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- The Gospel According to Allen Iverson
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Posted on December 20, 2011 | 6 Comments
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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