An Open Letter to Bryan Colangelo

Posted on June 26, 2012 | 9 Comments

Dear Bryan,

Okay, both you and I know the Raptors got screwed this year. This season was supposed to be about the development of the young players and getting a top pick in the draft. Unfortunately few of the players developed the way they were supposed to, and Dwane Casey was able to squeeze a little more out of a team that really had no business finishing outside of the bottom 5, so the Raptors ended up in the 8th spot in the draft. It was no surprise, then, when Adam Silver called out Toronto’s pick at 8, and not in the top 3. Disheartening, but not surprising.

Still, it was encouraging to see the Raptors, even with their injuries, claw and scrap their way to 23 wins, besting last years mark despite playing 16 fewer games. Right? Well, not really. Not when you consider that a good number of those players probably aren’t even in the Raptor’s long term plans. Or if they are, they probably shouldn’t be.

Having watched you in Phoenix, and then in Toronto, I’m betting a guy like you isn’t going to sit on his hands an do nothing, this summer. So here’s some unsolicited advice for you….

NO SHORT CUTS!

With the Raptors drafting 8th and the fact that you’re not nearly as likely to find a future star at 8 as you are in the top 3, you’re probably tempted to trade the pick.

I’ve even heard the rumours about trading for Andre Iguodala or Rudy Gay, as well as ones involving Luol Deng.

Don’t. Please.

That’s a recipe for mediocrity. There are definitely times when veteran help is a good idea. Now is not one of them. Not for this team. Not for a team as young and with as little proven talent as the Raptors. What exactly are you hoping to gain from trading for a Rudy Gay, Luol Deng or Andre Iguodala? To be in a fight for the playoffs? Great. Then what?

Iguodala, Deng and Gay are very nice players. They’re all borderline All Stars and all around good players. But if they’re your team’s best player, then you’re not going to be anything more than a mediocre team, at best. And not one of them is going to ever be much better than they are right now. Gay is the youngest, but after 6 years in the league, he’s shown shockingly little to no improvement in his game in the last five years.

NASH IS NOT THE ANSWER!

We've been there before

Speaking of short cuts, I understand the desire for Steve Nash to join the Raptors. He’s immediately make the Raptors competitive (for the time being), the prospect of Captain Canada playing in his home country would be a marketing bonanza, and you had great success signing him before. The problem is that his supporting cast in Toronto wouldn’t be any better than it was in Phoenix, and Phoenix didn’t even make the playoffs this year.

Adding a guy like Iguodala or Gay would certainly help, and might even help the team match the 47 wins they achieved in your first year in charge. Unfortunately, just like that team, a team built around a 38 year old former MVP and a few decent players isn’t the way to build a contender. And once Nash declines, the team’s best shot at doing ANY damage in the playoffs will be gone. Again.
Besides, not only would I like to see Nash finish his career on a high note, I think Raptor fans deserve something more than to watch an aging, former MVP at the tail end of his career.

YOUR GOAL SHOULDN’T BE TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS!

Making the playoffs would be nice, sure, but far, far more important is to build a team that actually has a good chance to do something more than just making the playoffs. You already built a playoff team in Toronto. Even without injuries, though, that team didn’t have a chance to be anything more than an Atlanta Hawks wannabe. A team that is competitive, makes the playoffs, but has no hope of going beyond the second round.

Memphis, Indiana and Philadelphia shouldn’t be your models. Oklahoma should be. That means that if they need to miss the playoffs again, so be it, as long as it raises the ceiling for the team. I’d much rather go through another season like this one, if it means building a contender, than to continue to go through what Raptors fans have been through in the previous 17 years. We’ve been through mediocrity. Been there, done that. Let’s shoot for something more, this time.

DON’T TRADE DOWN!

I’ve never understood the fascination some have had with trading down in the draft. I guess on paper, it might seem like a good idea. In the case of the Kyle Lowry rumours, the Raptors would get Lowry AND the 14th or 18th pick for their 8th pick.

Now, I actually like the prospect of trading for Kyle Lowry, but not for a draft pick, even if the Raptors get a lower pick in return.

The problem is that trading down generally results in the team just drafting a worse player. In the NBA, two decent players don’t equal one All Star. And all trading down does is lessen your chances of finding a gem.

This guy should be your target

TRADE UP, IF YOU CAN!

It’s a simple and indisputable fact that you increase your chances of finding a star in the draft the higher you pick. After what we’ve seen this year, can you honestly say that anyone on the current roster (not Jonas Valanciunas) is good enough not to trade if it means bettering your chance of finding a star? And on a team lacking in stars, that’s the ONLY thing you should be trying to draft.

Whether it means taking on a bad contract or trading away any of the players on the roster (or both), you need to try and move up. The need for a star player is that desperate.

SWING FOR THE FENCES!

This draft is not the one to play it safe. That means drafting the player with the highest ceiling, not the highest floor. In other words, I’m hoping looking at John Henson is just a smokescreen. It’s not that he’s not  nice player, but after 3 seasons how much star potential does the guy really have? And is he really any better than Ed Davis, who still has a good chance of being a good player.

Playing it safe is the quickest route to mediocrity. Even if you are able to move up, that means staying away from a guy like Harrison Barnes, who’s got a high floor, but low ceiling.

Please don’t be afraid of selecting someone who might take a couple of years to develop, if that guy is going to be the best player available in 5 years.

TRADE BARGNANI!

At the risk of sounding like a bit of a broken record on the subject, it’s time. Actually, it’s well past time, but better late than never.

He’s never going to be the player you envisioned. He’s always going to be a high maintenance, low efficient/high volume scorer who is a below average rebounder and defender. And he’s as much of a problem for the team he’s playing for as for the opposing team. Because of his deficiencies, he requires specific players around him that can hide them, but the problem is that he’s simply not good enough to build around, so basically you engineer a team around a guy who should be a role player. Where’s the logic in that?

There are many that say you will never trade Andrea Bargnani. It’s common for GMs to overvalue their picks, they say, and that by trading Bargnani you would be admitting that you were wrong to draft him. They say you’ve tied your future to him. That’s probably not the best idea, unfortunately.

If it’s true that the Bobcats are thinking of trading their pick, and are looking to upgrade their 3 point shooting, then maybe he’s the perfect guy to use to trade up to the 2nd pick.

It’s time to cut ties with the past. Especially since the past doesn’t exactly have the fondest memories. Prove to the fans that you care more about winning than being right.

This is a very important summer for you, Bryan. Up until now, I’ve supported you. But this summer could end up being the tipping point. Most fans don’t seem to think you know how to build a contender and have resigned themselves to the fact that the Raptors won’t become one. Prove them wrong, Bryan. Prove them wrong. Please.

Sincerely,

Tim W.
A longtime, and long-suffering, Raptor fan

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Join the discussion: 9 Comments

Comments

  • Draftstar

    The problem now is, other teams are moving upstream faster than the Raptors but I still think they are ok. Five things to consider with this draft: Lillard should be gone: Waiters must have really impressed with improved shooting and might be gone: Lamb will at least be a good starter: There are stars after 7 – Just harder to find: Some good players in the second round and after.
    With AB on a reasonable contract, if JV is a star, they only need enough money to find two more stars for things to be looking much better. I strongly believe, they need to buy or trade for another first rounder to speed up the process. Moving forward BC’s group is the best we have ever had but poaching some on the Magic’s departed talent evaluators would still be better than anyone they could pick in a draft. As anxious as we get about the draft, ultimately, good management is the formula for winning championships not draft position!!!

  • Draftstar

    Some good thoughts!

  • FPB

    Tim: I’m not against the idea of trading down if you can get your hands on Kendall Marshall.

    Great PG’s seem to fall in this range, when they pass too much to be lottery guys. (Rondo, Parker, Nash, Stockton).

    The kid has had historic numbers in the passing game, so i wouldn’t mind getting something + him. Like Marshall and get a lotto ticket on Sullinger (Lottery last year, poor guy) or Fab Melo.

    I think ”playing it safe” would be drafting a guy like Harrison Barnes. Who figures to be Danny Granger at best.

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

    @Draftstar

    I’m not interested in really any of the names being mentioned for the 8th spot (I’ll get into that in my next post).

    The problem with the Raptors is not finding money to pay the stars, it’s finding the stars. And good management will get you a good team, but you need luck to win a Championship. No amount of good management would have done what drafting Tim Duncan did for the Spurs.

    @FPB

    I would definitely want to go after Marshall, but if that’s all they get from the draft then they’re doomed. Marshall is a guy that will help a good team, but he’s not going to make a bad team much better. I’d like to see the Raptors move up and then try and acquire a second first rounder to grab Marshall.

    I also agree about Barnes. I think he’s going to be a pretty decent player, but he’s a complimentary guy.

  • Tinman

    Dear Tim,

    Thank you for your patience and your continued support is always appreciated. Are you a season ticket holder?
    Now I am confused. In the past ten years, the only team that has won the championship that has been won via the draft has been the San Antonio Spurs. And that was just a match made in heaven with their coach.
    The Heat circa Lebron, Mavericks, Lakers circa Gasol, Celtics, Heat 2 circa Shaq, Pistons, Lakers 2 circa Shaq have been assembled via trades. You state no shortcuts but history states you are incorrect.
    An astute follower of the game need not be reminded that OKC has won as many titles as your hapless Raps. As good as their situation seems, let’s not go handing out titles shall we.
    We did our best to secure the lowest pick possible but were outdone by several other teams, quite frankly, shittier than us. And for that I take full blame, should of kept Triano at the helm for another year. Who would of thought Casey would win us a few games.
    As a long suffering fan I am a little disappointed that you cannot seem to find anything positive about the team you support. In a strike shortened season, we won more games than the season before. Without anyone having an above average season? We got a nice piece coming across the pond, a number 8 pick, and what appears to be a coaching system in place(which is much more important to a championship than the draft – as the last decade will attest to). We have money to spend(wisely) and some pawns to play if needed.
    Now is the time for optimism. Takeaway the Heat and no team in the East stands out. And just to throw you a bone, no-one has ruled out next years lottery just yet.
    Trade Bargnani? Next question.

    Keep in mind, only one team can win a championship. That does not make the rest failures. As a little league coach(ok you got me- i’m not really BC) kids that’s what I would want to teach them. And to not throw in the towel. As you stated, swing for the fences.

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

    Bryan! Now I understand why you’ve taken the criticism of Bargnani so personally. I wish I had known it was you all along!

    As for your confusion, it’s not hard to clear it up. Let’s look at the each team going back starting with the Heat circa LeBron. Well, they already HAD Wade, who they drafted and are one of the most desirable locations in the league. The Raptors can’t duplicate their success. Even if they could, they’d need to start with a guy like Wade, first.

    Dallas traded Dirk’s rights on draft night, and built around him twice, the second time being more successful. One thing they had going for them is the willingness to outspend every other team. Can’t see the Raptors duplicating that, can you? And they’d also need a guy like Dirk, first.

    The Lakers acquired Kobe’s rights on draft night, like the Mavs did with Dirk. After winning three titles with Shaq as the main guy, they decided to build around Kobe, which they did successfully. The Raptors might be able to duplicate that, but they’d need a Kobe, first.

    Boston already had Paul Pierce, who they drafted, and then were fortunate to be able to trade for Garnett right when he was available, after trading for Ray Allen. The Raptors could duplicate that, except they’d need to draft a guy like Paul Pierce, first.

    Miami, with Shaq, won with Wade as their best player, who they drafted. The Raptors might be able to duplicate their success, but would have to draft a guy like Wade, first.

    I could go on, but I’m sensing a pattern, here. All those teams built around guys they either drafted or acquired as rookies on draft night. Imagine if Pat Riley had decided, before the 2002-2003 season that he wanted to push that team to the playoffs, so made some moves and pushed the team to, say 35 wins instead of 25. Then they wouldn’t have gotten Wade.

    Now imagine if Don Nelson had decided that 7 years out of the playoffs was enough, and that he wanted to push a team with young talent like Michael Finley, Shawn Bradley and Samaki Walker into the playoffs, in 1997? Instead of finishing with 20 wins, and being able to swap their 6th pick for the 9th pick and Dirk, they might have drafted 12, and out of contentention for Dirk.

    Again, I could go on, but you can see what I’m saying.

    As for wanting to find positive things to say, I say them when there are positive things to say. I had PLENTY of positive things to say when they drafted Valanciunas last year. In fact, I was one of the few who did say positive things immediately. I said positive things about James Johnson, and Erin Gray, and yes, Dwane Casey. Not sure why you think I didn’t. I wrote it all down for everyone to see.

    I think the issue is that you want me to be a Doug Smith-type guy, and I’m not. I don’t have glasses that makes me see unicorns and rainbows when there aren’t any. I see things how I see them. Sometimes that means saying positive things and sometimes that means saying negative things. I do find your criticism funny, because there are times when people have accused me of being to much of a homer and not criticizing enough.

    Speaking of which, I think I’ve brought up plenty of good points, yet you seem to just want to criticize. Try and be more positive.

    And yes, only one team wins a Championship every year. But the fact is that there are teams that are in contention for a Championship and teams that aren’t. If you aren’t, then you should either be trying to build a contender, or gutting your team. And there’s also a big difference between little league, where winning and losing isn’t as important as having fun, and professional sports, where winning should be the number one goal.

  • Rich

    Who do you like at 8 for the Raps?

    Why would you not trade the 8th pick for Lowry + a Houston pick? What if who we wanted doesn’t come to us at 8 and there’s no way of trading up? Also, do you like Lowry on this team as a PG of now, and down the road? 26 years old, right fit?

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

    Rich,

    Thanks for the comment. I don’t have a problem with going after Lowry but I wouldn’t trade a pick for him, even if a lower pick comes back in return. I never like the idea of trading down because 9 times out of 10, you just get a less talented player than you would have if you didn’t trade down.

    As for who I like at 8, take a look at my latest post.

  • Stephen Waugh

    “NO SHORT CUTS!”
    +infinity!!!!

    “NASH IS NOT THE ANSWER!”
    +1. He should have drafted a PG in the second round or Kendall Marshall. Now he needs to sign one of the undrafted passing PGs in free agency.

    “YOUR GOAL SHOULDN’T BE TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS!”
    An unfortunately common weakness among many executives including Bryan Colangelo, because their jobs are more valuable to them than the success of their teams. Hence, the plethotra of middling-level flawed executives that become more valuable to teams looking for new faces when the ones in place fail to get the job done.

    “TRADE BARGNANI!”
    I thought about trading him to the Miami Heat for Dexter Pittman straight up. He’s another project that needs more development, which he can’t get in Miami because they will be in win-now mode for the foreseeable future. And even though I don’t like the idea of trying to cover up Andrea Bargnani’s deficiencies at all, I think that he would possibly be the best option for immediately, much better than Ed Davis, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, or anybody on the team for that matter (watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hKR8aJjuT4 for an understanding of what I’m getting at). Again, I would not attempt any quick-fixes to hide Bargs. In fact, I would still sign Pittman and trade Bargs for a second-round pick today.

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