I don't think this season could have worked out any better for the Toronto Raptors (outside of the #1 draft pick which is only a 25% possibility even with the WORST record in the league and all the consequences that can go along with that).
I was 100% full on the tank wagon. The lure of the promise and potential of the "greatest NBA draft since LeBron, Wade, Carmelo, and Bosh" was too much "hope" for this jaded Raptor fan.
The reality (reality in this case being my opinion, haha) is for those who are/were tankers, you were dead right. The 2012-13 run to end last season was an #AprilFoolsGoldRun at its finest. Had the Raptors stayed with Gay, this season would have been an utter poop show and waste. With the epic tanks put in by a number of teams, the Raptors likely would have been sitting in current Detroit/Cleveland territory - not awful enough to get a top 5 record, not good enough to even sniff at the playoffs: awful ball, Ross buried on the bench, JV ignored more than he already is after 1st Q, no stat sheets, DeRozan an inefficient side kick, a passive Lowry, no depth/bench (which is scary considering current lack of depth and bench)..... oh what dreadful prospects indeed.
So thinking the last few games it has dawned on me: the Raptors are in the best position possible.
1) Gay is gone along with the contract and chucking.... oh and stat sheets are back I believe.
2) Ross and JV are legit starters on a playoff team and are just 23 and 21 respectively. There is little guessing as to what the Raptors actually have in those two players now; the only guessing is how good will they become.
3) DeRozan is an All-Star and his trade stock no longer comes with the "potential" attachment. Ujiri has a real trade chip to offer teams if he chooses - in terms of talent and contract.
4) Financial flexibility moving forward. The Raptors are in a position to take on contracts for assets via trade this coming off season with cap space and the friendly contracts of Salmons and Hansbrough. Next year they will have, even hypothetically signing Lowry at $10M per, $30M in cap space as of now. That will change but it is safe to say they should have enough for a max deal to offer.
5) There is a skeleton shell or core of a young team is in place (top 7 players are 27 or younger: Lowry (27), Vasquez (27), Amir (26), DeRozan (24), Patterson (24), Ross (23), JV (21)) and, at least this season, is shown to be a playoff team. Lots of teams have youth but not all teams have youth who are known to belong in the NBA - potential is great, reality is better. Add to this a first round draft pick in the 20 range and the history Ujiri and Weltman have drafting in mid first round and later and the Raptors might have another young piece to add to the core soon.
6) To every action there is a reaction. Bill Simmons look at the perfection Philadelphia achieved in tanking had some scary thoughts for a tanking team:
Step 4: If you can’t get fair value for your trade assets, trade them anyway.
Before the deadline, Philly gave away Turner, Hawes and Lavoy Allen for three second-round picks, two expiring contracts they immediately bought out (Danny Granger and Earl Clark) and the immortal Henry Sims. People get carried away with second-round picks because they’re cost-effective assets if you nail them, but recent history says you have about a 10 percent chance of landing a rotation player from picks 31 to 40. (Since 2009, only Draymond Green, Kyle Singler, Chandler Parsons, Lance Stephenson, DeJuan Blair and MAYBE Nate Wolters came through.) After that, you’d have a better chance of hearing someone say the words, “I think what James Dolan is doing is really smart … ” By stockpiling second-rounders (five in all), Philly gave itself a puncher’s chance of landing someone who, someday, might be 80 percent as good as Spencer Hawes. Congratulations! But that’s a self-sabotage staple — you’re not throwing games, just making it impossible to win. Hawes and Turner needed to go.Step 10: Weigh the benefits of self-sabotage against the long-term damage to your most valuable asset.
Philly has a solid chance of passing Milwaukee for the Quadruple P (Ping-Pong Pole Position). The Sixers are only one loss behind, with no plans of ever winning again. But they shouldn’t ruin Carter-Williams to do it. In 1997, I watched M.L. Carr irrevocably alter Antoine Walker’s career with that same “Rookie of the Year on a Crap Team” carrot. As the Celtics threw away their last two months for Duncan ping-pong balls, they had Antoine playing out of position at center, hogging the ball, chasing his own numbers and learning horrendous habits. At the time, I was living in Boston and hitting most of those games because my dad steadfastly refused to go. Trust me: Antoine was only 20 years old, and he NEVER recovered from those two months. He learned all the wrong things. All of them.
Well, the same thing is happening to Carter-Williams right now.
Regardless, here’s an undeniable fact: Carter-Williams played much better in 2013 (8-11 record, 17.8 PPG, 7.5 APG, 5.5 RPG, 3.1 SPG, 41% FG, 31% 3FG) than he has played in 2014 as the team has gone into self-sabotage mode (6-24 record, 16.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 5.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 38% FG, 24% 3FG). That’s a problem. They’re better off punting on Rookie of the Year, coming up with a bogus injury and keeping him away from the team’s festering stink. There are no good lessons from intentionally getting your asses kicked every night.
7) Players coming off winning teams are looked at differently - #truth. Should Ujiri look to trade players, DeRozan, Amir, Lowry, Ross, JV are all going to be looked at in a different light due to their team's success. Look at the contracts Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry were given last summer after solid a season with Golden State. Winning is the Clearasil of the NBA.
The only real worry/concern I have is Lowry: does he walk for nothing or is this a contract year mirage? My concern is not so much about is he back or not. The bigger issue, for me, is: do the Raptors lose an asset for nothing or next to nothing?
Maybe I'm a dreamer here. Maybe I'm grasping at straws to be optimistic. But I see a lot of good and a lot of possibilities with this current roster (whether the roster stays the same or changes significantly).
What do you think?