The story from yesterday was that the Raptors might shut down Jonas Valanciunas for the remaining thee games, or two games, or one game of the tournament. The first of those games is tonight at 6PM versus Phoenix, whose summer league team can probably beat their NBA team. It’s been nice to see Valanciunas go out there and make a splash, even if it is on the not-so-legendary courts of the Thomas & Mack Center in Vegas. We’re so starved for something that closely resembles success and garners us any attention that we’ll take what we can get. So, if it’s a choice between having Valanciunas rest for Eurobasket, or dominate in summer league, I think I speak for us all when I say:

moar

D.J Augustin, as you know, is the latest signing coming in at a little over a million, and people seem to be split on whether he’s actually any use or not. The naysayers point to his years as a Bobcats starter and his play in Indiana last year, where the Pacers would rather play George Hill 89 minutes a game than give Augustin a second of burn. Those in favour look at his years in Charlotte as a backup and suggest that this is a buy-low kind of deal with little risk. I say that options are thin and you can’t have Dwight Buycks as the backup on opening day because that would essentially take us back to the Will Solomon days. Therefore, you present a relatively known NBA name and Augustin snuggles in nicely and cheaply into whatever the Raptors are trying to do.

And they are trying to do one of three things:

  1. Legitimately compete for a playoff spot
  2. Deploy the tank-brigade
  3. See if they can compete for a playoff spot, and if they can’t, fuel up the tank-brigade

A patient man like Masai Ujiri, flanked by Tim Leiweke, is not going to scoff at the possibilities offered by next year’s draft class. At the same time you can’t make that a public goal, especially if you’re a brand new GM and you’re trying to sell and renew season tickets. This is the time to build hope and gain support, not dish out bad news that’ll keep the public away for another year.

With that in mind, option #3 is basically what the Raptors will be doing. The situation does lend itself nicely to trying #1, and using #3 as a fall-back plan (or is it the other way around?). Having a depth chart that isn’t two-deep at any position is screaming – for those listening – the proposition that the club would like to see what exactly they have in their secondary talents (Ross, Fields and Acy, pretty much) and whether they can support the mediocre primary talent (i.e., Gay, DeRozan, Lowry, Johnson) in achieving something that tingles. By Christmas, the answer should be there and then you can up or down shift via trade. Nobody is likely to notice either way.

The question isn’t necessarily what the Raptors are trying to do this season, but how long will it be before Ujiri gets to build his own team, rather than fix Bryan Colangelo’s mess. The rejected Rudy Gay deal would’ve brought that opportunity a year closer as Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey were expiring deals, but clearly it would have come at the expense of losing Jose Calderon and Ed Davis for nothing. That would hurt. Still, I feel, that this team can win or tank with or without Rudy Gay – he’s just that versatile of a player! So, if you’re of the opine of Tim W., and have wet, tanking, dreams, or if you prefer the Raptors turn in a Milwaukee Bucksish playoff performance, guess what? Given the roster currently assembled, there’s around a 50-50 chance of either happening!

The perfect scenario for the Raptors (and MLSE) is to frame the team as one that’s trying to win, only to discover that there are mortal flaws and end up in the lottery. There’s even someone totally deserving to blame: Colangelo. See, things simply can’t go wrong this season.

So, just enjoy tonight’s playoff game. I’ll see if someone’s around to live tweet it at @RRGameTime.

Finally, Kelvin Lee – you paid us $100 for Raptors tickets and to scrimmage at the ACC on Monday, but you didn’t leave any contact info – no email, phone, nothing. So, if you want to come play ball, it’s best you shoot me an email at [email protected] ASAP.

  • Aaron

    Who’s going to start at Center for JV tonight?

    • arsenalist

      Sanuicnalav Sanoj

      • David Bassily

        No really… Who is it?

  • Optifan

    So much pessimism by raps fans these days. I think the team will surprise people this year.

    Which is why I’m glad Masai is taking option #3 rather than #2.

    • Aaaaa

      I don’t know why some people even think tanking is an option. It’s only going to happen if something major happens such as injuries to key players, but then that’s the case for almost every team out there. As it currently stands the team is too good to tank, and if they wait until midseason, the teams that have been tanking all yr will have had too much of a start and the raps will end up in the 6-8th pick range again

    • onemanweave

      You people have not been listening to what OUR MODERATOR is saying! There is only one goal — a championship; A Championship; A CHAMPIONSHIP!!!!!!

      Making the playoffs will not make us happy. Well-played games will never please us. The goal of the TORaps, unlike the rest of the dolts who never even think about it, is to WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP~!!!!!!!!!!!

      To do this you just have to acquire a talent like LeBron or Kobe or Duncan or Michael or Bill Russell. They come along every year. Just pick one off the tree. However, the REALLY good news is that NEXT year there are EIGHT future super stars lining up.

      The EVEN BETTER news is that few, if any, NBA GM’s are aware of this. You can hoodwink them out of a young superstar faster than you can say Picket Fence. They, unlike anyone here who has been paying attention, have no idea the bonanza that awaits.

      Tanking, remember, doesn’t involve losing games towards no good end. It means trading our mediocre assets for the up to eight readily-available super stars — kind of like what Masai and the rest of the GM’s are trying to do if any of their counterparts have a brain cramp.

      Do NOT look for improvement. We spit on playoffs. We want a CHAMPIONSHIP — unlike those other pathetic franchises. Eight superstars; eight superstars; EIGHT SUPER STARS!!!!!!!

      • Nathan Monteith

        As a fan, the joy of winning a championship, that feeling, lasts for about week. Then you kind of forget about it (unless you’re a player). You feel it again the next year for about another week starting off the season as ‘defending’ champs. Then you kinda forget. My point is, watching your team win is a joy. Even during the raps losing years, you enjoyed every 27-38 wins. You just do. it’s fun. I just don’t feel like spending the year only enjoying 18 games, hoping we’ll get a superstar (and you say it like it’s a guarantee, it’s not) vs. enjoying 40-50 games every year, and maybe one day it coming together like Indiana.

        • ItsAboutFun

          I think he was being sarcastic. The biggest clue might be “They come along every year. Just pick one off the tree.”

          • smh

            the biggest clue was “faster than you can say Picket Fence. “

        • ezz_bee

          I could not disagree with you more. I remember when the Blue Jays won back to back championships in 92 and 93, and I STILL LOVE IT!!! I don’t even really give a crap about baseball, but watching those playoff games during thanksgiving dinner, are a found memory that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. I still hang my commemorative Blue Jays Championship Christmas ornaments on my tree every year. When I think about all the people who were too young to watch the Jays win the World Series (and I barely made the cut, being about 10 at the time) or were born afterwards, I’m amazed about how much they’ve missed out.

          As I said I’m not a Jays fan (I’ve been to one game in the last 5 years) and have watched about 20 innings in the last decade, but my memories of those championships are priceless, and I can assure that I will keep with me for the rest of my days.

          I can’t imagine how crazy it would be for me if the raptors won the NBA championship. Honestly, if they win 1 in my lifetime, I will die happy. Seriously. Of course I’ve enjoyed good wins that they’ve had. And the time they beat the Knicks to win a playoff series holds a dear sport in my heart.

          How can you forget a championship? That’s just CRAZY!!!

        • Dr Scooby

          How about winning 33-46 games next year and the year after that and so on -sometimes getting into the post season, but usually not. I’ve been told the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again thinking the result somehow will be different the next time.

          No thank you.

          BUT instead of having the bloated contracts of Rudy Gay & DD and soon to be bloated contract of Kyle Lowry (all of whose talent ceiling has already been revealed) you win 20-26 games next season, draft a stud prospect and a couple of up and comer draft picks to grow and mature with Valanciunus & company and a lot more cap space + the genuine optimism of perhaps being eventually a 50-60 win team season after season.

          Yes please, serve it up.

      • truth be told

        You’re a clever fool

  • Tara Walkden

    I agree Optifan. I’m just glad we have a damn team & guys who actually WANT to play in Canada and represent us. Lot of potential this year

  • marc

    Is there any chance we can trade for the #1 pick (Wiggins) next year? With our first pick for the next 5 yrs?

  • Statement

    Scrimmage at the ACC on Monday? I thought it was next Thursday. WTF.

    • arsenalist

      Bieber changed it – you should have gotten an email. I just sent you one right now.

  • ezz_bee

    I would love for the team to win a championship, but to be honest I’m soo starved for success that I’ll be happy with a second round appearance. Seriously, if the raps WON a playoff series I would go crazy!!! I would even forgo a tank if there was a legit chance to make it to the second round. Unfortunately, with this squad I don’t see it happening. And just making the playoffs is NOT good enough for me. The regular season doesn’t count. All that matters is the playoffs, and just showing up in the first round and losing 4-0, 4-1, or 4-2 just does not cut it. I’ve seen both winning in the first round and losing in the first round, and I have no interest in cheering for a team who has very very very low odds at getting out of the first round. Although I still will.

    Unless JV is better than all-star, I don’t see us getting out of the first round (I secretly hope he is and can!) So I won’t be upset with some sort of tank maneuver.

  • Commonsensical

    Seeeee the thing about tanking is that when the “superstar” you are allegedly guaranteed to draft, is that you have to sign them to an extension! Now how do you think the raptors would do that if they’re losers during the three years our superstar is becoming a superstar? I’m sick of this hard on for tanking. Build a winning franchise that is consistently competitive and the players will come. Who knows in 3 years maybe wiggins will want to come toronto and if we have a winning product why wouldn’t he? Let some one else breed him. We’ll just sit back and reap the benefits. Boiiiiiiiiii

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

      Teams basically have five years before they would lose a player they draft for nothing, and usually player will sign one extension with a team. And if it’s done right, in three years, it would be obvious to the superstar that the team has a lot of potential.

      As for assuming Wiggins would come in three years, that’s two years into his five year rookie contract. Not sure how that would work.

      And how has winning consistently helped the Hawks bring great free agents? Or Denver?

      There’s a difference between winning consistently and being a contender, and most players know the difference.

      • Guest

        I don’t know why the Hawks are ever used as an argument for tanking. You seem to have forgotten that before “winning consistently,” the Hawks used to lose consistently for the better part of a decade. They were a bottom five team almost every year and where did it get them? From 2000 until 2007, they finished with the 5th, 5th, 8th, 8th, 4th, 1st, 3rd and 4th worst record in each season. Anecdotal arguments prove nothing.

        Every team wants to win the championship, just as every team hopes to draft that transcendent franchise player to lead them to one, but the fact remains that every year only one team wins the championship, and none of Lebron James, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard (arguably the #1 transcendent franchise player at each of their positions and drafted in the last 10 years) brought a championship to the team that drafted them. Only Wade did, but he had a pretty big helper acquired through very unique circumstances each time around.

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

          The Hawks have been a playoff team for the last 6 seasons (currently the third longest streak in the league). They have a perennial All Star big man, in Al Horford. They had more cap room this summer than all but three other teams in the league. Using the same argument that those use who claim the Raptors just need to win to attract players, the Hawks should have been a prime destination this summer. They weren’t.

          Before the Hawks were a playoff team, they were a lottery team for 8 seasons. Do you know one good reason the Hawks were a lottery team for 8 seasons?

          They did things like:
          – Drafting Dermarr Johnson at 6th in the 2000 draft (although it was an historically weak draft)
          – Drafting Pau Gasol only to trade him for Shareef Abdur-Rahim in 2001
          -Trading TWO first round picks (#18 in 2000 and #8 in 2002) for Lorenzen Wright
          – Drafting Josh Childress at #6 in 2004, just ahead of Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala, both of whom were considered better prospects at the time. it was a pick that was roundly criticized at the time.
          – In another move that was roundly criticized at the time, took Marvin Williams, a player who didn’t even start on his college team, at #2 ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, in 2005, despite desperately needing a PG and despite both Paul and Williams being considered better prospects at the time.
          – To make it three drafts in a row that were criticized by everyone, in 2006 they took Sheldon Williams WAY ahead of where he was projected, at #5 ahead of Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay.

          So the Hawks weren’t mired in the lottery for so many years because they were tanking. THey were mired in the lottery because they made some of the worst draft picks made during that time.

          By the way, the GM of Atlanta for that time was Billy Knight, the guy who now runs the Brooklyn Nets. So maybe it’s no wonder he’s so quick to give up draft picks because he can’t draft worth crap.

          • rh0

            Billy King vs. Billy Knight . . . .

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

              Mmm. I stand corrected. For some reason, every time I saw Billy King’s name, I substituted Billy Knight, for some reason. All this time, I thought the GM of the Nets was the same game who did a horrible job in Atlanta and was wondering why on earth anyone would hire him, again.