…are condemned to repeat it.”

Posted on December 20, 2011 | 6 Comments

When last we left the Raptors, they had raised their floor, but lowered their ceiling by surrounding their franchise player, Vince Carter, with veterans.

And after the inevitable fall that came, the Raptors were able to finish with a top 3 pick and draft Chris Bosh.

THE ROB BABCOCK ERA

Glen Grunwald didn’t even last for a season after selecting Bosh and was eventually replaced by Rob Babcock who, while a poor judge of talent and terrible GM, at least seemed to understand the downside to collecting even more veteran talent (well, he did sign 28 year old Rafer Alston, who was relatively young compared to Grunwald’s signings). Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that Babcock seemed to fully understand the position he was in.

He took over a 33 win team with a franchise player in his prime (27 is generally thought of to be the prime of an NBA player), with a history of injuries and a game that relied a lot on athleticism. And the roster consisted of only 3 players BELOW the age of 26: Bosh, Matt Bonner and Babcock’s first ever draft pick as a GM, Rafael Araujo, who, at 24, was actually 4 years older than Bosh. How can you NOT realize that it’s time to rebuild?

Even Carter figured it out and demanded a trade by the end of the summer when it became clear that this team was going nowhere, as presently constructed. And Babcock eventually had to trade him for 7 cents on the dollar.

So with a young Bosh and a bunch of mediocre veterans around him, the team sailed to yet another 33 win season, adding the mediocre Charlie Villaneuva and and not quite mediocre Joey Graham as the prize for another year of mediocrity.

And the Raptors were even worse the next season, winning just 27 games, which was low enough to net them the first pick in the draft. The bad news is that the draft was not considered to be a very good one. It’s like your number coming up in a raffle only to discover that you don’t get the big screen TV or front row Raptor tickets, but the potpourri gift basket. You’d throw your number back in, if you could, but you can’t.

COLANGELO TRIES MORE OF THE SAME

When Bryan Colangelo was hired away from Phoenix, he was given a number 1 pick in an off year and cap room in an offseason where the top free agent might have been 37 year old Sam Cassell. So Colangelo ignored past Raptor history and loaded up the team with veterans to surround Bosh, Bargnani and the newly acquired TJ Ford, all who were between the ages of 21 and 23, with 31 year old Anthony Parker, 29 year old Jorge Garbajosa, and 30 year old Rasho Nesterovic.

And the Raptors ended up tying the franchise mediocrity record of 47 wins and making it to the first round of the playoffs. And this was considered a success.

Since Glen Grunwald had already traded away the first rounder away years before, Colangelo made a splash in free agency by signing the very mediocre Jason Kapono, who was coming off a career year in Miami (apparently Colangelo never learned the lesson about signing free agents coming off career years during a contract year).

And then they went out and won an incredibly mediocre 41 wins (.500) and got bounced again in the first round.

So, taking a page from his predecessor, Glen Grunwald, Colangelo trades away a first round pick and 24 year old T.J. Ford for 30 year old (although that sounds better than it actually was- he had 40 year old knees) Jermaine O’Neal.1

O’Neal didn’t even last the season before he was traded away for the equally ancient 30 year old Shawn Marion, who had been on the decline for the previous two seasons.

The team finished well out of the playoff hunt, but not far enough down to get a decent shot at a top 3 pick, so ended up drafting 9th, picking DeMar DeRozan.

While Jermaine O’Neal or Shawn Marion didn’t get them to the playoffs, it did allow them to have the cap room to be a major player in the free agent market. And while Colangelo did go after the 24 year old Trevor Ariza, the free agent he ended up with was the 30 year old Hedo Turkoglu, who was beginning to look like his best days were behind him.

And they were.

And so the Raptors finished just out of the playoffs, again.

Bosh left, Turkoglu was traded and after a botched trade attempt that almost brought Tyson Chandler to Toronto, Colangelo was forced to do something that had never actually been tried in Raptors history: An actual rebuild.

AND FINALLY, A REBUILD

While Colangelo may or may not have wanted or planned to do it, the Raptors entered the 2010-11 season with no playoff expectations whatsoever. Colangelo even picked up a couple of young players, in Jerryd Bayless and James Johnson, who were languishing on veterans teams. The team lost big and ended up with a top 5 pick. If history repeated itself, the Raptors probably would have selected someone like Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight, who could have helped them immediately, and then used their cap room to grab a decent veteran or two in order to try and compete immediately.

But that’s not what happened.

While the 2011 draft was not highly regarded, like the 2006 draft it had been compared to, the Raptors ended up picking Jonas Valanciunas, who some feel might end up being the best player from the draft. They chose him despite the fact that he wouldn’t be able to come over to the NBA until next season, which probably dropped his stock allowing the Raptors to scoop him up a couple of places lower than he might have gone.

So the Raptors entered this offseason with a roster whose average age is under 26.

This is not Glen Grunwald‘s Raptors.

When the lockout finally ended and teams were allowed to start talking, if not making, deals, there was a lot of discussion in Raptorland about what the team should do.

“What’s the harm in signing a guy like Tyson Chandler?”

“Why not go after a guy like Shane Battier?”

“Let’s try and make the playoffs now.”

“I don’t want another year of losing!”

Now, to me, the fans who were saying these types of things have simply not been paying attention to the Raptors franchise very closely over the last 16 years. And this is where the famous quote from the title comes in.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Coming up next, the conclusion to the thrilling trilogy

1. Truth be told, I was not completely against the T.J. Ford for Jermaine O’Neal trade. While it was not the deal I probably would have made, I thought it was a bold move that may or may not backfire, but at that point felt something big needed to be done. I also never saw the trade as as much of a failure as others. While O’Neal obviously didn’t have the impact that many hoped, it’s hard to blame it on O’Neal when the supporting cast was so abysmal.

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Comments

  • nikita

    Right on! … Let’s lick our wounds this year and wait for Valanciunas when he comes next year.

    You are right. If we are rebuilding, we might as well build it right. No old recycled materials, no sir.

    Colangelo had better not fuck it up this time. I’ve had enough of him to be honest. Guy should have been fired last summer.

  • FPB

    Sometimes you just have to take it.

    Sometimes it’s better to not compete at all then compete all the time and fail.

  • Carl J

    The difference between this year and years past, is that they have no player to really build around and please. Yes, they have DD and Barney, but they don’t have a player like VC or Bosh.

    When you have players like that, you’re almost forced to try and win NOW, because if not, then look what happens, players either demand to be traded or leave the first chance they have.

    This time is different, I hope.

    On paper, I like both the O’Neil and Hedo signing. I though O’Neil needed a new start, and Hedo (although looking at the stats with a fine tooth comb might say otherwise) had a good season before, and played well in the playoffs.

  • Stephen Waugh

    “Glen Grunwald didn’t even last for a season after selecting Bosh and was eventually replaced by Rob Babcock who, while a poor judge of talent and terrible GM, at least seemed to understand the downside to collecting even more veteran talent (well, he did sign 28 year old Rafer Alston, who was relatively young compared to Grunwald’s signings). Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that Babcock seemed to fully understand the position he was in.”

    I read somehere (cant’ remember the forum) that Rob Babcock actually had Andre Iguodala rated higher than Rafael Araujo, but was misguided by Jack McCloskey who thought that Araujo was Bill Laimbeer, the guy who centered the championship teams in Detroit that he built in the 1980s. If that is true, then I would blame Babcock for falling victim to ill-advice instead of listening to his own instincts.

    “So with a young Bosh and a bunch of mediocre veterans around him, the team sailed to yet another 33 win season, adding the mediocre Charlie Villaneuva and and not quite mediocre Joey Graham as the prize for another year of mediocrity.”

    In hindsight, Andrew Bynum or Danny Granger would have been the no-brainer pick at #7. However, high school players (Gerald Green) and knee problems (Brandon Roy, Greg Oden) are always a serious risk. Can’t blame Raptors for initially passing on Granger the first time.

    Having said that, I wholeheartedly agree that Joey Graham was a really poor draft choice at the time. Another classic example about an athlete who gets drafted because he is extremely athletic or has great size, yet doesn’t have (but hopefully would develop) much skill or smarts.

    “Even Carter figured it out and demanded a trade by the end of the summer when it became clear that this team was going nowhere, as presently constructed. And Babcock eventually had to trade him for 7 cents on the dollar.”

    This was unfortunate, but despite Vince’s want to lure talented (star) free agents to Toronto and compete immediately, the Raptors were wise to rebuild instead of making quick fixes that I’m sure we would regret now (Hakeem Olajuwon). I think that he was too comfortable with being “good enough” that he wanted better teammates without wanting to work hard to get better himself. Being a superstar is much more than just being a figure face in the league and the best player on your team. It requires heart and serious work ethic, and Vince Carter didn’t have either to lead a team to a championship.

  • Stephen Waugh

    I don’t know if you have heard of Tony Irwin, but he has said how Bryan Colangelo ignored Marc Gasol in the draft. I did some digging (forums) and learned that Marc Gasol could have been had in the secound round of the 2006 draft if he received such a promise from Bryan. Perhaps drafting the safest pick (LaMarcus Aldridge) or reaching for a different need and better fit (Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay) and grabbing Marc Gasol in the second round would have been the much smarter move. However, I wonder if LaMarcus Aldridge could have ever fit with Chris Bosh, if Brandon Roy was ever worth the risk at #1 overall, or if Rudy Gay was worth drafting 1st overall or ahead of Aldridge or Roy. If Bryan Colangelo didn’t trade the remaining first round pick from the Vince Carter trade, he could have had Rajon Rondo, who is a good player but not worth a top pick in a good draft. And while Devin Dignam of NBeh uses advanced metrics to suggest why he believes that Rondo should have been the first pick in 2006, I respectfully disagree for one good reason, he can’t shoot. Anyway, Tony Irwin has posted the same complaints about Bryan Colangelo on many different forums and newspaper websites (much of it warranted though).

    “Since Glen Grunwald had already traded away the first rounder away years before, Colangelo made a splash in free agency by signing the very mediocre Jason Kapono, who was coming off a career year in Miami (apparently Colangelo never learned the lesson about signing free agents coming off career years during a contract year).”

    You know it’s funny how Bryan Colangelo made this mistake a year after wisely letting Mike James walk for nothing.

    Like Brian Burke, I think the root of the problem with Bryan Colangelo is that he was too confident in what his old team had accomplished. He came off a high from his former team and preferred to re-create the same success than building new success. I believe that both wanted to be who they were on their former teams and then expect Toronto to naturally adjust to them when possessing much different sporting dynamics than the cities they were in. If both GMs had committed to rebuilding from the start, both teams would have bright(er) futures, except the Raptors would probably be in the playoffs now and the Leafs would still be in the drought, although there’s no telling how good the Raptors would be right now even if Chris Bosh was still on the team.

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

    @Stephen Waugh

    Sorry, I’ve been a little behind on replying to comments.

    I hadn’t heard anything about Colangelo and Marc Gasol, but it’s hard to blame Colangelo since even a year later, Gasol didn’t get drafted until the middle of the second round. He was overweight and wasn’t considered o be athletic enough to make much of an impact in the NBA. That’s one of those moves that only looks bad in hindsight.

    The drafting of Araujo, though, was a bad move immediately. I’d also heard that Babcock basically listened to his advisors on that one, but that doesn’t excuse him at all. If he didn’t have the spine to take that obviously better player, then it’s no better than making the pick himself.

    Obviously a number of GMs passed on Granger (although Babcock passed on him twice, which was inexcusable), but I never liked the drafting of Villaneuva. The big knock on him was that he was lazy and not a hard worker. To me, that’s a deal breaker when drafting, especially in the lottery. Player’s can overcome a lot of things, but not work ethic. Even worse, he wasn’t a good defender, which is also a deal breaker when it comes to big men.

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