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:
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:
- Legitimately compete for a playoff spot
- Deploy the tank-brigade
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP.