft? I’m not against acquiring talent through a trade or free agency. I’m just saying you need to draft your franchise player first, then you can starting trading and signing all the other pieces.

          • OK, you’ve converted me SR.

            I’d already stopped wishing the team would tank before last season started, but once it became obvious that tanking was BC’s plan, it was painful to watch the team and coach and scrubs not cooperate. Painful to see the Cleveland team, with the same plan, getting it and tanking the first two games to the Raptors. More painful when the secret coin flip and secret lottery cost us even more – and lastly, the most painful when BC selected Ross instead of Lamb. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Ross, but Lamb will be the better player.
            /end rant

            I fully intend to enjoy watching this team develop together, and hope BC can make some trades in the next year (or two if he gets extended) that will not only allow the Raptors to make the playoffs, but to be competitive in them as well. Top three may not be doable, but I’d really like to see a strong push for 4th or 5th seed.

          • Jojo Kracko,

            So you’d be happy if the Raptors don’t become true contenders? Being competitive is good enough for you?

            Can you imagine if the Lakers, Boston, San Antonio and Heat had said that?

        • There is several ways to build a contender.

          • OUtside of moving your franchise to Los Angeles, New York, Miami, or even Dallas or Houston, I’d like to know what is more viable than trying to land a superstar through the draft?

          • You’re right about location attracting talent in the NBA. There’s also the fact that the Celtics/Lakers have won 32 titles since 1950.

            Still, the issue here (as I see it) is Raptors fans repeatedly proposing that a multi-season tank is the way for TO to get elite talent and possibly win a championship. I think that a brief look at title teams shows that:

            NONE of them (including “small” market Mavs, Pistons, and Spurs) acquired their talent through dedicated tanking. None of them. So why is this even a discussion?

            As for an alternative; I think I pretty clearly mentioned that twice already. Deal with what you’ve got instead of cossing your fingers for good luck (again, look at how Cuban just screwed up the Mavs by gambling on long-term unknowns). You do need to have a lot of things go your way to land a title regardless of your market size (how many have the Knicks won?), but at least if you’ve been grabbing the talent you know you can get (instead of giving it away in hopes of bottoming out and landing – well, you don’t even know who you might get) you put yourself in the position to make the kinds of roster building moves that championship teams (including small markets) all make on the road to a championship. Recent “small” market champions like the Pistons and Mavs actually acquired their core pieces through trades and FA.

            Again, nobody has won a title in this millenium with talent acquired through a dedicated multi-year tank. I don’t know how it gets any clearer than that?

      • The Heat are single handedly preventing the Raptors from being a title contender? That’s a bit of a stretch. What about the other 7 or 8 teams that are just as good if not better than the Raptors in the conference?

        Everyone’s obsession with that team continues to confound me, we are talking about the Raptors as a lottery team trying to sneak into the playoffs and MAYBE win a playoff series over the next handful of years, not sure why the Miami Heat belong in the discussion, we’re not even in the same galaxy as them.

      • Scott, you say that the Raptors cannot become contenders in the next few seasons with the existance of the Miami Heat, but that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to turn their mediocre team into an easy first round sweep for a team like Miami.

        If the Raptors legitimately tanked a couple more seasons now and got a couple top picks they could actually stand a chance in the future (after a few seasons) when teams like Chicago, Miami, New York are all on the decline.

    • Planning to strike it rich in the draft is not a plan – that’s a complete unknown (I know, I know: “But your odds are better when you’re in the basement!”). Look at the history of first round picks: the odds suck for any given team. You don’t get a KD in every draft. Even if you do beat the odds and land the #1, you’re just as likely as anything to end up with a Tyrus Thomas vs. Rudy Gay vs. Andrea Bargnani vs. Brandon Roy vs. Lamarcus Aldridge discussion. Have we already forgotten that?

      There are also plenty of examples of teams trading assembled talent to get legitimate top-tier players, taking the team to the next level (Chris Paul + Clippers, Deron WIlliams + Nets – who were actually able to re-sign him, Carmelo + Knicks – for better or worse, KG + Ray Allen + Celtics – right when everyone thought Danny Ainge needed to go, Gasol + Lakers – when everyone thought the Kobe era was done, etc. etc.). I’d argue that that’s a route you have much more control over than hoping to win the jackpot in the lottery sometime during multiple seasons of intentional tanking.

      The point is, “high-level mediocrity” may happen, but it’s no one’s goal. Very few teams actually get stuck on that treadmill that we seem to talk so much about. Most teams in the league are on the way up or down. I’m really not worried about treadmills, I’m more worried about missing out on opportunities. You’ve got to make the most out of known opportunities, not bank on unknown opportunities hopefully eventually coming your way sometime (fingers crossed). Ask Mark Cuban how gambling on roster moves that may possibly occur 1 or 2 years down the road worked out for the Mavs. They should have stuck with known quantities.

      • > Planning to strike it rich in the draft is not a plan

        Bingo! Look at OKC – Durant picked #2. Harden #3. Westbrook #4. Even Michael J the Great went 3rd.

      • Using the Mavs in this case is a bad example. They already had a superstar and franchise player in Nowitzki, and took a chance on landing another one but failed. They lacked any trade assets, so free agency was the only way for them to add one. The plan blew up in their face, but that’s what you have to do in the NBA when you already have a star player. You do what it takes to build up a contender from there.

        When you’re in the state of the Mavs, or the Celtics were, or the Lakers were, you have to take the chances of trading for or signing a star as a FA, because you can (you likely have a star already, and it’s a big market) and also have an owner willing to spend money. Also, stars can and will lure other stars to that team.

        The exception is the old, small market Nets who added Williams through a trade, yes. But, it was at the cost of the #3 pick in Favors, who is now the Jazz center piece and another #3 pick in Kanter. Which wasn’t a good idea looking into the future of the Nets.

        The trend here among the big market teams like the Mavs, Lakers, Celtics, is that these teams already had a star player, and then signed/traded (top picks and/or top prospects) to get another one, or simply gave up top picks to get one (Nets).

        But the bottom line is, you need to put your team into a position to get a star player first, and that’s by getting lucky in the draft lottery.

    • There’s a dead horse – lets go beat it!!

  6. SR: If I’m going to take the time to respond to commenters I don’t agree with, it’s only fair that I respond to a commenter that absolutely nails it like you did in your last two comments. It’s very easy to take the stance of “championship or failure” without understanding the nuances of the real-life situation this franchise is in. The longer I cover this sport, the more I understand that luck is the biggest factor in determining champions. Everybody acknowledges the brilliance of the Spurs’ management, but who would be talking about their brilliance if Tim Duncan didn’t fall into their laps?

    • The Spurs got lucky by have a bad record the year Duncan was coming out. Same goes for Robinson.

      Unless you’re strategy is for the Raptors to be incredibly lucky, I’m not sure what you’re suggesting.

      • Spurs didn’t just get lucky. You have to remember that part of the “luck” you are talking about oand mentioning has to do with the personel that is in charge of the team. I personally think that San Antonio wouldn’t be nearly as good without Greg Pop. I know you love being pessimistic but you have to admit Dwayne Casey got the ship headed in the right direction. People are excited because he seems like he is THE coach. Look at what he did with a team with absolutely no talent except for Jose Andrea or atleast arguably Andrea. Now that we have more players coming in and 3 positional upgrades I don’t see much to complain about. Hopefully we do have internal growth. If we are aiming to model our team after the Pacers its not a bad thing considering how much trouble the pacers gave the Heat last year.

        • I don’t love being pessimistic. In fact in previous years, I’ve been accused of being a homer. I’m just looking at the Raptors realistically. It’s only the people who disagree with me that call me pessimistic.

          And the Spurs most definitely got lucky. They have missed the playoffs 3 times in 25 years, and happen to land the #1 picks when David Robinson and Tim Duncan were coming out. How on earth isn’t that lucky?

          As for the Pacers, they didn’t make it out of the second round, and I would be shocked if they do in the next five years. They are the heir apparent to the Atlanta Hawks, a team that was the definition of high-level mediocrity.

    • 100% agree.
      I mean, say you do tank, which means outfitting your team with the worst of everything and throwing monkey wrenches into your own employees best efforts, and you do land Tim Duncan. Is he still going to develop into the player he became in the well-oiled machine that was and is San Antonio? Not a chance.
      Everything has got to come together, so the only hope is that the team does the things it CAN control at the highest level possible. Then if good luck strikes, we’re ready for it and if bad luck strikes, we’re in the lottery anyway.

      • Tim Duncan was one of the best players in the NBA the moment he put on a Spurs jersey. This isn’t a case of the Spurs drafting a project. The guy averaged 21 ppg, 11 rpg, 2.5 bpg and 2.7 apg in his rookie season. How on earth can you say he doesn’t become a Hall of Famer if he wasn’t drafted by San Antonio? Sorry, but that’s a ridiculous statement.

        And The danger with the Raptors is not being back in the lottery, it’s year after year of simply competing for a playoff spot, never actually contending, but not being bad enough to get a good draft pick. The danger is the mediocrity treadmill.

  7. It seems clear to me that the key to winning is adding talent. And there are just three ways to add talent:
    1) Draft
    2) Sign
    3) Trade

    All are pretty dicey. BC clearly thinks he is the trading superstar — and he’s had some good results in the past. But not a whole lot after his first year in Toronto.

    The only clear rule I can see is: if you are going to trade, never trade for players on teams with great point guards. Nash/Kidd types can make all sorts of scrubs look decent. Get a good point guard and then trade for guys languishing on teams with lousy point guards.

    Then again, teams with great point guards have not won a whole lot of championships over the past 20 years or so. Jordan Bulls? No. Kobe Lakers? No. Miami Heat (either version)? No. Anyhow, damned if I know.

    • Teams with great point guards have not won a lot of championships in the past 20 years? What? I guess it depends on what you would consider a point guard.

      2012: LeBron and Wade could both be considered PG’s because they handle the ball most of the time. Same with Kobe.

      2011: Jason Kidd

      2009-2010: Kobe

      2008: Rondo
      2007: Parker
      2006: Wade
      2005: Parker
      2004: Billups
      2003: Parker
      2002: Kobe
      2001: Kobe
      2000: Kobe

      I’d say that’s a pretty good list of point guards, or at least combo guards for Kobe over the last 13 years.

      • I was clearly referring to a traditional PG, a la Nash or Kidd. That shortens the list quite a bit — Parker, Kidd (kind of, as he was significantly in decline), Billups … maybe Rondo (who was clearly the fourth option the year they won it all).

        Of course someone has to handle the ball on any team. I’m just saying that even what seems most obvious — the value of a great point guard — gets problematic when you analyze what teams win championships. Off-hand, I suspect the problem with great point guards is that they elevate the level of play of the team before the team has enough talent, so they tend to overachieve. But, as I said, damned if I know.

  8. Mediocrity, where the Raptors appear to be heading, is the worst spot to be in sports. Sure, you’ll win over the casual fans, but it hurts the team in the long run.

    The only way to get a franchise type player anywhere outside of the big markets is through the draft, plain and simple. It’s all on the GM to put the team into a position to draft and pick that player, and then to keep him (or them) by building it into a contender.

    Of course luck plays a big part in getting the #1 pick, and then having them turn out to be a star. But I’d rather play the low odds and likely get one eventually instead of being stuck in the mediocrity treadmill. A 25% chance at the #1 pick is a whole lot better than almost no chance and continually being stuck with picks in the 5-14 range.

    Seriously, would anyone be complaining if Colangelo and Casey purposely tanked last season and got Anthony Davis? Of course not.

    • Would anyone have an issue if the Raptors played well, picked 20th or 25th or so and picked Tony Parker II? Or Ginobili?

      • Of course they wouldn’t, but you have a much better chance at the number one pick than you do of finding the Parker’s and Ginobli’s in today’s NBA drafts.

  9. Look at the embarrassing roster Bryan Colangelo trotted out there last season(Rasual Butler starting, relying on 10day guys to star later in season). Last season was MEANT TO BE A TANK, but Dwane Casey did a phenomenal job of getting the most out of a lot guys and developing a defensive system that kept the Raptors competitive. Despite the very poor roster, the Raps over-achieved, lost a coin flip, and ended up with eighth pick.

    This franchise has finally found a coach that just might be the long term answer, and you want the organization to reward him by basically telling him that the team still needs to tank for a couple of years? Casey wouldn’t buy into that, and by the time the team MIGHT be ready to compete for anything based on LOTTERY results, the organization’s reputation would be even more tarnished, both within the NBA, and within its own alienated fan-base.

    I supported the plan to clearly tank for two years. It got us a potential top flight centre for the future at No. 5 and an intriguing wing player at No. 8. I wish the two-year tank would have produced better lottery results, but it didn’t, and even me as a diehard fan that will never abandon support for the team, cannot stomach heading into a third straight season of basketball that we know in advance is going to be meaningless from the opening tip of opening night.

    It’s time to at least try creating a winning atmosphere in Toronto, and the young core of this team has potential to do that over the next couple of years, even without being championship caliber. You can see/hear in the comments of younger NBA personalities (especially Kevin Durant and Brandon Jennings) that the younger generation is really starting to take to Toronto, and it is my belief that if that winning culture can be created within the next 2-3 years, then Toronto will be a more attractive destination capable of landing bigger free agent targets as time goes by, which would further the build moving forward.

    To me, it’s time to stop accepting that Toronto is some NBA wasteland that’s only hope of competing is to purposely lose for half a decade.

    Build a young team that looks to be on the rise, that looks to be a step or two away in a few years, and then watch one of the best markets in the NBA work its magic. That’s my philosophy heading into 2012-13 for the Raptors.

    • Cash for GM! Who’s with me?

    • The roster was set up to tank by Colangelo but the way it was handled certainly wasn’t with Casey deferring to veterans and putting a different young Raptor in his dog house seemingly every month so the disconnect there definitely hurt. Why do people want to continue to fawn over Casey for basically engineering a worst case scenario or give him credit for being 7th worst as compared to say, 3rd worst with no expectations at all?

    • So your plan would be to try to entice some great free agent to Toronto? Sorry, wasn’t that Colangelo’s plan the last 6 years? How’s that working out?

      And people say that tanking is too much of a gamble.

  10. Tim W. – Please identify one team in the history of the NBA that tanked for multiple seasons and then won a championship with the talent drafted during that multi-season tank. Please, even one.

    • SR – Please identify one team in the history of the NBA that has turned a team that is in the same situation the Raptors are in into a contender through free agency or trades. One.

      The problem is that the NBA has changed. You almost never find Kobe Bryants or Dirk Nowitzki’s outside of the top 5 anymore. And if you’re not in one of the prime NBA locations, trading for or signing an elite player is nearly impossible.

      I’d have no problem with an alternative other than tanking if someone would show me a reasonable argument of how to turn a mediocre team without a franchise player into a contender. But no one will. You get comments like what Scott said: Build as competitive a team as you can and hope for lightening in a bottle.

      That’s not a plan. That’s a hail mary pass.

  11. By the way, no one here is opposed to blowing up a failing/mediocre team and heading to the lottery. The nuance of this discussion is what to do after you’ve already spent a couple seasons in the lottery. Please don’t simplify this into a very uninteresting “tank vs. don’t tank” debate.

    • The problem is that the Raptors have no elite player and without a high draft pick, have virtually no shot of acquiring one. People can argue all they want about whether or not the Raptors should tank or continue to try and improve, but the fact of the matter is that they have no elite player and not even an All-Star.

      And like it or not, the prospect of contending without at least one elite player is slim to none.

      I think the discussion is whether you want to see the team go through a few years of mediocrity before blowing the team up, or whether you want to bypass the years of mediocrity.

      I’ve watched enough mediocrity in the last 17 years of watching the Raptors. Apparently not everyone has, though.

  12. Furthermore, re: let’s continue to intentionally lose, because when we go to the lottery we’ll find championship calibre talent and there’s no other way to get it:

    Do you realize that in the past 10 drafts, the Raptors have 7 top 10 picks, including a #1 overall? We could do this for 10 more years and get nothing more than another Bargnani/Derozan combo. Think of how depressing that is. That is much more likely to happen than lucking into Kevin Durant.

    I’ll say it for the 1000th time – this is no more of a plan than buying 649 tickets for your retirement savings. But if you buy more tickets, your odds will be better! Besides, I’m a middle class guy and there’s no other way for me to land a million bucks! You start building your retirement savings with the assets you have, and you build a franchise with the assets you have. You don’t bank on bottoming out and then winning a LOTTERY.

    Do you realize that the Raptors have the 5th worst winning percentage in the NBA? (Comparing all franchises and their all-time W-L%.) That’s a lot of trips to the lottery….how many franchise changing, championship-calibre players has that translated into since 1996? (This conversation is depressing.)

    Of course drafting well is crucial to building a successful team – nobody is denying that here. What some of us are trying to point out is that intentional multi-season tanking as a road to success is a myth. A complete myth with zero real world precedent. Again, please see my previous comments re: the balance of drafting well, making trades, and signing FA’s in building a contender. You don’t have to wait until you land Lebron James to start building a championship team – my above comments show that to be reality, not simply a strategy.

    • Where on earth do you get the idea that I believe the Raptors should only use the draft? And no one is suggesting they need to intentionally lose for multiple seasons. Multiple seasons would be the worst case scenario. I’d much rather go the New Orleans route, tank for one season, draft a franchise player and build from there.

      The whole problem that can’t be ignored is that the Raptors have no elite talent. None. In fact they have no All Star talent. None. And in the 17 year history of the Raptors, they have acquired exactly one All Star without drafting him (for argument sake, I’m saying the Raptors drafted Vince), and they had to trade the 5th pick in order to acquire him.

      Colangelo has had six years to trade for an All Star and failed. He’s had three summers where the Raptors had cap room and failed to sign one. Yet suddenly, everyone is pinning their hopes on something Colangelo has simply not shown he has the ability to do and most teams outside Los Angeles, New York and Miami find it nearly impossible to do.

      I simply don’t understand this.

      Again, I’d be open to an alternative way to turn this Raptor team into a contender if even one person showed me a realistic plan of how to do it. One realistic plan. All I’ve heard is vague comments about “improving the team through trades, smart drafting and free agency, without actually dealing with the fact that it’s virtually impossible for a team outside of L.A, New York or Miami to acquire an elite player without drafting him, and it’s nearly impossible to do that outside of the top 5.

  13. I realize I’m rambling here, but I find this interesting….

    Let’s look at the last 20 #1 overall picks, and see how many of them went on to win a championship with the team that drafted them. I mean landing the #1 in a loaded draft is the ultimate result for tanking, right? So how often does the #1 become the foundation of a championship roster for the drafting team?

    1992 – Orlando – Shaq – No championship
    1993 – Orlando – Webber – No
    1994 – Bucks – Glenn Robinson – No
    1995 – Golden State – Joe Smith – No
    1996 – 76ers – AI – No (1 finals appearance)
    1997 – Suprs – Duncan – Yes, multiple championships
    1998 – Clippers – Olowokandi – No
    1999 – Bulls – Brand – No
    2000 – Nets – Kenyon Martin – No
    2001 – Wizards – Kwame Brown – No
    2002 – Rockets – Yao Ming – No
    2003 – Cavs – Lebron – No (1 finals appearance)
    2004 – Magic – Howard – No (1 finals appearance)
    2005 – Bucks – Bogut – No
    2006 – Raptors – Bargnani – Yes, multiple…whoops, No
    2007 – Portland – Oden – No
    2008 – Bulls – Rose – No
    2009 – Clippers – Griffin – No (the past 3 seasons really too recent)
    2010 – Wizards – Wall – No
    2011 – Cavs – Irving – No
    2012 – Hornets – Davis – Hasn’t played yet, but he’ll be very good

    So, 20 years of #1 picks, and only Tim Duncan won a championship with the team that drafted him. Heck, only Duncan, Shaq, and Lebron (3 of the 20) have gone on to win a championship with ANY team. (Again, I realize we can throw out recent history, but you have to go back to 1987 – David Robinson – to find the next #1 overall who became a champion, and he won it only when teamed with one of the other guys on our list.)

    Again, this is being sold as the only path to a championship for a “small” market NBA franchise?

    Conversely, small market Mavs traded for Nowitzki and eventually put together a championship team, small market Pistons drafted Prince 23rd then traded/signed Rip, Big Ben, and Billups, and won a championship. Even the Lakers made trades to land Kobe, Shaq, and Gasol. The heat drafted Wade but signed James and Bosh. The Celtics drafted Pierce but traded for Allen and Garnett.

    More talent has been accumulated by more championship teams through trades and FA’s rather than through the draft, whether small or big market (so don’t jump on that right away). This is a historical fact. The draft is very important, but multi-season tanking proponents are oversimplifying and are out of sync with the reality of success in the NBA.

    • SR, a number one pick does not gaurantee anything, that’s obvious. Luck in the draft lottery gets you a number one pick and getting a 25% chance at star talent is a far greater chance than a small market team trading for that type of player or signing them as a FA.

      When you do have that top pick, it’s all on the GM to use that pick wisely. It’s not just that every #1 pick is going to become something great, but it’s more of an opportunity to take the first pick, the first shot at the guy who you believe will be the best in the class. In cases where number one picks have gone on to have average careers, that’s just because it’s a bad pick. Not because they didn’t have a chance to get someone better.

      Also, drafting for potential, as it probably should be the #1 priority, isn’t always the case either. Some teams draft for positional need, or NBA ready players which leads to seemingly bad picks later on.

      I have a question though, why does it have to be for the team that drafted them? Look at LeBron, Shaq, Duncan, Yao, Howard, Rose. All of these guys are what makes, or at least made their team contenders in the first place. Sure, a lot of them didn’t win, but they also weren’t put in a situation where they could with help (Dwight, LeBron, etc). The main reason a lot of these guys left their teams was because the GM’s or owners were unable or unwilling to bring in more talent to keep them.

      I think in the end, the point is you have the opportunity to bring in franchise changing talent with the top pick. The next and more important part of the process, is using that pick to your advantage. Unfortunately, not every team does.

      • I’m talking facts, BP. Name one small market team that built a champion through multi-season tanking. I can name 2 championship small market teams in the past 10 years that won championships by acquiring most of their talent through trades and FA (Dallas and Detroit).

        Again, the idea that a small market team’s best chance at a championship is through multi-season tanking and high draft picks is a myth. It doesn’t happen. Small market teams build a championship team in a much more boring, traditional way, which also happens to be how large market teams build champions – through smart drafting, good trades, and smart FA signings. They don’t need to wait to draft a franchise changing player (the point of my previous comment). This is not an opinion, this is a historical fact (getting tired of repeating that). Please use historical examples to show that multi-season tanking is a functional strategy, or that it wins championships for small markets.

        • SR, first off, other than San Anontio and Detroit, it has only been the big NBA markets winning because they have the big market, more money and can easily lure the talent. Just look at all the recent champions.

          It’s also a bit early to say who will win championships. It hasn’t been nearly long enough for teams like OKC, or Chicago, or Cleveland, or New Orleans. But, I’ll give you some examples of small market teams tanking that at least became contender worthy.

          Cleveland tanked, got LeBron. Became contenders for many seasons.

          Orlando tanked, got Howard and became contenders for many seasons.

          New Orleans tanked, and got Chris Paul. Weren’t really contenders, but very close to becoming one because they had Paul.

          Chicago (not really small market) tanked, and eventually got lucky enough to draft Rose at #1. They are contenders when he is healthy.

          Oklahoma City tanked, and got Durant, Westbrook, and Harden. They’re contenders now as long as they have Durant.

          New Orleans tanked, and now they have Davis who should make them contenders with the right development.

          And, the thing that makes it difficult for small market teams isn’t always the fact that they don’t draft well. As I said, many small market teams are unable or unwilling to spend extra money in order to keep players or even to bring in more help, and that’s why small markets very rarely win, and lose to the big spenders like Dallas, Miami, Chicago, LA, etc.

          We did almost lose a season last year for this exact reason. Hopefully it is fixed when the new CBA takes the full effect. Small markets may actually stand a chance with their picks in the future, unlike now.

      • BP – btw I agree with most of your comment, and most of it is an argument against tanking.

        The odds of finishing last in the league are small. The odds of landing the #1 pick are smaller. The odds of that #1 pick being a championship-calibre player are even smaller. The odds of keeping that player while your team takes multiple seasons to climb out of the basement are even smaller. Yet this is the ideal outcome of the strategy multi-season tankers are proposing. The odds are miniscule! What I’m saying is that those cumulative odds are so small, that tanking is not a strategy, it’s a crap shoot. It’s far easier to find small market teams winning championships the traditional way and without a multi-season tank.

        • This is where I don’t understand your argument. I don’t think anyone is suggesting the Raptors HAVE TO finish last or that they NEED TO tank for multiple seasons.

          Bottom line, then need to draft a franchise player because they aren’t getting one another way. And without a franchise player, this team is going to mediocre at best.

          So far nothing you have said has changed those two facts.

    • Heres where Tim changes his arguement and starts saying we need a top 5 pick.

      I really think the point that Tim has been trying to justify(on this sight and others) has been destroyed by his responders here.

      Maybe he can move on with his life now

      • Changing my argument from what, exactly?

        And how has my point been destroyed on other “sights”? The problem is that no one, including you, have ever come up with a realistic alternative to the Raptors tanking in order to acquire a franchise player.

        • Actually Tim,

          The Raptors have been attempting to tank for several seasons. We came out of it with DeRozan, Davis, Valanciunas and Ross.
          We had no luck with the ping pong balls.

          I gotta say Tim you offended me with your initial response to SR or Scott when you said “Alright, an honest to god discussion. Excellent”

          Tim, we have had this conversation several times and I have used the same points brought up here. It is a discussion you have had before.

    • The Mavs traded for Nowitzki as a rookie, same with the Lakers and Kobe.

      So, looking at how each team assembled a championship team, the Mavs already had Dirk, the Lakers already had Kobe, the Heat already had Wade, the Celtics already had Pierce. What you’re saying is what we’re saying, except that you have to already have a Nowitzki, Kobe, Wade, Pierce, etc type star on your team already in order to trade for others and build a true contender.

      The only way to get that star in the first place, as you mentioned yourself is through the draft. Getting the number one pick gives you the best chance to get one because you pick before any one else does. Not all teams have the luxury of getting a consensus number one pick like there was this year, and that’s where the GM’s ability to scout and eye talent plays a huge role in draft success.

      • BP – I agree, but I think it’s key that the Lakers went out and got Kobe (he didn’t fall into their laps through the lottery), as did the Mavs with Nowitzki. The point is that championship teams don’t intentionally lose until ping-pong balls bounce their way (previous comments show that doesn’t work out for the drafting team anyway). Championship teams take the assets they have and, very proactively, go about building their roster. After picking in the top 10 for 7 of the past 10 drafts, the Raptors are at that point. They need to be building their roster using the assets they have. My examples show that this is how champions are built (I think you and I and anyone else with 1/2 a brain agree on this).

        I’m still waiting for a single example of intentional multi-season tanking turning a small market franchise into a champion.

        • You can’t name any. Just look at all of the recent NBA champions. In the last 20 years, only 5 of those years a small market team won, and it was only two teams. San Antonio 4 times, and Detroit once.

          Every other time it has been Miami, Dallas, LA, Boston, Chicago, Houston. All are big NBA markets.

          • SR: I’m not exactly sure why you’re wasting so much energy trying to knock down this “#1 pick = Championship” strawman when no one has argued that to be the case.

            It is, however, the only way to land a star for a team like the Raptors.

        • What examples did YOU give? There are absolutely no examples that the Raptors could use to use their assets to turn themselves into a contender. None.

          • The Celtics gave up Al Jefferson, scrubs and draft picks for Garnett.
            There is an example.

          • The Celtics already had Paul Pierce and had just traded for Ray Allen (giving up a 5th pick). That’s the ONLY reason Garnett agreed to the trade. How does that example help the Raptors. They’re not in anywhere close to the same position the Celtics were at the time.

    • You seem to be under several misconceptions.

      The first is that we’re saying the Raptors NEED to tank for multiple seasons. Ideally, the Raptors are bad for one season, draft their franchise player and spend one season in the lottery, a la San Antonio.

      The second is that for some reason, you think that we think ALL the players need to be drafted by the Raptors. Trades and free agency is fine for adding pieces to your team. Unfortunately, it’s not a good solution to adding a franchise player, unless you’re Los Angeles, New York or Miami.

      The third is that the Raptors NEED to finish last and NEED to get the #1 pick. I’ve never said they need to get the first pick. Ever. I’ve said it’s become nearly impossible to find an elite player outside of the top five, and your chances of drafting an elite player goes up the higher you draft. I actually had numerous trade options for the Raptors to acquire a top five pick before the draft. And if they had the top pick this past draft, then it was nearly a guarantee that they’d get a franchise player (Anthony Davis).

      I’m not sure where you got these misconceptions, but a lot of your argument seems to be countering a point no one has actually made.

  14. As a fan I prefer to watch a 40 win team that is trending up rather than a crappy 20 win team that is hoping for a lotto jackpot to elevate them into the upper echelon. The chance that either of them becomes a championship team is slim but I think the fourty win team has a better chance of taking the next step to becoming a contender. Success attracts success and with a winning record you’re far more likely to land that free agent fits your plan.
    If you do get lucky and draft the superstar what happens if he can’t get past the second round and wants out?
    Back to tank mode?
    Not my idea of a great fan experience.

    • A 40 win team isn’t going to attract a free agent good enough to make the team a contender.

      And to me, the purpose of any team should be to try and win a Championship. As a fan, I want the goal of my team to be to win a Championship, not give the fan a great experience. Besides, you want a great fan experience, watch a Championship team. Watching a mediocre team fight for a playoff spot year after year is not my idea of a great fan experience.

  15. This subject is far too complicated to try and discuss in a few paragraphs in the comments section, so I was inspired to write a rather lengthy post about it…
    http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/2012/09/can-the-raptors-contend-without-tanking/

  16. One thing confusing this discussion, imho, is the very small number of superstar players in the NBA. There are few sure-thing young superstars to draft. And very few become available in FA or for trades. Which is why bad teams tend to stay bad, mediocre teams stay mediocre, and good teams stay good — getting that talent is the hardest part.

    Once you have a certain level of talent, then you have options, to trade or repackage or do whatever. But acquiring that high-level talent is the hard part.

    Of course, the worst thing you can do is trade away a rare big-talented player for 3-4 okay guys (a la Vince to New Jersey).

    Toronto has had three special players over the years. Vince was traded for nickels on the dollar. McGrady and Bosh walked away. That’s not exactly a huge pool of data to make judgments with. But, personally, I think if any of them had overlapped with the others by a year or two (first-year Bosh was too raw), it would have made the future look brighter and made keeping them much more likely.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head in your first paragraph. The language being used in the debate is as if tanking is make or break for winning a title, while the reality seems to be it can maybe improve your odds by 10-15% if you happen to go in the shitter in the right year. The talent scarcity makes ALL options likely to end in a non-contending team.

      • Tanking can improve your odds by 10-15% over what?

        The chance of them winning a title going in the direction they’re going now is close to zero because they’ve got no franchise player and won’t be in a position to draft one without rebuilding again.

        If the Raptors tank and draft an elite player, the odds of winning a title increase dramatically.

        Even if that chance is 10-15%, I’ll take that chance over zero any day.

  17. Here’s what I’ve taken from this lengthy discussion:

    Teams without superstars rarely win championships. Superstars are SCARCE – maybe 1/4 of teams have one. Those that do still need to make sound decisions, and have luck, to be a championship contender. The remaining teams thrash about, do their best, but never have a real shot.

    In free agency, the dice are loaded in favour of LA and NY, among others. Toronto is not a top destination, so free agency is unlikely to land a superstar. Every now and then trading for a superstar is possible, but that’s unpredictable, and more than ever, a managed spectacle to put a player where they want to be – again, not likely Toronto.

    Tanking probably gives you a better chance at landing a superstar in the draft. Generously, there’s one superstar a year in the draft, and maybe another elite player – let’s say two players that could be top two or three on a contender. Even if ALL of those players are in the top five, a top five pick would net you a 40% chance at an elite player, and 20% chance at a superstar.

    The hard truth is that most paths to building an NBA team lead to failure. Does sending the team down the shitter gives a team better odds for landing a superstar? Yeah, I think it does. Is the moderately increase in chances worth putting the team in the shitter? It depends on the prize, but I tend to think no, at least not from the outset. It’s a bit crushing as a fan, and I would think takes a broader toll on the organization as well.

    At the end of the day, good management is the most important piece of the puzzle in winning a championship. I don’t think there are any consistent losers that people point to and say: “There’s a well run team.” (Though, oddly, the Raptors might be that team) The Raptors have had a couple superstars, and squandered them. McGrady left as a free agent, Carter in a terrible trade. To me, that’s the real failure. I’d rather see the team compete to the best of it’s abilities and take full advantage when it happens to luck into a superstar, rather than decide not to compete for the slightly better odds at a player that could, if a bunch of other things fall into place, help win a title.

    • Great post and can’t disagree with anything, except….

      I don’t see the point of a team existing if it isn’t planning on at least trying to win a title. The defeatist attitude among so many Raptor fans, including Scott apparently, is incredibly depressing. Don’t try for excellence, because it’s too hard. Mediocrity is a better route because it’s a lot easier to achieve.

      • My counter with is something like this: To be honest, I don’t find the argument for tanking to be any less depressing. Tanking requires degrading the quality of the team – which I think also damages its brand, its reputation, its appeal to fans, its ability to develop strong front office staff – for a marginal improvement in the odds of acquiring a superstar. I think you and I just value those costs and benefits differently – we could argue for a long time without finding agreement, because there’s a fundamental difference.

        I think the Jazz are an ideal example of a well run, successful team that doesn’t tank. If you accept that example: Can it honestly be said that the Jazz don’t try for excellence, or that the path the pursue is less difficult than a team that chooses to tank?

        Clearly, the Raptors are not the Jazz. The Raptors have been a whole different animal – they’ve been terrible, for the most part, without tanking. That’s the worst of all possible options. At least tanking implies a plan. The “Raptors alternative” just implies incompetence.

        I think I understand the argument for tanking, it’s just not my preference.

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