Masai Ujiri may be selling the line that he kept this Toronto Raptors roster together as a reward for their improved play this season, but the truth is that Ujiri’s reluctance to deal had everything to do with the future and almost nothing to do with what has transpired this year.

What the Raptors have done this year is nice. A solid group of workers have taken advantage of a weak conference and positioned themselves just below the East’s elite duo of Indiana and Miami (and by just below we actually mean over ten games below, which is good for twelfth in the league). A winning culture has begun to seep into the bloodstream and after five fruitless seasons that’s an achievement worth recognizing. However, it is not the reason why this team was kept together last week.

A Championship-calibre club is built around a transcendent talent. The Raptors don’t have a transcendent talent. That is why this team was kept together last week. Period.

If the team is going to start making meaningful moves, like unloading key rotation players or draft picks, it has to be done with an eye towards the future. Right now the Raptors don’t know what their future is because they don’t know who it is that they’ll be building their team around. They don’t know what position their transcendent talent will play, they don’t know what style he’ll play and they don’t know how much he’ll cost because they don’t know who he is yet. All the club knows is that they’ll need a transcendent player if they want to start assembling the Championship-calibre club that Tim Leiweke and Masai Ujiri insist they’re interested in running.

That’s why the Raptors were kicking the tires on acquiring Rajon Rondo last week. He seemed like a gettable player who qualifies as a transcendent talent. There have been points over the last four years when Rondo looked like he might have been the best point guard in the NBA. Not everyone will agree with that assessment (Rondo is an incredibly divisive player), but for a club looking to get into the transcendent talent game he represented a player worth pursuing.

Had they managed to acquire Rondo, the Raptors might have been able to start the process of making secondary moves to surround him with the right kind of complimentary talent. After all, once you know who you want to pin your future on, you want to jumpstart the future as soon as possible. Plus, in today’s NBA part of the goal of securing one transcendent talent is the hope that he can help attract another transcendent talents while visions of Larry O’Brien trophies dance in their heads. Get Rondo now and see who he can attract to Toronto in the summertime.

Of course, the Raptors did not acquire Rondo last week, so they opted not to make any moves of significance at all. It was the smart play. That’s because the roster as constructed right now is doing a lot to help the damaged reputation of the Toronto Raptors franchise by winning more games than they lose and playing every game in a competitive manner. The club wants outside talent to look at the Raptors and believe that if they joined up the team could make some real noise in the NBA. Every recruiting tool helps in professional sports, and there is perhaps no better recruiting tool than a winning roster and that will help Ujiri when he starts this process up again heading into the draft and summer’s free agency period.

And make no mistake, when that process heats up again he’ll again be on the hunt for a transcendent talent and he will explore every avenue possible to find one. He’ll be looking to offer packages of players and picks to move up in the draft, he’ll be looking at packages of players and picks to swap for someone else’s transcendent talent and he’ll be looking at his cap space and the free agent market with an eye towards making a splash in July. Ujiri knows that he can’t really get to work until he has someone to build around, so he will be relentless in finding that player until he has one in a Raptors uniform.

There is one potential wrinkle in all of this, and his name is Jonas Valanciunas. Unlike Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson, Valanciunas’ ceiling remains a bit of a mystery. He’s definitely shown flashes that he could something really special in the NBA, but he’s still searching for consistency at this level and so it’s hard to get a great read on him as a finished NBA player. At this point it doesn’t look like Ujiri is ready to start tailoring the roster to suit his talents, nor does Dwane Casey look ready to start tailoring his team’s attack around Valanciunas and his skill set. Still, no talk about Toronto’s search for a star would be complete without a least a reminder that there remains a lot of growth to come from Valanciunas, and that the solution to Ujiri’s problems may already man the post for his basketball club.

If that’s the case, though, it still isn’t why Ujiri walked away (nearly) empty handed at the deadline. Ever the pragmatist, Ujiri knew that if he couldn’t get a transcendent talent then there was no reason to start selling off his assets. There is an order to things. First Ujiri needed to rid the Raptors of its dead-weight, which he’s done. Now he’s got to try and find that piece that he can use as an anchor to build his club around. Until he finds that piece the Raptors will remain a competitive club with a very real ceiling below the NBA’s elite. As enjoyable as this squad is right now, it’s not the club that Ujiri wants to hang his hat on. He wants something more, and since he couldn’t find it last week he’ll take a step back and redouble his efforts in June and July. We’ll have to wait and see if he can have any greater luck then.

  • Nilanka15

    Some nice playoff performances, in addition to being entertaining to watch, should increase trade value of our contributing role players.

    The next 5 months should be pretty interesting.

  • sitnonDfence

    Does the GM who brings the raptors a Championship get a lifetime contract? A tenureship of sorts?

    • ZZ

      Seems to work for Joe Dumars

  • Thomas Smith

    JV will not be that player the Raptors build around. With the current roster looking as a future 3rd to 6th seed for the next few years, that player will either come through free agency or more likely through a trade.

    • sleepz

      Trade or free agency to get a star player in Toronto? Not likely.

    • asifyouknow

      LOL..I tell you my friend since we all got the playoff spots all figured out before a single game is played we should just not play. What’s the purpose?…lol
      Basketball is a funny game anything could happen…This team with a little luck could make it pass the first round, once that happens ,,ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN…lol

  • peacedawg

    Did the Pistons not win several championships without transcendent talents?

    • ibleedpurple

      I’d say Isiah Thomas would qualify as a transcendent talent if we’re setting the bar at Mr. Rondo. The bad boy pistons won two championships with zeek in the mix. Other than that they won one title with billups walking away with the finals MVP trophy. So two with and one without.

      • ibleedpurple

        *Zeke

        • peacedawg

          I was referring to the 2004 Pistons team with Wallace, Billups, Hamilton, Milicic, Atkins, Prince and Campbell – none of whom i would consider a transcendent talent – not even remotely.

          • FLUXLAND

            The 2004 Pistons argument is sad and weak.

            First of all, they didn’t win “several”. Second of all, Shaq handed that championship to them, if anything that chip needs a giant asterisk next to it. And Wallace was a 4 x DPOY, led the L in blocks and rebounds one year…I could argue that’s remote transcendent talent.

            • peacedawg

              Dikembe Mutombo won DPOY 4 times too. Is he transcendent? And the Pistons didn’t get anything handed to them by Shaq…they wrestled away a championship with grit. Get the EF out of here.

              • FLUXLAND

                Oh i see.. now it’s transcendent? It was remotely transcendent 4 hours ago, no?

                Shaq gift wrapped it for them, but you wouldn’t know, since you weren’t watching.. seeing how you think the Pistons won several championships.

                If you’re gonna imply shit, at least get your facts straight or do some research… don’t hide behind “grit” and “wrestling”.

                But hey, one thing’s for sure… there’s no 4 x DPOY on the Raptors, so I don’t know why you’re bringing up the Pistons in comparison; as wack and played out as the 2004 Pistons argument is by now, while ignoring this phenomenon you allude to has only transpired once.

                • Steverino

                  Who cares if another team “handed” a championship to them? If the Lakers were playing another team, Shaq might not have “handed” them anything. Don’t take anything away from a champion. You can second-guess almost every champion. The Spurs “handed” the championship to the Heat last year. I could argue (and often did) that the Lakers only ever lost in the finals during the Showtime era when someone of significance was injured.

                • FLUXLAND

                  Injures is not the same as handing it over. And the Spurs “handing it over” to the Heat is not even in the same ballpark as what transpired in 2004 with the LA fiasco. It didn’t matter who they were playing, Shaq was going to do what he did.

                  There’s a difference between winning something and beating someone.

                  And you would be right about the Showtime era – James, Kurt and B.Scott.

                • sleepz

                  Gotta agree there. Yes, there was much discontent on that Lakers squad at the time, but Pistons won it and deserve some credit.

                • peacedawg

                  “Shaq gift wrapped it for them” is fact, right? For a fluxwad with a Lakers jersey on his profile.

                • FLUXLAND

                  If you watched the games, it was clear as day. For anyone with any jersey on anything.

          • why

            Hopefully we will gifted a player of Rasheed Wallace’s ability like The Pistons were when Danny Ainge allowed him to go to Detroit for essentially nothing.
            We are also behind that Detroit team as they were able to get Ben Wallace and Chucky Aitkens in the sign and trade with Orlando when Grant Hill (their star) left in 2000 compared to the virtually nothing we have to show for Bosh in 2010.

    • Ian Reynolds

      no

    • asifyouknow

      Hans reminds me of Bill L…….

  • ibleedpurple

    Your use of the word transcendent talent transcended the norm in such things. Jokes aside this Raptors team will be made or undone come playoff time. A first round advancement coupled with a strong second round showing could very well change the tide for the franchise. Everything up till then is just gravy. Second easiest schedule for the remainder of the season with something like 6 remaining games against +.500 opponents. The only thing that matters is ensuring a 3rd seed finish.

    • sleepz

      So they get the 3rd seed and then what?
      How does that change the franchise? You still have what you have roster wise, nothing more.

      • ibleedpurple

        My argument has more to do with getting out of the first round and doing proper battle in the second round of the playoffs. Finishing with the third seed would give us a better chance to advance past the first round IMO. Establishing a winning reputation will do wonders in recruitment come next season. I’m not of the opinion that we need some transcendent god to help us win. There’s only one Lebron James and one Kevin Durant. Everybody else is a secondary talent and can only hope that putting the right combination of secondary talents together will be enough to transcend LBJ. We have a solid bunch of secondary talents and need some rounding out to reach the next level.

        • sleepz

          Wonders in recruitment? Recruitment of what? Free agents? It won’t make a difference, and even if it somehow magically materialized how do you sign players with no cap room?

          • Guest

            “no cap room”? Did you just come out of a box you’ve been hiding in, and stuck on old narratives? This summer, IF they wanted to, and that would be questionable, they currently only have $41M committed, and could sign someone before signing Kyle and exercising other options. I don’t see a big FA signing this summer anyway, but summer of 2015 they currently only have $13M committed. No cap room? This team isn’t the pre- AB and pre-Rudy trades one, and has tons of flexibility moving forward.

            • Dr.Scooby

              Hmmmm not completely correct…They are over the cap now.

              I suppose if they don’t resign key players Like Amir, Lowry, Patterson, Vasquez, Salmons and they’ll have $$$ to spend…but that’s not likely.

              Amir will get his 7m extension.
              The Raps logically re-sign Patterson, Vasquez & Lowry with raises of no less than 4 million more per year -but likely up to 6m more. They’ll have to find a new point forward as they will opt out of Salmons’ contract for the 1m buyout.

              In other words this current roster (minus De Colo, Augustine, Stone & Buycks) will cost a little more next season.

              • Dr.Scooby

                My bad…I meant roster costs next season will be about the same as this season.

      • Matt

        I beg to differ. The Play offs show how much potential a player has realized, and gives our roster its biggest test, therefore the most accurate evaluation in a moderate sample size. I bet you no one thought DWade was a franchise player until he upset the hornets in the first round with players such as lamar odom and eddie jones as his role playing team mates. If the raptors can pull of an upset in this years playoffs and make it past the 2nd round (slim chance, but nothing is guarenteed in professional sports) then we have a very good idea of who we keep, what value our players would demand, and what next step this organization would need to take.

        Special players step up in the biggest of stages, and the fact that we have a chance to play on the biggest of stages is giving the platform for our good players to make the transition to great players. I wouldn’t bet on derozan, lowry, valanciunas or ross stepping up to a level where they can beat the heat or the pacers, but then again i wouldn’t have bet on chauncey, rip, tayshaun, rasheed and ben wallace to have made it to 2 straight NBA finals, beat the lakers and take the spurs to 7. Ujiri is smart, and he’s waiting to evaluate if this team is one of those rare cases where chemistry and the system actually outweight talent.

        • sleepz

          Uh no, actually many people thought DWade was going to be a star in his rookie year. His 2nd year he averaged 24pts a game which eliminated all doubt. it had nothing to do with the playoffs. It had to do with the fact that he was star and has proven it time and time again.

          You think DD’s going to average 20 in the playoffs and somehow morph into DWade?

          Talent is talent. No matter how hard you try to project elite or ‘transcendent’ abilities onto these raps players, it won’t happen.

          You can’t provide examples of championship teams being cohesive but without elite talent. The Pistons comparison should not be used repeatedly, which has been proven time and time again. And without that weak example there is nothing else or any other team for you to rest that argument on.

          • Guest

            You’re doing a lot of pushing Paul George as one of these “transcendent” stars. Were you saying that in his first year? Because nobody was. Were you saying it in his 2nd year? Because nobody was. Prior to his leaping a level in the playoffs, were you saying it in his 3rd year? Nobody was. So what makes you an expert on what JV, Ross, or DeMar will be with playoff experience and another season under their belt?

  • saints91

    The Raptors have a .657 winning percentage since the gay trade, giving them the 7th best record in the league well playing one of the hardest schedules. If Ross and JV can be more consistent I can see the Raptors sustaining this winning trend. I really believe Ross can be a special player, he has all the tools, he just needs the confidence.

    • Matt

      he doesn’t have all the tools. He has below average handles, not enough strength to finish around the basket, not enough vision and IQ to be a playmaker (although he is slowly improving in this area) and not enough range to be a steph curry/michael redd/reggie miller type of franchise player. I believe he can be the best 3 and D player in the league for a couple of seasons, but until he shows all star level handles or an all star level pick and roll game, he won’t be anything close to “special”.

      • Ian Reynolds

        so you believe he’ll be the best 3 and D player in the league but he doesn’t have enough range to be a Curry/Miller/Redd type player? He’ll be the best 3 and D in the league but doesn’t have the range to.. what? Shoot 3’s like those guys? They still count the same at the line as they do 5 feet behind it.

        And using Michael Redd as a benchmark for success is terrible. He was a career 44/38 percent shooter, and posted a bunch of empty one dimensional box scores his entire career, and played a whopping 16 playoff games.

        Ross has significantly more tools than a lot of guys in the league. He can dunk in traffic, or change his body and lay it in. He has an improving ball movement game, and he’s athletic enough to defend multiple positions.

        I REALLY hope you’re not one of the people who says “well, Demar is going to get better” while crapping on Ross.

    • DanH

      They haven’t played a hard schedule since the trade. They’ve played an easy one (and have an easier one coming up). If you’re going to say the Raps have played one of the toughest schedules, you have to recognize that a big chunk of that hard schedule happened prior to the Gay trade.

      • Guest

        “They’ve played an easy one”???? Astonishing how some are so bent non demeaning what this team has done. Since the trade:

        December
        6 games vs 500+ teams, which included wins @Dallas and @OKC
        5 games vs -500 teams
        7 of 11 games on the road, with 2 back-to-backs

        January
        17 games, which is a very high amount for a month. If that pace was maintained for the season, it would be 94 games long, not 82.
        3 back-to-backs amongst an entire month of travel. The vast majority of the month consisted of a home/away/home/away pattern, including a 5 game in 7 days week that followed that pattern to a tee.

        February
        Began with 4 games of a 5 game western road trip

        What reasoning says that was an easy stretch?

        • DanH

          Since Dec 8th, after the trade, the team has played 25 games against under 500 opponents, and 15 against over 500 opponents. The Raptors have done well against the under 500 opponents (20-5) and badly against the over 500 opponents (6-9).

  • sleepz

    Rondo is a good player and a great pg, but he is not ‘transcendent’ by any means. He won a championship playing with 3 other HOF’ers.

    How do you acquire that player? You mentioned looking at trading assets in the offseason to acquire that. Teams don’t often trade stars for pieces, especially in markets that are not considered desirable to players. In the off-season the fans will probably hear and continue to hear that players like this don’t come along very often and they are hard to acquire. Only time Raps have ever acquired players that you would put in that class has been ……….through the draft.

    I don’t know Masai’s plans (I don’t think he even knows what his plan is right now) but if he did tear up this roster in the offseason to try and acquire that type of talent, I hope it’s through player trades, because if it’s not and he feels he needs to rely upon the draft to do this, what good was a winning season in a weak year? No man’s land.

    I wish him luck attempting to acquire this type of talent to build around on the trade and free agency front. History has shown that these are not good options for this franchise.

  • The Red Fury

    I hate articles like this. Raptors have no ‘transcendent player’… I call BS.

    Demar is in the top 10 in a lot of categories with a lot of other big names in this league. He is arguably (next to Kyle) the best player on a WINNING team. Carmelo, Kevin Love, super-stars on a losing team. The best part about Demar is he continues to get better every season. His season stats would have been much better if Rudy was not on the team to begin the season. Up until now, Demar has never had the opportunity to be that player. When he was drafted, Bosh was leading the charge, then Primo, then Gay. Durant, Lebron and many others didn’t have to play second fiddle when they entered the league.

    And i’ll keep repeating it over and over again. JV is 21. Few big men come into this game and dominate immediately. But you can see the talent is there. As long as he continues to improve, he will be an all-star. Book it.

    • Milesboyer

      Am I the only one who thinks JV’s ceiling might be Marcin Gortat? I’m not saying it definitely will and I sure as hell hope I’m wrong but I don’t see that “thing” that you should in a future All Star. In fact I would say T. Ross has a higher ceiling and the only reason he might be at an All Star game is for the dunk or 3pt. contests. Again, I hope I’m wrong and that both of these guys grow tremendously, and I think they already have, but JV has some limitations that worry me. He bobbles the ball way more than he should, his defensive instincts just aren’t that great and his athleticism is average. If he gets smarter on defense and really develops his mid-range shot, then maybe he’ll become more than just the solid player that he is already….but I’m not so sure about that.

      • coachftw

        Dwight’s stats in his second season (these stats are his mpg that season which was 36.8 mpg)
        15.8 ppg
        12.5 rpg (3.5 OR)
        1.4 bpg
        .531 fg %
        .595 ft %

        http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/h/howardw01.html

        JV’s stats in his second season (per 36 mpg -> he’s not playing as much as howard in his second season so we will use JV’s per 36 min stats)

        13.7 ppg
        11.2 rpg (3.7 OR)
        1.2 bpg
        .508 fg %
        .735 ft%

        http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/v/valanjo01.html

        One must take into account that in terms of athleticism, howard clearly overpowers JV (which accounts for his higher rpg and fg % and bpg). If video recordings of JV and Howard scoring their baskets would be compared, one would see a drastic difference. Howard’s lack of skill contrasted by his insane level of athleticism is evident when he sits in the paint and cleans up misses, while JV likes to post up and even pop out to hit the midrange shot occasionally. I’m trying to say that JV has much more skill than Howard has (or ever had). He needs time to develop and refine his skills. HE IS ONLY IN HIS SECOND YEAR remember guys! Howard works with Olajuwon and still struggles in the post. JV goes in the post and actually scores (sometimes). Howard is only a dominant center because he is big and athletic (which is all you need i.e. Jordan). Him and Jordan are similar but Howard has a little bit more “talent”. Dwight is only in the NBA because he is big and athletic. Leave him with JV’s athleticism and he’s nowhere to be found. But JV is much much more skilled. Remember DeRozan in his second year? He couldn’t hit a midrange if his life depended on it. But look at him now! Patience is a virtue.

  • Matt

    The Term “Star Player” is kind of redundant. Melo is considered a star talent, yet has never made an impact in the NBA playoffs. I doubt Chauncey would be considered a star player, yet he made two nba finals appearances, winning one of them. The NBA finals is the destination, and as the NBA has shown time and time again, there are many roads to get there. The game always evolves, and it’s not always because of trascendent players. There are also such things are transcendent coaches and transcendent GMs, with Ujiri seeming like the closest thing we have to being a franchise piece.

    • Steverino

      Great point. And add to that, Tracy McGrady, who was a “transcendent” player. And check out his teams’ records in the playoffs. Just assemble a team, play your hardest, so you have a chance to win every game you’re in, and let the chips fall where they may.

    • Dr.Scooby

      I disagree.

  • webfeat

    Who is the transcendent player on the Pacers?

    • Nilanka15

      Paul George is one of the league’s true superstars, and he’s only in his 4th season.

  • golden

    The Pacers absolutely do not have a transcendent talent and yet everybody considers them contenders. Their best player, Paul George, started the season on fire, but he has regressed back to the mean with a thud, offensively. He’s not even in the same conversation as Lebron and Durant, offensively. In fact, ORTG and USG is much closer to Derozan – almost the same.

    But mostly, I’m getting really sick and tired of these “nothing matters unless we are building a championship calibre team and we need that elite superstar to do that or it’s all been a waste of time” articles. Where the heck did this mindset come from all of a sudden? Maybe it’s Leweike’s own doing, but, please don’t forget where we are coming from, folks. It’s like a guy wandering in the desert being offered a glass of water, and holding out for a Perrier & lime. Ridiculous. Enjoy the team and the games, folks.

    • Ian Reynolds

      Paul George is much younger than those two, and while you’re right he’s regressed a bit offensively as the season continues, he’s also quite possibly the best defensive player in the league. Of all the guys who have played more than 30 minutes in the league this year, his DRTG of 95 is second behind Ian Mahinmi. That’s probably not because of Mahinmi, either.

      He’s 7th in win shares ahead of guys like Chris Paul, James Harden, Dwight Howard, and Joakim Noah.

      Good luck trying to say the Pacers don’t have a transcendent talent. Because they have two, one in George and one in Hibbert.

      • MoPeteRules

        I think you’re using ‘transcendent talent’ synonymously with ‘all-star’. To me, the ‘transcendent talents’ are: Lebron James, and Kevin Durant. These are the only two players you could put on the Milwaukee Bucks to make them instant playoff hopefuls. But again, the NBA is not as single-player dominated like it used to and it’s increasingly apparent that team ball beats straight up talent, a la Melo, Kevin Love, Boogie Cousins, etc. So I think the need for a ‘transcendent talent’ is not as urgent as it once was, but certainly having all-star caliber players like DeRozan, and Lowry is a great step forward along with development of youth in Jonas and Ross. Throw in a winning culture and that’s why there’s optimism in Toronto.

        • sleepz

          I think it refers to the players you have and the effect they have on your team.

          George gets Indiana wins, plain and simple

          • Guest

            So those games where DeMar and/or Kyle carry the team on their backs doesn’t get Toronto wins, plain and simple?

            • sleepz

              You bringing up one season with the team 5 games above and comparing that to George and Indiana currently?

              They went to the Conference Finals last year. You are using the Atlantic division leaders as a rebuttal? lol.

              Come on man. that doesn’t even deserve a response.

              • Guest

                No, straw man. I responded to your plain and simple post, plain and simple. If you wish to say something more for people to respond to, then don’t simply post simplistic comments.

        • rapierraptor

          Yes, I think chemistry, great defense and a couple of really good players is enough to take you far in the playoffs. Raps aren’t there yet, but they could be. I’d add Chris Paul to the list with Lebron and Durant.

      • jakdripr

        Hibbert? You mean the 7’2′ player in his 6th season that’s never averaged a double double? That’s your “transcendent talent”? I have a lot of respect for hibbert and I think he’s a solid player, but dudes not a superstar. He’s not a shaquille o’neal/wilt chamberlain, heck he isn’t even a demarcus cousins imo. He’s a talented defender, but he’s more of a tyson chandler with a better offensive game(and worse rebounding game) than any type of superstar.

        • Ian Reynolds

          Transcendant talent does not equal transcendent statistics. The guy is a human wall, and no one can shoot anywhere near him. He is a gamechanger of the highest form.

      • JayTeam

        Lowry is 6th in Win Shares, so he must be transcendent. DD is 27th in Win Shares, Hibbert is 35th.

        • Ian Reynolds

          Well besides missing the entire point of that, Lowry has been transcendent this year. Every raps fan knows we’re like 12-40 without him, but go ahead and say that him ranking that high on the win shares list negates my point.

    • Dr.Scooby

      Sooo you want a nice looking team that will not win championships?…no thanks

      • Dr.Scooby

        easy now; I am thrilled they are playing better and I agree the team is moving in the right direction too. I’m not for tanking (or against it) either, I want a really really good team that wins 75% of their games and challenges for championships. I willing to wait until then, but don’t tell me I cannot expect more.

        flashes of ‘brilliance’ ?…hmmm

        • Dr.Scooby

          yeah I did and 3 months ago they sucked bananas like they did for the previous 5 seasons… You knew this team was going to trade Gay and get much better?

          You are the basketball O R A C L E.

          • Dr.Scooby

            I prefer it when you’re spitting bile and being angry…being smug seems…less interesting

        • Dr.Scooby

          actually, come to think of it, sometimes, like every 7 or 9 games or so, Ross does look friggin’ awesome. Against Orlando (I know…) he put on this absolutely stunning move on the perimeter, slid around the defenders and moved like a snake to hoop. It didn’t go in, but that’s besides the point, that guy at time is an athletic artist.

      • sleepz

        No they want a competitive team that will fight for the playoffs and hopefully win a round.

        A noble team, but one that will never rise to prominence

      • sleepz

        Homers keep waving the flags.

    • sleepz

      Who’s Paul George?lol

      If you want to look at stats after the break to make the argument that George is closer to Demar you can, but if you watch the games, (go back to last years Eastern Conference Finals) you would never dare suggest that.

      I remember where this team is coming from but when you continually set the bar low, any upward results seem like water to the guy in the desert. Some are not content with mediocrity.

    • truuth

      you’re a pawn idiot, just sit there and watch the games while you let the adults do the thinking.

    • morgan c

      Love the perrier and lime comp. haha.

  • CJT

    I think that what has become clear over the past 4 or 5 seasons is that one transcendent talent doesn’t get it done without significant other pieces to surround him with. I think that the team system has a lot to do with how the talent is being utilized. I feel that our players are starting to believe that they are good players and can compete with anyone on a given night. I know that they have said this for a few years, but this is the first time I actually believe it and think it is the first time that they actually believe it.

  • Reed

    Biggest move will be getting a new Coach who can run plays for our Bigs and play the inside/out game that the best teams do.

    Blame Casey for JV’s slow progress.
    Examples of Casey ineptitude:
    -Ed Davis not being used until injuries occurred which allowed him to thrive and improve
    -Not using T Ross efficiently until Rudy Gay was traded
    -Not using DJ Augustine well
    -Casey’s not using Lowry well until Calderon was traded

    • JayTeam

      Mike Woodson’s going to be available soon.

      • Abused Raptors Fan

        YES! Wait, no… Two years ago, I would have completely agreed that Woodson should be a priority coaching target. But the way he’s handled the situation in New York has definitely shaken my confidence in him.

        • JayTeam

          It was a joke.

    • Quest

      stan van gundy could be a possibility? he worked really well with the whole inside outside thing in orlando. maybe he could do something like this with Jv and klow/tross with demar as the slasher?

    • j bean

      I’m not as hard on Casey as I once was. I get how his mistakes can be glaring at times but what he has accomplished beyond doubt is getting everyone to buy into a team first, stay within your role mind set. It puts winning ahead of individual glory and is an extremely difficult thing to instill in players at this level.

      • Ghotte

        Much of the criticism that was lobbed at him during the first 20 games of the season has – for the most part – been debunked. Questionable rotations? Now solid since he’s figured out whom he can trust. In-game adjustments? Arguably best in the league according to the stats post-Rudy (see: 2nd half margin or 4th qtr margin of victory.) Development of his young players? Both JV and TRoss are starters and log significant minutes while getting the opportunity to close out games (when they’re not sh*tting the bed.)

        That’s solid improvement.

    • Milesboyer

      This team is overachieving thanks to Casey. You can pick out the negatives but he’s instilled more positives.

    • Ghotte

      So, Vogel can be accused of ineptitude for not using DJ Augustine well either? You are using a bunch of circumstantial events and pinning them on poor decision making. You would be as poor a coach as you are a judge of talent.

  • DC

    I’ll take a cohesive team over a team with a superstar every time. That said, thank you for finding a replacement – “transcendent” – for the much overused E word in these discussions.

  • Will

    I would agree that to contend for a championship, you need a transcendent talent, or as I would like to term it, a future hall of famer. I would also agree that I don’t see anyone on the Raptors right now as a future hall of famer. However, the fact is, there just aren’t enough of those players to go around, and some teams have more than one of them. If we can get one of those players, great. However, not having one of them shouldn’t mean we’re a failure. If we are a team that can consistently get to the second round of the playoffs, I would not consider that as being in the middle. And as much as everyone likes to talk about how weak the east is, a second round appearance is a second round appearance. That means you’re in the top 8 of league. Obviously everyone wants to win a championship and not just win divisions or go to the second round. I just hope we don’t sell the farm to get a franchise player like New York did for Carmelo.

  • jakdripr

    Good read, but I can’t say I agree with any of it. Ujiri hasn’t shown he has much of an interest in investing in all stars to run his teams. I mean our sample size is very small but his time in denver did prove that he doesn’t believe that’s the only way to win. Never mind the fact that we have two young talents whose ceilings are still being discovered in Ross and JV, not to mention to all stars in Lowry and Derozan. No I think the reason he didn’t make any move was because there was no good move to make and he didn’t wanna trade for the sake of trading. Especially since he doesn’t know what the lowry situation will be yet.

    • Dr.Scooby

      Ujiri is about asset accumulation: in other words have the goods available when there is something worth getting (A-level talent).

      • sleepz

        And if you can’t turn that into A level talent, then what?

        Not to knock him too but has anyone seen the condition that Denver team is in now?

        Let’s see him do those things first before actually awarding him that respect.

        • Guest

          I’ve seen this “condition that Denver team is in now” simplistic view before. Ugh. How much of a difference do you think it has made, that nothing to do with him:
          – the COY, Karl, was dumped (huge difference already, as team was built around the coach)
          – with EOY and COY gone, Iggy got the hell out of Dodge
          – Gallinari has missed the entire season
          – their new GM trades Koufos, last year’s starting C, for a scrub (Arthur)
          – their new starting C is out for the season after 5 games
          – their starting PG has missed 10 games to date, while the new coach feuds with the vet PG, ultimately sending him packing.

          You’re pinning Denver’s problems on MU?

          • sleepz

            You left out Nene trade and Mcgee resigning.
            Faried resigning and attempted trades this year.
            Iggy trade and him leaving basically amounted to a one year rental.

            Pick and choose.lol I like that.

            • Guest

              Ha, at this point, based on the above response, certainly a child of some sort.

        • Dr.Scooby

          …eventually an A level talent is available; if not, status quo.

          Not sure what you mean about the Denver reference? Are you blaming Masai for injuries to 2 starters (McGee & Gallinari)? Or maybe the firing of the Coach of the year (George Karl)? Or maybe the hiring of an inexperienced coach (Brian Shaw) who butts heads with veterans?

  • Slick

    What a ridiculous article. Sometimes I really wonder about you people. Theres always a reason for raptors to not move in rite direction. The players are never good enough.
    They need transcendant players?
    What they need is these guys to develop and improve. That’s all! Add a couple of free agents. Not draft picks.

    • Dr.Scooby

      Its not about being negative; we all love this team. Yep, this team is playing better than it has in a long time. Don’t confuse that with being a ‘contender’. The Raptors aren’t that because they don’t have the talent yet.

      • Dr.Scooby

        I love you too.

      • sleepz

        You know even less than that so what does that say?

        And you’re insults are played bro. Stick to homerisms.

  • Mike

    Rondo is a good player, but not the answer. I need to see a full season of Rondo without Pierce, Garnett and Rivers first before I can call him transcendent. UM was probably hesitant in mortgaging the entire future on one player, especially one coming back from knee surgery. To get the Raptors over the hump they should continue to develop young players like Derozan, Ross and JV as well as add a beast in the post that can help protect the rim and bring toughness ala David West, Taj Gibson etc. Once they find that beast then they are set.

  • Reggie Evans

    2004 Detroit Pistons.

  • Andrea Punani

    The author had me at transcendent then lost me on the 5th transcendent or was it the 2nd transcendent anyways all im trying to say is Raptors are winning cus of…”Ball!”. Primo Pasta and Sauce is transcendent!!!

  • j bean

    This team has a top 8 winning % in the league since they traded for a bench. That means there are 22-23 teams with a worse % since then. They have transcended what all of us thought they could become at the start of the year. Lowry has elevated his game to a place where he can be meaningful in so many ways beyond just scoring. DD has improved and is becoming respected around the association. No they haven’t won anything yet but I wouldn’t count them out from winning some big games this year. Transcending the best record for the regular season and winning more playoff games then they ever have before is something I applaud if they can do it.
    I like to creep the game threads for the teams we are playing and it doesn’t matter who it is, there are always positive comments about our young guys and how the Raptors are now a good team. Some how that perspective is lost on some of us that just can’t appreciate the difficulty involved in accomplishing what they are doing.

  • Dr.Scooby

    Spot on article. I’m glad the Raps are playing better and have good young talent…but they need more..much more.

  • Mexiballer

    Ujiri walked away “empty handed at at trade deadline” because he didnt see a trade that he liked to further upgrade this team. Period. If he had found a trade he liked, he would have made it, transcendent talent or not. He doesnt have a master plan that is as inflexible as yours. He will take every opportunity to upgrade this team and he is not following your blue print that says, “Transcendent talent first, and everything else must spring from that. That is not the one and only formula to building a team that is a contender.

  • d_1212

    Not sure what are the qualifications needed for a transcendent talent, if Rondo qualifies as a point guard and can bring you a Championship, then Allen Iverson, and John Stockton should have won 5 NBA rings each minimum…

    • Dr.Scooby

      you can debate the value of Iverson and Stockton ’till the cows come home, but their teams did (at least) get to the finals.

      • d_1212

        Agreed they had their runs, however I personally don’t think Rondo is in that category of those 2. Derreck Rose,Tony Parker (already with a few rings) and Chris Paul could be closest point guard with that type of talent and will to win.

        • Dr.Scooby

          I kinda see what you’re saying as I wouldn’t build the Raptors around Rondo…but defensively he kicks A S S and he can serve it up with the best of them.

          • Dr.Scooby

            I see some real good pieces lower in the draft that will complement this roster…its starting to look better and better eh.

            • Dr.Scooby

              (in no particular order): Some may go in the top 15 depending on team need, but some will be available at 20 for the Raps…and maybe 34 (Sacramento’s pick) too.

              Kyle Anderson
              Aaron Gordon
              Willie Cauley-Stein
              Nik Stauskas
              TJ Warren
              Adreian Payne
              Sam Decker

              and arguably I could pull another half dozen to mention

              • Dr.Scooby

                just Google them by name or check some mock draft list at espn or some other site.

                • Dr.Scooby

                  sure, but there is some nice tape on these guys that lists strengths and weaknesses. Google it baby.

              • sleepz

                You think Gordon and Stauskas are going outside the top 20? Not impossible, but definitely, not likely.

                • Dr.Scooby

                  No they may go in the top 15…but I said that already.

          • d_1212

            I think Bledsoe is a free agent again this year, if Lowry bolts, I would try to get him first somehow. He’s only 24 years old and lots of upside.

            • Dr.Scooby

              Bledsoe is a 24 year old Lowry…but more athletic. I would like it very much going forward with him at the helm.

  • Louvens Remy

    There’s like 2 guys that fill the bill of transcendent talent in the NBA. Everyone else is a notch or two below. Ujiri also made his huge splash when he traded Gay.

  • locdogjr locdogjr

    To tank or to enjoy middling success? This seems to be the driving narrative of this raptors season.
    Tank nation is over for 2014. This team is going to going to go into the playoffs as a 3-5 seed in all likeliness. We should enjoy it as raps fans, our team is on an up swing with young talent and a bright future.

    After this season some hard decisions need to be made, keep Lowry who is balling in a contract year under the hopes that he continues his form? He could be an allstar in 2015 or stop caring and quickly become more akin to Raymond Felton. It could swing either way!

    Masai has to be the decision, does he try and run with this squad and be like the Hawks of the mid-late 2000s. Or does he go all in, and I think that is the point of this article. Maybe give up Ross/Johnson/JV along with a few picks to move up high into this draft? To be a buyer and get a player in trade? Clear space and pray someone signs?

    The thing that makes me most excited is this. The Raptors are relevant. They aren’t the walking joke of the NBA. They get on ESPN and talk shows, they are winning, developing, Ross is dropping 51, DeMar is an all star, Lowry is a noticeable snub, Drake is bring attention for being the most awesome/goofy dude to promote a team and most importantly, if all goes well, people will see this team in a 7 game series against the Heat or Pacers. Battling and losing to the Pacers or Heat will be THE best thing to happen to this team.

    And hey, worst case scenario? We got some knicks picks to use in the next few years.

    • mtad

      amen, my thoughts exactly

  • Rap fan 2

    I think you’ll most likely get a hold of this transcendent player in the draft. He would also need to be available when its your turn on the clock to pick. Most importantly, do you have the intuition and foresight to identify this player.

    Getting talent from the draft should be one of your primary team building foundations. Spend max money to hire the best scouting team and resources. Spend max money and resources on coaching, player development personnel, training facilities and equipment. The goal is to maximize the development and value of all your players. With the trade deadline and most trades, most every team is trying to get the most return for their players. Sell high and buy low. I’m guessing there were not a lot of bargains out there, to remedy a need, that enticed Masai to pull the trigger at the trade deadline. Furthermore, when the players on the team have battled and fought tooth and nail to get themselves into the playoffs I think it’s only karma that they be there to see things out. The playoff experience doesn’t hurt either in terms of player development.

  • sleepz

    No, just a possible reality that you will have to face next year, if you’re still around.

  • TRR

    I think it mostly depends on what happens to Miami’s Big 3. If they split up, with the weak East, you can get to the Finals with 5 really good non-superstar players.

    If the Heat stay together, then the Raptors aren’t getting to the Finals without wholesale changes.

  • Lyall

    The Raps still aren’t all rid of dead weight: hint- Fields, Landry, contract.

  • TRR

    Also – I’ve never seen the word “transcendent player” debased to the degree it has been in its usage here.

    Roy Hibbert? LOL

    Rondo? LOL

    There exists only a small handful transcendent players in the league currently – Lebron, Durant, Kobe, Nowitzki, Garnett.

    3 of those 5 are well past their prime.

  • Bendit

    Portland is doing quite well without that transcendental player thank you….and that’s in the western conference. As others have mentioned there are but two of such players in the league so lets not throw that term around too loosely nor conjure up dreams that one can be acquired around the corner. I believe a starting 5 of very good- good and committed players, great coach and decent bench would go quite far….until that elusive one happens to fall into our lap either thru the draft or free agency.

    • sleepz

      Lillard and Aldridge are better than any player the Raptors have, period.

      Even with that, Portland is no real contender.

      While making this comparison, put the Raps in the West and no fans would be talking about this being some up and coming young squad and building with this core. This is still more BC’s team than Masai’s.

      • Bendit

        I did not mean to compare the Raps & Blazers. My point was about building a good team without the “transcendental” player. You mentioned “contender”….contender for what? I can see Portland getting to the CFs. We should be emulating them. Steps before the big push.

  • sleepz

    You win championships with elite talent in this league.

    if you don’t like it, so be it, but those are facts.

    If you are fine with mediocrity, more power to you bro. Knock yourself out. Some fans have higher aspirations.

    Keep waving the flags

    • Guest

      You think you and your fellow tankers have an exclusive hold on high expectations?

      Keep spouting cliches to make yourself feel smart.

      • sleepz

        I’m a rebuilder not a tanker. Keep your incorrect judgments to yourself. I like rebuilding especially when your team doesn’t have the talent to sustain winning for years down the road,.

        No one has any hold on high expectations. I see what is and don’t think that I should have high expectations based on the roster. That’s my opinion hombre.

        I don’t need to spout anything to make myself feel any way at all. It’s about ball and that’s it. If you want to talk about that, we can, if you want to get sassy, keep it movin.

        • Guest

          Hmmm, “It’s about ball and that’s it”

          Really? “Homers”, “keep waving the flags”, “Some fans have higher expectations” is about ball, or lamely trying to elevate yourself above those enjoying this run?

  • morgan c

    I’d love to see what we could get for JV. Not saying “get rid of him” at all, but it seems foolish to me to consider him “untouchable.” If he isn’t going to become one of the best 3 or 4 centers in the NBA, which is looking less and less likely, then I’d be very interested in seeing what the young big man could net us.

  • sleepz

    Good luck on the gerbil wheel, spinning around and around to mediocrity.

    OKC looked a little like those teams not to long ago.

  • Guest

    You’ve likely been here longer than me, so I’ll take your word that he’s a troll, rather than some misguided soul you thinks his simply guided opinions are more.

    • Guest

      oops. “you thinks” meant to be “who thinks”

  • asifyouknow

    Wonder if Toronto fans understand that the superstar on this team is Mr. Ujiri….

  • SB

    Should raptors sign granger assuming he gets bought out soon. He could be a good backup and may help the second unit. What are your thoughts?????

  • Right person

    They should build around Patterson

  • The truth

    Build around Patterson trade Jonas for somethin good (picks maybe )

  • squinter labourer

    Agree with golden. The days of ‘tailoring a team around a superstar’ have passed. While its nice to have a ‘transcendent talent’ , tailoring a team around one will inevitably sacrifice the development of talent in the other players. This is why the Raptors are doing well. They have a transcendent team chemistry with a lot of talented players, (superstar?, who cares!) who can compete with the best in the league ! What more do you want? I think Ujiri has his core, and the deals of the future will not sacrifice what he has already, just build upon it.
    Another point, the article completely neglects the youth factor. This team has alot of promising young players, already talented, who are just going to get better. Now is not the time for wheeling and dealing with pipedreams!

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