- Oh, front-loading. Fancy.
The nice thing about this time of year, for those of us cheering for moribund franchises like the Toronto Raptors, is that hope springs eternal. No matter the situation, no matter the moves that are made, there’s always a chance to put a positive, rosy spin on things. Homerism? Sure. Blind optimism? Definitely. But one of the primary reasons perennial underachievers like the Raptors maintain strong fan interest throughout the long, dunk-less summer months? Absolutely.
Then again, it’s also the time of year for the negative population among us to spit vitriol, cursing the management of the team up and down, questioning the motives of The Corporation, and tagging every single draft prospect with the Bust label before a single game of Summer League has been played.
How can this dichotomy possibly exist among a large group of people that, apparently, all consider themselves to be Raptor fans? It’s easy – it’s all in how you spin things. Every trade can be looked at a positive or a negative, every pick oozing with potential or an obvious bust, every move management makes as an affront to the future or a gladhand to a mediocre present. It’s all in the spin.
So today, I’m looking at some of the things we can be on alert for in the next few days. In case you don’t have an opinion yet, or are too lazy to develop sentences on either side of the fence, I’m providing the positive and negative spin for a number of moves that could conceivably go down. If any of these take place, simply copy and paste the “positive spin” or “negative spin” in the comments section of the relevant RR article.
Raptors trade #8 pick to Houston for Kyle Lowry
This is the hottest rumor out there right now – the Rockets are looking to stockpile assets to make a run at Dwight Howard, or are just looking to move into the top-10, depending on where you’re doing your reading. Regardless, the scenario is that the Raptors would move the #8 pick, possibly with a roster player, for Lowry.
Positive Spin: Lowry is sick!! He’s a defensive-minded point guard, still has loads of potential, and improved by leaps and bounds in the last two years. He shoots the three, had a 19 PER, guards two positions, and is still only 26. Plus, he’s affordable at roughly $6M/year for the next two seasons. Colangelo maneuvers assets to improve the team in the short-term and long-term once again!
Negative Spin: Great, a coach killer! This guy is at odds with McHale, demands a trade, and now we swoop in and give a top-10 pick we spent all season tanking to get for him. He only averaged 14 points, plus we already have Jose and Bayless, and could have gotten a point guard with that pick. Uggh, Colangelo once again sacrifices the long-term future for a few extra wins now.
Raptors Sign Steve Nash
Let’s assume Nash comes here because of his Canadian roots, his spot as GM of the National team, and the Raptors cap space making a 2yr/$20M offer something that’s doable.
Positive Spin: Maple-boner! Captain Canada comes home! There’s nothing better we could have asked for than a home-grown superstar coming here, making everyone better instantly, and teaching our young guys on the fly. Casey can hide his poor man defense in the team system, and Jose can play off the ball more, while Bayless takes the Barbosa role off the bench. DeMar’s numbers are going to go through the roof, and can you imagine Bargs running the P&R with STEVE F***NG NASH!!!
Negative Spin: Oh great, a near-40 point guard, the third one on our squad, taking up all of our cap space just so MLSE/Rogers+Bell can sell a few extra jerseys and tickets and make even more money off of us. Okay, so Nash maybe pushes us to a first round playoff exit…so what? Oh yeah, playoff ticket revenue for The Corporation.
Raptors Do Not Sign Steve Nash
The more likely scenario, it seems, has Nash signing with a winning team for a shot at a ring.
Positive Spin: Oh well, Nash deserves a chance to try and win a Championship, and we couldn’t offer him that here. While he’d improve the team now, he still wouldn’t be the long-term answer, and maybe he can still come here for his final season further on down the road. Best of luck, Steve!
Negative Spin: Okay, so the best Canadian of all time becomes a free agent and Canada’s only team can’t show the foresight to throw everything at this guy?? Who has he played with that didn’t have a career year? Nash would have had us in the playoffs without a doubt, and been a reason for other free agents to want to come here. Typical Raptors B.S., ignoring the obvious move right in front of their faces.
Raptors Amnesty Jose Calderon
This is somewhat likely if the Lowry trade or Nash signing occur, freeing up about $10M in additional cap space, and reducing the point guard redundancy in those events. It seems far less likely if those events don’t happen.
Positive Spin: Jose’s a great guy, but he isn’t worth his contract, and this frees up significant cash to help the team win now. We had too much money tied up in guards, so this lets us balance the roster out, while also giving Jose a chance to sign on somewhere where his contributions are more needed.
Negative Spin: This guy has been the best, most likable, most consistent Raptor for years now and The Corporation throws him out on his ass…for what? So we can waste the $10M on some overpaid veteran, probably. Brutal…finally a guy shows some loyalty to the franchise and we show everyone that it won’t be reciprocated…nice message to your young players and free agents.
Raptors Amnesty Amir Johnson
This one is probably less likely, but is possible if the Raptors wanted to make a large offer to a free agent and clear up their PF depth.
Positive Spin: Finally! Amir wasn’t worth the contract when we signed him to it, and he hasn’t improved anywhere close to enough to earn it since. The guy can’t stay healthy, can’t stop fouling, and now we can use that money on a position of need. Good riddance.
Negative Spin: His PER! His adjusted-plus/minus statistics! By all accounts this has been our MVP the past two seasons, and now we cut him (and still pay him, by the way) so we can offer that cap sapce to someone who won’t have half the impact on games he had. Colangelo needs to stop just looking at the boxscore and understand how basketball really works!
Bayless is Non-Tendered
Jerryd Bayless can become a restricted free agent if the Raptors tender him a qualifying offer. The Raptors could also work out a contract with him, or they could non-tender him, making him an unrestricted free agent and removing his cap hold from the books.
Positive Spin: Good riddance! We can draft a point guard at #8 to pair with Jose, and Bayless can waste possessions dribbling into traffic for someone else. After four years, everyone should know what Bayless is – a mediocre, out-of-control, me-first “point guard” destined to be a bench player. Potential can only get you so far.
Negative Spin: Are you serious?? Every time this guy has been given a chance to start, he’s shone. His numbers when Jose is out are ridiculous, and the NBA is moving towards score-first penetating point guards. Why draft someone on potential when we already have Bayless, who is what we would HOPE the pick becomes, and he still has untapped upside! We couldn’t spare $4M to at least retain his rights? Typical Colangelo B.S., Nash is the only point guard good enough, and he can’t see how the game is changing to a different style.
Raptors Trade for Gay or Iguodala
These rumors have died down significantly, but two weeks ago rumors were that the Raptors were trying to package the #8 pick with roster players for Rudy Gay or Andre Iguodala. For this exercises, I use them interchangably.
Positive Spin: Finally, the Raptors get an above-average wing player! It’s been what, since Vince left, that we haven’t had any good players on the wing? Now we have someone who can score/defend (Gay/Iggy) at an elite level, and we finally have some roster balance. The contract is fair, and we have to overpay to get people here anyway. We now have depth and talent at every position…playoffs!
Negative Spin: Great, let’s take on another team’s financial mistake and give up assets in the process. If he was worth his contract, they wouldn’t be trading him. He can’t score/defend (Iggy/Gay) on his own, and it’s not like this pushes the team anywhere past the first round. So we’ve tied up our financial flexibility and given up assets for the future for what, a first round exit for the next three years? Great, we’re the Hawks.
Raptors Draft Davis, Robinson, Kidd-Gilchrist, Beal, or Barnes
In this unlikely scenario, one of these guys slips from the top-5 down to #8.
Positive Spin: Holy s**t! I can’t believe this guy slipped! This is one of the luckiest days in franchise history, to get a #1/#2 talent at #8. This is a franchise-changer, and gives us a huge asset to pair with Jonas moving forward! Woooo!
Negative Spin: Okay, there’s a reason these guys slipped…if you’re supposed to go top-5 all this time, and then you mysteriously fall, there’s obviously something we don’t know here, and Colangelo didn’t do his due dilligence. We haven’t even worked this guy out (Barnes excepted), so how can we even be comfortable with him? Groupthink wins the day, I guess.
Raptors Draft Damian Lillard
Positive Spin: Finally, our point guard of the future! He had the second best PER in the country, he tested off-the-charts D-Rose level good at the combine, and he’s the kind of attacking guard that NBA teams need to be successful in today’s NBA. This guy is a game-changer, and the only reason he wasn’t a top-3 pick was his small school. This is a huge steal!
Negative Spin: This guy hasn’t even played against quality competition, and we’re going to annoint him the savior because he’s similar to Rose on some tests? He’s another me-first guard, and we already have Bayless on the roster. We needed a creator like Kendall Marshall, but what we really needed was a wing. This one’s going to look bad when three guys later in the draft are all putting up 20 per game in 2015.
Raptors Draft Andre Drummond
Positive Spin: I can’t believe the guy with the biggest potential in the entire draft lasted until #8! He’s only 18 years old and is the biggest freak of nature in the draft since Dwight Howard! He’s huge, quick, and has growing left to do…plus he’ll have instant defensive impact! We’ve got the time to let him develop, and he and Jonas could make a ridiculous front-court together that would scare every team in the league.
Negative Spin: Umm, didn’t we just draft a franchise center last year? So all the hype about Jonas is out the window now? I don’t see it…he’s the most raw player in the draft and is probably going to be Kwame Brown…the guy has no motor and doesn’t look like he cares at all. This will be a disaster when he’s getting Alabi minutes behind Jonas.
Raptors Draft Dion Waiters
Positive Spin: The D-Wade comparisons have me sold…he was underrated playing on a stacked Syracuse team, but Waiters is a game-changing scorer who can guard multiple positions. He can upgrade us at the two, maybe even play some point, and will finally give us a crunch-time scorer to demand the ball and create. This is the best fit in basketball terms we could have asked for.
Negative Spin: This guy only played half the game at ‘Cuse, now we expect him to be the top guy on an NBA team? We already have Bayless to be a shooting-guard pretending to be a point guard, and you don’t choose a back-up at #8. Way too early for a guy like this, and you could have gotten soemone similar later. Plus, we’ve already got Jose, Bayless, and DeMar…nobody at the three, hello!
Raptors Draft Austin Rivers
Positive Spin: An elite NBA-IQ with great scoring instincts, and superstar potential? Sign me up…on potential alone he should have been top-5. Duke isn’t friendly to high-volume scorers, and Rivers has the potential to be a game-changing combo guard or 2-man. Casey can get him to buy in defensively, and you know he has all-world intelligence with Doc as a father. He’ll be a high-character leader for a team that desperately needs an alpha.
Negative Spin: Terrific, a me-first scorer who doesn’t do anything else at an elite level, and doesn’t even score all that well. Just because his dad is a good coach doesn’t make him a good player, and if his name was Austin Smith he’d be ont he first round bubble. Give me a break.
Raptors Draft Jeremy Lamb
Positive Spin: Lamb is going to fit right into this offense, immediately! The “lazy” concerns are just how he looks and plays, Casey will have no trouble coaxing effort from him….shots and playing time are the ultimate motivator. Remember how hot he got during UConn’s 2011 title run? That’s an All-Star right there, and Lamb can fill it up, off-the-ball or off the dribble. This is the versatile scorer we’ve been waiting for forever…and with his length, he should be a good defender in time, too!
Negative Spin: A lazy, doesn’t care, score-only wing who looks like he could fall asleep any time…didn’t we have later-years Vince Carter already? This guy admitted he has to FIND MOTIVATION each game, and he’s supposed to be our new alpha scorer and crunch time hero? This guy’s gonna colelct a paycheque and chuck mid-range jumpers and that’s it.
Raptors Draft Perry Jones III
Positive Spin: You definitely can’t fault the team for swinging for the fences here! Jones has top-3 potential but just hasn’t had a position or team fit yet, as Baylor asked him to not be himself there. Casey can easily turn Jones into a defensive menace at the three with his length and agility, and the offense will come when you consider his handle and athleticism. He might end up being the best player from this draft…huge value at #8!
Negative Spin: A guy with no position, an ego and attitude, and lacking a motor…ladies and gentleman, your Raptors’ draft choice! Just awesome…he wants to be a three, has the size of a four, but the muscle of a two, and he has no head for the game. There’s a reason mocks had him going anywhere and everywhere….nobody wants to risk their job on a tools-only tool like this…except BC, apparently.
Raptors Draft Another Player
Positive Spin: Wow, nobody saw that coming! You’ve got to hand it to BC for playing this close to the vest the whole time so other teams wouldn’t swoop in on him here. Mocks didn’t really see it coming, but when have mocks after predicted the success of players well? We obviously saw a need and a talent here, and kudos to the team for having the balls to get the guy they wanted, not letting public opinion dictate their pick.
Negative Spin: Colangelo always has to think he’s smarter than everyone else. Reaching at #8 for a guy not expected to go top-10? Why not trade down and get an asset then? Remember when we reached for Hoffa, how’d that work out? You take the best player available, you can’t be reaching this far on a hunch.
I just want to provide the disclaimer here that I don’t really believe any of these things, as it should be clear since I was arguing for both sides. For the record, I’m pro-Lowry (great contract value, and a steal for the #8 pick) and pro-Nash (we’re not winning a title anyway, might as well enjoy ourselves!) if either (not both) can happen. If we keep the pick, I’d like Lillard first, then Lamb, then Rivers…I’m not sold on Waiters above these other guys for whatever reason, just my gut feeling. If we trade down (say, our #8 and #36 to Houston for #14 and #16), I’d be all over PJIII with one of those picks, but feel #8 is too early given current mock drafts. I think regardless, the writing is on the wall for one of Jose or Bayless, since most Raptors rumors involve a point guard, and if the pick is kept I’d get to the gym if I’m DD, since it looks like he’ll be asked to play a lot more small forward soon.
Really looking forward to Thursday! Don’t forget about the RR draft party….I probably won’t be there, as I live an hour away and am currently on crutches after doing ligament damage to my driving foot/ankle landing on someone’s foot off a rebound last week. But you should definitely go.