9/20/12

Playoffs? Really? Maybe Not So Fast

I just wanted to expand on an article I wrote for the Bleacher Report on the Raptors season and what would be considered a success? I am not trying to be a wet blanket on everyone’s playoff party. I just have seen the Raptor fan base get excited before only to be met with disappointment. The Raptors have taken positive steps to become a playoff team in the future. I just question if that future is now? I referenced in that article when Bryan Colangelo first arrived on the scene in Toronto. He made a bold move to acquire T.J Ford and part with Charlie V. That at the time was considered risky as Villianueva was considered a guy that still had upside. It was one of a series of moves that would lead to Colangelo changing the fortunes of the Raptors in dramatic fashion.

That was then and this is now. The NBA has changed a lot since than. So has the Atlantic Division as referenced in the article. The quick turnaround that Colangelo pulled off may not be possible for any team in the NBA currently.  In an NBA that is becoming more a case of have and have not teams it is not easy to rise from the basement to the penthouse.

Many folks are extremely high on what the Brooklyn Nets have done. I think they are obviously much improved but predictions for them to rise to the top 4 teams in the Eastern Conference are also out of whack. They also are taking a different path from the Raptors in terms of spending. You can understand why they are given the resources their ownership has and the fact they are entering a new market in Brooklyn. They should make the playoffs but I am not convinced they will be hosting games one and two of a playoff series at their new home The Barclays Center.

The Raptors have taken the slower road to success by trying to establish a young core of talent. Many would call it the OKC approach to team building. The Raptors still are lacking that main star in that theory. Andrea Bargnani be he the good one or not is never going to be confused with Kevin Durant.

Rogers Communications one of the new owners of MLSE has taken a similar approach in baseball with the Blue Jays. They had all of the same excitement the Raptors currently have now. If you check the baseball standings these days it has not worked out as well as people hoped. Some of their top players have not come through as expected. A lot of injuries have become a problem.  Still despite the disappointment the direction the Blue Jays are heading seems to be a positive one.

The Raptors are in a similar circumstance in my view. They have a solid direction and foundation that has the organization heading in a positive direction. Not unlike the Blue Jays they would need a number of things go right for them to meet some lofty expectations. To expect all of them to happen in the same season is expecting a lot.

The main point is the ship is steered in the right direction and some major things have been accomplished. The Raptors finally accepted that while not without skill Jose Calderon was not going to take this team to the next level as the starting point guard. They hired Dwane Casey to address a long standing probably of a team that was defensively challenged to say the least. They have brought back an accountability that has been long overdue. They have added to the pool of young talent they have.

The thing they don’t have yet and will take some time to develop is chemistry. It is a very positive sign that for the most part the entire roster is already in town working on that. It is however a process that will only truly happen when live bullets start flying in the NBA Regular Season. It will take time and patience. Something a Raptor fan base that has been disappointed for a long time will find hard to accept. This is a world where we want and crave instant results.

The Raptors still have work to do and really need someone to emerge as the leader of this team. That guy might not even be on the current roster yet. They also at some point with have to accept the reality that it is going to take spending money to reach the ultimate goal. In a Division that will have three teams that will not have issue with going over the NBA Tax Threshold the Raptors will eventually need to go there as well. OKC just to keep what they have is learning this lesson. James Harden is going to push the Thunder to a place beyond the tax threshold.

The Raptors before they worry about that have to focus on making the hard choices of who are the guys that are on this ride for the long haul. That is why what guys like Andrea Bragnani, DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis do this season will be vital for all of them. The Raptors have hit rock bottom and are taking the steps to dig out of a giant hole that has been created. It started before Chris Bosh decided to go to Miami. When he left it caused they to fall even deeper.

Raptors fans should want more than band-aid solutions at this point. A team that is build not just to make the post season once in awhile but a team that will be there consistently and challenging to win series and advance forward.

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