There are very few ways to build a championship contender in the NBA and they’re all centered around obtaining a superstar.
Sign an already established superstar through free agency (the Miami Heat model)
Use young talent and Draft picks to trade for a superstar (the Boston Celtics model)
Draft well and stockpile young talent in hopes they develop into superstars (the San Antonio Spurs model)
The first option is usually only available to organizations in major markets that have the appeal to attract superstars. So for non-major market teams, the more feasible option is to acquire young talent and high Draft picks and hope one of those players turns into a star. But this route requires a lot of luck and usually a lot of losing for cities that usually can’t afford such a steep decline. It’s a tough but necessary route.
Organizations find themselves stagnated in obscurity when they fail to get lucky in the lottery or they spend their money unwisely. It’s an unfortunate place to be and it’s where seven teams find themselves going into this season. They’re not bad enough to get better and not good enough to matter.
Let’s breakdown how each of these teams got here and what their plans seem to be moving forward.
Winning percentages, last five seasons (2008-13):
.402, .488, .268, .348, .415
Biggest mistake, last five seasons:
Signing Hedo Turkoglu to a 5-year/$53 million contract in 2009.
The Raptors have experienced some of the NBA’s longest stagnation this century as they have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2000-01 and they’ve only been over .500 once in the past ten seasons. They botched their chance to obtain relevancy when they drafted Andrea Bargnani No. 1 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft. Bargnani never developed into the elite offensive center the team imagined and Toronto recently unloaded Bargnani on the New York Knicks for a package centered around sharp-shooter Steve Novak. Last season, the team dug their heels deeper into the middle of the road when they acquired Rudy Gay. This move made the team better, but nowhere near championship caliber and Toronto found itself again on the playoff fringe.
The Raptors are now under the control of former Denver Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri and some of his moves this summer signal a new direction for the organization. This must be a welcome sign for Toronto fans who haven’t had much to cheer for in a while. But it most likely won’t be a quick turnaround with the amount of bad contracts the team still has on the books.