In the last 16 years, the Raptors have finished the season between .320 and .580 twelve times. TWELVE TIMES!! That's 12 times being good enough to stay out of the basement and field a somewhat competitive team, but never good enough to win even 50 games and maybe look like a contender. In other words, it's EXACTLY the territory I've been saying I don't want them in. That dangerous mediocre territory. Good enough to compete but not bad enough to get a high lottery pick.
As octothorp mentioned, the few times the Raptors have finished near the bottom and been able to get a high pick, they've generally done very well. Without the top five picks they got in 2003 and 1998, they don't get Chris Bosh and Vince Carter. Unfortunately the only time they've gotten a #1 pick it was a weak draft and they didn't pick, who I felt was even close to, the best player available.
This draft, as has been noted many times, is believed to be one of the best in years, and with several potential franchise players available. So with the Raptors having almost no chance to make the playoffs this year, a young team without an elite player on the roster, a new coach and no expectations from the fans, it seems like a perfect chance to try and get a top pick in a great draft and hopefully grab a superstar that can take the team out of the mediocrity they've been swimming in throughout their history, why not go for it?
Or they can keep doing what they've been doing for most of the last 16 years and hoping for a different result.
This was written 3 months ago. Minus a couple of references to the new CBA it remains as true now as it was then.
There are some notable free agent big men like Marc Gasol (restricted free agent), Tyson Chandler (unrestricted free agent) and Denver big man Nene (unrestricted free agent) however all of them are coming from situations better than the one in Toronto and all of them would command far more money than the Raptors can offer especially if the cap is coming down.
There is been a lot of talk that the sign and trade provision in the old labor deal could be a causality of the new labor deal meaning the Raptors will need to find their center for next season in trade, from the value bin or from their own roster.
The good news is that the Raptors do have a candidate in Solomon Alabi who was drafted last year with the 50th pick. Solomon was drafted coming off of knee surgery which was kept somewhat low key during the draft process; as a result he really did not work out well for NBA teams and took a slide.
If you recall, Alabi was considered by some to be a late first round prospect that just tumbled on draft night.
Alabi did not get healthy until mid-season last year and by that time he’d already been written out of the game plan by former head coach Jay Triano. Alabi saw garbage time but little else as a rookie.
When the Raptors’ season ended Alabi hit the gym almost immediately, so when the Raptors put together a mini-camp at the end of June, Alabi was not only one of the best players in the camp, he was finally healthy and had some bounce again.
If you recall, Alabi last season he could barely jump over a phone book and looked like a plodding stiff.
New Raptors’ head coach Dwane Casey was impressed with Alabi’s performance and told the 23-year-old seven-footer that if he came to camp with the same bounce, energy and aggressiveness that he showed in the mini-camp, he’d get a chance to compete for the starters spot at center.
Now the Raptors won’t be banking on Solo as their only options, but as you start to consider where the Raptors can go with limited money to spend Solo may get his chance out of necessity.
There is little doubt that Jonas Valanciunas is the Raptors’ center of the future, however for next season Solomon Alabi may get a chance to earn his spot and that’s far more likely than a major free agent being brought in for a number of reasons.
ESPN's Marc Stein is confirming that Toronto is no longer chasing after a top FA center this year.
... read from bottom up:
TOR would need to amnesty someone to have enough cap space to get into race for top Cs. Teams told now they have no shot at RFA Gasol anywayTyson Chandler another C that Raps initially planned to chase, given Dwane Casey's defensive bent and how he'd fit next to Bargnani. BUT ...Toronto was one of those teams that woulda loved to get in Marc Gasol mix. But hearing now Raps prefer to roll cap space into next summer
My take on Alabi is that we need to see what we have. Talk is one thing, but we need to see him in action. Realistically he may not be able to handle an NBA game and so if we can throw him in for 8-10 minutes initially that might work out.
Tell Bargnani to suck it up for a couple of games as Center as they try out Alabi. If Alabi isn't cutting it, they go after someone else.
Perhaps the two pre-season games would be the perfect time to test him out. Boston would be a really good test for him. There should be still a lot of free agents left to pick from even after the pre-season is over. If we miss out on a player during free agency, we could always swing a trade for a cheap center from some other team (Hollins from Cleveland for example).
According to Chad Ford, the Raptors are currently exploring the possibility of Jonas Valanciunas coming to Toronto this season.
Now that would most likely settle all the talk of a free agent center and could possibly push the issue with one of our PF.The Toronto Raptors drafted Jonas Valanciunas with the No. 5 pick in the 2011 NBA draft knowing it would be at least a year before he came to the NBA.
But a source close to the team told ESPN.com on Saturday that there's a small chance they might be able to get him this season.
The source said that the team reached out to Valanciunas' agent over the weekend to gauge the center's interest in joining the Raptors in 2011-12. If Valanciunas has interest, the Toronto would have to work out a buyout with his team in Lithuania, Lietuvos Rytas.
Valanciunas does not currently have an NBA buyout for this season in his overseas deal, but things have changed for Lietuvos Rytas over the past five months. They failed to qualify for the Euroleague this season and the team will likely lose critical sponsorship money. Given the current situation, they need money more than Valanciunas.
Does the Lithuanian center want to come to the NBA this season? Valanciunas told NBA teams prior to the draft that he felt he needed at least one more year in Europe to get stronger and play more minutes at the highest level before coming abroad.
But the Raptors believe Valanciunas may be better served by joining the NBA now. The 19-year-old big man spent the entire summer and fall playing in Lithuania, giving him valuable experience. He showed what he was capable of in U-19 play, averaging a tournament-high 23 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game to lead Lithuania to the gold medal. Against Team USA and Florida's Patric Young, a projected first-rounder in 2012, Valanciunas had 30 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.
With the shortened NBA season, expectations also won't be as high. If Valanciunas came to the Raptors, he can practice with the team, get minutes off the bench and use the season to acclimatize to the NBA. By the start of training camp next fall, the Raptors believe he would be ahead of where he would be if he stayed in Europe.
If the Raptors are able to get Valanciunas now, it will be a major coup. Many NBA scouts believe he was the best long-term big man prospect in the 2011 draft and Toronto has a major need at the 5.
The news would also come as a blow to the Cavs. Cleveland had been high on Valanciunas and was expected to select him with the No. 4 pick. However, concerns about his buyout situation in Lithuania arose the week before the draft and the Cavs opted to play it safe and instead take Texas' Tristan Thompson. Had they known Valanciunas could come this season, they likely would've taken him at No. 4.
I am starting to think any moves of significance will be made through the trade front in an effort to shed salary or add pieces moving forward. This will likely only happen once all the other teams get through free agency which I would expect the Raptors to participate in via one year minimum contracts for bit players (much like Cleveland last season).
JV coming over this year would be awesome. There would be no expectations on him at all if he came over this year. Most people know that Toronto is in a rebuilding year. However next year the expectations would be a lot higher for the team to succeed, which would put a lot more pressure on JV (and our new rook(s)).
No better experience than work experience
I see pluses and minuses with Valanciunas coming over this year. In Europe he can get stronger and gain experience away from the Toronto media's gaze. More importantly, though, the Raptors don't waste a year of his rookie contract on a shortened year where he might be lucky to even get a preseason, let alone a training camp.
On the other hand, as has been pointed out, they'll be little pressure on him or the team this year because no one expects much. When next season starts he'll be all the more ready. And the fact that the NBA season has started late has actually allowed him to gain far more experience than any other rookies.
One comment about Cleveland, though. Would they really pass up who they believe was the best player available because he wasn't going to make it over during a season that might not even have been played because of the lockout? That's not smart at all.
Also, unlike other NBA rookies, JV has been playing nonstop since the summer. I don't think a lack of training camp will affect him at all. By all accounts this year is going to be one giant preseason/practice season for the Raptors anyways. Seeing how he works with the young guys already here in a, from a standings perspective, throw-away season would be a good thing as well.
With regards to getting stronger, who better to train under than the watchful eye of Alex McKechnie?
THe issue of a year on the rookie deal is warranted, however, it might be better to have two rookie deals ending in consecutive seasons than at the same time. This is not something I've totally thought out so just putting it out there.
All in all, I think coming over now would be better - but that may be the impatient fan in me than the rational,long term, impartial thinker.
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