Warning: This is another one of my epic columns, but try and stick with it because it gets into some never discussed territory (that I know of), and talks specifically about the Raptors’ situation.

With the 2014 draft looking like it might get even better, and with many scouts and NBA executives saying there could be multiple franchise players and as many as eight All Stars, there has been A LOT of discussion about tanking. And a lot of debate.

Sometimes passionate debate.

There is a portion of NBA fans who find the idea of tanking repulsive. Teams SHOULDN’T tank because it’s not competitive or is somehow a blight on a franchise. Basically, the idea is that teams shouldn’t tank because it’s not the “right” thing to do.

Of course, there are no titles for teams that do the “right” thing. The only title up for grabs in the NBA is the one you get by winning 24 16 games in the playoffs. Lots of people thought what Miami did, when they added LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play with Dwyane Wade, was rather duplicitous but it resulted in two titles.

Now, despite my well known defense of it, I am not a fan of tanking in itself but I am also aware of the realities of the league. And the realities are that teams are not on a level playing field. There are certain teams that have an historical advantage (Lakers, Boston), other teams that have a geographical advantage (Miami, New York, Clippers) and some that have a mixture of the two (Houston). The reality is that if you own one of those teams, you have a distinct advantage over every other team.

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Those prime destination NBA cities can generally attract the best free agents and you usually know star players aren’t going to refuse trades there, and will often demand trades to one of them.

So the other cities have to figure out ways to compete with that advantage. Some teams try and outspend everyone else, but that becomes much more difficult, and costly, with the new CBA. And it was never a very sound strategy to begin with. The Spurs have been able to simply draft better than everyone else, but finding elite players outside of the top five in the lottery has become nearly impossible with better international scouting and the NBA’s rule against drafting high school players.

In fact, in the last ten years, there have been 11 players drafted outside of the top 5 that have become All Stars, with just 6 of those making an All NBA team. Conversely, in the last ten years, there have been 18 players drafted in the top 5 that have become All Stars, 16 of whom made an All NBA team. Those are rather overwhelming statistics. Especially when you consider that the pool of talent in the top five picks is so much smaller. Basically, if you have selected a player in the top five, in the last ten years, there’s a 32% chance that player has become an All NBA player by now.

It’s impossible to argue that your odds of finding an elite player doesn’t drop dramatically outside of the top five spots.

Why do you need an elite player? Well, because if you truly want to build a contending team, then you’re going to need, at least, one elite player, if not two.

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In the history of the league, there has only been one Championship team that did NOT feature at least one All NBA player, the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons. But that stat is misleading because Chauncey Billups did end up making an All NBA second team and two All NBA third teams and Ben Wallace made an All NBA third team and won four Defensive Player of the Year awards.

So how do these non-prime NBA destination teams acquire these elite players?

Well, it might surprise many to learn that the vast majority of elite players were acquired by their teams through the draft (of the last 300 All NBA selections, 65.3% were acquired via the draft). And if teams didn’t draft an elite player directly, chances are they turned a high draft pick into one.

Now, for fans who believe that their teams can sign or trade for one, unless you’re a fan of a team in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, or one of the other prime NBA destination cities, then I’ve got some very bad news. If you think the lottery is a pipe dream, wait until you hear about the odds of acquiring an All NBA player outside of the draft. Especially if you don’t already have one in order to get them to agree to come.

In the last five years, there were eleven All NBA players that changed teams. Only three of those players didn’t have a say in where they went, and only one went to a city other than one of the aforementioned prime NBA destination cities, and that was Andrew Bynum going to Philadelphia. Bynum didn’t play one minute for Philadelphia, ended up signing elsewhere, and now Philadelphia has decided to tank for the 2014 draft.

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There simply aren’t a whole lot of examples of non-prime NBA destination teams being able to successful sign or trade for an elite player, especially if they don’t already have one on the roster.

So, this is where tanking comes in.

In most years, tanking is a big risk because even if you end up with the worst record, you’ve only got a 25% chance of landing the top pick. As I mentioned, the next draft is different. If you’re going to tank, next season is the time to do it.

Now, I’ve heard pretty much all the arguments against tanking.

Obviously it’s not in every team’s best interest to tank. For most playoff teams, gutting the roster and starting again simply isn’t feasible. And most owners wouldn’t allow that, anyway. The feeling is that the Milwaukee Bucks owner has directed management to continue to compete for a playoff spot.

There are also a number of lottery teams that already have their franchise player and surrounded him with some talent, so taking a step back isn’t worth it. Teams like Cleveland and Washington would fall under this category.

For the teams that are already bad and don’t have much talent, tanking is a no-brainer. Of course, for them it’s not tanking. It’s simply playing out the season.

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It’s the rest of the teams that have a decision to make. Those teams in in the 30s, wins-wise, and those who have been hovering around .500 for far too long. Is it worth tearing down what they have, even for a loaded draft?

Surprisingly, not as many teams look they’re tanking as many first thought there would be. In fact, I would say there are only two teams (Philadelphia and Utah) actively tanking and three others (Orlando, Phoenix and Charlotte) that don’t really need to tank to be bad. Now, that’s obviously not to say there will only be five lottery teams next season, but the rest of the teams do look like they will be making an effort to be a playoff team, even if their chance of being one is pretty slim.

Things could definitely change as the offseason progresses and after the season starts. If Boston does poorly after Rajon Rondo returns from injury, we could see him moved and Boston joining the rest of the tankers.

If Portland doesn’t, at least, look like they might be in the playoff hunt, I wouldn’t be surprised to see LaMarcus Aldridge on the market.

Obviously each situation is different, but here are a list of arguments that usually come up from those arguing against tanking.

THERE ARE NUMEROUS “STUDIES” DONE THAT PROVE TANKING DOESN’T WORK
The most common articles people point to are these three:

Wages of Wins: Good to Bad

Wages of Wins: Tanking Used to Work in the NBA

The NBA Geek: Tanking Ain’t All That

While each article is well written and backed up by statistics, but all three make the fatal mistake of ignoring non-numerical evidence which completely taints the results of their research.

The main problem is that they assume that all NBA teams are on a level playing field, which is obviously not true. The Lakers have an unmistakable and very large advantage over a team like Utah both geographically and historically (the Lakers have 16 Championships compared to zero for the Jazz). In other words, it’s much easier for a team like the Lakers to stay successful because players WANT to play there. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar demanded to be traded to the Lakers. Shaquille O’Neal left a contender, in Orlando, to play for one of the leagues most storied franchise. Sixteen years later, the Lakers were one of only a few teams Dwight Howard would agree to be traded to.

No player has EVER demanded to play in Utah, and they’ve never been able to sign any free agent of note in their history.

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Another thing none of the articles take into consideration is the quality of management and ownership, two of the most important factors in the success of an organization. When Jerry West is your general manager for 20 years, and Jerry Buss is your owner over that same period, chances are you’re going to be successful for most of that time. If you’ve got Elgin Baylor as your GM and Donald Sterling as your owner, on the other hand, success is probably not going to be a long term state, no matter where you are located.

To say that the Lakers have stayed successful because they don’t tank is a rather rudimentary argument. The Lakers tanking would make about as much sense as George Clooney using e-Harmony. It would be completely unnecessary.

And Minnesota hasn’t made the playoffs in nine years because David Kahn, the former general manager, made personnel moves like drafting three point guards in the first round, in 2009, trading, arguably, the best one (Ty Lawson) away for journeymen players, and bypassing Stephen Curry in favour of Jonny Flynn. And then in 2010 he drafted Wesley Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe and Paul George. And then traded a first round pick for an injured Martell Webster, and then tried to sue Portland for agreeing to the trade. Minnesota hasn’t stayed bad because they’ve been continually tanking. They’ve stayed bad because they can’t seem to do more than one good move in a row without following it by a monumental blunder.

TANKING DOESN’T GUARANTEE SUCCESS

I’m not quite sure why this argument continues to be brought up because I’ve never seen anyone, in a pro-tanking argument, make any contradictory claims.

Obviously tanking doesn’t guarantee anything, but not tanking doesn’t guarantee anything either. The point of tanking is not to guarantee anything, but to simply increase your odds. As I outlined earlier, there is overwhelming evidence to support the claim that your odds of finding an elite player increase dramatically if you draft in the top five. Tanking simply increases your odds of drafting in the top five.

Arguing that you shouldn’t tank because it doesn’t guarantee success is akin to arguing you shouldn’t go to university because it doesn’t guarantee a successful career. Just as going to university increases your odds of having a successful career, tanking increases your odds of acquiring an elite player.

WHAT IF THOSE PLAYERS DON’T PAN OUT LIKE EXPECTED BEFORE THE DRAFT?

Shabazz Muhammad is a name that seems to come up a lot, as well as Harrison Barnes. And while it’s true that chances are one or two of the expected draft of 2014 players might end up disappointing in college and dropping, for every Shabazz Muhammad there is a Victor Oladipo or Anthony Bennett, players who came out of nowhere to exceed expectations and ended up getting drafted first and second.

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If you’re going to assume players disappoint, you also have to assume there might be some that surprise.

THE PLAYER THEY DRAFT COULD END UP BEING A BUST

Well, the odds of drafting a bust decreases the better GM and scouting a franchise has, so if you don’t have faith in your GM, then you probably don’t want him to tank. Although, if you don’t have faith in your GM, then no strategy is going to work.

When you look at the percentage of players who have been major disappointments who were drafted in the top five, it’s actually pretty low. And that’s looking at historical numbers, and not at specific drafts. Some drafts have a higher chance of having disappointing picks in the top than others.

Of course, the majority of busts, in the last ten years, seem to have been one dimensional or raw big men teams hoped would be able to make big developmental leaps. Tyrus Thomas, Hasheem Thabeet, Sheldon Williams, Darko Milicic and even Thomas Robinson would fall under this category.

The other major category for busts would be tweener scorers who aren’t big enough to play PF in the NBA and aren’t quick enough to play SF. These guys would be Adam Morrison, Michael Beasley and, so far, Derrick Williams (Anthony Bennett should be slightly worried).

Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol (L), Adam Morrison (C) and Kobe Bryant watch from the bench during Game 2 of the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series against the Boston Celtics in Los Angeles, California, June 6, 2010.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

If you’re a fan of a team that is going to tank, I would contact the GM and relay this information to him.

TEAMS NEED TO WIN TO ATTRACT FREE AGENTS

Winning doesn’t attract free agents, otherwise San Antonio wouldn’t have had to build through the draft. And do you care to guess who currently has the second most consecutive trips to the playoffs after San Antonio?

It will probably be a surprise.

Denver has been to the playoffs for ten consecutive years, yet haven’t been able to attract one impactful free agent.

Atlanta wasn’t able to land a better player than Paul Millsap (no offense to him) after six consecutive years in the lottery playoffs and a ton of cap space this summer.

Winning certainly doesn’t hurt, but top free agents generally want to play in a prime NBA destination AND play on a contender. If you are a prime NBA destination and/or already are a contender, I wouldn’t recommend tanking.

THEY HAVE A BETTER CHANCE TRYING TO TRADE FOR AN ELITE PLAYER

Again, history isn’t on your side in this argument, unless you are a prime NBA destination. The reason is that elite players generally don’t become available, and if they do, there’s usually a reason. It could be that they are nearing the end of their contract and have lost faith in management to build a winner around them. In this case, they usually have a list of teams they would agree to a trade to. And that list usually involves the usual suspects. You could trade for him, anyway, and hope he re-signs, but you’d be giving up a hell of a lot on a gamble.

Unlike trading your current players for picks and prospects, trading for an elite player puts all your eggs in one basket and if he doesn’t re-sign, it could hurt the short and long term prospects of the team. If Deron Williams hadn’t agreed to re-sign with the Nets, that would have meant they would have traded Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, two excellent big man prospects, for nothing AND they would still owe Utah a draft pick, one that the Nets would then desperately have needed.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Utah Jazz

Of course, there is also the danger of trading for an Andrew Bynum, who was available simply because he was an injury risk. And the Lakers gave up Bynum to get Howard and then watched him walk away for nothing.

Obviously, people like to point to the James Harden example, but the circumstances of that trade are virtually unrepeatable, so banking on something like that becoming available seems, well, overly optimistic.

CREATING A WINNING CULTURE IS MORE IMPORTANT

I remember people using the same excuse of why the Raptors should win the last few games of the 2012 season despite being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in October. Keep in mind that even one fewer win that season would have resulted in the Raptors selecting 8th, instead of 9th and having Harrison Barnes being available.

A winning culture is definitely important, but it’s a lot easier to create a winning culture with elite talent.

IF YOU TANK THE PLAYER WILL JUST END UP LEAVING

Players don’t leave teams because they tanked to get them. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard all left or demanded to be traded because they had lost faith in management. And in most cases, that lost faith was justified.

Besides, if you’re too worried about losing your elite player that you draft, then there’s no point in acquiring one by any means.

NO TEAMS THAT HAVE TANKED HAVE WON A TITLE

There are a few problems with this statement.

The first is that in the 66 years the NBA has been in existence, only 18 different teams have won titles. The Celtics have won 17 of them and the Lakers 16 of them. Chicago is third, and they won all six of their titles when they had Michael Jordan. The sample size isn’t exactly big.

Boston actually DID tank the season before they won the title with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. They just didn’t get the player they wanted. They ended up getting the fifth pick (Jeff Green) and trading him to Seattle for Allen, who was enough to make Garnett agree to a trade from Minnesota.

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The biggest problem, though is that tanking actually isn’t a strategy to build a Championship team. It’s simply a strategy to acquire an elite player. The strategy to build a Championship contender comes AFTER you acquire the elite player.

Both Cleveland and Denver tanked to get LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, but it was their failure in building after they drafted them that was the problem. Danny Ferry surrounded LeBron with mediocre players and over-the-hill veterans, yet they were still able to reach the finals despite that. The team record after LeBron left  is probably the best indication of how little talent LeBron had around him. Conversely, when Michael Jordan retired the first time, his supporting cast was so strong they were able to get the Bulls back to the second round and win 55 games.

So, ultimately, the argument that no teams that have tanked have won a title is neither correct nor even valid.

I WANT TO WATCH THE RAPTORS IN THE PLAYOFFS

This is the point where I focus on the Raptors.

There are quite a number of Raptors fans who are sick of losing and want to watch them in the playoffs, so are completely against tanking.

Without getting into the whole argument of whether the current team even has the potential to be anything more than just first round fodder for the foreseeable future, the more pressing question is whether this is even a playoff team.

Hoopsworld recently projected them to come in twelfth in the East, and there’s not a whole lot of reason to completely disagree with that projection. They won just 34 games last season and haven’t made any offseason additions that should really make much of an impact in the win column. Personally, I would guess 10th, with about 40 wins (I predicted 10th place in the East and 35 wins last season), but neither of us predict the playoffs in the Raptors’ near future.

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You could point to the 8-1 finish to the season the Raptors had, as a reason to be optimistic about next season, or the fact that Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry was the fifth best lineup, in terms of point differential, with a minimum of 240 minutes played.

The problem, though, is that the 8-1 finish was a mirage, as anyone who has watched the NBA for more than a couple of years, will know. First, there is the whole issue of the Raptors going up against teams that had basically given up on the regular season (which should have been obvious to anyone who watched the games). Plus, DeRozan shot over 60% in four of those games and shot 57% in the last eight games, including 60% from the three point line. Rudy Gay shot 54% from three after shooting 29% for the rest of the season. And then there was this…

What I’m trying to say is how these players ended the season was an aberration and not even remotely sustainable. If you think these numbers are just a sign of things to come, for these players, let me just add the fact that Amir Johnson went 3 for 5 from the three point line during that period.

Of course, fans often forget that their team doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Obviously Miami, Indiana and Chicago are all probably locks to win, at least, 50 games. There may be some question about how Brooklyn can do, but does anyone really think they won’t finish above Toronto?

I’ve never thought much of the Knicks, but they won 54 games last year and there’s no reason to believe they won’t do much worse than that.

Atlanta basically replaced Josh Smith with Paul Millsap (and Elton Brand), and Lou Williams should be healthy, so perennial All Star Al Horford should lead the Hawks to a similar record as last year and make the playoffs for the 7th consecutive year.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks

That’s six teams that should definitely finish above the Raptors.

And then there are the Pistons, who added Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups and, after underperforming last year, should make a big jump in the standings. They are desperate to make the playoffs next season, after giving up their draft pick, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win, at least, 45 wins next year.

Cleveland added Andrew Bynum and Anthony Bennett, but a healthy season from Anderson Varejao and Kyie Irving should put Cleveland among the most improved for the season.

The Wizards were 24-25 with John Wall in the lineup, last season, so they should be another team that ends up being much better, especially considering they were wracked by key injuries (and not fortunate ones, like for Toronto with Andrea Bargnani).   I wouldn’t be surprised to see Washington ahead of Toronto in the standings.

And then there are the Bucks, who reloaded and should again be in the fight for a playoff spot next season.

So basically, you’ve likely got two open playoffs spots and five teams, including the Raptors, fighting for them. While the Raptors could definitely be one of the teams that sneak in there, I definitely wouldn’t say they would be a favourite to do it.

If the Raptors miss the playoffs AGAIN, not only has the team missed a chance to make a run at probably the best draft in a decade (missing the playoffs and drafting 14th would not be the same as drafting 3rd), you’re now looking at a team that could end up losing two key assets for nothing OR overpaying them to remain on a team that didn’t even make the playoffs.

Which brings us to the next, and last, part…

THE RAPTORS AREN’T IN A POSITION TO TANK

There are a lot of fans that will argue that the Raptors simply aren’t in a position to tank. They have too much talented with contracts that are too difficult to move.

There are actually four very good reasons now is the best time to tank, and that doesn’t even include how strong the draft is.

The first is that Jonas Valanciunas is just coming off his rookie season, and the Raptors have him under contract for another four, so still have plenty of time to rebuild the roster enough to entice him to re-sign.

The second is that DeMar DeRozan still has the “potential” tag, which means his value is probably higher than his actual production, despite his contract. Ujiri would be wise to sell high with DeRozan, something Colangelo failed to do with Bargnani (and Bosh).

Kyle Lowry

The third is that Kyle Lowry is coming into the final year of his current contract, which probably explains him currently being in the best shape of his career. If history has shown anything, it’s to be weary of players like Lowry going into contract years. If he does have a career year, he’ll go into the offseason at the worst possible time for the Raptors. It’s likely he’ll demand (and probably get) $10 million+ a season, a steep price to pay for a mercurial player who has never lived up to his promise. Especially if the Raptors don’t even make the playoffs.

It’s the perfect time to trade Lowry, either before the season starts or after a month or so, in order to maximize his value. Otherwise you risk having to overpay him to keep him or lose him for nothing.

Lastly, there is Rudy Gay. Much has been written about how bad his contract is, but I think it’s unfair to say it’s immoveable. If Bargnani can be traded for something other than another bad contract, it’s hard to believe Ujiri can’t get back something of value for Gay.

And for those who think there’s no way he would opt of the last year of his contract that would pay him more than $19 million, I give you a projected twenty two teams with at least $10 million in cap room, eighteen of whom will have at least $20 million in cap room. That’s absolutely unprecedented.

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And keep in mind, the 2014 free agent class is not nearly as good as it might seem, so players like Gay would probably be able to clean up. Even if he doesn’t get $20 million, he still should be able to get a 4 year, $15 million a year contract, which would make it worth opting out. And considering that Gay might end up being one of the top two or three best unrestricted free agents under 30 years of age available, next summer, I find it hard to believe Gay wouldn’t opt out. Especially when you’ve got eighteen teams with enough cap room to offer a maximum contract, and not a whole lot of talent to choose from.

For those that think that letting Lowry and Gay go to open up cap room would be a better option, just remember there would be 21 other teams with cap room, so it’s likely cap room isn’t going to get you much next summer.

So it seems that this year is actually the perfect time for the Raptors to trade Gay, Lowry and Gay DeRozan for draft picks and prospects and tank for the season, because the alternative doesn’t seem like a better option.

  • David Bassily

    You only need to win 16 games in the playoffs to get a championship, not 24.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      I stopped being able to do math after becoming a parent. Thanks. Fixed.

      • David Bassily

        No worries, seriously great read. Made me think a lot. I wanna win but don’t wanna wait, patience is a virtue I don’t have.

      • p00ka

        hard to believe you’ve even had sex before, to be honest.

  • dasdfsd

    Very very well written. Well done Tim

  • Matt52

    Tim, overall, probably the best thing I’ve ever read from you.

    You actually threw in a few things I had not thought of.

    Nice work.

    Unless JV signs his qualifying offer to become an UFA after 5 years, the Raptors realistically are looking at having him locked up for 7/8 years. Few, if any teams, start a tank/rebuild with a legit 21 year old NBA starting C already on the roster.

    I was against a tank a few months ago. Then did not care which way they went. Now 100% hope a tank/rebuild happens with the condition that Lowry/Gay/DeRozan return something of value (either first round picks or proven NBA talent still on rookie deals). I would imagine Gay can fetch more than Stuckey/CV, as an example.

  • sleepz

    Good post. This is a topic that has been beaten to death for the last little while but you raise some good points for and against rebuilding.
    I disagree with your notion that Utah is tanking. While I definitely see them in the bottom half of the West next year, I don’t think turning to the young players you’ve spent years developing (Favors, Kanter, Hayward, Burks) is necessarily tanking. They aren’t going to be relying on rookies (outside of T.Burke who was National Player of the Year) and I look at their situation like it’s more of a determination to see what they have in their young players than an active stratgey to try and be bad.
    A factor that is important to note in building through the draft is the cost certainty and being able to manage your player salaries effectively. For ‘smaller market’ teams this is integral to be able to compete year in and year out. Players on rookie deals are great for a team if the player is a keeper as you have them locked for their rookie contract and usually a re-up deal thereafter.
    I also agree with you that this is not a playoff team. No matter what leaps in their game some of the younger players make (JV, Derozan, Ross) they don’t have the talent nor the depth to make the playoffs in my humble opinion. Letting the season play out with the current roster, to not make the playoffs would be a disaster and would only be continuing the garbage BC started.
    No matter what side of the fence you are on (rebuilding vs. competing now), I’m not sure why fans would be content with a low seed playoff appearance. I understand the instant gratification but haven’t we seen enough of that type of team building? Masai should smash this roster and rebuild it according to his vision. The sooner the better.

  • DanH

    Nice post. Well articulated.

  • SachinArora19

    Good article all around. The bottom line is this: there are very compelling arguments for both sides. Nobody has really seen this team at its full potential, so why not wait it out. If this roster does not fulfill expectations then halfway through tear it apart and tank the rest of the way. Simple.

    • sleepz

      What is this teams “full potential” and what are the ‘expectations’ of this team?
      Can you have lofty expectations for a team that has no all-stars and was a lottery team last year?
      These guys won 34 games a season ago. I’m not certain why there are so many fans that want this squad to have a full training camp and a half a season games to watch this team win 30-40 games again.

      • SR

        TL doesn’t even like the roster, for crying out loud. BC thought the rebuild was basically done and wanted to give these guys time on the floor together and see some organic growth (sound familiar?). That point of view cost him his job.

        MU’s comments may be more subtle than TL’s, but it’s clear that management plans to make significant changes to this roster, so the “give them some time and let’s see what we’ve got” argument appears to be moot. I just hope they’re able to take advantage of the next draft and get this thing moving in the right direction sooner rather than later.

        • ItsAboutFun

          “”give them some time and let’s see what we’ve got” argument appears to be moot.”

          Since that’s exactly what Ujiri has said, it’s hardly moot, but keep your fantasies alive.

          • SR

            Ujiri’s a patient guy and he’s talked about being patient vs. an immediate fire sale. His “wait and see” comments were made to explain why he wouldn’t take a deal like the Pistons offered for Gay. I totally agree with him – Gay, DD, and Lowry are all good players who have value. He should be able to do better than the Bargs trade for any of those guys, and that will involve patience.

            Isn’t it obvious he was brought in to change the roster? BC wanted to keep the team together and was canned. TL has already announced the need for major changes to the team and the warned about the prospect of short-term pain. He also clearly stated how he and Ujiri are on the same page re: the Raptors and clearly said that Bryan “Keep the Team Together” Colangelo did not share TL’s perspective. That’s why I take Ujiri’s comments to be careful statements made by a GM who has to keep his leverage in mind. His talk about being patient is about not rushing into bad deals just for the sake of making deals.

            • ItsAboutFun

              No, he specifically said he needs to see what we’ve got before making major moves. He can’t see any more than he already knows without seeing this team through a training camp, at the very least. It’s clear that much of the tanking crowd is trying to interpret management’s statements to fit their wishes, but the man is repeatedly saying that fans need to be patient, because he isn’t going to make rash moves.

              Of course he’s going to listen to all offers, and if what he deems a great one comes up, he’ll pull the trigger, but nobody has said that they have “plans to make significant changes to this roster” any time soon. In two years the roster could well be very different, but don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen this Summer, nor scream that they lied if it doesn’t.

              • SR

                I totally agree there. “Yes” is the segue you’re looking for between those two comments – you should edit out that “No”. Life’s short, brother. No need to be a hater.

            • ItsAboutFun

              WOW, you drastically changed that post after it was responded to. That’s a little underhanded, imo.

              • SR

                I’m posting as a guest. I can’t edit my posts.

                • ItsAboutFun

                  lol, well, some mysterious mod changed it then, because it’s like it was completely re-written

            • CJT

              I think you present a very narrow view of why BC was let go. I think very little of it had to do with wanting to keep the roster he had constructed together. MU is not going to rush in to anything, whether that means trading or not trading. I think one of BC’s biggest faults was trying to change too often, always believing in the quick fix. What you are describing is the exact opposite of that and i don’t think it is factual.

              • SR

                Sure I may be way off – I’m trying to interpret TL through his interviews. Did you read Cathal Kelly’s piece in the Star today? That and the Washington Post interview are where I’m getting my interpretation from. What you’re describing is very true and commonly stated among fans, but I haven’t heard TL or MU mention those points.

                • CJT

                  I didn’t read Kelly, I think he is one of the worst “reporters” working in sports. But I understand where you got your opinion from. I just think BC had so many issues that it is impossible to focus on just one as the reason for his departure.

        • sleepz

          The fact that BC even thought there was a rebuild being conducted is comic relief in itself.
          I agree with you entirely on TL’s view point, but I think the last 5 years has now left me always a bit uncertain as to what’s the next move when it comes to the Raps.

      • ItsAboutFun

        “These guys won 34 games a season ago.”

        That’s such a misrepresentation that I’m amazed people still use it. The team as it stands now is very different, for many reasons, than the mish-mash of lineups that produced 34 wins.

        • sleepz

          You can say what you wish. The fact remains is that this team won 34 games last year with pretty much the same roster.
          Do you wish to say they won 34 games with an asterik beside it?

          You’re sounding like BC and his “they need time to gel’ spin.

          • ItsAboutFun

            Didn’t say anything about “time to gel”, but thanks for the input, straw man.

            • sleepz

              Lol, always a pleasure with you.
              The blogger police is at it again folks.

              • ItsAboutFun

                Now you resort to that lame retort you borrowed from someone else? Yeah, lol.

    • Dr Scooby

      There is no compelling argument for status quo…not for me at any rate.

      • Edgar

        While likely first round fodder is hardly compelling the following statement doesn’t seem to pass the eye-check:

        “Hoopsworld recently projected them to come in twelfth in the East, and there’s not a whole lot of reason to completely disagree with that projection. They won just 34 games last season and haven’t made any offseason additions that should really make much of an impact in the win column. Personally, I would guess 10th, with about 40 wins (I predicted 10th place in the East and 35 wins last season), but neither of us predict the playoffs in the Raptors’ near future.”

        We finished tied for 9th last season…. does anyone here think the East improved overall?!?!?

        I would put a ton of cash on us finishing between 4th and 9th in the East.

        • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

          Miami, Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York should be better. Atlanta should be in a similar position as last year when they made the playoffs. Detroit will definitely improve and I don’t see the Raptors being better than them. Both Cleveland and Washington’s record last season was largely due to injuries and both teams have more talent than the Raptors. That’s nine right there, and doesn’t include Milwaukee.

          The East doesn’t have to improve, overall. Just a few teams do, and those teams are Detroit, Cleveland and Washington.

          I’m not saying the Raptors WON’T make the playoffs, but it’s definitely not something I would count on in the least. And if they miss out on the playoffs (again) then they wasted an opportunity to turn the franchise around for nothing.

    • Rebuilding

      That’s the question. For some, they see the team is not enough to contend and should be torn down. Others may look at the team as having a shot at the playoffs (or are unsure). Most in the later camp are not of the opinion that tear down is the route. It may eventually be the route selected but for now they have to see what this team is.

  • ItsAboutFun

    *yawn* Nothing really new there. Until someone suggests real scenarios of trading all of Gay, DD, Lowry, and what the returns would be, the “get prospects and picks” generalities gives nothing but pie-in-the-sky fantasies to discuss the merits, or even viability of such a “plan”. What kind of “prospects” and picks? I’ve yet to see a set of suggested scenarios that make sense, never mind getting the GMs to actually go along.

    • truth be told

      How can you suggest player scenario’s when no one knows what type of offers or discussions Masai has regarding the players on the roster?
      Why speculate about fictional deals as they would be the pie-in-the-sky scenarios you are referring to.

      • ItsAboutFun

        Looking for a dose of reality, not fantasy game talk.

        • truth be told

          No, what you are looking for is a chance to say ‘these scenario’s are completely outlandish’ and you would be right because no one knows what offers have or haven’t been made.
          You’ll see ‘reality’ once Masai decides to do something like the Andrea trade.
          We know how you get down pooka. Looking for the loopholes to try and lay some credibility to your argumenta.

          • Raptorsss

            Obviously, he hasn’t been getting the right trade scenarios or he would of already acted. He needs to wait it out to find what value this team can generate and unfortunately that isn’t much until the season starts.

          • ItsAboutFun

            You’re correct in saying nobody knows what HAS been offered, but that’s apparently not needed to tout this tanking scenario, and call it a legit proposal, that is repeatedly presented. What I asked, and have asked for without reasonable & feasible response yet, is examples of what a tank supporter feels would even make this “dump Rudy/DD/Lowry, and get prospects and picks” feasible, in simple terms of something that even appears to make sense to both teams, for each of the 3 players.

            Without such examples to evaluate, there’s no possible way to assess whether there might even be ways to execute the proposed “solution” to the Raptors long standing woes, and actually get worthwhile “prospects & picks”. Without such examples to even present a possibility, it’s nothing but blowing fantasy smoke.

            • truth be told

              Sure, but the moment anyone posts any fictional trades or players you will seek to tear down every scenario as you can always rely on the fact that they are made up scenario’s.
              You’re asking for examples of how a rebuild could be put forth with the intention of calling out these examples as being “fantasy talk”.
              That is sneaky and underhanded bro.

              • ItsAboutFun

                No, I do it to illustrate that this “tank by unloading our top 3 players, and get worthwhile prospects and picks” isn’t as simple as playing a fantasy basketball game. If a big part of the plan is to get worthwhile prospects and picks, not just purposely unload virtually all talent, gutting the team, and be bad for the lottery, then provide an example of what would be possible. You know, something to actually debate, rather than some general concept that has never produced a champion, which I keep hearing is the goal of this plan. Oh yes, “it’s better odds”. If it has happened zero times, what are these better odds of zero?

      • CJT

        Well that is not exactly true, we have a pretty good idea of what Detroit thought Rudy Gay was worth. Trading Gay for what they offered is ludicrous and insulting.

  • Bill

    I want to forward this to Ujiri and Leiweke. I want to grab everyone I know who loves basketball and the Raptors and forward this to Ujiri and Leiweke. I want to grab everyone I know who doesn’t like basketball and/or the Raptors and forward this to Ujiri and Leiweke. Thank you for transcribing into words every single argument that those of us who are for tanking this next season have wanted to say but could not articulate or do the research for. I only hope people aren’t blind enough in their fanaticism to give a thorough read, because often people will argue for superiority rather than for what is the most logical.

  • DSag

    “Atlanta wasn’t able to land a better player than Paul Millsap (no offense to him) after six consecutive years in the lottery and a ton of cap space this summer.”

    Six consecutive playoff appearances, you mean.

    Typical Tim W. post here, well written but badly researched.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      It was actually a typo. And think that’s pretty clear. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, though.

      • DanH

        So, well researched but badly written 😉

        Kidding – like I said, very well put together article. Best summary of the situation I’ve seen anywhere.

        • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

          Thanks.

    • Bill

      Did you read the article in its entirety? How about all the sobering statistics he researched? It certainly doesn’t feel like you did because in the context of what was written it is completely obvious that he meant six consecutive playoff appearances. I could point out that his last paragraph has “trade Gay, Lowry and Gay”, or I could acknowledge that he was talking about “trade DeRozan, Lowry and Gay” and instead move on to the more important things, like how we won’t become the popular free agent destination that the anti-tanking side thinks we could become if we develop a “winning culture”, as the statistics show. Your argument, your TL;DR, boils down to “typo therefore all your research is invalid”. Really? You’re going to be one of those prick English teachers everyone’s had who scrutinized your spelling and syntax and ignored your main points?

      • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

        Thanks for the defense. And for mentioning the Gay, Lowry and Gay error. That’s been fixed, too. What can I say. Nearly 4,500 words, I’m bound to make a few errors.

  • vino

    You’ve left out the most important argument against tanking,
    which by definition of many… is losing games on purpose, which in turn leads to
    inability to sell tickets (and reduces TV ratings for sports channels) due to
    pathetic sportsmanship on the court. This is a very legitimate argument. As a
    fan of the sports first, before Raps fan… I wouldn’t go to ACC to watch a team
    lose on purpose. I would probably just ignore the Raptors for a year…

    The correct political terminology should not be “tanking”
    since after blowing this roster apart – trading away Lowry, Gay and DD the Raps
    would not be very competitive/successful; but… they’d still fight! I’d still
    watch a team like: K.Marshall, T.Ross, L.Fields, A.Johnson, J.Valanciunas.
    Judging by Ujiri’s style, he’s likely to pick a young prospect or two (in one
    of the trades) who could be inserted into this lineup/rotation. Call it
    retooling, rebuilding or whatever other name you choose but don’t call it
    tanking – it won’t sell. Not on this site and not in the real world when a team
    tries to sell season tickets. TL has already planted the seed… let the public
    digest it, then spin it in acceptable corporate terms.

    As a side note: personally, I do not agree with your
    assessment of current balance of power in the East. I’d put the four clear
    leaders up front (Heat, Pacers, Nets, Bulls), but 5-8 spots are up for grabs
    among the 7 other teams on your list with more or less even chances. In other
    words, I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see this Raptors team at #5. Unlikely,
    but doable if everything goes right in a long season, especially considering
    Lowry and (hypothetically Gay) in a contract year. Having said that, I’m
    totally on board with excuse my English “sucking” for a bit until there is a
    true contender!

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      The attendance part I had actually debating adding after I had finished, but decided it was long enough. The fact is that Raptors have never had trouble with attendance even while losing. And, as you mentioned, with guys like Valanciunas and others on the roster, there would still be a reason to watch.

      • GoingBig

        One advantage that Toronto has over most markets is the base population that they can draw on.
        Toronto GTA – 5.8 million
        Southern Ontario – 13.5 million
        There is going to be a larger “one-off” ticket-buyers population than most market – there is very little “bottoming out” for them

      • CJT

        Mostly because despite the losing, the games have been competitive, with lots of games lost within 5 – 7 points. I am one of those who is against the idea of tanking. I understand your desire to build a winner and respect all the effort you put in to this article. I hope there is a better way to improve the franchise than this strategy and I also hope MU is smart enough to figure it out. Having said that, if we were able to turn some of our better players in to picks and prospects, I wouldn’t have a problem with that if the transaction makes sense. As I have said before, I don’t believe in dump Gay of DD for the crap that Detroit was offering, but if there are lottery teams willing to give up their 2014 first rounders I would certainly listen.

        • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

          I think if you put a team on the floor that works hard, but loses, then people won’t mind as long as they feel there is an end game. Put some rookies and other young players on the floor and they will simply be outmatched, but that doesn’t mean they can’t work hard.

          People seem to assume that by tanking you are asking the players not to try, and it doesn’t work that way.

          • ItsAboutFun

            Management is telling the players they themselves aren’t trying their best to compete, and btw guys, forget about our 3 best players that we dumped, we know you’ll suck enough that we can pin our future hopes on a high school kid that we have our eye on. Yup, JV and the rest of the NBA level competitive players (that’s what you want, right?) you have are going to get right pumped up for that, Oh Boy! They can’t wait for all the fun!

    • mountio

      Well said. I agree .. people get all offended by “tanking” .. its just a word. Call it what you like .. but I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that I would prefer to watch young guys, trying hard, fighting for wins .. but just coming up short due to experience / talent. This is still tanking! Its not like guys show up fat and smoke cigarettes on the bench (maybe if we got Hedo back).
      A perfect example is last year, I would MUCH rather watch Ross play 30 mins and struggle than AA (who admitedly won us a few games) – but has no future here

    • hotfuzz

      Raptors have sucked for the majority of their existence, yet they’ve never had a problem attracting spectators. Relax, they’re not going anywhere.

    • vino

      just to add fuel to the fire:

      Ryan Wolstat: “I would like to say the Raptors, I want to play for them.”- Andrew Wiggins on what team he wants to go to. Said after winning Gatorade POY Twitter @WolstatSun
      Read more at http://hoopshype.com/rumors.htm#RuSPiRp1lB05CMpQ.99

      on another front: according to hoopshype we’ve just signed D.J. Augustin. Haven’t seen it anywhere on the site yet…

  • c_bcm

    Great great great article. I am admittedly an easy sway vote, but this article is convincing enough to get me onboard with a tank-year. Although I would argue that “tearing it down” is extreme. There are players on this team that I would live with being kept for a couple more years. I would keep Gay, Fields, JV, and Amir. Each brings unique talents and attitudes to the team that I appreciate and enjoy watching. Throw in Hansborough because we’re stuck with him for now, and that’s not a bad thing.

    If we could package Lowry and DD for something useful (picks or young talent), then we would certainly be worse next year than last year, and should end up good lottery positioning. I don’t think full-out tank is possible, because we aren’t going to be able to compete with the other teams mentioned in the article. Plus we have to consider what players we have to build with after next year.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      I like Valanciunas, Fields and Amir, but I don’t see the point of keeping Gay. He’s way too expensive, and as I discuss late in the article, he could opt out this summer, which could lead to re-signing him to a longer bad contract, or losing him for nothing. Neither option being palatable.

      • c_bcm

        Keeping either DD or Gay seems obvious to me. Why not try to keep the better of the two?

        • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

          What’s the point of keeping Gay if he can leave for nothing next summer, and he just adds wins to a team that probably doesn’t want them?

          • c_bcm

            We aren’t going to “compete” for the top picks in the draft anyways, do to that you’d have to compeltely unload everyone. Isn’t there a more subtle way to do this. Keep great talents like JV, and Gay, together with team-guys like Amir and Fields, so that we can get going again after grabbing a highish draft pick (4-8)?

            It just seems like a waste to me to just give players away, like Ujiri has said in the past. I guess Gay opting out is a bit of a concern. I am just dubious that he would leave so much money on the table.

            • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

              Maybe I don’t see Gay as the great talent you do. As for him opting out, with approximately 18 teams projected to have at least $20 million available in cap space and so few young unrestricted free agents, would Gay really be leaving money on the table?

              • c_bcm

                I consider Gay a great-enough talent in that we have him on this team now, which is better than we can say about players of his caliber that we could ever hope to recruit with the money we’d save by trading him. Nobody is going to give us a first rounder for him in next years draft.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  I don’t think you keep a player simply because you can’t recruit better ones is good management. First of all, I don’t think a team like Toronto is going to get very far by trying to sign free agents.

                  I’m not sure why you’re so sure no team will give a first rounder next year for him. I doubt they’d get a lottery pick, but a pick in the teens I think is definitely possible. How many said Bargnani would never fetch anything of value?

                • c_bcm

                  I don’t know if I agree with your arguement. It seems reasonable to me to keep players that you can, when you realize they are as good as you can get on the open market. This is just a natural extension of what your article is about, in my mind, for teams like the Raptors who will never strike it rich in free agency.

                  Maybe we’d get a first rounder for him, but I don’t think tha’s a good deal. If its not a lottery pick, I’m not interested in trading him.

                  Of course all of this changes once the season starts, and injuries happen. Who knows. I can forsee a situation where for example Wall suffers another injury and sits the season out again, Wizards tradings their now HIGH lottery pick to us for Gay because they don’t want another rookie to develop and want to start adding vets for next season where they expect Wall to be healthy. Totally hypothetical, but these things happen all the time.

                  Then again, what the hell do I know.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  My problem with Gay is that he’s simply not as good as he “looks”. He’s not an efficient scorer, not a good three point shooter, way too inconsistent defensively and not a good decision maker, especially late in games. Plus, he’s making way, way too much for what he actually brings on a regular basis. And that’s not likely to change with his next contract.

                  Basically, for what he brings, he’s just not worth it.

        • DanH

          Because Gay could walk next summer? And DD is locked in as an asset for 4 years. I’d much rather see Gay moved than DD. Of course, the return is a big question mark in that equation. But in terms of my expected return and the long term viability of these assets, Gay has to be priority 1 to move, with DeRozan a distant 3rd (behind Lowry).

          • SR

            I’d rank the Gay/Lowry/DD priority the same way.

            Those are all good guys who will get some value back. I like them all, as a fan – their combined ceiling is just too low.

  • rapierraptor

    This is a really well thought out, comprehensive piece. The lack of players drafted outside of the top 5 who turned into all-stars in the past 10 years was particularly surprising. I also liked your grouping of top-5 busts. I pretty much completely disagree with this line: “And then there are the Bucks, who reloaded and should again be in the fight for a playoff spot next season.” But to each their own. For your next article I would like to see you dig a little deeper when it comes to the Raptors and offer potential destinations for guys like Gay, Lowry and DD. So basically what I am saying is… we’ve seen your argument for tanking, now let’s see your plan. Good work!

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      I have discussed a little bit of what I would do, but the problem is that if you propose trades you’d like to see, people will say they’re unrealistic, but if you propose trades that could realistically happen, then too many people think they aren’t good enough. The fact of the matter is you have no idea what other GMs would agree to.

      An example, is trading Gay to Milwaukee (who currently has $8 million in cap space, apparently) for Ekpe Udoh, Luke Ridnour, Giannis Adetokunbo and their top 10 protected first rounder for next year. Would they do it? Who know. They obviously want to win next year, so they might (they would still need a PG), but you never know. Adetokunbo is a nice prospect the Raptors were apparently trying to get, and the draft pick is a good asset to have. Some might not think that’s enough, though. Others might think it’s not realistic.

      • SR

        I hate fantasy trade proposal pieces that conclude with “then the starting five would look like this: Magic/Jordan/James/Duncan/Russel.” Now THAT is a waste of time.

        Potential deals and what to do after the draft gets too far into a future with too many variables. “Keep the team together” has exactly the same problem when you start talking about how to improve beyond internal development, via trades and FA.

        Nobody can predict that stuff, whether you’re pro-tank/rebuild or anti. It’s a waste of time. As Tim W. rightly pointed out, the discussion you can have now is how to achieve the greatest odds for landing elite talent. Once that happens, your discussions for what to do next become a lot more concrete.

      • rapierraptor

        Thanks. I should have been more clear. I was only asking that you provide some teams in win-now mode who have a need to for a SG (DD), SF (RG) and PG (KL) rather than propose actual player specific trades. People in the comment section could battle it out over the merits of a fair return but proposing that Milwaukee could be a possible destination for Gay and why they would want him/need him would be an interesting read. I agree that people ALWAYS trash trade proposal articles.

        • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

          Team’s I’d target would be Milwaukee, Atlanta, Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota and New Orleans. All those teams seem to be in win-now mode, but still have major holes in their roster and would probably be open to trading picks and/or prospects for a player that will help them now.

          • DanH

            Add Charlotte to that list.

            • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

              I actually don’t think they’re trying to win now. I think the Jefferson signing was a move to make them LOOK like they’re trying to get better without actually doing it. I think they’re still aiming for a top pick next year.

              • DanH

                Fair enough. I’d still make the call.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  I’d make a lot of calls.

  • Common Sense

    For All those in favor of “Tanking” ……..Do you have Season Tickets?!

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Did you own season tickets last year? Or the year before? Or any of the 13 season the Raptors failed to make the playoffs?

      • ItsAboutFun

        Straw man didn’t answer the question. It’s a valid question to know where people are coming from. Have you ever owned season’s tickets, or are you just sitting in your west coast armchair proclaiming what season ticket holders should want?

        • Dr Scooby

          You have a ‘grumpiness’ inherent in your comments.

          • ItsAboutFun

            Thank you. Sometimes a little grump is appropriate

    • mountio

      Yes. And I have for the past 6 or 7 years (to be more accurate, I split them four ways).

      In any event .. this is very much the reason I am supportive of tanking. As much as I love playoff basketball (the NJ series was best time of my Raps bball life), I realize the way have it on a sustained basis is to actually get some talent in here …

  • Rebuilding

    1. Let’s say we get an elite player like Vince Carter 2.0 with a tank strategy, what is the likelihood that he won’t continue the tradition of demanding a trade?

    2. Related to the above, do the raptors have good management in place? If not, then tanking (or whatever strategy they choose) to acquire an elite player is all for not.

    3. The UFA market is more often used to get role players (bench depth, defensive players etc) but granted the big boys prefer all but a few markets. That said, the Spurs have done well retaining talent. I can speculate, but why? And now even the Clippers are becoming an interesting destination. In fact, Houston emerged as a viable destination with their past success. And currently, Miami is a desired locale. My point, is that just because a city is not a preferred destination this does not mean it will remain so. Obviously, winning, a respected coach, willingness to spend and a strong front office and drafting well will play a part. This part needs to be nailed down before tanking.

    • SR

      Argument #1 is commonly cited and wildly inaccurate. Carter, Bosh, DD (who else) have all re-upped with the Raptors after their rookie deals. The class of 2003 gave their drafting teams 7 years before they bolted. That’s a hell of a lot more time than you’ll get to “prove yourself” to a FA (probably on a 4 year, high-priced contract) or a trade acquisition (1-3 years left on a deal), and the first four years are rookie scale. Steve Francis happened a long, long time ago.

      Point #3 is just an argument for good management. I think we’re all rooting for that regardless of the path the front office takes.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      You can’t win and then tank. And as mentioned, both Vince and Bosh left after their second contract after they had lost faith in management (and rightly so). Give a player a reason to stay and they usually will.

      • ItsAboutFun

        But teams with good management, the one exception being a team that didn’t care what season ticket holders thought, because they were moving cities anyway (Seattle-OKC), don’t tank. Funny how that works: poorly managed teams go the tank route, thus end up losing the stars they tanked for.

        • Rebuilding

          This is the part that needs to be understood. Asking my question differently, why should I and other fans get behind a tank for a player that is more likely to leave Toronto then commit his career to stay here and try to win a championship?

          Tanking is fine but without a environment for these players to be successful and them viewing Toronto and its management as winners, then tanking doesn’t seem much better then riding the treadmill.

          • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

            Without a good environment, no strategy will be successful and players will leave. Tanking doesn’t make players leave. Poor management does.

            • ezz_bee

              This is the crux of the argument. I’m not against tanking, but there’s no sense in tanking if you don’t have good management. There’s also no sense in NOT tanking if you don’t have good management.

              As of right now, I have confidence in Ujiri to make that call. If there’s an opportunity to unload two of lowry/derozan/gay end get decent picks/prospects back, I hope he takes.

              I also would expect him to. I think that Ujiri has shown patience, and will continue to do so, BUT I don’t think that equates to him wanting to go the full season with the roster we’ve currently got.

              • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                I have no clue whether Ujiri is a GM than can build a Championship team. He has never built a team that has been able to get out of the first round, hasn’t shown he can acquire an elite player, and hasn’t shown he knows how to build a true contender. That doesn’t mean he can’t. I’m optimistic and anxious to see what he can do, but I’m not going to make the same mistake I made with Colangelo and give him the benefit of the doubt even when I disagree with his moves, though.

  • Raptorsss

    Tim this is the first article I’ve read of yours that I’ve actually liked, since its more than just a long opinion piece, but it actually addresses some of the concerns of some of the skeptics.

    Unfortunately, there are still some important things you haven’t addressed, like exactly how is this team going to tank? Derozan, Lowry and Gay don’t exactly have premium value at the moment so trading them before the season starts isn’t exactly prudent. The best case scenario is that Lowry, Gay and Derozan have career years and become sought after assets by the trade deadline or sooner.

    In my opinion, the best move this off-season is Philly’s trade of Holiday (who had a career year), for arguably the best talent in the 2013 draft and what is likely going to be another 2014 lottery pick (top 5 protected). If Gay can go off like Holiday did and we can trade him for two premium lottery talents than that would be awesome. But, right now he doesn’t command that type of value.

    Expect, this team as it’s presently contructed to start the season, other GM’s are cognizant of Ujiri’s ability to fleece them in trades so we might have to wait.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      I think Philly has done exactly what a team should to tank. They got a player who probably should have been the top pick in the last draft, and is injured so won’t be able to contribute right away, and probable lottery pick next year.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see the current roster to start the season, either. I also wouldn’t be surprised for Ujiri to make some moves as teams start realizing what they need to compete.

  • hotfuzz

    I’ve never quite understood the whole “winning culture” narrative.

    How one creates a winning culture by winning 35 games instead of 30, is beyond me.

  • Sam

    I 100 percent agree with you!

  • ad

    Great article. What is the best case for the raps? Become a team like okc who drafted two elite players? Because as mentioned, if you have one elite player through the draft its not enough to win a title. The second elite player has to agree to come here in a trade or free agency. Kind of like when the raps had bosh they couldnt get another star to come here. Having said that, i wouldnt classify bosh as “elite”. I hope that this team doesnt become another denver who wins but cant get over the hump by adding elite players. It just seems that teams that arent ny, mia, la, chi, and bos are perpetually fucked.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Personally, I think that Valanciunas has the potential to be the second best player on a contender, which would immediately put them in a better position than they were with Bosh. Plus, Bosh was not really good enough to be the best player on a contender, so the Raptors had to attract a better player, which is difficult enough.

  • SR

    Ujiri is so patient, I’ve got a feeling “Will he or won’t he rebuild?” is the only conversation we’ll be able to have over the summer.

    In other news, I recently re-watched games 6 and 7 of the Finals. Damn, basketball is great!

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      As a Spurs fan, I would rather not discuss those two games, but they were great to watch. Something to shoot for for the Raptors.

  • jfranchiz

    Tim, while I think this is a solid argument for tanking, I don’t believe we need to get rid of all DD, Gay and Lowry in order to “tank”. I think we should just play a lot of players like Ross, JV and Acy. Remember, the idea is to only be bad for 1 year – no dismantle your team and start at ground zero. Demar Derozan, JV, Ross and Lowry can be very good complimentary pieces of a solid playoff team. We can trade Gay, and maybe Lowry but I think it would be a mistake to trade DD. With this squad, we can win 25-30 wins and hopefully get one of Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Randle

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Well, the problem is that coaches always try to win (because win-loss record is the best resume) and you need to give the coach no choice but to play the younger players.

      As for keeping Lowry and DeRozan, I simply don’t see the point. If Lowry is going to have a career year, as I would expect with this being a contract year, I’d rather sell high and not have to worry about re-signing him next summer to an inflated contract, only to worry about him reverting to his inconsistent, mercurial self.

      As for DeRizan, I don’t see him as a good complimentary piece to a solid playoff team. His two biggest weaknesses are the two thing that are necessary for wings players to be able to do in the new NBA: play defense and shoot threes. A player like DeRozan is easily replaceable, and usually at much less a cost. The Raptors would be smarter to sell while his value is highest instead of hang on to a guy who isn’t going to be good enough to be a star, but doesn’t have the skills to be a role player.

  • Van Grungy

    “when Michael Jordan retired the first time, his supporting cast was so
    strong they were able to get the Bulls back to the second round and win
    55 games.”

    The beauty of the super long term 3 million/year Jordan contract. When your superstar plays for peanuts, he becomes the icing on an already stacked cake.

  • Kevin

    One of the best articles I have read on the subject.

  • jjdynomite

    Colangelo would’ve given Augustin 3 years $12 million, based on his 2010-2011 starting PG stats (14/6/3) on a mega-tank Bobcats team. Another nice n’ cheap signing by Masai.

    • SR

      Very nice. I love watching MU not overspend.

  • Nick

    I’m not even going to read this article. Why can’t people just cheer for whatever product the Raptors put out regardless? They obviously haven’t had the best team, but I’ve enjoyed watching them play regardless. Isn’t that what a fan does? If people put as much effort into ingesting what’s actually happening in the world as they do with sports, we wouldn’t be in the trouble we are in now.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Why watch sports at all or comment on articles you won’t read? Seems like a waste of time that could be better spent saving the world. Good luck with that.

      Seriously, though, as I’ve stated before, there are two types of fans. Passive fans, like yourself, who just want to sit back and watch, and active fans, like myself, where part of the enjoyment is actually getting into the nuts and bolts and trying to figure things out myself.

      I remember hearing Bill Simmons talk about how he enjoys figuring out trades to save teams he doesn’t even like because that’s part of the enjoyment, for him.

      Some people like to just watch movies, others like to dissect and interpret them. Some people like to just watch a documentary on Ancient Greece, others like to get in a find out more about it.

      Trying to tell someone how they should be a fan of something seems a little naive, to me. People have different interests and like things for different reasons.

      • SR

        Great point.

  • Bears

    Great article! Excellent summary of the situation.

    I’m all for rebuilding through the draft assuming the goal for the raptors is to be a contender. My argument is incorporated in your article but for me there is one main argument: The Raptors need a franchise player to Win a title! I’ve been watching the NBA since the 1990 season. In 24 seasons, only the 2004 Pistons have won a title without a true franchise player. I understand it’s contradictory to say you need a franchise player only to point out the one exception but our “need” should be the method that produced the other 23 titles.

    The raptors don’t have a franchise player in the making. JV is the only player you can attempt to argue but I think his ceiling is at best, an Allstar in this league. He’s not a franchise player.

    Reality is, there are three ways of getting a franchise player: FA, Trade, and Draft. For now, FA is not going to happen (great argument above). Trade is unlikely. Draft is the only realistic, albeit low probability, method. Winning games is unlikely to produce a draft pick that nets a franchise player (summarized nicely above).

    I’m not tired of losing but I’m tired of being in a hopeless situation. I don’t mind losing if there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Reality is, as it stands, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I really don’t want the Raptors to be the next Atlanta Hawks or Milwaukee Bucks. I would much rather hope for a franchise player. MU please tank and give us hope, even if it doesn’t materialize. This team as it stands, is hopeless.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      To me this is a great argument for season ticket holders. Right now, the prospect of watching a low ceiling team is less appealing than watching a rebuilding team that I can have more hope in.

  • Rap fan 2

    Great article Tim! Very insightful and worthwhile reading. I would like to add my own prediction here: Andrew Wiggins is going to play in Toronto whether or not we win the 2014 NBA Lottery.

    • Rap fan 2

      An exception to the rule? A top 5 pick choosing Toronto in free agency.

  • Guest

    “Keep in mind that even one fewer win that season would have resulted in the Raptors selecting 8th, instead of 9th and having Harrison Barnes being available.”

    This is, at best, an anecdotal argument against the value of building a so-called winning culture. At worst, it’s a lazy argument. How about the following:

    – Had they won more games in 2009, they might have ended up with Jrue Holiday instead of DeRozan, had he been off the board as a result.

    – Had they won more in 2006, they might have ended up with Rudy Gay or (if they had been a playoff team) Rajan Rondo instead of Bargnani.

    Or on the flip side, how about:

    – Had they lost a few more games in 2011, they might have selected Derrick Williams with the #2 pick instead of Valanciunas with the #5.

    It’s easy to constantly go back to the Barnes coin toss, but unless you can show that we wouldn’t have ended up in an even better position by winning more games, your argument is one-sided and self-serving.

    • ItsAboutFun

      Perfect!!! But don’t expect a response.

    • Nilanka15

      Tanking allows management to have the choice to draft who they see fit. Whether they make the right choice is a different topic altogether.

      But the scenarios you cited above don’t involve much choice.

      Proponents of tanking are those in favour of providing management with more “choice”.

  • Meh

    Leary, weary, wary. Ujiri will let them suck naturally and trade for assets at the deadline. Latest signings are Toronto-type players that are easily added to a deal. The Raptors won’t need to try and suck, they’ll suck naturally, then Ujiri can finish it off in February.

  • Guy

    Is it possible for a person to plagiarise themselves, because that seems to be what’s happening here. There’s no idea in this article that the author hasn’t mentioned numerous times before. The only difference is this time it’s even longer. Who’d a thought that was possible. It’s a re-hash of his former commentary, & given the excessive length, it comes off as an almost desperate attempt to get people on his side.

    He can point to all the stats/scenarios he wants to try & reinforce his argument, but what he can’t point to is Championships. When I look at the list of NBA Champs over the past 20 years, I don’t see one team that tanked their way to a title. With that being the case, the author contradicts himself. He’s expressed many times how he has championship aspirations for the Raptors, but by strongly advocating they tank, he’s endorsing a strategy that has not lead to one NBA title.

    Until such time as he can hold up one franchise that tanked, built their team through the draft(make no mistake, that’s the author’s strategy) & then won the championship, there’s no reason to be swayed or endorse his argument over any other.

    I’ll leave you with a thought that I feel is applicable to this article….
    – long-winded is ineffective.

    • ItsAboutFun

      Thank you! 110%,,,,, with the extra 10% for “plagiarise themselves”……. lolololol, said basically the same, but not near the level of that gem. Yet it opens with “Warning: This is another one of my epic columns”,,,,,,,,,,,,, which apparently he suddenly won over a bunch of people with.

      He’ll tell you it gives the best odds though, even though nobody has done it. Best odds at something nobody wins. Go figure.

    • Maputo88

      San Antonio (got Tim Duncan), aforementioned Boston.

      • Guy

        I disagree that San Antone tanked to get Duncan. A team with back-to-back division titles doesn’t tank. In fact, the Spurs felt they were so close to a championship back then, they acquired Dominique Wilkins in that off-season to help get over the hump. But, David Robinson & Sean Elliott end up getting injured & the team stunk without them. The coach(Bob Hill) got fired after a 3-15 start to the year. If they were tanking, losses were expected. So why fire the coach that just lead your team to consecutive division titles when you’ve got a good draft pick coming & your two best players will be back healthy the next year?

        And the idea that Boston won with Garnett, Pierce & Allen because they tanked the year before doesn’t hold much weight because they ended up drafting 5th overall. Which was the worst-case scenario given Boston’s position in that lottery. Imagine that. In other words, their tank(if they did in fact tank) failed because their goal would have been to get in the top two & draft either Greg Oden or Durant.

  • Bouncepass

    I didn’t see a mention of Memphis, Indiana or the Spurs; three of the final four and none of them are overly attractive destinations and haven’t tanked in the past decade as far as I can tell. Even the Spurs have taken one superstar and built around him with a great coach and system, and smart drafting and FA acquisitions. Paul George, Marc Gasol and Hibbert are elite and built for the playoffs. None were picked anywhere near to the top five. Wiggins just commented that he wants to play for the Raptors some day, so why not build a receptive team and keep cap space for when he would be ready to lead a team. I doubt he’ll be all that happy in Orlando, Philly or another tankapalooza city because they are going to be crappy for a long time, even with Wiggins.

  • DDayLewis

    Faulty Assumptions

    First, Tim offers some caveats and parameters about the way the NBA operates. I’d like to think of them as flawed assumptions because many of them are riddled with faulty logic.

    “The NBA landscape is not equal; some franchises have inherent advantages”

    This is partially true. Franchises are not homogeneous. However, how distinct each franchises is, as well as how much as how appealing these distinctions are, is unclear. Tim outlines two examples of inherent advantages; historical appeal, geographical advantage.

    He doesn’t elaborate, but the assumption with historical appeal is that some franchises have “name-brand value” because they have been successful. Is this true? Perhaps. However, the supposed appeal appears to be inconsistent. Does Chicago have historical appeal? After all, the most celebrated player of all time played there, and the franchise won 6 championships. What about San Antonio? They have won 5 championships in the last 15 years. That’s some impressive history. Yet, these franchises lack so called “historical appeal”. Certainly, the idea of historical appeal is up for debate.

    Geographical advantage is far more tangible, at least in comparison to historical appeal. Cities are distinct; they offer a unique mixes of various civic factors, including climate, population distribution, unique attractions and most importantly, unique taxation rates. This point of taxation cannot be overlooked. Teams in Texas have the distinct advantage of having no state income tax, as compared to a state like New York, which has a 8.97% state tax rate on income.

    However, can we really generally quantify the summation of all these factors? I doubt it. Individual preferences are variable and unique. Tim presents the Heat, Knicks, Nets and Clippers are franchises that benefit from their geographical locations. This is presumably just a reflection of Tim’s personal preferences for temperate weather and large cities (?). Each player has their own individual set of preferences. A player could be passionate about craft beers, and favor cities like Portland or Milwaukee. Or, a player may value tax rates and pick cities in Texas or Florida (zero state income tax). Who the hell knows? To each his own.

    “Finding elite players outside of the top-five in the draft has become nearly impossible”

    Tim presents a number of statistical studies which support his claim. Few players drafted outside the top-five picks become all-stars. Many Players in the top-five picks have become all-stars. To Tim, these statistics are “overwhelming”. But what do these stats really mean?

    I understand why the argument is overwhelming Tim. In his mind, being named to the all-star team, or being named to the all-NBA team is an accurate indication of productivity. Is this true?

    Being named to the all-star game is not always reflective of proficiency, or merit. Neither is being named to an All-NBA team.

    Tim is most likely mis-attributing the validity of these teams. In his mind, the logic is probably as follows:

    Lebron is an All-Star/All-NBA player

    Lebron is really good

    Therefore, players on the All-Star/All-NBA rosters are really good

    Carmelo is an All-Star/All-NBA player

    Carmelo is really good.

    Either that, or he believes that the factors determining an All-Star/All-NBA title is accurate and reflective of productivity. Follow the following links to disspell the validity of All-Stars, and the All-NBA team

    “The vast majority of elite players were acquired via the draft”

    Two things. First, elite is determined by All-NBA team nomination, which is flawed. Second, no fucking shit. If you have (or believe to have) drafted an elite player, why the fuck would you give him up? Obviously elite players are likely to play for the team that drafted them; their teams had no reason to move them, and probably moved heaven and hell to keep them around.

    But sure, I see Tim’s point. His point is that elite players are not easily acquired because they aren’t usually available any other way. However, is that true? We’ll elaborate on this point later on (hint: it’s not).

    Okay, now that we’ve tackled his faulty assumptions, let’s move on to his counter-arguments.

    There are numerous “studies” done that prove tanking doesn’t work

    Erm, sure. Let’s ignore the shoddy grammar for a second. He espouses that these studies (1, 2, 3), are faulty because they don’t account for non-statistical factors like historical and geographical advantages. I’ve already addressed those claims.

    What really irks me is that he doesn’t actually address the aforementioned studies. He simply inserts his assumptions into the problem, and magically discounts the articulate arguments put forward by the studies. Wait, I think I can do that too.

    Newton: “my model of gravity suggests that the Earth revolves around the Sun”

    Me: “Nah, you’re wrong because I believe that the Earth is the center of the universe and the Earth does not move, therefore the Earth does not revolve around the Sun”

    Newton: “Well…you win?”

    Come the fuck on, Tim. At least make an effort.

    Also, he specifically speaks to the Lakers and the Timberwolves (which is not addressed in any of the three studies he quoted). He suggests that the Lakers would never need to tank because free agents always come to them. That’s just a silly claim; the Lakers routinely correctly identify productive players and acquire them because they have the pieces to do so. The opposite end of the spectrum is the Timberwolves, which fails to succeed because they are not good at identifying productive players and-often mis-manage their assets.

    What if players don’t pan out like expected before the draft?

    Again, horrible grammar. He brushes this comment aside with the idea that you’ll lose some, you’ll win some. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t play. However, is that true? You need to know how often you will succeed versus how often you’ll fail. This concern is very real; your high draft pick does not guarantee you a productive player. That risk is a cost, and a significant factor against the draft.

    The player they draft could end up being a bust

    His argument is that the higher the draft pick, the lower odds of landing a shitbag. He offers this hilarious study of top-five draft picks as evidence. Let’s address that study.

    The article’s author readily admits that his “rating” statistic is overly simplistic. It is as follows

    Rating = PPG + APG + RPG

    This formula leaves out too many important factors, such as steals, blocks, turnovers, shooting efficiency, minutes played, etc etc. It also assumes that one PPG is equal to one APG and one RPG. Let’s not even go there.

    How could you possibly determine anything with such a flawed instrument? Let’s use reductio absurdum once more.

    Me: “I dipped a tea-spoon into this pool of water and it was full, therefore I concluded that the pool is probably full”

    Newton:”Well…you got me again!”

    Also, let’s address the self-fulfilling nature of that study. Teams obviously value their top picks, and would probably see fit to afford them the opportunities to perform. Therefore, when given more minutes, and more touches, static factors like PPG, APG and RPG should all increase.

    Teams need to win to attract free agents

    So, wait. Earlier, he suggests that franchises like the Lakers and Celtics have an advantage because their franchises have been so successful, historically. He even substantiates his claim by suggesting that the Lakers don’t need to tank because they can rest on their lorals. Now, winning doesn’t matter? What?

    Fine, let’s put that double-standard aside. He suggests that winning doesn’t attract free agents, otherwise the Spurs wouldn’t have built through the draft.

    Did the Spurs build through the draft? Well, they won the lottery and scored Tim Duncan. Other players, such as Ginobili, Parker and Splitter have all come via the draft. They’re an example of a successful “tank-job”.

    No they aren’t.

    Building through the draft is not the same as “tanking”. The Spurs do two things well; they are excellent at identifying proficient players, and they manage their assets well. The year they landed Duncan, their superstar (David Robinson) was injured. That wasn’t tanking. They also got really lucky and won the lottery that year. They correctly identified that Parker, Ginobili and Splitter were likely to become productive players, something other franchises failed to see. They drafted them with very late draft picks (late-late first round, two second-rounders).

    “Oh, but they didn’t sign any free agents, nyaaahhh”

    Maybe they realized that free agency is more expensive than drafting? Drafting a player locks him into a rookie-scale contract. It also grants you an exclusive window to negotiate extension with the player. Free agency is subject to market conditions, and is often more expensive. Would you pay 24 million for Landry Fields when you can have Danny Green for the league minimum (the Raptors would)?

    He then goes on to state “top-free agents usually want to play on a top NBA destination (fallacy), AND play on a contender.” What?? So winning does matter with respect to acquiring players? What the fuck?

    They have a better chance trying to trade for an elite player

    Tim doesn’t offer any real evidence to disprove the claim. He points to the Nets-Utah trade, where the Nets acquired Deron Williams in exchange for a bunch of draft picks and young players. He argues that top players command a ransom to acquire (except with Harden; how’s Jeremy Lamb working out for you, OKC?), and thus it’s a risky proposition. Also, players might get hurt or leave.

    Well, suddenly Tim’s risk adverse.

    The whole proposition of tanking is RISKY. VERY, VERY RISKY.

    It’s a matter of how much risk. With tanking, you need to A) win the lottery and score a “high draft pick”, B) pick the right player. If you do all that correctly, you now face the same risks as having a “traded” player, in that C) the player needs to stay healthy, D) the player might leave.

    You know how you make a trade work? You need assets that appeal to your trading partner. What assets are appealing? Productive players, draft picks, cap space/expiring contracts, bargain contracts, and other elite players.

    Sure, trading for an elite player is risky, but it’s a question of how risky, and specifically, how risky is it compared to tanking for players?

    Creating a winning culture is important

    Yeah, I agree with Tim here. This is stupid. However, winning games is not stupid. Win percentage positively impacts attendance and product purchases. Home playoff games are pure revenue for teams (players are not paid for playoff games). Teams do like making money, after all.

    If you tank, the player will just end up leaving

    So, you shouldn’t tank when you already have an elite player? How can you even tank with an elite player, anyway? Teams have NEVER tanked with any of the following players on their roster; Lebron, Carmelo, Bosh, Paul and Howard.

    Also, does anyone actually use this argument against tanking?

    No teams that have tanked have won a title

    This isn’t even a valid argument to begin with, so I won’t defend the credibility of the statement. However, I take issues with Tim’s argument against the claim.

    “Tanking isn’t a strategy to build a championship team. It’s simply a strategy to acquire an elite player”

    So teams should pay a tonne of money to field a shitty team, forgo the revenue associated with winning, damage their brand credibility all for a wink from the luck gods to gift them an elite player, which isn’t nearly enough to win a championship.

    Come on.

    Let’s just move on. This is really draining.

    I want to watch the Raptors in the playoffs/The Raptors aren’t in a position to tank

    So, Tim says that the Raptors probably won’t be good enough to make the playoffs, yet he believes that DeRozan, Gay and Lowry all hold significant value. So…what?

    First off, how much value could each player realistically hold?

    The Raptors acquired Lowry in exchange for a mid-first round draft pick when Lowry was signed to a very team-friendly contract. Last year he was very productive, but got hurt, and that team-friendly deal is quickly coming to an end. Given the hype around next year’s draft, do you think a Lowry trade could break even for our beloved Raptors? I doubt it. I’d rather try to sign him to another team-friendly extension while his value is low (24 mill over 4 years, fourth year team option?).

    And DeRozan. He’s polarizing. His talents are obvious; he can score via the jumpshot from inside the three-point arc, he can slash, he’s great in transition and he can draw fouls. However, he’s not very efficient. Neither his eFG% nor TS% has ever been above average for a shooting guard. He takes a lot of shots and is pretty average at everything else.

    Factor in that DeRozan is owed 40 million over the next four years and what do you get? Nothing, you get nothing in return for DeRozan. The market for inefficient wings who do little else other than take shots has shriveled up. After all, Colangelo is no longer a GM.

    Then there’s Rudy Gay. Sigh. At least Rudy Gay’s contract is basically expiring after this season. He also shoots a lot for someone who isn’t very efficient at it. However, fear not, Raptors fans. He’s not exactly the same as DeRozan. Gay offers the same rate of inefficiency, but also throws in a whole bunch of turnovers! Now isn’t that worth 20 million dolars a year?

    And again, consider what we gave up to acquire Gay. We gave up Ed Davis and Jose Calderon. They were very productive, but the Grizzlies clearly didn’t agree. They turned Calderon into Tayshaun Prince and nailed Ed Davis to the bench. Do you really think Gay’s stock has really skyrocketed during the half-season he spent with the Raptors?

    Secondly, believe it or not, this Raptors team is not that bad.

    We have some good players. When healthy, Kyle Lowry is very productive (career .157 WP48, .190 last year). Amir Johnson is fantastic (career .206 WP48, .216 last year). Jonas Valanciunas was solid last season (.116 WP48) and will likely improve next year. Landry Fields is also very productive (.190 WP48 for his career, .154 last year).

    Look, I’m not saying the Raptors are going to take down the Heat and win the championship, but they have good pieces. They should challenge for a playoff spot. Projection systems have them winning 49 games next season.

    • DDayLewis
    • Rebuilding

      Good stuff. I like the different perspectives presented. This is not a clear or easy choice one way or the other.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      I was going to be impressed that you typed out a comment that dwarfed any of mine, but I noticed that you just cut and pasted from your own blog. Oh, well.

      There’s really too much to take on everything you said, but let’s look at your main points.

      You take issue with my argument that the NBA isn’t on a level playing field because it’s difficult to “quantify” it and because each player has his own preferences. And that seems to be the crux of your argument. I don’t disagree that each player might have his own preference, but historically we’ve seen that players generally seem to prefer certain cities in the NBA, if given a choice. I don’t doubt there are some that might prefer other cities to Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Houston, but I wasn’t speaking to each one. I was speaking generally, and the evidence seems to back me up on that point.

      As for the fact that San Antonio and Chicago have history, it goes to geography. San Antonio is a small city that doesn’t offer the amenities that a lot of incredibly wealthy young people like. Chicago I would think would be more attractive than it has been, but considering Carlos Boozer is really the only player that city has been able to attract, it seems it’s not.

      So while you don’t seem to agree with a premise that isn’t exactly controversial, you don’t actually provide any evidence to contradict anything I say, on this topic.

      Now, you also take issue with my use of All NBA teams as examples of elite players. I would be the first to admit that the All NBA team is not the best indication of how good a player is, but since there is no perfect way to rank players, I used the All NBA teams. I’m guessing I could have used other rankings and come up with similar results.

      Again, you disagree without being able to come up with a better alternative or showing that the results are flawed. You just don’t seem to like the fact I used All NBA teams. I could have used Wages of Wins results, but those would be equally flawed, unfortunately.

      The rest of your post has similar problems. You obviously take issue with what I say, but you don’t actually bring up much contradictory evidence to counter it, just hope that your reader happens to agree with you.

      It seems there are a number of Wages of Wins fans that I ticked off with my argument. It’s funny, because I enjoy reading it and agree with a lot of it. Like any other system, though, it has it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses. And their projections have not been even close to flawless, that’s for sure.

      Lastly, while I definitely appreciate the use of good grammar, and try to keep my writing as grammatically correct as possible, with articles like mine, where I’m close to 4,500 words and without a lot of time to proofread, there are bound to be both grammatical errors and statistical errors. I’m all for intelligent debate, but when you act superior because you found some grammatical errors, it makes you look a little petty. Besides, I’m not a big believer in using a lot of profanity in an argument. I think it’s rather crass and demeans the author. But that’s just me.

      • DDayLewis

        Thanks for responding to my diatribe. I apologize for the petty comments about grammar and profanity. It’s pretty irrelevant to this debate.

        Look, I was perhaps unclear in my criticism of the “level playing field” argument. My point was that it’s variable and dependent on personal preference, but I also wanted to point out that players aren’t beholden to specific franchises (history), or even cities (geography). I am troubled by the logic of “free agents have signed in this city, therefore most players prefer these destinations.” Can we really come to that conclusion?

        I think that the only observable factor that lures talented players (besides money) is the possibility of winning a championship.

        Why did Miami land Bosh and Lebron? Because they had cap space, and offered them the unique opportunity to play with each other and with Wade. They didn’t go to Miami because they loved the franchise or wanted to live there. They went because they want to win.

        Or, consider the case of Dwight Howard. His contract was coming to an end, and he assessed the state of the Orlando Magic. Otis Thorpe had blew all his cap space on mediocre players, and Howard had been around them long enough to know they weren’t going to win a title, so he forced a trade. Where did he want to get traded to? Nets, Mavericks, Lakers. Why? Because he believed he could improve his chances of winning on those teams.

        I hate to direct you to more stuff from the WP crowd, but thenbageek covered this very recently:

        http://www.thenbageek.com/articles/players-like-winners-not-markets

        The article points to more logos-based arguments, and perhaps that’s not what you’re looking for, but he does bring up some great points. Winning attracts great players because a) they’re competitive, b) they can earn more fame, c) they can earn more money (via endorsements).

        Or perhaps you’d prefer a longitudinal study of which free agents signed where in the past X number of years. I can’t seem to find anything that’s comprehensive.

        Now to your point of All NBA teams. I’m glad you agree that All NBA teams aren’t necessarily indicative of “elite-ness”. However, if you have little faith in the instrument, then how can you be confident about what it measures?

        For example, I did a little exercise. I took the top 60 WP leaders from 2012-2013 and looked at how they were acquired by their respective teams. The raw data is here:

        https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AlYMOKoVqHSjdHkwV0Ytc25GTk1JTG9kd0JUY1NCVHc

        Out of the 60, 33 came via the draft, 16 via free agency and 11 via trade. That might seem like damning evidence for tanking, but the point of tanking is to secure a top pick. Out of the 33 that were acquired from the draft, only 5 players (Durant, Duncan, Westbrook, Giffin and Wade) were drafted with a top-5 pick. Lots of great players like Conley, George, Faried, etc were drafted with mid-first round picks or evens second-round draft picks.

        Yes, productive players are available via the draft every year (except maybe 2006), and you might snag one, but do you need a top 5 pick to do so? It doesn’t look like it.

        Okay, this might all be useless if you don’t like Wins Produced, but you seemed to rank it’s ability to evaluate players on par with All-Star/All-NBA teams. It should at least give you cause for doubt.

        It certainly looks like you don’t need a top-5 draft pick to get a top-tier player, and if so, teams shouldn’t throw away a whole season for a couple of ping-pong balls. That’s a lot to lose (and losses) for so little.

        • vino

          So here are the anti tanking
          infantry marching… yet I have not seen a single rational argument of how not to
          tank and build a contender. “Inching our way up” is ok for a bit… a few very
          little, short inches, then what?! “Projection systems have them winning 49
          games next season.” – ok, so you win those 49 games, then what?! Are you
          satisfied with going home after 5-6 games year after year?! Yes, there is
          nothing new in this article, just all the tanking/anti-tanking theories that
          have already been raised before and yes, the “geographical” and the “historical”
          reasonings are subjective and not necessarily true – both could be argued, as a
          minimum… but, please enlighten the audience HOW to obtain top talent without
          tanking?!?

          “productive players are available via the draft every year” yes, but these players won’t win you championships. these are complimentary pieces after you acquire the two stars…

          • DDayLewis

            The point isn’t to just get to ~49 wins per year and stay there. I’m certainly not advocating for us to become the Hawks of the last 4-5 years.

            But look at the contenders last season. Which teams tanked to get there?

            OKC? Sure, but was that a sure thing? If the Blazers took Durant, they would have been stuck with Oden.

            The Spurs? They didn’t tank; David Robinson got injured and they were terrible, won the lottery, and landed a generational talent in Tim Duncan. Since then, they fleshed out their roster with smart signings and high draft picks (Parker, Ginobili, Leonard, Green, Splitter).

            The Grizzlies got Marc Gasol in exchange for Pau, and drafted Conley 11th. They traded for Randolph and Tony Allen. They wisely unloaded Gay on us, and saved a tonne of money and gained a lot of flexibility.

            And of course, the Heat famously built their empire via Free Agency.

            There are other ways to get top-tier players other than via a top-5 draft pick. You can pick up guys like Paul George or Kenneth Faried with mid-first and second round draft pick. You can sign them in free agency if you have enough cap space. You can trade for them if a trade is available.

            The goal should be to acquire assets; draft picks, cap space, good players on good contracts and superstars. Draft picks can land you a star. Cap space can land you a free agent. All four can land you a trade.

            • SR

              Haha, the final four teams may or may not have “tanked,” but they absolutely all bottomed out or stripped down their rosters and drafted their new core players – something that would be very difficult for the Raptors if they just move forward with the current roster and collect middling draft picks while hovering around .500.

              SA bottomed out and drafted Duncan #1, OKC unloaded Lewis and Allen and drafted high in the lottery repeatedly, including Durant at #2, Heat were terrible when they drafted Wade #5 (was able to then attract O’Neal, then James and Bosh).

              Your best argument is the Pacers, who were never truly rotten, but absolutely rebuilt their roster with picks and prospects anyway. They dumped their whole “Malice in the Palace” starting 5 (which had been a good team) and rebuilt around draft picks with all-star potential.

              But whatever – all that history has been rehashed ad nauseam around here. You can hardly prove/disprove that teams have “tanked” historically, but it’s easy to point out capped-out teams with limited ceilings who have unloaded big contracts and rebuilt through prospects and picks who had more potential than the previous roster. Basically, that’s what “pro-tankers” are advocating for this Raptors’ group.

              • SR

                Whoop, sure did mention OKC instead of the Grizz. The Grizzlies traded their franchise/best player for a prospect and cap space. I would love for the Raptors to do the same thing with Rudy Gay.

                • DDayLewis

                  I’m hoping that Gay’s name value and expiring contract status is enough to bring something of value back. Remember, we gave up 1.5 years of Ed Davis and .5 years of Calderon to get him. We probably won’t get much back for Gay (although if Bargnani can net expirings and picks, anyone can).

              • DDayLewis

                I’d love the Raptors to make some changes. If we can peddle Derozan and Gay for cap space/expirings and draft picks, we’d be great.

                http://hoopshype.com/salaries/toronto.htm

                But would that really be tanking? I guess that would depend on your opinion of Gay and Derozan. They both take a lot of shots at below average efficiency and are average at everything else. Depending on what the return is on Gay and Derozan, this might very well be addition by subtraction (like with Bargs).

                • SR

                  No – really I like “rebuild” better than “tanking.” I don’t think the rebuild is done with this team, even though we’re all sick of missing the playoffs. This team’s ceiling is just too low.

                  The impetus for making major changes sooner rather than later are the great draft coming up and JV’s youth/contractual status.

                  Ultimately, I think MU will just make good deals when good deals are available. He proved that with ‘Melo. If something comes up this year, he’ll go for it, and if not we’ll just sit back and watch what should be a pretty entertaining (if limited) team anyway.

                  Then we’ll all be hoping for cap space when Wiggins becomes an UFA…

                • vino

                  So we are talking in similar terms. The definition of “tanking” should not stand on the way of common sense…

                  One side comment, people who take the anti-tank stand should realize that it will take time to build a contender one way or the other, so hearing this “I’m tired of waiting” bullshit is above me. You are tired? Go do something else.

          • DDayLewis

            Which teams in your opinion built via “tanking”?

        • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

          Anecdotally and historically, the evidence does seem to point to players generally preferring teams in L.A, New York, Miami and Houston (and maybe Dallas) over all other teams. That’s not to say one person isn’t going to prefer Portland over any of them, but that does seem to be the consensus. Los Angeles, New York and Miami are three of the best places for obscenely wealthy young people to live, and there’s really no getting around that.

          As for my use of All NBA teams, again, it was just an example. By and large, most of the players that appear on those teams are considered elite. Not all, obviously, but I think it’s a decent indication.

          My point isn’t that a team can’t get a productive player outside of the top five. Guys like Faried are very good players, but he’s certainly not the type of player you can build around. Same for Conley (who was actually a 4th pick).

          And the chance of finding a player like Paul George outside the top five is so slim it’s almost non-existent.

          I think that’s the big issue. I’m not saying that the Raptors need to get a bunch of top 5 players. They need one. They need that superstar and the most likely place to find one is in the top five in the draft, especially next year when it appears there may be several available.

          And talking about throwing away a season, what happens if the Raptors end up missing the playoffs? And even if they do, Lowry and Gay might end up leaving for nothing. That would make the Raptors lose unintentionally, and without the benefit of having turned them into draft picks and prospects.

          I see going forward with this current team far more risky than tanking, quit frankly. And without much of an upside.

          • DDayLewis

            We’re going back and forth on this geography issue. Your argument is that players have historically preferred LA, New York, Miami and Houston over other teams. I argue that this isn’t predictive, or deterministic. Your counter-argument is that those destinations are chosen because they offer things appealing to “obscenely wealthy young people”. What is so pervasively attractive about these locations? Weather? Nightclubs? Beaches? Restaurants? I don’t think it’s that simple. Consider:

            ie:

            New York: bad weather, good nightclubs, no beaches, good restaurant (2/4), bonus: hometown advantage

            LA: good weather, good nightclubs, good beaches, good restaurants (4/4), bonus: hometown advantage

            So, LA should theoretically have twice the recruiting power of New York, right? At least to someone who values the 4 aforementioned factors?

            —-

            I argue that you can certainly acquire a top player without a top five draft pick. I think your mistake is that most top players are drafted with a top-5 pick, therefore we need a top-five pick to get one of these players.

            But what about trade? What about free-agency? What about non-top-5 draft picks? Why put all of your eggs in one pick?

            I’m not saying that a top-5 pick doesn’t have tremendous value, but there are other ways to acquire elite talent. It turns out, only a select handful of top-talent players were acquired by their respective teams via a draft pick. Many top players have been traded, and or left for other cities via free agency.

            https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AlYMOKoVqHSjdHkwV0Ytc25GTk1JTG9kd0JUY1NCVHc#gid=0

            —-

            I’m actually on-board with a Gay trade. He’s not very good. I’d advocate trading Demar. They are both seen as stars, but ultimately not very productive. If the Raptors could trade them for assets (cap space, draft picks, good players on good contracts), I would certainly see it as improving the team.

            But realistically, how much of a return should we expect for these players? Last year, Gay only netted Calderon and Davis. Demar was rumored to be traded for Bledsoe, which would have been amazing, but Demar’s ridiculous contract extension just kicked in (thanks BC!), locking him in for 4 more years for a total of 40 million. People were snickering at the Monta Ellis signing. Are we sure Demar is any better than Monta? I doubt it.

            In my view, jettisoning Gay and Demar wouldn’t be tanking. It would simply be good asset management. The point of trading them wouldn’t be to lose more, but to recoup their value.

            • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

              I really don’t think the argument that places like L.A., New York or Miami or more appealing to most NBA players is even a controversial one, quite frankly. An argument against it seems like it’s based on wishful thinking rather than reality.

              It’s obviously possible to get an elite player without a top five pick, but I go into detail why it’s unlikely for a team in the article. And I haven’t read anything that really disputes that.

              We both agree that trading Gay and DeRozan would be in the best interests of the team, but I would include Lowry in that, as well. He’s entering a contract year in the best shape of his life. That’s reason enough for me to trade him. Sell high, for once.

              And if you trade those players for picks and prospects, and put a team out on the floor that has few veterans and where young players are depended on, you’re not going to win a lot of games.

              There seems to be some confusion over what exactly the strategy would be, among tanking opponents. Most hated the Detroit offer because it was giving Gay away for nothing. That’s not the point. The point is to trade players whose value is probably at a high for assets that have a good chance of increasing in value.

              • DDayLewis

                I understand that Lowry might be a sell-high guy, but he has historically been a very productive player (career .157 WP48, .189/.190 last two seasons). If the Raptors can hold on to Lowry, and lock him into (yet another) team friendly deal, he’ll be a very valuable asset.

                Also, how bad can the Raptors really be? Even without Lowry, Derozan and Gay, I believe the team still will be better than at least 5 teams.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  I think Lowry is a good, on paper, player. But there are just too many things that bother me about him. He’s been in the league 7 years, yet teams eventually give up on him despite his production. He’s had issues with coaches (including the most player friendly coach ever, Kevin McHale) and players previously. Coming to camp out of shape last year was a HUGE red flag, considering it was a new team and great opportunity for him, then he goes into a contract year in the best shape of his life.

                  Besides, good PGs aren’t exactly rare in the league, today. Unless you’ve got an elite one, guys like Lowry are pretty easily replaceable.

                  And if the Raptors start Augustin and Ross as the starting backcourt, I don’t see them winning more than 25 games.

                • DDayLewis

                  I don’t know if Lowry as bad as you say. There were certainly attenuating circumstances. Memphis had Conley and Lowry became a bit redundant. Houston jettisoned him last offseason because they wanted to stockpile picks. The coaching thing is a bit concerning, but it doesn’t really seem to affect his production.

                  As to him coming into camp in poor shape last year, he certainly didn’t show it on the court. Here are his averages through the first 8 games of last season:

                  18.25 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 6.1 apg, 2.25 spg, .75 bpg, 2.25 turnovers, on 44% shooting from the field, including 41% from threes and 77% on free throws.

                  That’s pretty darn good.

                  And good god, if the Raptors wanted to tank, they should have kept Bargs and played a lineup of:

                  Bargs-Gray-Demar-Ross-Augustin

                  That would have been a 15 win team.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  I don’t think Lowry is a bad player at all. I think he’s a pretty good player who would actually help the Raptors win some games. I just don’t think he’s good enough that they need to hold onto him, and I also am a little worried about a player going into a contract year on a lottery team.

                  I don’t see Lowry as being good enough to think of as a core player, so I would want to try and get as much for him now.

                  As for keeping Bargnani and trotting out that team, I wouldn’t do that. First of all, for the sake of the organization and the fans, Bargnani had to go, whether or not his presence would have helped get a high pick. And I think if you put young players, who won’t help you win but should get better, then it hides the fact that you’re trying to tank.

                  If you put a team on the floor of, for example, Valanciunas, Tristan Thompson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Terrence Ross and Brandon Knight, it’s not going to win more than 25 games, but you can also sell it as developing for the future. Lot of fans will tune in to see young players develop, but few will watch a team full of bad players who will always be bad.

                  The thing I’m most looking forward to this season is watching Valanciunas, not because I think he’s going to be great (he’s way too young) but because I think he’s got a lot of potential and I would like to see him develop.

                • DDayLewis

                  I guess trading him/extending him is largely dependent on what the market is for Lowry. I suspect he’s undervalued because we got him him for a mid-first round draft pick last season. If we can sell high on him, and get something like what Philly got for Jrue Holliday (who is worse than Lowry), that would be ideal.

                  http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=lowryky01&y1=2013&p2=holidjr01&y2=2013

                  On a side note, the Pelicans really got fleeced in that deal. Noel, AND a first rounder? They already had two inefficient guards in Rivers and Gordon who shoot too much. Now they trade Noel + 1st rounder to upgrade from Vasquez to Holiday, and sign Evans? There’s only one ball, and Holiday, Gordon, Rivers and Evans all need the ball to be effective. Poor Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis.

                  But say UM locks Lowry in for 24 million over 4 years, with the 4th season as a team option. Would that be so bad? Why define it as “core” or “not-core”. By locking him into a favorable contract, he will become an asset.

                  I was being facetious about Bargnani. Obviously I’m ecstatic that UM turned him into cap space + Novak + picks. That feels surreal to type out. What a trade.

                  With respect to developing players, I’m all for that, but do we have the right talent to do that? Who would we give minutes to anyway? Jonas will already be seeing 30+ minutes next year. Maybe up Ross’s minutes from 17 mpg to 25. There certainly isn’t the option of distributing playing time like the Cavaliers did last season because we don’t really have that much high upside talent.

                  It appears that we only really disagree on two points (after thousands of words exchanged here):

                  1. Can Toronto acquire talent via trade/free agency?

                  – You believe that certain destinations have a clear-cut advantage, and this is unlikely.

                  – I think that with the right assets, or opportunity to win a championship, it’s very possible to attract talent.

                  2. Is it worth it to be really bad for one season to secure a top-5 pick?

                  – You believe it is because the draft is really deep, and the chance of being able to net a top player is worth the cost. You want to jettison DD,Gay and Lowry to make it happen.

                  – I think it’s too costly for the franchise (to forgo that revenue), and I doubt this squad will be bad enough, even without DD, Gay and Lowry, to get a top-5 pick. I don’t think we should put all our eggs in one basket.

                  We both do agree on the following:

                  1. Manage assets!
                  2. Trade DD and Gay.
                  3. As constructed, this team won’t win the NBA championship, and there is a lot of work to be done.
                  4. Bargnani is one of the least productive basketball players ever.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  From what I gather, the Pelicans were under strict orders from the owner to win now, so the deal is somewhat understandable. I do agree they gave up too much, though. Personally, I’ve questioned a lot of their moves, including drafting Austin Rivers and signing Evans to such a huge contract.

                  I think if Ujiri can sign Lowry to a 4 year, $24 million deal, then that’s not bad. But with his history, I’m not sure I’d want to gamble on re-signing him. Especially if it means giving the Raptors just a few more wins. I’d rather turn him into a draft pick or prospect, quite frankly.

                  With the playing time for developing players, the idea is that Gay, DeRozan and Lowry would bring in young players. That’s why I included those players who aren’t currently on the Raptors. Because I could see those players returning in trades.

                  Let me just clarify a few things though. I don’t think it’s impossible for the Raptors to sign a good free agent. But the whole problem lies in this statement of yours…
                  “I think that with the right assets, or opportunity to win a championship, it’s very possible to attract talent.”

                  I don’t disagree at all. But if the Raptors had the right assets or an opportunity to win a Championship, then I would consider tanking. It’s the whole, you need experience to get a job, but without being able to get the job, you won’t get the experience.

                  I also don’t believe the Raptors would be putting all their eggs in one basket. Trading many of the current players for draft picks and prospects isn’t putting all the eggs in one basket. Quite the opposite. If I were putting all the eggs in one basket I would suggest Toronto take the Detroit proposal for Gay. But I thought it was crap.

                  What I’m suggesting is selling current players high, and buying low on other players. If the Raptors can get a return of, again for example, Tristan Thompson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brandon Knight and a first round pick, then it puts the Raptors in a better position for the future for a couple of reasons. One is that it turns two players who could leave for nothing (Gay and Lowry) into assets with longer term contracts, and the second is that it turns three players who probably won’t have much more trade value than now into assets that should only increase in value. Plus, it’s got the added benefit of making the team worse next season, when there is a strong draft.

                • DDayLewis

                  Attracting talent can sometimes be a catch-22, but I firmly believe you can acquire talent in a number of ways.

                  Take Houston, for example. Their top three players are Harden, Howard and Parsons. How did they get them? Howard was enticed by the opportunity to win (with Harden), so he came via free agency. Harden became available because Sam Presti went crazy, and Houston snatched him up because they held a bevy of assets. Parsons was drafted with a second round draft pick.

                  Of course, pointing to anecdotal examples won’t convince anyone on this matter, but what was Houston’s philosophy?

                  Collect assets, and manage assets. Simple as that.

                  There were no cap-crippling contracts, just productive players on reasonable contracts and young rookies with potential.

                  Utah seems to be employing the same strategy. They’re managing to turn their assets (cap space) into picks + expirings.

                  I too agree that the Raptors should jettison Derozan and Gay. We both believe that we should turn them into better assets. We agree on the means, but perhaps we differ on the ends.

                  For me, the ends of trading DD and Gay is to acquire assets in return.

                  Correct me if I am wrong, but is the ends for you to make the Raptors work and improve their lottery odds (and get assets in the process)?

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  I don’t think you can ever use other teams as models for how to build teams because there are is so many variables involved. So many moves that are unrepeatable. Like those who point to Indiana finding Paul George at 10, ignoring the probability of doing so is far, far less than finding an elite player in the top five.

                  We agree on collecting assets, and if a Harden-like deal comes along, then great. But I’m not going to assume one will. The thing about Houston, though, is if the Harden deal didn’t come along, they were likely a 20+ win team. And then they lose Martin and his contract. And without Harden, they don’t attract Howard, that’s for sure. Or, I’m guessing, anyone else of note.

                  Obviously the main goal is to acquire an elite player, and best place for a team like Toronto to find one is in the top five of the lottery, so to me that should be the main goal.

                • DDayLewis

                  Indiana and Houston are examples of a general model for team building. They collect assets, manage assets and turn them into better assets.

                  Who are the three core pieces on Indiana? Hill, George, Hibbert. Hill was acquired for a Leonard, George was drafted at #10 and HIbbert at #17 (in exchange for Jermaine O’Neal, what the hell, BC?).

                  Obviously they their circumstances were unique, but it was consistent with that asset-model.

                  The question might be, what’s more likely; to land a top-5 pick and to draft a superstar, or to trade/sign one/draft one with a higher pick?

                  If both scenarios are equally likely to land a superstar, why not stay afloat as a franchise (like Houston or Indiana, although Indiana had 1-2 rough years)?

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  Considering the history of the league, especially when you remove teams like the Lakers and Heat from the equation,as well as the fact that the evidence shows it’s getting harder to find elite players outside of the top five, I don’t see how you can say you’re just as likely to sign/trade or draft with a lower pick an elite player than draft one in the top five. The evidence certainly doesn’t back up that argument. Quite the opposite, in fact.

                  THe Pacers finding Paul George at 10 is an exception. And too many people think it’s not. The reason people keep pointing to it is because it IS so rare. And trying to go the route that has the worst chance of succeeding isn’t smart.

                  Again, I’m for asset acquisition, but not at the cost of foregoing a high draft pick. I think a combination of asset acquisition and a high draft picks increases your chances of acquiring an elite player a great deal.

                  I also don’t think trying to save a .500 team is really worth the possibility of losing out on a generational talent.

                • DDayLewis

                  Although the poor shape could have explained that injury he sustained early in the season.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  It was widely reported that Lowry turned up to camp out of shape. And for 6 year veterans to show up to a new team out of shape, that says a lot to me, and none of it is good.

  • Louvens Remy

    Congrats on a the article Tim. I’m still against “tanking”. Putting a mediocre product together so you can lose on purpose is disingenuous. There are ways to put together a competitive squad w/out a legit superstar (ie: Denver, Chicago w/out Derrick Rose, Memphis, Indiana).

    I think that everyone is right when they point at Philly as a team that is putting together a less than desirable team. But, in my opinion they had no choice after the Andrew Bynum debacle. They needed to start over.

    Also, tanking is something you do at the end of the season, not at the start.

    I do not believe that Utah is tanking. They are just putting more faith in their young starting core instead of deadweight like Al Jefferson. The Utah administration thinks that those young players are ready to log big minutes after their 2-3 year apprenticeships.

    Boston isn’t tanking either. They are making smart moves for the future. At some point you have to get rid of your old players, bc if you don’t you will find yourself having a miserable season when those old veterans just don’t have it anymore. Then you’ve held on for too long and now you have to go into a lengthy rebuilding stage instead of smartly making moves ahead of the curve.

    If Toronto trades, Gay, DD and or Lowry they would most likely get some legit young players and draft picks back in return which would allow them to be contenders. The reason they would end up losing would have more to do with lack of chemistry then actually losing on purpose.

    Anyway, this topic is beaten to death. You like tanking. I think tanking is stupid. We can agree to disagree.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Thanks. If you see the Tankometer, I have Boston as being on the fence. I also don’t see them tanking, not as long as they’ve got Rondo.

      And I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see Utah play better than expected. I’m very big on their front line. It’s the rest of the team I’m not sure about.

  • elkabong

    get me pick picks and more picks since with 32% odds i can beat the street and i’ll build you a contender and make a monkey out of all those other teams that haven’t got a clue how to draft eh!

    so how long do you think it takes to climb back once you’ve thrown it in? the 2010 draft has one all star so far and the 2 best players were picked 7+10 (our own pick ED is 3rd in win shares so far!), the 2011 draft has one all star in Kyrie who was 1st overall but the top 2 players by WS were drafted 15+22 ….. you make fun of Minny in 2009 but they got the 3rd best player by WS at pick 18 so they went from idiots to brilliant in a matter of minutes? in 2008 we have 5 all stars and 2 of them are picks 10+17 and it goes on and on and on

    but i forgot this is a generational type draft like 03 that had 8 all stars but does it matter if three come from picks 18(the 5th best)+29+47? do we call Detroit idiots for picking Millicic 2nd? do we call the 10 other teams that didn’t even manage 10 win shares from their picks idiots? or should we call the draft just what it is a complete and total crapshoot

    no we don’t have the ideal team but we do have a core that’s worth expanding on and Rudy is the 3rd best player by WS from that 06 draft so by drafting criteria he’d be just what we are looking for but we already have him so why throw him away? he looks by far the best talent we’ve had since Bosch but let’s wait several years for his replacement to develop shall we. the 5 man core put up good numbers in an albeit limited sample size but i saw some chemistry and hard work from that group so let’s expand on that rather and try to improve a position at a time. i’d much rather spend my time and patience inching our way up the playoff rung since we could easily blow it up and then just be in position to blow it up again in a few years since i think tanking definitely has lower odds of success looking at the overall landscape and the odds of actually landing Wiggins which are close to nil

  • elkabong

    get me pick picks and more picks since with 32% odds i can beat the
    street and make a monkey out of all those other teams……get me picks picks
    and more picks and i’ll build you a contender before those teams that haven’t got a clue
    how to draft eh!

    so how long do you think it takes to climb back
    once you’ve thrown it in? the 2010 draft has one all star so far and
    the 2 best players were picked 7+10 (our own pick ED is 3rd in win
    shares so far!), the 2011 draft has one all star in Kyrie who was 1st
    overall but the top 2 players by WS were drafted 15+22 ….. you make
    fun of Minny in 2009 but they got the 3rd best player by WS at pick 18
    so they went from idiots to brilliant in a matter of minutes? in 2008 we
    have 5 all stars and 2 of them are picks 10+17 and it goes on and on and on

    but
    i forgot this is a generational type draft like 03 that had 8 all stars
    but does it matter if three come from picks 18+29+47? do we call
    Detroit idiots for picking Millicic 2nd? do we call the 10 other teams
    that didn’t even mange 10 win shares from their picks idiots? or should
    we call the draft just what it is a complete and total crapshoot

    the 5 man core put up good numbers in an albeit
    limited sample size but i saw some chemistry and hard work from that
    group so let’s expand on that rather and try to improve a position at a
    time. i’d much rather spend my time and patience inching our way up the
    playoff rung since we could easily blow it up and then just be in
    position to blow it up again in a few years. i think tanking
    definitely has lower odds of success looking at the overall landscape and
    the odds of actually landing Wiggins which are close to nil

  • Yo

    Good article but is based in the false premise that Toronto is a small market. Toronto is not a small market. There is money and all the lights that you want here.The problem is that we never have won anything.

    Stop thinking you are a not desirable market and start winning and players will come. Nets and Clippers are the clear examples.

    I don’t want tank because my patience is gone. As an old friend use to say the problem is not to tank the problem is for how long.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      I didn’t suggest Toronto is a small market. It’s not. It’s just not one of the prime NBA destinations. But neither, apparently, is Chicago.

      Depending on free agency is far more of a gamble than tanking. I think, if the Raptors can get an elite player, and develop a good foundation (i.e. not the one they have) then I don’t think it’s inconceivable they could attract some good role players. But role players aren’t what they need, at this point.

  • Adrian Howard

    Tanking isn’t a great strategy because its way too risky. Between 1996 and 2010 (other drafts are too recent to fairly look at all star appearances), only 30 players picked in the top 5 in those drafts have had an all star appearance for their career. Keep in mind that one all star appearance doesn’t make a player elite or worth building around (i.e. Tyson Chandler, Stephon Marbury, Shareef Abdur Rahim, Kenyon Martin). In fact many fans question whether the players like Chris Bosh, Al Horford, Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison had the right makeup to have a championship team built around them. So when we put it this way, tanking for a (insert percentage here) chance of getting a top five pick who has a 40 percent chance to become an all star at one point in his career and even less of a chance to be an elite franchise player is not a wise strategy. Nevermind the fact that getting an all star lever player doesn’t guarantee playoff success or even appearances ( i.e. Chris Bosh and Vince in Toronto). So why dump Rudy Gay, Demar Derozan and Lowry for the possibility of getting a top five pick who has 40% or less chance to be better than those players.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Does this upcoming draft have the same chance as the previous drafts? And what if they don’t dump Gay, Lowry and DeRozan? What then? What if Gay and Lowry leave for nothing? Then the Raptors will be tanking, but unintentionally.

      The question is, are Gay, Lowry and DeRozan good enough to worth risking the future on?

      • elkabong

        so we throw back 3 guys that average 52 points per 36 and hope to get what back exactly? 60 points and better defense or just 3 studs without any warts at all? c’mon the draft has absatootly no guarantees of success unlees you are picking a guy like Lebron….. heck even the next best WS guy since then in Chris Paul was drafted 4th and there are tons of top 5 picks that were either total busts or just average rotation guys, Marvin Williams,Felton,Ben Gordon, Livingstone, Conley, Green, Beasley, Mayo, Thabeet, Tyreke Evans who are all top 5 picks will set your heart a flutter? there are no guarantees and probably just as many success stories outside of the top 5 so expecting the amazing 2014 generational draft to solve all your issues seems like dreaming in technicolour to me

        i am beffudled as to how the tank proponents can proclaim that if we tank our future is somehow guaranteed to be brighter

        • SR

          elkabong – Almost all the points you’re bringing up are addressed directly in the the original post – in fact addressing those points was the whole purpose of the post. Why not give it another read and take the discussion a step further rather than rehashing talking points. You might want to start with the multi-paragraph subsections “Tanking doesn’t guarantee success” and “The player they draft could end up being a bust.”

          • elkabong

            sorry if you think that way and i did read the entire article but i was trying to respond directly to

            “The question is, are Gay, Lowry and DeRozan good enough to worth risking the future on?”

            i am curious as to how anyone can predict we’ll end up better off by throwing in all our best current assets. it looks like change for the sake of change to me and the draft picks hardly come with a guarantee,other than the 32% stud rate of course and if you think we are somehow scooping 2014 lottery picks in any deals that seems to me to more dreaming in technicolour

            • vino

              What is the alternative to blowing it up then?!

              • ItsAboutFun

                In one word, being intelligent, as in what’s going on now. UM has made it clear he does not want to sell for pennies on the dollar, wants to see how this team looks after a training camp and some games, then survey the landscape for ways to improve toward the eventual goal, which at this point does not involve giving valuable assets (that could well increase in value) away, relying upon other teams to tank worse, and lottery luck.

                • vino

                  no one has suggested to give away our assets… the Pistons offer was terrible! you have not proposed anything proactive. just wait and see… well, maybe something will come up; who knows, maybe Wiggins will pull a reverse Francis on draft night.

              • elkabong

                i put this in another post

                “the 5 man core put up good numbers in an albeit limited sample size but i saw some chemistry and hard work from that group so let’s expand on that rather and try to improve a position at a time. i’d much rather spend my time and patience inching our way up the playoff rung since we could easily blow it up and then just be in position to blow it up again in a few years since i think tanking definitely has lower odds of success looking at the overall landscape and the odds of actually landing Wiggins which are close to nil”

                this unit looks like a pretty good traditional type setup ala the Pacers so i’d run with that for the time being and work on the horrendous bench which is pretty much exactly what he’s been doing. i’d trade any of the 3 if it meant an upgrade but to throw them away for picks and wait several years to see if they are actually better than what we have already seems like at least a 68% non stud failure rate staring at me and that’s *if* we somehow get brutal enuff to get into the top 5…..so where is the rest coming from?

                • SR

                  elkabong – I wouldn’t mind taking that path – this team should be fun to watch next year. I’ve just got a hunch that in that case there may be some “Remember when we kept Rudy Gay instead of taking a shot at landing (all-star player X) in the 2014 draft?” regret a few seasons down the road when we realize the talent level we passed on was much higher than the talent we stuck with.

                • elkabong

                  you’d best think that thru a bit harder since if you really think a lottery bound team is putting up it’s 2014 pick in a deal for Gay i’m calling BS on that today or 4 years from today 😉

                • SR

                  That’s not what I’m suggesting – still talking about unloading contracts for picks and prospects, sacrificing a worse W/L record this season, and aiming to draft higher in the lottery.

              • DDayLewis

                It isn’t black or white. You don’t have to either blow it up, or keep going with the same team. The idea should be to manage the assets on the team. Recoup some value from Gay and Derozan. There are good pieces on this team; Lowry, Amir and Jonas are all very productive. Shed Gay and Derozan for assets (cap space, draft pick, good players on good contracts), and that frees the team up for trades, free agency signings and more chances at the draft.

                That’s not tanking, that’s just good asset management. Demar and Gay might be very talented players, but they have historically been unproductive players, and their production can be replaced.

                • elkabong

                  i would agree with most of that assessment and for those that think you just have a fire sale and climb out of the rubble afterwards it is not really good asset management

                  not so sure how easy it is to replace that 38 points per 36 that Demar/Rudy put up? you want someone else taking the shots so the can drop their shots/game down and appear more productive? there were way too many times they were put in bad spots without much else to do but shoot it up contested but that will get me on a Casey rant so we’ll skip that part. not saying they are untradeable in my mind but the birds in hand look reasonably good until i have a more solid alternative available

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  Replacing points is relatively easy, especially when you’re replacing inefficient scoring. I remember people arguing that the Raptors shouldn’t trade Bargnani because they wouldn’t be able to replace his scoring. That’s probably the worst reason not to trade a player.

                  The question is, is either Gay or DeRozan good enough that they can’t be replaced? I would say definitely not. Neither player is an efficient scorer, yet that is their biggest strength. Gay is inconsistent at just about everything, and a poor decision maker. DeRozan is a poor defender and bad 3 point shooter, plus he can’t create his own shot.

                  I’m really not sure why Raptors fans are so reticent to part with those two guys. Of course I couldn’t understand the same thing when people argued against trading Bargnani, so who knows.

                • elkabong

                  not reticent at all and i’d probably be willing to move anyone if the deal made sense. until that time i’m just not seeing where “tanking” gets us where we eventually want to go any faster or better especially since it’s entirely possible we’d be doing the same thing all over a few years from now. but for now though i’ll take another 3 dudes that can score us 18 points a game since they are a dimeadozen after all 😉

                • SR

                  Two recent examples that didn’t seem to be in very high demand as FA’s are Tyreke Evans and Monta Ellis. Those guys could absolutely replace Gay/DD’s scoring.

                  Anyway, this discussion keeps getting off track with “prove it to me” and “give me scenarios” demands and “there are no guarantees!” protests that are nonsense because they can be made of any proposed strategy, whether you’re for rebuilding this roster or not. Moot points, all of them.

                  It comes down to what path you feel gives this team the greatest odds to acquire elite-level talent. I think most points of view can be categorized into three bullets:

                  1. Look to unload Gay/DD/Lowry contracts soon in order to aim high in the next draft and take advantage of JV’s rookie contract. (Tim W.)

                  2. Rebuild the roster, because it clearly needs to be better, but there’s no need to rush into bad moves just to shoot for a lottery pick in the next draft. It would be better to make sure you make good deals and get good value in return, whether that comes as picks, prospects, trades, or FA’s. (DDayLewis)

                  3. Keep the roster together and maybe internal development, training camp, improved leadership, etc. will make this team a #5-8 seed. Then take it from there. (ItsAboutFun – ?)

                  For #1, the talent level there tips the scales in favour of aiming to take advantage of it. For #2, the draft’s uncertainty is enough that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket – the roster needs to improve, but keep your options open. For #3, The Roster That Colangelo built is, for some mysterious reason, the roster you want to keep watching even though you wanted the GM canned for building it.

                  #1 and #2 make sense to me. I have no idea why anyone’s buying into #3.

                • ItsAboutFun

                  Actually, #3 doesn’t illustrate what I want to see. What I want to see is a combo of 2,3. In other words, exactly what it appears UM is doing: go into the season with this team, evaluate how far players have progressed and how they work as a TEAM (often can be better than sum of stat parts), then decide how much of a rebuild is needed, and what direction it should take.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  I understand. And I don’t see how moving forward with the pieces they have is at all appealing. I don’t care what players do for the team right now, since the team clearly isn’t good enough to do anything of note right now. I’d rather focus entirely on the future.

                • DDayLewis

                  Shot locations for Derozan:

                  http://www.hoopdata.com/player.aspx?name=DeMar%20DeRozan

                  He took 6 shots per game from 16-23 feet (least efficient shot) and only shot 40%. That can be replaced (or hopefully, with better offensive management, eliminated).

                  Shot locations for Gay:

                  http://www.hoopdata.com/player.aspx?name=Rudy%20Gay

                  Small sample size, but he took 4.1 shots from 16-23 feet with us last year and shot 27%. He has averaged ~4 shots per game from this range and historically shot ~35% on these shots.

                  Their inefficient shooting is replaceable, and they do little else on the court.

                • elkabong

                  do you think if Rudy + Demar were to spend the majority of floor time in the same 5 man unit things might just get better? if you don’t well then there is not much to say. for me i’m hoping they end up looking like a much more efficient and competent unit.i’m not an overly big stat guy but i know what i saw when they played together and i liked most of it. i’m hoping the chemistry only gets better with a serious amount of floor time together

                • DDayLewis

                  Obviously, as a Raptors fan, I wish them the best and I hope they play well, but I doubt players like Derozan and Gay will ever be efficient shooters. They have 11 years of NBA experience between them, and in only 1 season did they have shoot better than 1% above league average (per TS%).

                  But consider it from a non-stats perspective. There is no floor spacing because neither of them is a real threat from three-point territory. Both players are at their best when they are driving to the rim, but they’ll be less successful if there is no floor spacing.

                  Just as an example:

                  A lineup of Lowry-Derozan-Fields-Novak-Johnson makes some sense. Lowry and Johnson run the pick and roll, Fields and Novak are stationed at the corners (both are excellent three point shooters), and Demar is the second option.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  THe question isn’t whether things will get better the more they play together. I think that’s most likely going to happen. The question is whether it will ever be good enough to be a) worth their salary, b) risk either losing Gay for nothing or re-signing him to another inflated contract, and mostly importantly, c) help the Raptors be anything more than playoff fodder?

        • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

          “i am beffudled as to how the tank proponents can proclaim that if we tank our future is somehow guaranteed to be brighter”

          Well, your premise is flawed because I even state in my article that no one has ever suggested that there is a guarantee of anything. It’s akin to me saying this team won’t win a Championship next year. No one has ever claimed they will.

          And, yes, there is a chance that the Raptors could end up drafting a disappointing player, but the projected strength of next year’s draft is the best in a long time, plus, if you think Ujiri is a good GM, you have to assume he will make the right decision when drafting.

          The fact of the matter is that Gay and Lowry might end up leaving for nothing, anyway, putting the Raptors in a position where they have no choice but to tank, but without the assets they would have if they had traded Gay and Lowry when they had them, and not in a year when they is such a strong draft class.

          And not tanking isn’t a guarantee this team will even make the playoffs, so I’m not sure why you’re bringing up guarantees, anyway.

          • elkabong

            you wrote the article entitled the way it was and wrote a bunch of interesting stuff. yes the disclaimer was there about no guarantees etc but the focus is on the top 5 picks is it not? in the comments it appeared to me you went a little father with “The question is, are Gay, Lowry and DeRozan good enough to worth risking the future on?” which seems to me to be a very definitive statement and i thought i’d challenge that position. if you really think we can fire sale and just dump those three and end up up in the bottom 5 overall and that pick will net us a possible future stud then it doesn’t seem like all that good an idea to me. if you really think those 3 will net additional 2014 lottery picks i’d like to hear some of those scenarios since that seems very far fetched to me. i’d rather take my chances waiting for deals that made sense than to just blindly declare we need to unload these 3 so we can “try” to get into the 2014 first 5 picks.

            as for the future i’d rather be holding a known quantity for now and figure out who’s contract i’d rather move than keep down the road and i highly doubt our new GM will get caught flatfooted as guys leave town with nothing to show

            • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

              You misunderstand. My point is that you are betting the future on Gay, DeRozan and Lowry if you keep them. Are they good enough to bet the future on?

              It’s obviously a risk, but teams that don’t take high upside risks generally don’t ever do anything. Jerry West risked a lot when he traded a top 5-10 center for a high school SG who lasted until the 13th pick. Pat Riley risked a hell of a lot when he cleared all his assets to make room to sign LeBron and Bosh to join with Wade. In both cases, the GMs had no idea if their bet would payoff, but they knew that if it did, then they could hit the jackpot. It also could have been a disaster if it didn’t work. Keeping Gay, DeRozan and Lowry will never be hitting the jackpot. It is simply the safer option that will allow the Raptors to compete for a playoff spot.

              • elkabong

                oh i got your point and i liked the fact you tried to lay out a lot of facts that supported your argument. however it seems to me the reality of the situation is that if we firesale we can not get anywhere near the value we could/should for any of those 3 and the packages are not going to include any extra 2014 lottery picks in my estimation. everyone who is the least bit of a basketball fan knows this draft is loaded so unless you are willing to part with a young future stud as in Jrue you aren’t going to get a 2014 pick,let alone an early one. once a team has traded for a Rudy/Demar/Lowry you would expect their expectations are to improve in the standings which will only drive those picks further and further from your coveted top 5. to deal all 3 away and “possibly ” end up bad enuff to scoop our own lottery pick seems like hitting the reset button to get maybe one highly coveted prospect and even then i think there are gonna be some godawful teams fighting it out for that bottom 5 so even removing those 3 is not likely gonna be enuff to get us there in my estimation. i’ve no problemo with a reset when it makes sense but i just don’t think the current landscape allows you to do what you’d like to do so the answer to the question for me is no i don’t see how the future gets considerably brighter simply by the immediate subtraction of Rudy/Demar/Lowry

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      If you’re looking at percentages, what is the chance the team can upgrade the current roster into something that could contend for a title? Is it better than the chance of acquiring an elite player in a loaded draft? What happens if the current roster doesn’t even make the playoffs? What happens if both Gay and Lowry leave for nothing next summer?

  • Adrian Howard

    I think the real question is…is it worth tanking this year and being a horrible team for a couple more for the chance at getting players who based on the law of averages are much more likely to end up like Rudy Gay or Derozan than Lebron or Wade.

    And I don’t think its fair to look at this draft differently yet. If we remember last year at this time, many of us thought Archie Goodwin and Shabazz Muhammad were top 5 picks and likely stars. If halfway through the season the Raptors aren’t doing well and 5 or 6 guys in college are having Kevin Durant like college seasons, then there is a reason to tank I think.

    • vino

      So your point is that we do not know how good the
      upcoming draft class really is. You’re right – we (fans) probably don’t;
      however, I find it hard to believe professional scouts, who do this for leaving
      have to wait till mid-season in order to fully assess the upcoming talent
      lever. I’d bet Ujiri himself has a pretty good idea at this point. As for your
      other argument – sucking for a few years just to see another Gay or DD grow… it
      could happen, no one says it won’t 100% – but if you consider just two main
      points: 1. Ujiri and his team draft better than BC 2. 2014 draft class is
      better than average I think most fans would agree it’s worth the risk to tank
      (just based on this argument).

      Unfortunately, the Raps may have to wait till the
      trade deadline because no GM would offer a lottery pick in next year’s draft
      for any of Gay/Lowry/DD right now. A lot could happen between now and then. The
      only thing we could hope for, as fans, is for these three players to play well
      so we have options – either keeping (one, two or all three) or trading them at
      a high value.

      • ItsAboutFun

        “I think most fans would agree it’s worth the risk to tank”

        Is there any evidence of this? Because any polls I’ve seen say the opposite.

        • vino

          *(just based on this argument).

          selective reading?

          • ItsAboutFun

            Not at all. That argument has been made over, and over, and over,,,, yet evidence is that “most fans agree” is simply not true.