Whether you agree or not, the majority consider the Raptors a small market team. Forget what you know and feel about Toronto, you're not going to shake this stigma from the Raptors. It is, what it is.
Looking around the league there is one team in particular that is the pinnacle of sustained success, the Spurs. They just happen to be a small market team. Many people have suggested that the best way for the Raptors to achieve the kind of success the Spurs have is to actually follow the Thunder's model. I am starting to disagree. There are a half dozen of the same suspects year in, year out hoping to be the next Thunder... Yet they never seem to pull themselves out of the abyss. Hitting homers like the Thunder did requires really high picks and a lot of luck, along with the hard work, timing and intelligence. The Spurs on the other hand have been able to stand the test of time while drafting late almost every year. Now, no doubt they've had the luxury of a stud #1, soon to be hall-of-famer, Tim Duncan but Tim would be nowhere without the supporting cast. While the Raptors don't have a Tim Duncan, they have a very good nucleus of JV, Gay, Lowry and arguably a few others. They're not going to be in the high lotto again for a while and so the Spurs seems like the model that should be considered.
Things which stand out to me about the Spurs:
- Draft: It doesn't matter where they are in the draft, they seems to almost always get a good player and I can't count how many times I've been watching the draft or reading this forum where I or someone else says something in the order of "wow, how did he last until the Spurs selected?" or "Wow, they just got a really good 1st rounder right there with essentially a high second rounder". You rarely see them reaching for the guy with "the body" or the "hops" or whatever other flashy attribute you can think of while bypassing the guy who you know can play. They don't gamble as much, low risk is usually the way they go; I can't remember in recent years seeing anyone hammer the Spurs from taking a risky flier on a player. Their motto seems to be "slow, but steady".
- Internal development: They don't like turnover. To establish a system you need the right kinds of players playing in the system for years. They need to know that system inside/out. They need to own that system. Then they need to teach newcomers and by taking ownership/accountability there is little chance for anyone to shake what is being contsructed. That's also called a strong locker room, everyone playing together towards a common goal, everyone in line without question.
- Retention: One could argue this is merely a product of success and as such the Raptors can't achieve this until they reach some level of success. I agree with that stance but in the meantime they need to do a better job of retaining assets when turover occurs. How many times have we sat back and asked the question, how the hell did they let another guy walk for nothing?
This ultimately comes back to the question, is the current management up to the task? Well, I'm no longer a beliver but whoever is in charge going forward we need to see a far better job at points 2 and 3. To Colangelo's credit, he's hasn't drafted many busts in his career during the first round but at the same time, the message he sends has at times conflicted with the types of players he's drafted. If he wants this team to play tough he needs to stop trying to change players and just go get the guys right for the system. He's needs to stop this business of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole... And if he's in the business of drafting based on talent and not position(like he should be) then he needs to find ways to turn those assets into what works for the team if they aren't pieces which fit. He needs to pull the trigger sooner, than later(Bargnani, you know he's going).
What do you all think?