Any time last year’s team encountered a bump along the road, a defense was waiting to be applied – nine new players. At first it was easy to agree with the premise of the thought that a coach requires time to get strangers to play as a team, but as the season wore on and the losses piled on, fans saw through the act. It was soon realized that it wouldn’t matter if this unit played together for 10 years, the results would be the same. The media continued to rationalize when anybody with half a sense of the game could tell otherwise, and right around that point, what is a valid point turned into a cheap excuse.

This year we have six new players (not counting Dupree): Alabi, Andersen, Barbosa, Davis, Kleiza and Wright. Of these only one is likely to be a starter (Kleiza), which is much different than last year when DeRozan, Turkoglu and DeRozan were all starters (ignoring Jack who started 43 games). So what does Jay Triano think about this difference:

I guess you could say [I'm] a player’s coach, someone who gets along with everybody. Last year we had nine new players staring in training camp from what we had the year before, and that’s a huge turnover. This year we have five or six new guys so it’s going to be like we’re going to be light years ahead of where we were because we know more than half the guys for a change. It’s just getting to know them, some guys need to be pushed, some guys need to have an arm around them. I think we figured out who we have a lot better now and it’s just about communicating with them on a daily basis.

Maybe “light years ahead” is a bit much, but Triano seems to claim that he’s finally figured out how to coach the different personalities on a team, as he says, some guys need need extra motivation, some guys need to be cajoled, and some just get it. For the sake of this lazy Sunday, I’ll go ahead and classify them in one shot:

Need extra motivation Need cajoling Just get it!
Alabi
Banks
Barbosa
DeRozan
Jack
Weems
Wright
Bargnani Calderon
Johnson
Kleiza
Davis
Evans
Dorsey

Go ahead and rip me apart, but remember, this is not an evaluation of talent, just an opinion of how players respond to adversity and the up and downs of the season. You’ll notice that Jack is classified as needing extra motivation but Calderon is seen as someone who understand’s what it takes. The sole reason for this is that when things went south last year, Jack’s body language and attitude took a dive. He soon recovered and had some very good performances for us, but he definitely wasn’t the rock that one expected him to be. Calderon can never be faulted for his effort, only his ability. He doesn’t appear to be someone who needs to be told to keep his head up and play hard, it just comes natural to him.

The other notable here is Bargnani, and that opinion is based on a couple conversations phdsteve had at a particular Raptors function last season.

Going back to the issue of player turnover, let’s see how the Raptors have fared under Bryan Colangelo in terms of that:

Season Turnover Players Wins +/- Wins
2006-07 7 Bargnani, Ford, Garbajosa, Humphries, Jones, Nesterovic, Parker 47 +20
2007-08 3 Delfino, Kapono, Moon 41 -6
2008-09 4 O’Neal, Ukic, Solomon, Adams 33 -8
2009-10 8 Belinelli, DeRozan, Evans, Jack, Johnson, Turkoglu, Weems, Wright 40 +7
2010-11 6 Alabi, Andersen, Barbosa, Davis, Kleiza and Wright ? ?

This seems to suggest that the years we’ve had the highest amount of turnover are the years that we’ve had the most significant increases in win total. Does this mean that a high player turnover rate can’t be used as a valid excuse for being bad? I think so, because it’s not the amount of players you import, it’s their quality and fit. To blame a high player turnover rate for more than a month into the season is stretching it thin. If by that point a team doesn’t have its internals sorted out, the problem is likely larger and it has little to do with a team “not gelling” fast enough, it’s that they are either a bad fit or the coach is doing something terribly wrong. Or of course the underpinning of the team, i.e. the players, are simply not good.

If a bad Clippers team makes only one change from the year before, they’re still going to lose 50 games. If a Magic team makes six changes they’re still going to win 59 games for a second straight year. This might seem like a shock, but player quality trumps amount of turnover by a ratio of 10000:1. It’s an excuse you don’t want to hear, not past December 1st.