Every once and awhile I come across something that exemplifies my frustration with this team, and what my expectations as a fan are, with this post I share with you the example, and then elaborate on my expectations are and what gives the Raps the best chance of meeting my expectations.
Spoiler Alert: My expectations are getting to the conference finals, and we need to do it by stock piling young talent.
Here's a list of all the Conference Champions and Runners up since 2000. I could have gone back all the to 1996, but I didn't really think that would be fair to the Raps. In 2000 they set league records for attendance and made the playoffs for the first time. It was also when I started watching the Raptors seriously, I was 16 and we finally got TSN at my house. Plus, 2000 is a nice round number.
Year Champion Result Opponent
2000 Indiana Pacers 4–2 New York Knicks
2001 Philadelphia 76ers 4–3 Milwaukee Bucks
2002 New Jersey Nets 4–2 Boston Celtics
2003 New Jersey Nets 4–0 Detroit Pistons
2004 Detroit Pistons 4–2 Indiana Pacers
2005 Detroit Pistons 4–3 Miami HEAT
2006 Miami HEAT 4–2 Detroit Pistons
2007 Cleveland Cavaliers 4–2 Detroit Pistons
2008 Boston Celtics 4–2 Detroit Pistons
2009 Orlando Magic 4–2 Cleveland Cavaliers
2010 Boston Celtics 4–2 Orlando Magic
2011 Miami HEAT 4–1 Chicago Bulls
2012 Miami HEAT 4–2 Boston Celtics
2013 Miami HEAT 4–3 Indiana Pacers
2000 Los Angeles Lakers 4–3 Portland Trail Blazers
2001 Los Angeles Lakers 4–0 San Antonio Spurs
2002 Los Angeles Lakers 4–3 Sacramento Kings
2003 San Antonio Spurs 4–2 Dallas Mavericks
2004 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Minnesota Timberwolves
2005 San Antonio Spurs 4–1 Phoenix Suns
2006 Dallas Mavericks 4–2 Phoenix Suns
2007 San Antonio Spurs 4–1 Utah Jazz
2008 Los Angeles Lakers 4–1 San Antonio Spurs
2009 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Denver Nuggets
2010 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Phoenix Suns
2011 Dallas Mavericks 4–1 Oklahoma City Thunder
2012 Oklahoma City Thunder 4–2 San Antonio Spurs
2013 San Antonio Spurs 4–0 Memphis Grizzles
For those you who don't want to make your own checklists here are the teams you DON'T see.
In the Eastern Conference I don't think any of those teams are likely to make the conference finals this year, or even in the next 3 years (Sorry Atlanta!). In the Western Conference though, 3 of those 4 teams are up and comers and all of them have been predicted by one analyst or another as a conference finalist this year. Of course we need to take predictions with a grain of salt (Right Knicks and Nets?) and all these teams have flaws, but there's probably at least a 50% chance that at least one if not two (and possible all three!) of Clips, Rockets, Warriors will be able to scratch their names of this list in the next 3 years.
I don't want to turn this into a tank anti-tank debate, because I honestly don't care how we get there, but it's about effing time that we do!!! Even joke teams like the Bucks, Kings, T'Wolves (although they're maybe not a joke anymore?) have at least one appearance on this list.
Since the first time the Raps made the playoffs 22 different teams have made it to the Conference Finals at least once. If you do the math that 73.3%. If that many teams can do it there's no excuse.
This is why, when anti-tankers say, "What about the Cavs, Nuggets, Magic, or T'Wolves they drafted a superstar, what did that get them?" The answer is easy. The Finals or Conference Finals. If you've got Dwight, Howard, Lebron James, or Kevin Garnett in their prime, you've got about a 90% to get to Conference Finals, at least. Melo, a VERY flawed superstar, took the Nuggets to Conference Finals in 2009. Chris Paul is probably the only generational talent/Legit MVP Candidate/best player at his position, who HASN'T been to conference finals in this era, and he's still got a couple of seasons left to do it.
So anytime someone says, "Let's see what this current team can do." I just shake my head. Who is our generational talent? Who is our big three? The short answer is we don't have either. Unless you count JV as a generational talent, but even if he is, are the other guys around him still going to be here when he becomes that player? The reality is that JV has got a good chance at being part of a big three, but he's only 1, you still need a lot more talent to go with him. Are any other perennial all-stars on this team that you need as your supporting cast?
So get rid of them, and get us a team that CAN. Although I don't think the raps can get their within the next 3 years regardless what they do, IF they don't start moving on that path this season, it's only going to push that timeline out even further, and haven't we been patient enough?
I trust Masai to find us those two other players, hopefully one if which is a top 10 player in the league. Unfortunately, I think the only way we get it is by drafting young players or trading a bunch of young players for a disgruntled superstar (the Boston/KG, Melo/NYK trades). Either way it starts with young talent. I'm willing to admit that we be SOL on this draft (too many wins, too many crap teams) but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be pulling the trigger on any Derozan/Lowry/Gay trade that brings back either young players, and or draft picks even if it isn't for this year's draft.
I know there's a lot of anti-tankers out there who think that you can make trades for young players that don't necessarily make us worse, and I'm okay with that, if Ujiri can make that happen. I am skeptical though.
I also am worried that the sniff of getting some wins in the playoffs (We could have as many as six imo) is good enough for Ujiri this year. I'm worried that he will forgo pulling the trigger on trades that will give us the best shot at a conference finals within the next five years, to have a 50-50 shot at winning a playoff series this year.
Even if the top 5 spots or even top 10 spots in this year's draft aren't within our reach, I still think there are enough team's under-achieving and in "win-now mode" that there should be some young talent and draft picks available (again they might not be in this draft), that makes it worth giving up a lowry or Gay or derozan (or all three, or anyone else other than JV or Ross) to get that young talent, EVEN at the expense of home court in the playoffs, (which isn't a sure thing, and is still unlikely, as we'd have to have a better record than anyone other than HEAT, Pacers + 1 other) and a playoff series win (also not a sure thing, especially without homecourt). For those you who are excited about the possibility of a division banner, remember that although it guarantees a top four seed it DOES NOT guarantee home court advantage. I know this makes no sense, but that's how the NBA works since 2006.
For me, anything less than a conference finals appearance within the next five years is a failure. The fact that MLSE's talking head (TL) seems to have the same opinion makes me less patient not more. Again, I don't see it happening for at least 4 years anyway, but better 4 than 15, or never.
Another poster (I forget who) posted the following quote, which sums up my feeling on the matter.
"The best time to plant a tree in your backyard is 50 years ago. The second best time is now." I'm not sure what MU and TL have planned for this weekend, but hopefully they'll start planting our NBA championship tree.