Over the last few months, I’ve become something of an unintentional advocate for the Toronto Raptors not tanking. While I’m not particularly dogmatic about it (for me it’s more about circumstance than ideology), as the season wears on I become increasingly compelled by the idea of trying to turn this team into something more potent today that won’t unduly hamper the club’s future after this season.

There are two areas of dysfunction that I believe are severely holding the Raptors back right now, and that is pick-and-roll play and Rudy Gay’s shot selection.

The former is an area that actually has significant ramifications on today and tomorrow. The Raptors simply do not run enough pick-and-roll action to get Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson involved in the team’s offensive sets, which is having a huge impact on their ability to run an efficient offence. Valanciunas is, oddly, being used exclusively in post-up situations or on pump-fake-and-drive isolations, while Johnson’s being forced to feed himself on tip-ins and long-range jump shots. These are two of the team’s most efficient offensive players when used correctly, yet right now both are being abandoned systematically in order to focus on isolation play by the club’s perimeter players.

While this is more of an irritation when talking about Johnson, it’s actually a problem when talking about Valanciunas. This guy is being pegged as the team’s future. To all of those that feel that the Raptors need to tank to get an A1 kind of star to Toronto, there are plenty within the organization that feel they already have that in Valanciunas. However, right now he is being treated like an afterthought out on the court rather than an integral cog that is key to the team’s present and future success.

That’s why bringing in a pick-and-roll point guard is so important for this team going forward. Kyle Lowry is having a perfectly fine year. He’s a bit off of his per-36 minute averages from a season ago, but his usage rate has also dropped to it’s lowest point since his rookie year, so that helps account for the drop-off in statistical production. Still, at his best Lowry is far more of a driver that looks for his own offence rather than a pick-and-roll tactician. He can run a pick-and-roll, don’t get me wrong, but you cannot base an offence around his ability to run effective and deadly pick-and-rolls dozens of times per game. That would not only be a strain on Lowry’s creativity as a playmaker, but it would also box him into a role that doesn’t exploit his greatest strengths. Plus, since the Raptors aren’t exactly making use of his entire repertoire of assets right now, anyway (look back at that low usage rate), it’s not exactly like they’d be losing an irreplaceable player if they were to decide to recast their starting point guard role.

Of course, you cannot all of a sudden bring in a new point guard and run dozens of pick-and-rolls with Valanciunas and Johnson each game if you still have Rudy Gay eating 19.4 shots per contest (most on the club and third-most in the NBA). Watching Gay on offence is like hopping into a time machine and being warped back to the NBA circa the year 2000. His refusal to work for good shots (for himself or for his teammates) is truly awe-inspiring. Worse still are his momentum-killing catches where he just stands there with the ball in his hands while the entire offensive machine comes to a halt to wait for him to make a decision. Then there is how shockingly careless he is with the ball… actually, you need a lot more than one paragraph to fully encapsulate the damage that Gay does to Toronto’s offence so let’s suffice it to say that 19.4 FGA per game set against a .467 True Shooting Percentage and 2.1 assists per game is not a workable combination for a healthy NBA offence.

To that end Ujiri has to get out from under Gay and his style of play. This isn’t even about his contract (well, it’s a little bit about his contract, but everything is when you make more than twice what your next highest paid teammate makes), this is about the Raptors designing an offense that puts the ball into the hands of their most effective players, one, and most important players for the future, two.

It’s not that Valanciunas has to receive all 19.4 of Gay’s shots, that would be preposterous. At this point, however, spreading those shots around to other players would almost instantaneously make the Raptors a more efficient offensive club, regardless of whom the team got to ultimately replace Gay at small forward.

Which brings us around to the question that most would people are probably asking at this point: okay, smart guy, who should the Raptors be chasing to make all these dreams come true?

I’m not going to play the trade machine game, here. I’ve got two names, don’t worry, and they are both ‘gettable’ and on realistic contracts, but I’m not going to go through the machinations of designing trade scenarios that could make them happen. Over the last few years I’ve been so consistently gobsmacked by the players that have been included in trades (even as cap ballasts or sweeteners) that I’m not going to bother guessing what they could be here because a) It just creates message board fodder and b) any real trade involves a greater depth of knowledge of a team’s future plans than anyone outside a team’s management has access to. So, for that reason I’m just going to throw out my names, justify them and then open myself up to a little Monday morning savaging.

The first up is Goran Dragic, Phoenix’s former point guard of the future before Eric Bledsoe arrived on the scene. Dragic is a skilled pick-and-roll point guard (partly tutored by one of the best to ever do it, Steve Nash) and it is only a matter of time before Phoenix sends him packing since the aforementioned Bledsoe has done enough early to ease any fears that he can be a real NBA starting point guard. He makes $7.5-million this year, next year and in 2015-16. Now, that’s not an onerous salary for a starting point guard (though it is for a secondary point guard, a role he plays in Phoenix), but it does limit one’s overall flexibility somewhat, and that is worth taking into account.

However, he’s just now entering his prime (he’s 27) and he plays a style that blends much better with Valanciunas, Johnson and even DeMar DeRozan if he can keep hitting that corner three. It’s a shame that his own three-point shot has disappeared from his game, and that’s a real sore point in today’s NBA, but so long as he can punish people with a pull-up in pick-and-roll situations to keep defences honest he’d be a fine asset in a revamped Raptors offence.

The other player is one that I think the Raptors should make a real push for, and that’s Luol Deng.

Deng is not a crazy exceptional player in any one regard, but he is as steady as a metronome and could really help increase the level of basketball maturity of the Raptors. He can hit open shots, play noteworthy defence, keep the ball moving on offence and act as the leader that this club still lacks on and off the court.

It’s actually that aspect that intrigues me most about Deng. Look at the credit David West is given within the Pacers organization for solidifying their recent resurgence and realize that at some point the Raptors will have to inject a similar level of maturity into their operation. That sort of dependable, veteran savvy from a guy that can still play and play at a high level (remember Deng is only 28, he has lots of basketball left in him) is something that the Raptors haven’t had since Antonio Davis was around (most will reflexively think of Charles Oakley, but Oakley was on a definite downward trend when he arrived in Toronto).

Now, exactly how gettable Deng is is debatable right now. With Derrick Rose out for the season you could argue that a one-year deal like the one possessed by Lowry might be a solid starting place for trade talks, but Deng is a Tom Thibodeau favourite and even if he’s a free agent at the end of the season that Chicago is hesitant to pay, there might be larger ramifications within the organization if he is sent packing. Plus, even though his contract is ending, his $14.3 million price tag is not the easiest to wedge into a trade.

Still, watching this Raptors team play you can see how badly they need that kind of steadying force. They need that key cog that won’t drive into double coverage and then shoot a pull-up jumper at a key moment in the game. Someone’s who’s play on the court demands a certain accountability by all of his teammates. It’s not like Deng (or someone like him) has to come in and dominate the ball club. They “simply” have to be a model of dependability, resilience and maturity, someone who shows his teammates with his preparation and play how a team achieves that next level of consistency. There is a reason Thibodeau plays Deng more minutes per game than any other player in the NBA; it’s because good things happen when he is on the court.

Yes, acquiring players like this takes the Raptors out of the running for Tankapalooza 2014. However, it doesn’t handcuff them financially in any significant way and they can use pieces like these to improve their play internally while climbing another wrung on the ladder. If you subscribe to the theory that the Raptors could actually get bad enough to have a real, serious chance at landing a top pick, then none of this can (or should) be the least bit appealing to you. If, on the other hand, you don’t see a clear path to a top pick next spring, then taking calculated steps towards being a little bit better tomorrow than the club is today makes sense – especially with the East being as putrid as it is this season. I’m not advocating that the Raptors make these moves so as not to tank, I’m just saying that I don’t think tanking is a realistic option and so here is one possible alternative to act as a stand in.

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  • Roarque

    Good article Tim. I like the way you think. Getting the pick and roll guy is key – especially if Kyle is planning/considering walking to another team after this year. I don’t know Dragic well but I am familiar with the scenario where a great PnR point guard is underappreciated by a GM who brings other PGs onto the scene until the great point guard finally gets the picture and leaves. Did you talk about Dragic in the defensive end of the court?
    I truly wish you had a chance with the Deng trade scenario and if anyone can do it then it would be Masai. Striking while the iron is hot in Chicago may work but Thibodeau might just murder his GM if the trade actually happens. I’m not joking he actually might walk into the guy’s office and beat him to death. Mean sob that Thibodeau. Besides, doesn’t Amir properly used do an equivalent job to Deng?

    • 2damkule

      is it really lowry, or is it the fact that the raps have two wings who don’t work in a PnR env’t, who need the ball to be effective, and who are generally iso players? IMO, you remove gay from the equation, and it opens up a lot of other opportunities.

  • Axel

    Gay needs to go. Move him for anything at this point.

    • thegloveinrapsuniform

      that would be the knee-jerk reaction, but if Masai has no plans of tanking, then i say keep him, and keep him under control. i still think Casey needs to be the first to go. He has no control over this team. He cant control DD and Gay’s shot volume and selection, he cant control Valanciunas’ development and he cant control Lowry’s play as PG. Gay’s been good, when he wants to be. And i really think a good coach can push him to be his best every single game.

      • Brett Charles Pilon

        Gay is getting better, so is Lowry, so is DD. Casey is fine for at least the first half the season.

        • sleepz

          What is getting better? Do you mean improving his skills and becoming a better player, or he’s ‘getting better’ because he’s shooting 40% instead of the 38% he is currently shooting?

          You want to say DD is getting better because of an improved 3 pt shot….. that makes sense. The rest of his game hasn’t but I can definitely see improvement in his shooting, but you are not getting any other tangible improvement out of these guys as they’re vets. Look at Gay’s numbers the past 3 years. He’s declining, not ‘getting better’.

          • thegloveinrapsuniform

            I think what he means is that Gay was horrible during the first couple of games on the season, but now he’s getting better. playing better defense and passing the ball. i wouldnt call it better tho, i would refer to it as, less horrible.

            I actually refer to Gay as Lebron in reverse, because as we all know, Lebron used to play like a beast from 1st to 3rd, then chokes on the 4th, while Gay plays horrible from 1-3 then explodes in the 4th.

    • Huey Newton

      Rob Babcock…is…is that you..?

      • arsenalist

        Alonzo Mourning sounds good.

  • Jon S

    The East is just like the baseball episode from South Park where no one wants to win. Indy and Miami are the only 2 locks. So I don’t see the harm in getting another PG and or getting a SF who fits better with this team.

  • Marc

    Playing around with Trade Machine I could see the following:
    Rudy Gay and Steve Novak to the Suns for Dragic and Okafor (Okafor is injured and has an expiring contract)
    Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson (I know, we love him) for Derrick Williams, JJ Barea and Dante Cunningham.

  • Brett Charles Pilon

    There is no tanking for the Raptors, at our worse, we are a 10th pick or so team, but a team that with a couple smart moves could be in the thick of things. We need a versatile bigman who can play center, a guy who can put the ball in the basket inside of 10 feet at a good percentage and we need a solid two way point guard that can play some two guard if needed to not conflict in getting minutes so much with Lowry. shed a couple dead weights in doing so, get some young guys with talent and potential to grow with us for the future that don’t need nor demand minutes today but to grow with the program maybe some day be a part of the main program or be a piece when traded somewhere else. A Spurs type program.

    • ac1011990

      Lolz im pretty sure it would just be easier to tank then try to get all of that this season.

  • LeeZ

    Here’s how it gets done (this works in the Trade Machine, as of Dec. 15 due to f.a. being part of it): Chicago sends us Deng, Boozer and Heinrich. We send them Rudy, Lowry, Fields and Hansbrough. Why Chicago does it: they desperately need a pg with DRose out. They already wanted to swap Boozer for Gay last year, so there’s proven interest there, plus they need offence in a big way now, so Rudy will be attractive to them. Why Raps do it: Deng and Heinrich amount to 19 million coming off our books at the end of the season. We’ll be able to entice Deng to stay on, since we’ll be able to pay him more than anyone else, but even if we can’t, we’ll be able to retool with the extra cash. And no more Rudy to saddle down our payroll and offence. Meanwhile, Boozer will be a huge trade deadline chip to use next year. By getting rid of PsychoT, that’ll hurt our team and help with the tanking (I see this trade as a facilitator for a modified tank job), and having Heinrich run our offence will hurt even more. Balancing that out is Boozer who’s an improvement over Amir and will allow Amir to come off the bench, a role he’s more ideally suited to. Getting rid of Fields force feeds minutes to Ross and hastens his development. Getting rid of Lowry and Gay gives JV more touches and hastens his development. Also, Acy gets more burn now that Hansbrough isn’t there. I think we can get into the top 10 in the draft if we make this trade. Thoughts?

    • arsenalist

      I’m so tired of these scenarios. Why can’t we just try to compete and win now, what is the point of luring Deng and re-upping him so he can play the same position as DeRozan. Boozer a huge trade deadline chip? Why? Won’t be Gay be a deadline chip or whatever you’re talking about too?

      I tried reading your post and got somewhere around the middle before I skimmed it…the only part I liked is the part about getting rid of Fields which can’t be bad under any circumstance.

      Also, this little nugget:

      “Getting rid of Lowry and Gay gives JV more touches and hastens his development.”

      Why o why are we so against Lowry? What has the man done to take away touches from JV? The guy takes 10 shots a game!

      Jesus, can we for once stop taking four steps back and going back to retooling, rebuilding, building, accelerated rebuilding, or whatever it’s called. Just see where the current team takes you and sing Wiggins as a free agent. LIKE A BOSS>

      TL;DR: Ughh.

      • LeeZ

        Why against Lowry? Yes, he only takes 10 shots a game. Actually, he should be taking more, but whatever. The problem with him is not that he takes too many shots, but that he ignores JV in favour of the black hole that is Rudy. Yes, Gay would be a huge chip as well, but we’d have to put up with his offence-destroying self, whereas Boozer would at least be a good team player.

        • arsenalist

          Yeah, I’d lay that “ignoring” on the coach more than the PG. Lowry doesn’t have carte blanche on who gets touches and who doesn’t. I like JV as much as the next guy, but the guy needs to be a tad more vocal, maybe adopt something from the Andrew Bynum page of demanding the ball.


          • LeeZ

            Well, yes and no. It’s a chicken and egg thing. Does KL not distribute the ball better (i.e. more evenly) because he’s told not to bother? Or is he told not to bother because he’s bad at distributing the ball evenly? With his explosiveness, the dude should be doing what he showed us the first 15 games last season: take it to the hole every time and either shoot or kick it out. Believe me, everyone would get awesome touches if he did that. But no, he dribbles slowly down the court and passes it to his man crush and then he, like all of Toronto, falls asleep while we watch Gay dribble in place from side to side and between his legs and up and then back down his ass for 12 seconds. And then the opponent laughs and calmly strips the ball from him, much like Harrison Ford: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anEuw8F8cpE

            • arsenalist

              Casey’s offense is predicated on working through DeRozan and Gay – that’s his thing. There are no JV/Lowry pick ‘n roll sets in our offense because they’re not what Casey believes are the best use of possessions. I disagree, and so do you, but let’s not lay that on Lowry. I’m not privy to how much offense Casey affords Lowry (maybe a reporter can ask that question), but based on what I’ve seen, there is a focus of running the offense through Gay and DeRozan, not so much Valanciunas.

              I agree that Lowry could perhaps do more, read the game better, and start calling plays for JV, but I’m inclined to think that Casey has a strong say in whether he’s able to do that. Lowry is not a selfish player and this idea that he’s giving it to his “man crush” because they’re friends is asinine.

              • LeeZ

                Fair enough. But come on, how does a guy get some love around here? I thought that Raiders clip is the PERFECT analogy for Gay and his ridiculous “prelude to a drive”. Cracks me up every time!

                • sitnonDfence

                  Its quite rare to see JV haing his defender completely sealed off, the kid rarely even does post up 101. Seal your man and take a step to the ball. He pretty much stands there and expects someone to spoon feed it to him. His decision making is more than questionable in the post. He only has one move to speak of, and as of late thats been limited even more by the fact that he wont take that short jumper that we was so proficient at in his rookie year.
                  Rudy is the better option over boozer, there is no option to suggest that boozer would be a ” better team player” assists are low and you would be elimintating our best closer, and wing defender. Not to mention what do you think will happene to JV’s post touches when hes got boozer parked on the opposite block?
                  I am a HUGE believer in JV proving to me that he can be that defensive presence in the middle and rebound at a well above average rate. Once he proves that than we can talk about touches. If he cant be that guy, then frankly hes expendable.
                  How soon we forget what coddling a lottery pick gets you.

                • FLUXLAND

                  “(I am a HUGE believer in JV) proving to me that he can be that defensive
                  presence in the middle and rebound at a well above average rate. Once he
                  proves that than we can talk about touches. If he cant be that guy,
                  then frankly hes expendable”… plus the stuff about setting up in the post. The kid is waay to slow and gets bucked way too easily.

                  I’ve been saying that for quite a while, but all you will get around here is FREE JV! HE’S THE FRANCHISE! Bigs don’t play D in Toronto.

              • ezz_bee

                I think most people on the site are pretty ambivalent towards Lowry. I don’t think this has much to do with his play but more to do with the fact that he’s an expiring contract. Even if you like him it’s pretty impossible to resign him if Gay picks up his player option. Why not try to trade him for something now while you can still get something for him? The alternative (and i’m not sure about the rules) would be extending him in season. I don’t want Lowry to be a free agent as a Raptor. If you can’t extend him (at a good price) then it makes sense to trade him, no?

      • theswirsky

        Yes! Finally someone with some insight.
        9 years from now lets sign Wiggins! From now until then lets just see where organic growth gets us.
        The only thing better than a plan is no plan at all. You can’t lose when you shrug your shoulder at standards and expectations.

      • thegloveinrapsuniform

        where is TFTW when you need him???

      • sleepz

        Some of us can’t because the team sucks and we’ve been watching this kind of basketball for almost a decade.

        It’s not fun and some of us are tired of the same cycle, rinse, repeat that is customary for these type of fringe teams. There is little to no upside here. We’ve seen where this type of team goes and I don’t need to re-live it again, which is why some of us are not content with the ‘just enjoy the ride wherever it take us’, or ‘its a process’.

        Sustainability and the development of a team on the upswing. That’s what I want. This is not that.

        I don’t care if this draft coming up was like last years draft (very few big time prospects). I would still be looking for them to tear it down because this foundation was built on sand.

      • Blake


  • hateslosing

    I’m not sure I’d trade Gay for Deng straight up right now. Gay, for all his offensive struggles, is still shooting 39% from 3 and while he does take way too many shots, that’s something that can be corrected with coaching. They are about even in terms of rebounding. Gay is also still the only guy on this team that I want to give the ball with the game on the line. Derozan can also make some plays I guess but Rudy seems to thrive in crunch time. Deng is a good player but I actually prefer Rudy, provided they can get the chucking under control.
    I like the idea of running more pick and rolls, and if we could get Dragic that would be great. How is he defensively though? The whole idea of going with Lowry instead of Calderon (who was an excellent pick and roll tactician) was that Lowry was cheaper and played better D. Is Dragic better than Calderon at those things? I personnally don’t see why you can’t run the pick and roll with Lowry or even with DD or Rudy. It’s just a matter of the coaches telling the guys what they want to see and making it happen.

    • Ian Reynolds

      If it was something that could be corrected with coaching, it would have been corrected sometime in the last 19200 minutes he’s played in the NBA. He’s a below average 3 point shooter at 34 percent over his career, and don’t you think we should be careful judging players on 13 game bursts???

      I’d way rather have Deng than Gay, but that said, Deng is going to be run into the ground in Chicago and it’s going to shorten his career. I feel like he’s older than his age.

  • Brett Charles Pilon

    The Raptors need to learn how to use there big men, everytime they get there hands on proper big men, they grossly miss use them or don’t use them at all. I thought when we got Rudy Gay, what a great move, a high level player who knows how to utilize and play with big men on both ends, so far that has been a mediocre connection.

  • Hot Water

    I can appreciate the optimism but you left out the part about just how the Raptors would go about acquiring Deng & Dragic without including at least two of DD, JV or Amir. That seems like somewhat relevant information, no?

    Rudy for Deng? Lowry for Dragic? Please explain to me why the Suns or Bulls would be motivated to do those deals in the slightest.

    The only way they would even consider something like that is if the Raptors start stapling first round picks to Gay/Lowry on their way out of town, and if that’s the case, I’d ask why the team bothered getting rid of Colangelo if they were determined to keep repeating his same mistakes.

    • Huey Newton

      Chicago would do Deng for Gay in a hot second, and then send Masai a fruit basket and a juicy Christmas ham to go with it. The real question is, why would the Raptors engage in such a Babcockian move?

      • SR

        Because Gay, for all his talent, arguably doesn’t have that great of a net impact on the team. Deng is the opposite – a low profile player who helps the team win in all kinds of ways that don’t show up in box scores or on highlight reels. There’s a reason Thibs, who is a great coach, loves Deng.

        Reason #2 would be because Deng would complement the Raptors roster far better. As mentioned, if Gay’s shots were to go to Jonas, Amir, and Ross, the whole team’s short-term and long-term prospects would improve. Jonas and Amir are more efficient on the offensive end than Gay, and Jonas and Ross (the brightest prospects the team has) are being neglected to placate an overpaid vet who’s stay with the franchise is about to end in 1-2 seasons.

      • Guestman

        Chicago would not do Deng for Gay in a hot second. Nonsense.

      • Deng is a better defender, rebounder, passer and better at getting points within the offense (rather than standing around and dribbling the ball for 20 seconds and then shooting a contested shot). He’s a two-time All Star and was one of the main reasons the Bulls won as many games as they did, last year.

        No, I don’t think Chicago would trade Deng in a hot second. Not in a cold second, or a lot of seconds.

      • Hot Water

        Deng’s a better defender, a better fit offensively and is Thibodeau’s favorite player. Plus he makes about $4 million less than Gay does this season. Not to mention the only reason Deng is available in the first place is that the Bulls are claiming that they cant afford to re-sign him in the offseason… so they’re gonna take the chance that Rudy opts in for 2014 and they’re stuck paying him $20 million next year (and a bunch of luxury tax)?
        Chicago doesn’t blink at that deal unless we start throwing in extra picks or assets… and in that case, no thanks.

  • Huey Newton

    There is absolutely no reason to run Gay out of town 25 days into the season, even in super negative “everything-is-horrible” Toronto. He’s had a bit of a rough start shooting wise, but there’s no way he’s gonna go the entire season shooting 38%, he’ll only improve. And he’s pretty exciting to watch. And the Atlantic Division looks shittier with each passing day so let’s just let the chips fall where they may and enjoy the ride. Sorry tankers, you’re NEVER gonna get Wiggins. Or Parker. Or Smart.

    • SR

      Pretty easy to argue there are 18 million perfectly good reasons to “run Gay out of town.”

      If you don’t like the number 18 000 000, there’s 30%. That’s how much of the Raptors salary cap Gay is consuming.

      Rudy Gay would need to be playing much, much, much better than he is to justify his place on the Raptors books.

      • Huey Newton

        Rudy Gay needs to ‘justify his place’ on the Toronto Raptors? You might be giving the Raptors a little too much credit here.

        • SR

          Not sure I get your point.

          Every player needs to “justify his place” on a roster. A GM is free to trade or buyout any player virtually at will. Teams will dump guys for poo-poo platters (TM Simmons) or pay millions of dollars just to have them *not* show up and put on a uniform.

          I’d have a hard time believing that “What can we get for Rudy Gay?” is not one of the top three bullets on Ujiri’s to-do list.

    • Guestman

      Im not even on team “Trade Gay” , but there is absolutely nothing exciting about watching the man drible in place for 12 seconds and then launch a contested 20 footer. Repeat ad nauseum.

      • sitnonDfence

        Derozan is the worst culprit of this.

    • Milesboyer

      If you mean by exciting – having Gay triple teamed and not realizing that two of his teammates are open but he’d rather try and dribble out of it which often leads to a turnover…..then yes, he’s exciting.

  • Milesboyer

    I was actually anti-tanking before the season started but after a month of seeing this team (and listening to the draft hype) I think trying to get into the lottery, hiring a new coach next year, and creating cap space might be the way to go. They don’t necessarily need a top five pick, although that would be nice but they do need a little more talent with potential to grow.

    Would a line up of Dragic, Deng, Val, DD and Amir have a promising future? Not sure what the ceiling is for that team. If there was a solid bench behind them, some time to develop chemistry and a good coach, maybe they’re a decent team in the east.

    Obviously the tanking approach has huge risks and no guarantees but I’m being charmed into believing that this is a once in a decade draft and if there was ever a year to tank – this is the one. I don’t think it would be that hard and it could serve more than one purpose. Trade Gay and Lowry for either cap space and/or young prospects. This opens up 20+ more shots a game, many of which could go to Valanciunas and his development, and it all but seals the teams fate by having to start Augustine or Buycks at PG.

    The reality is, neither route has any guarantees and I’m really interested to find out which way Masai will go. Exciting times in Raptorland.

    • arsenalist

      We’re first in the division dude! Why would you tank? If we were 2-11 I’d see your point but we’re 6-7 and this team isn’t even close to playing at a high level. If Casey can get himself sorted out we can actually make the playoffs THIS year and build on it with Gay coming off the books etc.. I really don’t get the obsession with tearing everything down for a 3% chance at top five pick, which BTW, comes with its own set of risks.

      • Milesboyer

        So if you project that 6-7 record out, we end up at 40-42 with very little room for internal growth. I’m not as pro tanking as some and I’m still open to the possibility that they could improve on their winning percentage with the current team, maybe even dramatically considering the state of the Eastern conference but it also wouldn’t surprise me if they ended up worse as well. At some point Ujiri will have to take a stand, he probably has another couple of weeks but by Dec. 15th, he’ll have to know which direction he’s going to take. Rudy Gay probably isn’t in their future, as you suggested and as many including myself, hope. But you take him off this current team and I don’t think they make the playoffs. This team is decent but way too flawed to go anywhere. Now if Ujiri can make some amazing trades, I’m all for it and we can skip the tanking.

      • sleepz

        Build on what? Bucks made the playoffs last year. Have they built on that experience? lol

        Raps make the playoffs in a year that the conference sucks. What is there now to build on?

      • ezz_bee

        I’m starting to wonder if someone has hacked your account arse.

        Don’t you want a championship? Or at least be a contender? I’ll admit that the crappiness of the rest of the conference has changed my ceiling for this team from easy first round exit, to possible second round appearance. But there’s no way we are getting to the conference finals. I know championships are hard to come by, which is why for me if I was a fan of Cleveland, Orlando, OKC, Philly, NJ, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Memphis or Chicago, I’d be happy. All of these teams have have had close conference finals (okay Memphis wasn’t THAT close but a couple of OT games makes more competitive than the 4-0 or 4-1 record suggests) or made it to the finals in the time that Toronto’s been a franchise. Heck, I think even Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler took the NO Hornets to the Western Conference Finals one year didn’t they?

        How many teams besides the Raptors have zero conference finals appearances since the Raptors entered the league? Isn’t that a list you want to get off?

  • Ds

    Good read. The one thing that was not mentioned is that there are more than 10 teams trying to tank, and others trying to tank but are having success because the other teams are sucking worse (hello Phoenix). The Raptors are in a good spot to trade for talent, once the teams have played 25-30 games and figured out that they are sellers or buyers.

    • There aren’t more than 10 team that are trying to tank. Don’t mistake playing poorly with tanking. Cleveland, Milwaukee, Washington, Detroit, Brooklyn and New York aren’t trying to tank. All made offseason moves that made them think they would be much better than they are.

      And if the Raptors end up being buyers, won’t the other teams be looking for draft picks and prospects in return? Are you suggesting the Raptors make trades like that?

      • Ds

        Yeah, probably 10 is an exaggeration, but still there are 6 or 7 officially tanking teams and another 4 or 5 that are playing very poorly.

        It’ll be interesting to see what the Raptors do after 30 games with a record of, say 17-13. If they’re finishing atop the Atlantic, and so far out of the lottery, they probably should trade their second rounders from this year and future years (they can’t trade this year’s first, I don’t think). What if Rondo became available at a decent price all of a sudden?

  • cesco

    no shit, dickhead.

  • sleepz

    Raps don’t have an ‘A1’ player. As much as most fans want to see Jonas develop into it, he hasn’t shown us anything (summer league doesn’t count) yet to believe he will be that type of dominant force. Plus, with the game nowadays it’s much better to build around that type of talent in a swing man or guard than your 5.

    For those thinking that the Raps are ‘too good’ to be bad, the season is young. This roster is thin and an extended injury to Lowry would change your tune very quickly. That being said, even healthy they are an under .500 team. Not sure why being the tallest midget makes some fans think that this team is worthy of keeping and whole heartedly supporting (BC was fired because of this albatross he put together, but now the team is good enough to try and compete with?lol), but more power to you.

    There is no staying power with this team as constructed. The same frustrations we’ve had in the recent past with BC’s experiments in trying to assemble a good team will present themselves again, very soon. I truly hope Masai will attempt to build something that’s real and sustainable instead of just trying to ‘kick ass on Sundays’. You’re not kicking ass with this patchwork, capped out, under .500 but “we’re in first place” NO all star talent, squad.


      “BC was fired because of this albatross he put together, but now the team is good enough to try and compete with?” …. “You’re not kicking ass with this patchwork, capped out, under .500 but “we’re in first place” NO all star talent, squad.”

      But, but….. they had a training camp, and BC is gone so Coach can finally put his stamp on this team, and DD will finally show the clowns he’s underpaid… and …and we were crushing the opposition at the end of the season – best starting 5 in the NBA!! The core has been together for over a year… so, Championships? Let’s go get ’em!

      • sleepz

        So demoralizing it almost becomes funny.

  • Brett

    Deng has old legs for a 28 year old because of all the minutes he’s played for the Bulls season in and season out since 2004. I wouldn’t pay him an 8 figure salary in his 30’s when his best is behind him.

  • SR

    Nice article. Very fair.

    Agreed the team would be better moving forward as suggested – ball movement would be better and you’d improve Jonas’ developmental prospects. Still don’t think the ceiling of that roster is very high at the end of the day (a lot would depend on Jonas). The biggest challenge wouldn’t be the proposed moves, but the ones to come after that.

  • B-rocula

    Very unlikely but maybe we can get Thibodeau in a trade with deng ? Maybe something like Gay , Lowry , T Ross , NYs first rounder a first rounder of our own for thibodeau , deng , boozer

    • arsenalist

      Yes, let’s give them all the things that we don’t want, take their best active player, and get them to throw in their coach of the year. I agree, this is “very unlikely”. In fact, I’d bet on the Raptors acquiring Lenny Wilkens in a trade before they get Thibodeau .

      • LeeZ

        Come on, Arse, be kind. I’m sure B-rocula was being sarcastic. B-rocula, SURELY you were being sarcastic, right?

        • B-rocula

          No I think that considering that thibodeau and the Bulls GM apparently have butt heads multiple times paired with the fact deng is a URA next year And talk of boozer getting amnestied has been floating around forever it could make sense although it would probably be smarter to try to make the coach trade seperate and make a run at deng in the offseason like I said its unlikely so there’s no need to D*ck ride a trolling Arse

          • You can’t include a coach in a trade. Look at what happened with Rivers and the Clippers.

            • B-rocula

              What happened? I think Tib would be a way to get a long term winning culture and if the bulls GM wants to cheap out on payroll next year I’m sure Tib will want out of CHI

              • The Celtics tried to include Rivers in a deal for Garnett, and the NBA nixed it. Coaches aren’t allowed to be traded for active players. Technically, you can’t trade a coach, because he’s not part of the CBA. You can let a coach under contract go somewhere else and demand a draft pick or cash in exchange, but it’s not actually a trade.

                And I doubt Thibodeau would want to coach the Raptors. There would be much better situations out there for him.

      • B-rocula

        We don’t want T Ross and 2 first round picks ???

  • George

    Dragic? That move screams, “I’m happy to be a 45 win team”.

    Deng may not have as much basketball left as you think. He plays 49 minutes a night plus has a lot of playoff miles.

    Making a trade to immediately improve this team is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. You can only fill areas of need by creating others.

    This team needs to make a major move for the future. This includes trading for young talent and picks, and improving our own pick. It’s a high risk, high reward proposition.

    Any “win now” trade will leave our talent level virtually unchanged. We will still be mediocre, but in a slightly different way.

    This is the trade we need to make with Chicago:

    To Toronto; Heinrich, first rounder, balast

    To Chicago; Lowry

    • themasao

      Why would Chicago EVER trade a first round draft pick for a minor PG upgrade on a rental contract. Rob Babcock on Crack wouldn’t make that deal.

      • George

        A rental is exactly what teams like Chicago want when the star goes down for a season.
        Lowry is a major upgrade over Heinrich.

        A first rounder from Chicago would almost certainly be non-lottery with this trade (likely 15-20 range). They could even throw in a lottery protection just in case.

        Then Chicago would still have Charlotte`s pick, which is likely to be higher anyways.

      • sitnonDfence

        Rob Fordcock?

  • AK74

    what i want to know is why we run such limited amount of PnRs. is it lowry? casey? bigs?? it seems common sense to use that play with 2 of the most efficient players (JV and Amir). casey is a coach, he KNOWS the importance of PNR, Lowry is capable of running it, bigs are more than capable. what is going on

    • Thimble

      It’s Casey.

  • Ion66

    It’s bothering me more and more this year that the NBA is a league of 7 or so teams trying to win, and 23 trying/wanting to be so bad that they are in the bottom 5-9. In this season, as it is, I cannot see the Raps managing to out-bad the worst of the worst. Maybe with a few key trades and making every player eat week old sushi for 3 months, prior to every game, you might squeak into the lottery, assuming 10 other teams don’t catch on to the bad sushi idea, and add un-cooked chicken to the team menu, thereby putting us in 12th last.

    • theswirsky

      “the NBA is a league of 7 or so teams trying to win, and 23 trying/wanting to be so bad that they are in the bottom 5-9″

      except for the fact that this is not happening, its just excellent analysis.

      ” cannot see the Raps managing to out-bad the worst of the worst”
      they are what 3 games ahead of the 3rd worst team with 70 games to go?
      Clearly an impossible task.

    • 2damkule

      i know, right? like, maybe you should let the 12 teams at .500 or better in the western conf know they’re supposed to be tanking.

  • themasao

    Lowry for Dragic works straight up in the ESPN trade machine. Throw in a second rounder (or even a future protected 1st rounder — yes, I realy like Dragic) to sweeten the pot, and Houston gets a cheaper backup PG to their star of the future whose contract comes off the books at the end of this year.

    Then find some way to turn Rudy Gay into a draft pick and a serviceable wing. I think you’d have a better team already.

    • 2damkule

      that may work on the machine, but i think the idea was that it was CHI who would be looking to upgrade their PG position, and lowry, since he comes off the books next year, would be a good stop-gap until rose comes back, as he’d allow them to continue to compete (not that hinrich isn’t a good player, but he’s declining).

      i’m pretty sure PHX wouldn’t be interested in acquiring lowry for dragic, since they’d lose him anyway, and would essentially be giving away a bona fide asset for nothing. if they’re trading dragic, it’s for someone who has some years on a contract, or a pick.

      • themasao

        Makes sense. 2 things though: first, a second rounder and an expiring contract might be all they can get for Dragic anyways (obviously only Ryan McDonough knows this for sure), second, lowry is still an asset to whoever holds him prior to the trade deadline. If they did this early enough Phoenix could always swing him for another pick.

        I get the sentiment with Chicago, but I would be really surprised if Chicago was willing to give up anything significant to fill the gap for Rose. Anything they ‘pay’ for will be purely temporary, and I think this injury combined with last year (and the season so far) has their GM convinced they won’t be any more serious as competitors with even a league avg PG. The fact is — they weren’t even playing that well WITH Rose.

        If I’m Chicago, rather than giving up assets for temporary help only to get knocked out of the first/second round of the playoffs, I’m pulling a Spurs circa David Robinson injury, and going full tank while holding onto my most valuable assets (Rose, Noah, Butler, maybe Gibson). So maybe they trade Deng and/or Boozer — but they do it for picks and expirings, not for better players.

  • Dupont Koo

    Spot on, Tim. Getting a hypertension becomes a reality everytime Rudy Gay has the ball and ends up with nothing but the Platter of bad decisions: Pull-Up 18 foot Jumper with 2 Defenders in front? Silly Pass out of double team that you/I/the rest of my fellow RR Readers wouldn’t even dare to make at a YMCA pick-up game? Driving into the paint area with 4 defenders waiting? Wow! This is only the Tip of the iceberg!!!

    I admire Masai for trying to let Dwayne coach, but he needs to step in to free Jonas! Not pampering Jonas the way like BC did with Bargs (or Grunwald did with HeWhoShallNotBeNamed), just common sense of developing a Potential Franchise Player!

  • themasao

    We could even just send Lowry AND Gay to Phoenix if we ate up Okafors $14 mil expriing contract. Dragic replaces Lowry, and Tucker replaces Gay (makes $800,000 on a 1 year contract, plays solid defence, rebounds well and is hitting .560 on 3-pointers and .474 from the field overall at).

    I honestly think this would make the team better. Pick and rolls with Dragic, Val and Amir, with Tross and PJ Tucker in the corners would be hugely more entertaining (and I bet more effective too) than watching Gay and Derozan take turns dribbling into double teams. Derozan could become the 6th man scoring punch off the bench, à la Jamal Crawford/Lou Williams type.

    Oh, and you wouldn’t be paying anyone more than 9.5 Million after this year…there’s that too.

  • Nilanka15

    Nothing like a lineup of Dragic, DeRozan, Deng, Amir and Jonas in the dying seconds of a close game, and nobody capable of making a play to win the game.

    If the goal is to win now, I can’t see how this proposed lineup accomplishes that task.

    • themasao

      Pretty sure Deng has like 2 game winners on us in the last couple years alone…

    • 2damkule

      yeah, wtf dude? i’m not the biggest dragic fan, but he is capable of this:


      that was the spurs. in the playoffs. in a tight game.

      that’s a pretty good argument, if you’re interested in ignoring reality.

      • Nilanka15

        Alright, I’ll give you Dragic.

        But Deng? He’s not a create-a-shot-out-of-nothing type of prototypical wing player.

    • thegloveinrapsuniform

      derozan buzzer beater with the magic

      • Nilanka15

        A once in a career fluke over 2 defenders, fading away. That shot goes in once every 10 million tries 😉

  • Ian Reynolds

    The lack of PnR is especially painful since our two bigs are quick, agile players, and Amir had been developing an increasingly nice PnR game with Jose and Ed around last year. Now it’s gone nowhere because those two wings making 28 million dollars take half the shots and won’t share the ball.

  • Louvens Remy

    Players I would like us to trade for: Kent Bazemore and draft pick for Lowry. You know GS needs a PG for when Curry goes down. Trade DJ Augustin and Landry Fields for Jimmer Fredette and Patrick Patterson (or Jason Thompson).

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