With the hiring of Masai Ujiri taking over as the new general manager for this team, the talk surrounding Raptor land is beginning to surface around which exact road the Toronto Raptors will be taking heading into next season. While many appear to believe that this team is a lock for the playoffs next year, some are reluctant as to believing that very statement, and others think this team needs to blow it up and start over.
While it is out of the question that the talent level is there for the Raptors to strive towards a playoff berth, it’s evident that there are still ways to improve this franchise with smart, bold moves going forward. With new management taking the reins of this franchise, and a draft class loaded with “star-studded” talent in 2014 (Let the “Tank for Wiggins campaign begin), it may very well appear that the Raptors could be looking to avoid yet another post-season berth.
Ujiri has said that the direction of the franchise will clear up once he fully assembles his staff, but in the mean time, all we can do is speculate. I am personally against the tanking model, and think that this team that Bryan Colangelo assembled deserves a chance to show their full potential going forward. Here are some reasons to go anti-tank:
Uncertainty of the Lottery
While tanking almost seemingly looks to be the rather obvious choice for a developing franchise, it doesn’t seem to be the case for the Toronto Raptors. When already missing out on the playoffs for five consecutive seasons (and having the talent level to end that stretch), it could potentially have a negative effect on this franchise going forward, as this franchise could start to look like even more of a joke (if that’s possible). Although building within the draft and getting an excessive amount of young talent seems quite intriguing, it’s also at the same time a non-guarantee.
Whether or not you choose to build via the draft, you’re not guaranteed to end up with an absolute star in this league, as the draft is a complete crap-shoot. What may seem to be a safe pick, could turn out to be a monstrosity, and make a GM look like a fool (which we’ve seen in BC’s case). Not to mention that if you risk tanking, you’re not necessarily guaranteed a solidified spot wherever you plan on choosing. That in fact all depends on the bouncing balls of the NBA Draft Lottery. If the Raptors desperately wanted a pick in next years draft (or even this years), trading for one could also be suitable option for this franchise as well.
The so called “OKC model” hasn’t really been proven by any teams other than OKC themselves, and that was due to the sheer luck of the lottery balls. Teams like Sacramento, Cleveland, Washington, Charlotte, New Orleans, etc always seem to be lottery contenders while teams such as Miami, New York, San Antonio have all build their teams through ways that didn’t involve tanking.
Why try to acquire talent when it’s already there
Another big reason why tanking would be a rather poor decision for the Raptors’ sake, is because of the talent they currently possess. With a young, partially developed group of potential all-stars, the Raptors have the type of roster that can surely compete for a spot in the playoffs and continue to develop. With a young core consisting of Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, and Jonas Valanciunas (as well as valuable secondary pieces), this team has the potential of doing some serious damage next season. It just wouldn’t seem right for this team to tank, and let this talented group go to waste. And in all honesty, outside of Andrew Wiggins, how many players are guaranteed to be better than Rudy Gay in this “star-studded” draft class?
This franchise is craving a playoff appearance, and another tank would likely piss fans off even more, especially when it’s unnecessary. This team is young with room to grow, and blowing it up to re-start the whole process rather than trying to change the culture of the franchise by winning is not the route this team should go. We still haven’t seen how good of a player some of these guys will become, and blowing it up pre-maturely is something management will hopefully avoid due to this.
We may not like it, but management knows best.
Although the likes of tanking isn’t to my liking whatsoever, especially at this stage of where the franchise is at, it’s up to management on whether or not they’ll do so. While many would assume it would be quite outrageous to do so, newly acquired GM Masai Ujiri has indicated otherwise. He understands how good this team truly is, but understands what the main goal is at the end of the day. “It’s going to take patience. It’s going to take will. We’re going to instill a passion to win. The overall goal in the NBA is to win a championship”.
Ujiri, especially with the team he built in Denver (and it certainly is a great one), also understands that it takes even more than that in order to reach the level of winning a championship. A numerous amount of playoff appearances just won’t cut it. “At a certain time, I think we’ll be able to tell where this roster can go. I think there are good pieces on this roster. There are phenomenal players on this roster. And then, we have some things that we have to correct”.
While the Raptors truly and surely have talent, it’s evident that they still have ways to go before competing for a championship. In saying so, even if it takes a tank (which I think shouldn’t be the case), Raptors’ management is willing to do so, including new MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke. “One is a complete rebuild which means tank it and go in to get the best picks in what is an extraordinary draft and hope we get some luck in the lottery. A lot of pieces – you’ll need a bunch of picks here,” Leiweke said. “The second way is a gigantic master trade that with our existing pieces gets us a piece or two that makes us competitive and gives us a shot to be something more than a fringe team. “The third way is a combination of those two and you build on the fly. He hasn’t made that determination yet. We talked about all three in depth”.
Coming from a trio of franchises that have championship pedigree within themselves, Tim Leiweke himself defines the likes of winning. Unlike Bryan Colangelo and previous MLSE ownership, Leiweke’s willing to take a rather patient approach, for the betterment of the franchise. Although many were ecstatic about bringing him aboard, they may not necessarily be pleased with a potential tank, not for this upcoming season at least.