Rapcast #103: Bryan Colangelo, Please Impress Us + Lottery Breakdown

This feels like George Bush getting re-elected.

Full analysis of the Raptors getting screwed in the lottery is in the Rapcast below. Steve argues why the 5th pick is actually much better than picking 3rd, it’s a joy. But first, Colangelo.

This feels like George Bush getting re-elected. Three out of the five seasons have been failures, one has been a 22-win campaign and that around these parts merits a contract extension. I get it, you want to let the guy finish what he started, or should I say inadvertently started because at the beginning of last season, the goal was not to rebuild. The Raptors entered the 2010-11 campaign with legitimate playoff aspirations, even using the mid-level exception on Linas Kleiza hoping to tidy up a problematic position to make a run at the playoffs. When the suckage went to overdrive, the goal was re-aligned to that of rebuilding, which for Colangelo was a nice little excuse for his team to lose games. He’s been very open about the reconstruction of this franchise since the season ended, which rings very funny to me because there was no such talk in training camp or even at the end of Bosh’s final season.

Statistically, it’s incorrect to say that under Colangelo the team has regressed, he is the best GM the Raptors have ever had in terms of winning percentage. Not visible in that stat is that his middle three seasons have fallen far short of pre-season expectations. The only reason the previous one is stricken from that trend is because he changed course halfway through, it’s like a driver after being lost “deciding” that he does in fact want to take the longer route. Colangelo has been playing it by the ear all along, always improvising instead of planning. The spin room will call it being a dynamic GM who can adapt to change, the reality is that he hasn’t been able to assemble a respectable team for four years, and that’s with having full autonomy. The only silver-lining here is that the Raptors maintain continuity in their management, but if that implies continuity in the club’s policies towards defense and you-know-who, then even that doesn’t matter. This extension isn’t much different than many of the Raptors’ player-signings: just be glad someone wants to stay in Toronto and extend him without evaluating their worth accurately.

The length of the deal is a sign of just much the faith in Colangelo has shrunk, two years with a team-option for the third. That’s something that should be offered to Jarrett Jack, not the captain of your enterprise. Add to it that he had to present a plan before getting extended and the picture painted is that of a board that is far more skeptical of Colangelo than it once was. To me, the deal’s length is ideal, it’s just long to see what he can make of the present crew, but not so drawn out that he’ll be around if even this experiment fails. If you’re of the belief that the shorter length of the deal will coerce him into making rash decisions, I don’t see it. Counting the year gone by he’ll have three years for his latest project, more than enough time to judge whether he’ll have constructed something worthy of taking forward. The expectations won’t be of an Eastern conference finalist at the end of the 2013-14 season, they’ll be of a playoff team on a clear, undoubtable upward trajectory.

We have ahead of us a whole summer of discussion about Colangelo, that is if the league’s labor agreement allows him to function. Whenever he does get to work he already has a to-do list which can potentially have a telling effect on what the next two year’s will resemble:

Andrea Bargnani. The Bargnani experiment has failed, at least as a starting center. He’s been Colangelo’s main undoing and by now it should be clear that you can’t hide his defensive incapacity by overloading defense/rebounding at other positions (Reggie Evans, Jermaine O’Neal, Shawn Marion). Bargnani needs to head to the bench and aim for the Sixth Man of The Year award, the question is whether Colangelo has the cahones to do this. Publicly rebuking a guy is one thing, reprimanding him on the court is another.

The Point. Dealing with Jose Calderon, at $9M he’s been the butt of defensive jokes for years. At least we know Colangelo wants to get rid of him, whether he’ll be able to anymore without taking on other burgeoning contracts remains to be seen. Surely, having Calderon on the roster heading into next year goes pretty much against true rebuilding. A point-guard is a great starting point (pardon the pun) in the reconstruction of the team, Colangelo will have a chance to put this issue to bed once and for all over the next month, whether it be Rubio, Flynn or anybody else. Let’s see how he plays it.

Small Forward. A decision on Sonny Weems is pending, can he afford for his own sakes to extend Weems and risk bringing back a laggard at worst, and a good mid-range shooter at best. What will the impact of letting Weems walk have on YGZ® mates DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson? The small forward position is entirely up in the air, Kleiza is stuck between the three and four, and I have a hard time believing James Johnson is worthy of 35 minutes a night just yet.

Leadership. How will he import leadership and character if Reggie Evans – the mediocre but currently best example of these traits – departs, surely a great possibility given Ed Davis and Amir Johnson. The last time this team had a vocal, commanding voice in the locker-room was when Charles Oakley and Antonio Davis roamed these parts. Since then, nothing.

Coach/Defense. Bring Jay Triano and his back-to-back league-worst defense under the apriorism that his rapport with the players is more important to the team-spirit than anything else. Or do you go in the way of a coach that commands respect out-of-the-box. A league-worst defense does not go hand-in-hand with progression or development, and it trumps the generally decent effort the Raptors put forth last season. The question becomes, can you afford to bring back Jay Triano and risk replicating the defense? Or are the flaws so apparent and straightforward, and attributed directly to the personnel that Triano and Colangelo can fix them.

Three-point shooting/defense. The Raptors were dead last in three-point percentage (31.6%) and only ahead of Cleveland in allowing the worst three-point percentages (37.6%). Addressing one without negatively affecting the other is a tricky proposition, one which Colangelo last attempted to fix by signing the defensive matador that was Jason Kapono.

The assets he has to make these moves happen aren’t great, Bosh’s TPE, Leandro Barbosa, Jose Calderon and the sort. But isn’t that were a GM is supposed to shine, when the odds are against him. No, I’m not talking about Steve Fruitman engineering a trade that would overpay Hedo Turkoglu, I’m talking about making lemonade without lemons. Let’s see Colangelo pull a rabbit out of his hat for once so that non-believers like myself can sit back and admire his work. Trading away draft picks for lumbering has-beens, and having your milkshake drunk by Pat Riley is easy, finding a gem to boost your rebuild process is genius. I’m still waiting for Colangelo pull off his first act of magic so I too can jump in the Kool-Aid.

Colangelo’s two-year term also coincides with with DeMar DeRozan becoming a restricted free-agent, Colangelo’s ineptitude already lost the team Chris Bosh for nothing, if DeRozan turns into a proper player and maybe even an All-Star, history could be in line to repeat itself. He’s been given a second chance where others wouldn’t have been, and it has more to do with the economics off the court than the product on it. Condominiums, sports bars and office-buildings is where MLSE ply their trade and that’s where business is booming. Colangelo needs to be credited for his input to MLSE in that regard, however I don’t give a sh*t about that because the product on the court does not meet the quality that the die-hard fans of this franchise deserve.

Maybe I’m at the point where I was hoping for a change for the sake of a change, maybe I’m being impetuous and short-sighted in my thinking, all I know is that if more of the same is what Colangelo plans to bring, nobody is interested. This contract extension is a leap of faith by MLSE, fueled by things off the court being pretty sound, and the people in charge of the organization being too lazy to go through the GM-hiring process.

The Rapcast has phdsteve on it, we talk about the lottery, draft options, and the merits of Colangelo’s extension.

Grab the iTunes feed or the plain old feed. You can also download the file (18:42, 6.5MB). Or just listen below:

Here’s hoping Colangelo finds his way and starts valuing the things that matter. And more importantly, gets a little lucky. I’m going to leave you with this quote by slaw from the forums, a viewpoint I share entirely:

The best thing about this to me is that the Colangelo apologists have no excuses left. He has his extension. He has his management team. His scouting staff. His coach. His players. There is no Sam Mitchell to blame. There is no Chris Bosh. There is no TJ Ford. No Rob Babcock. You won’t even be able to blame ownership very much longer. Even Bargnani will be gone, so, you won’t be able to flay him.

Finally, no more excuses. No more mulligans. This will be his second chance to completely rebuild the team. His third or fourth re-tooling (depending on your mileage). He will have at least one and probably two high draft picks to work with. This time, trying really hard, wagging a silver tongue and wearing nice shirts isn’t going to be good enough.

I’m just so sick of discussing him, I am glad it’s over. Now, the team needs to rebuild properly and start to produce. No more ifs, ands or buts…

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