This streak hasn’t influenced my opinion of the team in the slightest. I’m not undermining our efforts against Orlando and Chicago, just stating that a 5-game winning streak does not earn anyone a reprieve for the disastrous season we’ve had. The biggest mistake a team can make is look at false positives late on in the season and base their future decisions on that instead of looking at the big picture. No doubt there have been bumps and bruises along the way, the coaching change, injuries to O’Neal and Calderon and of course, the Marion trade, but writing off multiple long losing streaks, nights of token effort, defensive negligence and a sputtering clutch offense is taking it to the extreme. You can’t just wipe the slate clean with 13 games to go in the season and say, “These are the real Raptors”.
Assuming we can maintain this play for the next couple weeks, these wins could bring about some real good other than the record looking less pathetic in the history books. First, it could prove to be enough for Marion to give Toronto a chance in the summer. We’re playing exactly the style of basketball that Marion needs to play in order to be considered more than just a good defender. Since leaving Phoenix his stock has plummeted as he’s gotten exposed for what he is – a system player. He’s got two options: either he’s going to accept his “real” market-value and consider signing a 3-4 year deal knowing that it’ll be his last major contract. In this case it could come down to a bidding war and in the worst case, we’d have to slightly overpay to retain him. Or he could decide that he wants another major deal and look at next season as an opportunity to reprove himself. He could opt for a 1-year deal and look at our fitting style of play as the perfect place to showcase his skills. This would of course put him in a very attractive pool of free agents in 2010 which could end up backfiring.
Secondly, it increases the trade value of our assets, namely Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon and maybe, just maybe but not likely, Jason Kapono. We’re going to have to deal with the reality that Bosh will be pursued by other clubs when he becomes a free agent and that unless we offer him a max-money deal this summer, there is absolutely zero reason for him to even think about re-signing. He can get his money anytime he wants and it’s in his best interest to wait. Jack Armstrong put Bosh’s chances as being in a Raptors uniform next year as 50-50 and alluded to the current roster as being something Bosh can in no way be attracted to. I just don’t see the Raptors having the money or cap-space to do anything more than either re-sign Marion or spend that money in getting someone like Trevor Ariza or in the best case, Hedo Turkoglu. Considering this and the other moves Colangelo’s alluded to making (Delfino, Graham), it just isn’t going to be good enough for Bosh which means trade options need to be explored. Averaging 24/13 in the last five games is doing nothing but helping his worth.
The same can be said for Jose Calderon (14/11, 56% in last 5) who’s sure to have won back some of his admirers from last season. The FT streak and percentage can also be added to the pros column when evaluating him for a trade. I don’t think Colangelo will entertain the idea of trading Calderon unless he’s part of a Bosh package that is just too good to pass up. Acknowledging the blunder that was the O’Neal trade is enough pride to swallow for a season.
Finally, it gives belief and confidence to the players which might be the most important thing heading into the summer. As a casual Blue Jays fan I know it could be misleading, they’ve made it a routine of playing well in September and coming close to the wildcard spot giving the GM and players false belief in their own abilities. Players like Calderon, Ukic, Pops and Bargnani who are likely to return next year need to feel something good going into the summer. There’s nothing like the promise of better times to motivate a person and this stretch could serve as a beacon that they actually can be part of something nice.
I thought I’d give Colangelo a report card. Below are his transactions for this year, a little blurb, the consensus grade given at the time and the real grade.
O’Neal for T.J Ford: Hindsight is 20/20 but the Ford for Wallace swap was the answer, shouldn’t have stuck out for their pick. Never liked giving up the 17th pick, thought we should’ve moved up to get the SG we so desperately need now. Trade hinged on O’Neal staying healthy and gelling with Bosh under good coaching. Neither happened and we lost a pretty good pick and a serviceable center for nothing. At the time: B-. Now: F.
Signing Hassan Adams: They told us NJ was dying to sign him but couldn’t because of some cap issues. I always thought that little rumour was the reference letter Hassan’s agent got him when NJ fired him. They told us he could be the answer to our perimeter defense. They lied. At the time: C-. Now: F.
Signing Will Solomon: Got to be honest, I had to Google him up. They told us he could be the answer to our perimeter defense. They lied. At the time: F. Now: F.
Signed Roko Ukic: No-brainer given the backup PG situation, thanks Rob Babcock. At least Roko got his first taste of the NBA, this move probably should’ve happened last year instead of having Darrick Martin in there. At the time: B. Now: B+.
Fired Sam Mitchell, promoted Jay Triano: Let’s be clear, Mitchell wasn’t fired for being 8-9, he was fired for losing to the Magic and Nets in the first round, being stubborn, uncreative and lacking common sense. This move had to be made and was long overdue. Triano brings a defensive philosophy and an offense with significantly more movement which is an improvement over what was there. I know the record doesn’t support the argument but I say this team has the same or worse record if Mitchell is the coach. At the time: B+. Now: B.
Signing Jake Voskuhl: We needed some insurance when O’Neal went down and weren’t counting on Bargnani to fill in so we got Voskuhl. He’s not a Mikki Moore, Drew Gooden, Joe Smith or even a P.J Brown, he’s Jake Voskuhl and we got from him what we expected from him. At the time: C. Now: C.
O’Neal/Marion/Pick for Marion/Banks: We get to play the free-agent market in 2009 and have a chance to retool this summer instead of sticking with the current roster next year and repeating the same result. Giving up the pick was bad enough but taking on Banks to go with Kapono was a mistake from the start. Marion’s been good news but what is it worth if he walks and we don’t sign a major player with the money we saved? The grade for this trade depends entirely on whether we do something positive with Marion’s dollars. At the time: B. Now: B-.
Trading Patrick O’Bryant for Will Solomon: Still don’t know why this happened, it’s not like Bargnani was playing bad and Jake was exhausted from playing too many minutes. O’Bryant is the worst player on this team and is making Will Solomon look good. At the time: Confused. Now: Even more confused.
Signed Pops Mensah-Bonsu: Nobody had seen him play much before he got here and were probably thinking he’s another Voskuhl or O’Bryant. Colangelo had been wanting to nab him for some time now and jumped at the opportunity after the Spurs had to make room for Drew Gooden. At the time: D. Now: B+.
Signed Quincy Douby: He’s the answer to our wing woes. At the time: F. Soon to be: A+.
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