Monday, March 3, 2014

Don't be angry at Bryan Colangelo for tanking -- he couldn't even if he tried

So, Bryan Colangelo, the namesake of this past-its-best-before-date screed factory, admitted to tanking the '11-'12 Raptors season at the Sloan Sports Analytic Conference at MIT this past weekend. And our lovable beat grunt, sensing some perceived outrage at Colangelo's perceived rebuilding project during the strike shortened season, took it upon himself to stick up for the little guy (little guy being a giant, wealthy basketball executive who performed super poorly at his job for at least seven years).

The combination of Colangelo's campaign for to re-write a history that would have earned the title "Worst GM in the NBA" if not for David Kahn, and Doug Smith's not unexpected giant swing-and-miss of the point, has inspired me to pull out our late, loved gimmick and FJM the shit out of this charged defence of who-the-fuck knows:

Of BC and doing the right thing but using the wrong word

Perhaps the most telling part of the Bryan Colangelo story that surfaced Friday was how people have glommed on to one word.

"Shitty?" Is the word "shitty?" As in, "I, Bryan Colangelo, am a talented wearer of French cuffs but shitty at generally managing an NBA team."



It is the hot-button issue in the NBA these days, the connotation that teams are trying intentionally get worse, and therefore lose games, in an effort to get lucky in the draft or the draft lottery and throwing it out there as he did as part of a far more wide-ranging discussion took away from the reality of his situation and the reality of the NBA today.

In an electronic conversation Saturday, Bryan admitted the use of the word was “misused, misinterpreted and inappropriate” but, really, in a lot of ways the whole thing was, to me, much ado about nothing.

I don't think it was any of those things even a little wee bit. Bryan Colangelo wants you (and you and you at home) to believe he was setting up the Raptors to shit the bed because it backwards rationalizes six previous years of asset mismanagement. This is the same dude who, just last summer, intimated that the team would have been in better shape had management not tied his hands and demanded he produce an immediate playoff team. Now he claims he was strategically positioning the team for the draft lottery. It rings about as true as a flunking student claiming he's actually very smart but chose not to try.

Look, we all know where I stand on the issue of “tanking” which to me is intentionally making your team worse. For instance, what the Philadelphia 76rs have done is despicable and I hope the fail miserably. They gave away an all-star in Jrue Holiday for a kid they knew might not play this entire season and if that’s not trying to lose, I don’t know what is.

It's a gamble to acquire assets. Maybe the Sixers could have competed this season but they were most likely not a playoff team with Holiday, even in the atrocious East. They bought high on Holiday and chose instead to turn him into draft picks and the rights to Nerlins Noel, who many touted as the best talent in the '13 draft. Now they're playing rookie Michael Carter-Williams who is, so far, half the shooter Holiday is, but makes less than a third. They also hold ALL THE DRAFT PICKS. Is that despicable? Are they throwing games? Are they grabbing Ricky Davis rebounds? Maybe they'll whiff on the draft pick(s), or maybe the NBA whiffed on the whole draft or maybe even if they find the next John Wall or Kyrie Irving or even Kevin Love, they'll never reach the promise land. I don't know how to handicap that possibility but whether Jrue Holliday is manning point for them is hardly a last straw.

If there’s a Basketball God, the Sixers will finish with the fourth worse record and drop in the lottery to seventh in a six-player draft.

Is it weird that I wouldn't be in the least surprised if Doug Smith actually believed in basketball theism?

On the other side of the coin, what the Milwaukee Bucks have done, I am quite fine with. They suck, no question about it, but they suck because they tried to be okay and failed, they are not the worst team in the league because they want to be.

They sucked the right way! But they don't nearly have the assets or the financial flexibility to accept salaries, sign free agents or trade draft picks. You might be fine with it, Doug, but should Bucks fans be?

What happened in Toronto bore no resemblance to Philadelphia whatsoever and those taking Colangelo to task for what he said are missing a bigger point.

This unnamed *those* are missing the bigger point and so is Doug. Sam Hinkie, GM of the Sixers divested of expensive or soon-to-be expensive players that might have nabbed them an extra few wins in exchange for a platter of assets that could help them win three or four years down the road. Bryan Colangelo traded a first round pick for James Johnson then traded James Johnson for a second round pick. The Raptors landed on the 8th pick and chose Terrence Ross (projected to go about 14th). Had Colangelo really wanted to "tank" he'd divested assets like Bargnani and Kleiza. But, of course, he didn't have the wherewithal to know which of his players were good and not good at basketball. And that, Doug Smith, was the biggest point.

Now, if he’d given away, say, DeMar DeRozan for a bucket of has-been 34-year-olds on expiring contracts, I would have been all over him for trying to lose but he didn’t.


We have had our issues in the past – I thought the DeMar DeRozan contract extension was ill-advised because they were bidding against themselves, I said right off the bat that getting Rudy Gay for Jose Calderon and Ed Davis may have improved Toronto in one area but weakened the Raptors in two others – but I’m quite okay with the season in question and how he handled it.

Yeah, you did say the DeRozan contract was ill-advised but in the weakest possible terms. I don't even have to look back at your reaction at the trade for Gay since you just hedged right there. Right in front of me! Do you owe Colangelo money?

He had some young kids he wanted to find out about and he did. It’s not much different than this year, when the Raptors have a couple of young kids they want to find out about in Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas and they are finding many positives. Heck, the Raptors were a Ben Uzoh triple double – A BEN UZOH TRIPLE DOUBLE!!!! – from perhaps getting a higher pick and that’s about as far from giving away talent for nothing – which is what tanking is to me – than imagineable.

Again, Sixers gave away talent for real things but I digress. Yes, we agree, the Raptors were not great in '11-'12 because they were not great. Bargnani was making more than $9 million. Barbosa more than $7. I've argued that their 22-44 record was surprising victory that included the emergence of Ed Davis, a fantastic Calederon and even Bargs had a few good shooting nights.  I wrote about it here.

I know Bryan pretty well, having been around him for the entirety of his time with the Raptors and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that he hated when his team lost. He used the word “painstaking” to describe them and, trust me, it was to him.

I truly believe you believe this. I believe he believed this. I do not believe he had any idea what the difference between a good and a bad team was.

He would never do anything to assure that they did and when he typed Saturday of his Boston appearance “I was very clear that I never asked the coach to intentionally lose games, nor would I ever do so, but rather to establish a culture and develop our young players which would come at an obvious and unavoidable cost...losing an inordinate amount of games” he was absolutely right.

He didn't ask the team to throw games. What a gentleman. Also ?

There is such a hugely negative connotation these days to “tank” that using the word obscures the bigger issue.

Is the negative connotation furthered by your description of the Sixers strategic plan as "despicable?"

The there is no doubt that the current system is flawed, just as there is no doubt the league office is aware of those flaws and that the system needs studying, a fact commissioner Adam Silver has acknowledged since he took over this month.

If the result of the draft lottery system is that Sam Hinkie gets rewarded and Bryan Colangelo got canned then I think everything's working fine. Even if there are real consequences to warped incentives, I am certain Bryan Colangelo was never both holding the cards and making the right be to take advantage.

The discussion on Friday centred on the idea of a “wheel” for awarding teams draft picks in perpetuity and whether they fix things that way, which I don’t think it’s workable because there are so many future picks bouncing around from trades that it seems blatantly unfair to make such a radical change with an uneven playing field.


But whether it’s that or they use a two-year record window or go back and pick a spot in the season and use it as a basis for the draft, something has to change.


I will say this with much conviction:

If Bryan hadn’t used the word “tank” when discussing a system that rewards failure and is counter-intuitive to the goal of teams – which is to win games and have young players get the opportunity to improve or to find out what they really are – it would have either been a non-story or a lot of people would be saying today: “Hey, he’s making a valid point that everyone agrees on, they need to find a way to fix things.”

The object of basketball is to win games AND have young players get the opportunity to improve?

Maybe in some crazy circular way, he kept alive a conversation that the league’s owners and GMs should be have more seriously now.

Maybe in an inane, circular way, Doug Smith believes that the Sixers are bad, the Bucks are good and that Bryan Colangelo was savvy enough to tank. Also ???????????

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Masai Ujiri, is there another way?

At a week after the all star break, the Raptors stand in third place in the Eastern Conference, and first in the barely-important Atlantic Division at 31-25. And while six games over .500 and sitting as, roughly, the twelfth-best team in basketball might not seem like your dreams coming true, I assure you, these are the salad days.

Given the remaining schedule and even taking into consideration injury possibilities, this team has a bankable chance of winning 47 or more games, holding the third-place spot and finding itself competing in a first-round series against very flawed opponents (Brooklyn, Washington, Charlotte, to name the most likely). For a team penciled in to narrowly miss the playoffs on the back of a Rudy Gay 18 foot step-back jumper, this is remarkable.

Last season at this time, Bryan Colangelo was the General Manager of this team. Rudy Gay was the leading scorer and Andrea Bargnani cashed purple cheques. If our deal with the devil was simply to change those circumstances, we'd have signed on the dotted line. But thanks to a let's-not-jinx-it run of good skill/luck from messiah, Masai Ujiri, defense-first play from a bought-in starting five led by "CAPTAIN KYLE" Lowry and a dynamic bench, this team could possibly, maybe, who knows, take a game or two against an Indiana in the second round of the NBA playoffs. Just the thought of this happening, a couple months down the road, makes my insides tingle.

And you know what, friends? Allow yourselves to enjoy this -- whatever this is. There's this adage often thrown around about how the worst place to be in the NBA is in the middle; that somehow, the Atlanta Hawks of the late-2000s were a prototype of futility. But the alternative--bottoming out for years, hoarding draft picks and remaking yourself in the image of the Oklahoma City Thunder--is tenuous and statistically uncertain to get a team to a conference finals. Sure, you could luck out with the right draft picks in the right succession of years and have those players peak under controllable contracts while rivals simultaneously fritter away, but even with uncanny drafting ability, that strategy isn't bankable as much as it is a blessing of fortune.

So, why not instead make smaller bets on the right side of odds? That means slowly improving your team, pushing them win-by-win through the middle of the pack instead of tanking on a prayer. It means drafting for value outside the lottery, in the second round and scouting the best of Europe, not betting the club on the off chance one of the hyped prospects both turns into 1% and declares undying support to your franchise in the dying vein of Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. It means dismissing the dead weight, the old-school mistakes like Gay and Bargnani. It means acquiring low-risk restricted free agents-to-be who will remain under team control, if the market agrees. It means not sacrificing the future for the present but also not ignoring the value of your birds-in-hand. It means bringing in a coach who can give the team even the slightest of edges. It means selling potential free agents, whether they be expensive stars or bench role players on the only factor that competes with bright lights, warm nights and tax-free delights: winning.

Maybe the middle isn't the worst place to be. Maybe the middle is where you start building, start pushing up, start fighting and scratching to be a little better and a little better. Maybe there's another way.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Rudolph, the vision-impaired millionaire

Sources, those indelibly prolific chatterboxes, are confirming:

Rudy Gay along with Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray are heading to Sacramento in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes.

This marks Masai Ujiri's second ejection of highly touted (and controversial) Bryan Colangelo projects, after upselling the New York Knicks on Andrea Bargnani in the summer.

Now, the weight of this deal is almost certainly the removal of Gay and his contract and his jump shots and cooler heads will have none of whatever analysis we attempt to attribute to the finer pieces. But, like... poppycock. This Raptor team is in such flux that no player can be expected to stick around tomorrow (except JV) and at the same time, we have no idea which seemingly unimportant cog might fit into the future.

First the additions:

  • John Salmons is salary weight, a 34 year old gunner who has bizarrely stuck around in this league far past his expiration date (remember: Baron Davis not currently in NBA but Salmons is). Salmons is best known to Raptor fans for backing out of a five year, $23 million contract with Toronto in 2006 because, like, Jesus told him to. He missed being part of the Atlantic Division (banner, baby!) team and toiled and slouched his way through an uninspiring late career, somehow blackmailing Milwaukee to hand him $39, million for five years deal in 2010. The Raps will owe him the rest of $7 million this year and $7 million next year to sit in the Linas Kleiza chair behind the bench. This is the cost of salary dumps. *Edit: only $1 million of Salmons' contract is guaranteed for 14/15. Weeeeeeeee.
  • Chuck Hayes is a gamey little (he's 6'6) PF/C who put some Houston teams on his back a few years ago but barely played in Sacramento. Fans seem to like him and the Raptors didn't have many ideas on the bench for big men. He is overpaid at just under $6 million this year and next.
  • I haven't seen much of Patrick Patterson's play but he's an all offence, no defence/little rebounding four. His offence seems to have stalled, as well. Another product of Daryl Morey's drafting, he's still young and should get a real chance to play. He's coming off his rookie deal at the end of this year and we'll see if the market bears him as too expensive to be brought back in a matched restricted free agent offer. I'd prefer to have Ed Davis back. But Patterson clearly has more upside than any other power forward that's passed through this team since Ed. 
  • Vasquez is the most intriguing piece coming back. He led the league in total assists last year as an unexpectedly stable presence on an uneven Hornets team. He's not a plus shooter but he's big enough to play the two. With him, the Raptors finally have an NBA-calibre back-up point guard who can spell Kyle Lowry so he can finally sit down and not worry the offence will just completely implode. He'll also, surely, play beside Kyle as the Raps have committed to small ball for whatever the rest of this season brings.
The "comings" in this deal offer something for both sides of coin that is this Raptor team's outlook: aging, uninspiring vets who can eat minutes and pick up cheques; vets that are obviously overpaid but don't completely anchor Ujiri's cap situation going into next summer and could potentially be moved as expiring contracts. And then, two highly touted but floundering fourth-year players whose performances suffered after they arrived in Sacramento. With hope, the removal of the King-stink will revitalize them in Toronto and the markets will allow them to be signed to reasonable deals to remain rotation players; or if not, provide a sign-and-trade opportunity that lands the Raptors some picks.

Now the departures...

  • I have a soft spot for affable rebounders an goofy, seven-foot-nothings so, so long and good luck Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray.
  • And last, but possibly least, Rudy Gay. Rudy: you became the focal point of the old-world vs. new thinking about professional basketball and I, for one (though I think I speak for thousands) do not wish to be on the wrong side of that history. Yes, your rebounding picked up in Toronto. Yes, you showed an ability to lock down on defence when you really, really wanted it. But there's just not enough ball, not enough shots, to satisfy whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. For all your Lasik and your buzzer beaters and your allergy to stat sheets, I'm not sure you're destined to be much more than John Salmons.

I'm giving up all my hugs and kisses for Masai Ujiri who has, so far, shown gigantic, round cojones. It takes bravery, yes it does, to dispose of two big name players in return for nameless role players because they happen to have better-fitting contracts and allow for the flexibility to work towards winning a playoff series in a couple years. An extra peck on the cheek for Tim Leiweke for allowing Masai the leeway to execute a vision.

The nameless, blameless "they" like to say things like "you can't win in the NBA without stars." But if you're so obtuse you count Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay among your circle of stars, you don't get a say in philosophizing about winning anything above a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

No More Mago

Did you soak your undies yet? In a few short fortnights, the Toronto basketball club dismissed, first, the architect of ineptitude and namesake of this journal, then followed it up by packing the 7' lightning rod of pasta into a pot and boiling him el dente until he's served up again in midtown Manhattan.

This is not your grandpa's dinosaur-themed NBA team.

While berating some blowhard writer (just kidding, Bill!) a couple years ago, for suggesting that the Raptors amnesty Jose Calderon, I dove into the prospect of using the still-unused amnesty provision to artificially clear cap space. Weighing the two obvious candidates -- Linas Kleiza or Andrea Bargnani -- I concluded that Kleiza was the most expendable player for the simple reason that I had a hunch that some mouth-breathing general manager could down enough single malt to talk himself into sending something back for the chance to regret ever meeting the Lowman Roman. But that was then, and after getting heckled out of existence in Toronto, I assumed the window to flip him had passed and that there was nothing out there besides an opportunity to take back someone else's albatross; your Richard Jeffersons, etc.

So imagine my surprise when new man-crush Masai Ujiri turned turd into (not gold but...) nickel? by turning an unplayable misery into "Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, a 2016 first-round pick, a second-round pick and likely Quentin Richardson."

I won't pretend this ransom is king's but really, bringing in anything besides a carb headache is gravy. Novak is a specialist on a reasonable-for-a-specialist contract who will play 18-20 minutes a game and change the gravity of how defences set up against the otherwise awful three point shooting that has defined this team since Calderon was traded. Camby, one of the great defensive centres of all time, will be either on the end of the bench on a contender or will retire in the coming months. QRich Van Horned himself into a payday and will more likely be smoking dubes with Darius Miles next season than playing in the NBA (though if you are considering tanking the season, why not play a dude who shoots every six seconds?). Though the picks are low, low picks can (with extraordinary scouting) become incredibly valuable, allowing a team to cheaply fill a bench with team-friendly terms and hope someone turns into Chandler Parsons.

Better still, the salary commitments for the next two seasons is brought down $2-$3 million. Win-win-win-win-win.

It's been said a few times this past week that mirroring what Ujiri, Bryan Colangelo's first big (and maybe best) move was trading Hoffa for Humphries. Getting other teams to take on your problems is just as tough as acquiring a game changing player. Let's hope this is where the similarities end.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

That New GM Smell

How do you welcome a new general manager? How do you mark the arrival of a reigning Executive of the Year, who is expected to unplug the dirty toilet of stink built by his predecessor (and mentor) who’s been moved to the office down the hall?

By taking a deep dive into the transactions that got him there, of course! Welcome, Masai Ujiri, to the basketball hospital that is FireBC (which is now, I guess, a “cute” label like “20th Century Fox”). But instead of the basement’s coroner’s office, we’re up in the nursery telling your origin story.

August 27 2010

Named executive vice president of basketball operations.

The summer of 2010’s other Decision.

October 21 2010

Exercised the contract option on guard Ty Lawson through 2011-12.

I mean, I guess he could have declined?

February 22 2011Signed forward Carmelo Anthony to a contract extension and traded him along with guards Chauncey Billups and Anthony Carter, forward Renaldo Balkman and center Shelden Williams to the New York Knicks for guard Raymond Felton, forwards Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, center Timofey Mozgov, a future first-round pick, two future second-round picks, the right to exchange 2016 first-round picks and cash and center Kosta Koufos and a second-round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who traded forward Corey Brewer to the New York Knicks for forward Anthony Randolph, center Eddy Curry and cash.

Only a few notes on his call sheet and then the big one. Many ‘a pundit looked at Carmelo Anthony’s prolonged and forced exodus from Denver as a no-win for Ujiri and the Nuggets. After all, Anthony was the clear superstar and conventional punditry dictates that the team intaking the superstar always wins.

Slightly more astute observers compared the haul exchanged for Melo as a victory for Ujiri, especially when compared to how LeBron James and Chris Bosh took their talents to some beach in the south. If you remember, James and Bosh were officially signed-and-traded by the Cavs and Raptors, respectively, netting two of the three super bros extra cash by utilizing their Bird rights with Miami sending back trivial draft picks (yes, one of the picks was used to draft Jonas Valanciunas, and yes that pick was actually Toronto’s original pick returned from a disastrous trade.)

I’ve covered here why Ujiri had more leverage and the return for Anthony was greater making this deal less ingenious and more opportunistic. That said, how about the haul? Ujiri shed Chauncey Billips’ contract (owed about $20 million in the next year-and-a-half) on the Knicks who used the amnesty provision to turn him into cap space. Let’s credit Uirij for reading the tea leaves correctly on a 34-year-old, prideful player who was no longer able to produce up to his pay grade. The Nuggets also picked up (with some help from Minnesota)

Kosta Koufos: a dude with a fun name who came into the league super raw and unable to secure consistent playing time in Utah and Minny. But Koufos hit his stride this season, starting every game he played, protecting the rim, finishing dunks and all for a bargain basement 3 year/$9 million deal. A K-Krazy deal! (Okay, he disappeared in the playoffs);

Raymond Felton: flipped him for THIS!;

Wilson Chandler: actually had plays called for him as the scorer of choice off the bench this past season

Timofey Mozgov: was a sticking point for the Knicks in this trade. I assure you Denver would happily send him back;

Danilo Gallinari: really, the crux of the deal. Gallinari has shone through as a stretch 4/3; a Wally Szczerbiak but three inches taller (this is actually a compliment--Wally made an all-star team). Sure, he got hurt before the playoffs and got off to an awful start, but in between, was the engine of the Nuggets offense, playing up-tempto small ball, shooting with range, displayin much improved playmaking and, most of all, showing the kind of promise you want to see in a 24-year-old on a 4 year/$42 million agreement

Yes, Ujiri had Carmelo and the Knicks by his Honeynut Cheerios but credit is surely due for his efforts to remake a competitive team on the fly and keep it competitive.

March 8 2011 Signed head coach George Karl to a contract extension.

Karl always struck me as all smoke and no mirrors, with an “aw shucks” over-simple offense and no defensive plan besides run around a lot. But I’ll admit I only watch him coach a few games a year, almost all in the playoffs. So, take it away, Zach Lowe.

June 20 2011 Exercised the contract option on guard Ty Lawson through 2012-13 and tendered qualifying offers to guard Arron Afflalo and forwards Gary Forbes and Wilson Chandler.

This is housekeeping, obviously, but three out of four of these guys became significant players.

Draft 2011 Selected forward Kenneth Faried (22nd overall pick). Traded guard Raymond Felton to the Portland Trail Blazers for guard Andre Miller and a future second-round pick and the draft rights to forward Jordan Hamilton from the Dallas Mavericks; traded a future second-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for the draft rights to forward Chukwudiebere Maduabum.

The Faried pick, at 22, is one of the more savvy draft decisions in the modern NBA. Faried was a rebounding machine from whatever the opposite of a powerhouse college is, Morehead State. After breaking Tim Duncan’s college career rebounding record, scoutis were unsure how Fareid would fare in the NBA. He rebounds using athleticism over the spacing-and-position method and his offensive game was severely limited.

I remember watching him in the NCAA tournament and thinking “this dude is fun!” (can you tell I am not an amateur scout?) I’m not sure what Uriji saw that made him take a chance on a “project-y” guy like Faried but I am taking a wild guess it’s this... rebounding has shown to be the most predictable skill that translates from the college game. Great rebounders have a better opportunity to be good NBA rebounders than those with “scorer” in their scouting reports. So, maybe Ujiri, staring down at a draft board where 21 young men would be unavailable by the time he chose, decided not to reach with a high-risk/high-reward pick and instead recognized translate-able rebounding skills as an undervalued asset in the Moneyball parlance and pounced.

While Fareid was picked about where he placed in mock drafts, his stock rose significantly only a few weeks before the draft which may indicate Denver had expressed interest.

With the emergence of speedy little Ty Lawson, the Nuggets required a tall, versatile second guard who could easily play in a “twin guard” formation. Though he can’t shoot and his once lauded defence has become this thanks to father time, Andre Miller is a veteran player who just shuts up and plays basketball while Raymond Felton is a doughy whiner (who the Knicks suckered into a four year/$14 million contract).

December 10 2011

Signed forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to an offer sheet.

I love signing offer sheets to restricted free agents. It’s a fantastic way to just fuck with other teams in a tense, salary cap era for the small risk of tying up some cap space for three days. But holy hell, Ujiri is lucky the Bucks matched the four year/$18.7 million. Mbah a Moute has regressed in Milwaukee in the years since, cementing his complete lack of offensive game and had his minutes swallowed up by a still-relevant, Mike Dunleavy and still-in-the-league, Marquis Daniels. A near-miss for Masai.

December 13 2011 Re-signed center NenĂª, signed forward DeMarre Carroll and traded a 2016 second-round pick to the Dallas Mavericks for guard Rudy Fernandez and forward Corey Brewer.

I was very critical of re-signing Nene at the time. At 29, he was an oft-injured centre with only “meh” defensive abilities and no back-to-the-basket game. He was/is a deft passer with unbelievable hands who can score, face-up in a number of deadly ways but with age and a loss of athleticism, I figured he would fossilize by age 31 or so, which would be hard to bear for the cost of five years/$65 million, paying him $13 million in the final year at age 34.

What I should have remembered, though, is that this is exactly the going rate for a tier-two big man at that age and if you think I’m wrong, let’s talk after someone signs Al Jefferson this summer. This contract was so in line, that, well... spoiler alert... we’ll soon see it packaged and sent off in a trade, not something you’d see with an albatross. Before those events, though, Nene was justly the central piece of the Nuggets’ offense. It had speedy guards, wiley stoppers and a stretch shooter, but it all depended on Nene’s ability to explode from the post and project guard-like passes to open teammates out of the double team.

Also, I love Rudy Fernandez and don’t understand why he’s not still in the NBA.

Also, also, I guess Corey Brewer is one of those wiley stoppers I praised the Nuggets for, though he’s always seemed more flail-y than wiley to my eyes.

December 20 2011 Re-signed guard Arron Afflalo.

Afflalo is an interesting case. A fantastic three ball shooter and defender, he fit perfectly into the Nuggets offence at the time, working in and around Nene. Bill Simmons went deep on what this guy was actually worth, in a column from a couple years ago. It’s hard to say whether Afflalo peaked or has left a good situation for a bad one in Orlando, but I have no doubt that market value was at least the $36 million over four years he signed to. I’d trade for Arron Afflalo right now for any wing on the Raptors.

January 25 2012 Signed forward Danilo Gallinari and center Kosta Koufos to contract extensions.

Four years/$42 million seemed high for Gallinari but I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

March 15 2012 Traded center NenĂª to the Washington Wizards for forward Ronny Turiaf and center JaVale McGee.

And... there he goes. Maybe Ujiri got cold feet and the mid/late-career version of Nene that was approaching or maybe this was the plan all along. Either way, he jettisoned his cornerstone for the unpredictable McGee. JaVale’s shown flashes of brilliance during his short career but he often looks lost in the half court on both O and D. He was more or less removed from the rotation this year which is a troubling sign for a dude on a four year/$44 million contract but he’s still only 25 years old and seemed to offer the same combination of athletic rim protection and dunking that got him paid in the first place. Maybe George Karl just thought he was a douche? I would have taken my chances with Nene but I completely understand trying something here and I expect McGee to play more next season.

Draft 2012

Selected guard Evan Fournier (20th overalll pick), forward Quincy Miller (38th overall pick) and center Izzet Turkyilmaz (50th overall pick).

I won’t pretend to have any idea about these guys other than Fournier who played some garbage time in the playoffs. Also, I hope Izzet Turkyilmaz’s nickname is “Izza Turky.”

July 17 2012

Waived forward Chris Andersen.

Oh Birdman. I assume this was less about basketball and more about all the things that are up with Andersen. However, I’m sure Ujiri has looked at what got out of McGee for $11 million vs. what Miami is getting out of Andersen for petty cash and poured himself a stiff iced coffee.

August 10 2012

Traded guard Arron Afflalo, forward Al Harrington and the lower of its 2014 first-round picks to the Orlando Magic for Andre Iguodala from the Philadelphia 76ers.

This is how you know Afflalo was properly paid. He was the lynchpin in this trade (did you even remember Al Harrington is still in the NBA?) that landed the Nuggets Andre Iguodala. Probably the best example of Ujiri’s philosophy, over even the Nene trade, the GM deftly looked at an undervalued asset in Iguodala and acquired him without giving up many assets.

Iggy is an overpaid non-scorer, non-star, you counter? Wrong, you are! Since you won’t argue he’s a top-five perimeter defender (playing the part for the USA Olympic team) or his passing or rebounding, your qualms are, therefore, with his ability to put ball in basket. Well, I argue he’s a heady-enough player who has ramped down his shot attempts as he’s been paired with better teammates, beginning a couple of years ago with a surging Sixers team. He made $15 million last season on the second last year of a six year/$60 million contract and still in his prime years (29). I want this guy on my team just as Jerry Colangelo and Coach K wanted him. You should want him, too. Arron Afflalo may turn into something special. Or he may be Kerry Kittles. Iguodala is a top-tier talent now, perfectly paired to the athletic pace preferred by Lawson, Fared, Gallinari, et al. who may be re-signable at an affordable rate if he opts for long-term stability.

And that... is pretty much it. Ujiri’s only had a few major moves (Melo, Nene, Afflalo departing/Gallinari, McGee, Iguodala arriving) and one draft pick of note (Fareid) in his three years at the helm but it’s been enough to completely overhaul and re-invent the Nuggets. He’s leaving that team with reasonable salary commitments, long-term certainty on most of the core team (and a good chance to re-sign Iggy) and lots of tradable pieces should they sense an opportunity. Let’s hope Ujiri is given the time, opportunity and support to re-make the Raptors using those same principles.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ding Dong...

It happened, finally.

But with typically opaque anti-logic, Bryan Colangelo is jettisoned from the war room to the bridge room to join Wayne Embry in the "I hang around and collect pay cheques" golden years. Why? Apparently, to not upset daddy? The title of this blog is not "Reassign BC." Alas.

Let's not dwell on the half-measures as we acknowledge Step #1 in the Post-BC era. I can't wait for the playoffs (Step #1,291 in 2016).

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The BC Autopsy 12-13: Being There

Draft 2012

Selected guard Terrence Ross (8th overall pick) and forwards Quincy Acy (37th overall pick) and Tomislav Zubcic (56th overall pick).

I’ll always temper my feelings about a rookie but I’ve found Terrence Ross completely underwhelming. Yes, he’s a terrific dunker and yes, he’s shown glimpses that he could develop reliable three-point range but nothing I’ve seen from him spells anything but “career backup.” That said, it might have just been a seven-deep draft (plus some promising play from Andre Drummond) and Toronto was simply outlucked. So be it. But for Bosh-sakes, let the kid play over Alan Anderson. He still has years to impress (and enrage me) and I’d be interested to know if he had trade value (dunking is fun!) and if so, they should probably capitalize sooner than later.

Quincy Acy has the best Raptor beard since Reggie Evans. I like beardy rebounders.

July 11 2012

Traded a future first-round pick and forward Gary Forbes to the Houston Rockets for guard Kyle Lowry, and signed guard Landry Fields to an offer sheet.

Though he’s halfway through his NBA career, the book is yet to be written about Kyle Lowry. From being thrown in as trade filler from Memphis and then mercilessly chained to bench in Houston in favour of Aaron Brooks, Lowry has never been respected as a point guard, despite upper-tier talent. He’s able to barrel to the bucket, run a fairly tight offence and hit threes while maintaining passable defence (he gambles too much for steals). But his shot selection is detrimental as is his sulky, exacerbated demeanour.

These faults hold the answer to why such a productive point guard was readily available for trade last summer. Despite the high price of a guaranteed-to-be quality draft pick (especially within this new CBA) Colangelo was able to upgrade the “second” point guard spot from the marginal Jerryd Bayless to the imposing Lowry without hamstringing flexibility or relying too heavily on a draft that may hold suspect talent. Lowry’s owed a combined $12 million this season and next -- a rare bargain for a non-rookie -- and he’s clearly in evaluation as the long-term solution at the point, with a probably expensive extension on the way.

I liked this trade very much. Though trading with Daryl Morey is never without fraught, it seemed clear that the Rockets were clearing salary in the hopes of picking up a big name (with the draft pick eventually moving to Oklahoma for the James Harden trade). Sure, we could quibble with the details of the departing pick but we’re not dicks, right?

Fields, it’s been reported, was signed to an offer sheet (as a restricted free agent) to trip up the Knicks while each team slap fought for the affections of Steve Nash (ha!) Looking at his numbers, you might be alarmed that he appears to be regressing from an impressive rookie year. But I liked this signing and didn’t think the price was outsized. The rebounding and passing are impressive and needed; his defence, while not out of this world, stands out on this Raptors team; but his shot is, well... shot, probably due to a wrist injury he sustained. If he’s able to make a full recovery (over the summer) this deal is back on track. If his wrist problems are chronic, he becomes an albatross. I have faith.

July 30 2012

Re-signed guard Alan Anderson.

July 27 2012

Signed guard John Lucas and re-signed center Aaron Gray.

“Good thing none of these fellows will be relied upon to play heavy minutes,” is something past us would say, exposing our quaint naivete.

October 17 2012

Exercised the contract option on forward Ed Davis through 2013-14.

Spoiler alert: this ends in heartbreak.

October 31 2012

Signed guard DeMar DeRozan to a contract extension.

While not quite as leading Bargnani’s extension a few years earlier, Colangelo matched the the market for DeMar DeRozan, giving him a four year/$40 million deal which landed him in salary territory with rising stars like Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson. I would have thought, on the open market, DeMar might get a similar deal to (a more versatile performer in) Taj Gibson who’s deal was in the four year/$33 million range. But let’s not quibble. I think DeRozan’s greatest value is in what he could bring in a trade. Other teams may not realize (as Colangelo hasn’t) that he’s not a special player. His best qualities (slashing, getting to the line) are some of the more easier traits to replace with draftees, free agents or low level trades. O. J. Mayo signed a two year/$9 million deal with the Mavs last summer (though he has an opt out after one). I’d rather dangle DeMar to some desperate bubble team than commit long term to him, but, of course, I’m not Bryan Colangelo.

November 30 2012

Signed guard Mickael Pietrus and waived forward Dominic McGuire.

Special price on Pietrus 1’s.

January 30 2013

Traded forward Ed Davis and a second-round pick and cash to the Memphis Grizzlies for forward Rudy Gay and center Hamed Haddadi and traded guard Jose Manuel Calderon to the Detroit Pistons.

This is what we’ve been building to. Another, possibly final, re-fit, with Colangelo sending away a reliable and relied upon point guard and a forward on an upward trajectory are sent away for a volume shooter, paid exorbitantly for his PPG. My judgment may be too clouded to properly assess if there is another current player as divisive among lines of analytically-minded basketball observers and the casual or gutty stakeholder, who speaks to “athleticism” and “instinct to score” and various other intangible or misunderstood traits thought to merit $55 million for this and the next two years. That Gay turns over 11 shots a game is never factored into the occasion. That he absorbs ⅓ of the team’s salary cap space is for the nerds in accounting to worry about. Scorer = good. Star = good.

Calderon’s many faults are so beyond public, they’re chiseled onto the side of the CN Tower. But it’s hard to deny his impact--the shooting, passing and playcalling has been essential to any and every (small) run of success in the entire Colangelo era. He’s started every game since traded to Detroit and has shot an incredible .653 TS% for the Pistons (Gay's in Toronto? .486). Sure, he might be due for a pay decrease but there is a big market out there for his skills. Here are a few starting point guards starting for teams right now, all of which would love to sign Jose:

  • Jeff Teague - ATL
  • Kemba Walker - CHA
  • Darren Collison - DAL
  • Mo Williams - UTA
  • Isaiah Thomas - SAC

Plus Detroit. Plus a dozen teams with cap space enough for a second or competing guard. Jose will take a pay cut in his next deal but it won’t be much.

And Ed? Cost controlled for two more years, he is a magnificent bargain. With Marc Gasol currently nursing a strained abdomen, Davis will get playing time and will impress people.

Grantland’s Zach Lowe had this to say about Toronto’s acquisition of Gay:

“But this isn’t the ideal way to build a team. That’s both easy to say and true. The ideal way to build a team is to either nail a top-3 pick or ace free agency. Toronto had its chance at the draft pick route in 2006, but had the poor luck of picking in a year with no Tim Duncan/Derrick Rose/Dwight Howard type at the top of everyone’s draft list. As for free agents, Toronto has basically no history of attracting real game-changers, who are tough to attract anyway, without Bird rights, beaches, or other game-changing stars already present.”

He was being nice.

Rumours abound that Rudy Gay is in line for an extension from the Raps just as soon as Colangelo is extended, himself. By 2014, Lowry with DeRozan and Gay will comprise more than ⅔ of the Raptors’ cap space. Essentially, this is your basketball team for the next half decade, barring an even more expensive firesale down the road. This is all you get with an indeterminate contribution from Valanciunas. Does Sam Presti look at this team and quibble? Would Daryl Morey pin his hopes to such severely flawed players with almost no hope for financial flexibility or upside? For all your Kaponos and O’Neals and Turkoglus, you circle back around to Rudy Gay. Yes, this is your team.

Coroner's Report (I mean, conclusion)

It’s both ironic and fitting that this week, the general manager that I am on record as speculating that he is a spy sent to destroy this team, strip it and ship its parts to Las Vegas is also presiding over the most sophisticated basketball analysis project since James Naismith decided to keep score. That the Raptors are capable of, simultaneously, incredible innovation and regressive, anachronistic teamcraft speaks to the very essence of what this team has represented for the past seven years (and the 11 before that, to be fair): they are neither committed nor capable of winning yet they cannot power down to reassess and rebuild. They hand out lavish contracts as a vote of confidence to inconsequential talent, then expensively trade that talent on a whim. They avoid the draft whenever possible yet show the kind of commitment to a few of their draft picks to the detriment of all else. This Raptors team may be both in possession of the finest secrets to winning basketball games ever assembled while fielding a team incapable of hearing the message. Even the fans, loyal and present, have only ever shown a collective ability to do one thing -- boo departed stars.

I like to joke about how the Blue Jays appear in so many baseball movies (I’m talking the Major Leagues(s), Little Big League, etc.) as montage opponents while the protagonist team finally “puts it together” in the films’ second acts. Essentially, these fictional Jays were a team full of extras. Their purpose was just to “be there” like a mogul or a pylon. Though I don’t think expansion had touched down at Pearson at the time of Celtic Pride or Eddie, it is Toronto’s basketball team that has carried on the spirit of merely existing as a tiny hurdle in others’ narratives.

And, therefore, being a Raptor fan takes on a certain surreal quality. It’s like being a fan of that indie band that was never cool to begin with. It’s like playing the Shepherd in the Christmas play. It’s like being Jesse Heiman. And nothing is going to change this strange reality; nothing except winning (and winning and winning). Not a Steve Nash patriotic homecoming; not a flashy, $20 million forward; not even a display of technological wizardry resigned to be ignored by the guttiness of careerist journeymen players and coaches. It’s everything. Putting it all together: the players and the plays. It’s recognizing value then maximizing it. It’s asking “what else can we do?” not in exacerbation but because there’s always another angle and another edge. It’s time to bring in the wins. And it’s time to roll over this Colangelo guy, roll up our sleeves and roll through the NBA. Let’s roll.

N.B. Thank you for reading The B.C. Autopsy. I hope it was as therapeutic for you to read as it was for me to write. Thanks to zgall1 for suggesting this project. If you need me, I’ll be in my happy place. No one can hurt me there.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The BC Autopsy 11-12: Look Out, it’s the Lockout

If you were to believe the NBA owners that the league was in dire fiscal straits, then you would also have to believe that part of the impetus to put clamps down on the kinds of contracts general managers could hand over to players was, in part, to curtail the consequences of Bryan Conagelo’s ineptitude. As well, Otis Smith’s, Rod Thorn’s, David Kahn’s, Ed Stefanski’s, Billy King’s and for chrissakes, whatever elite, ultra-exclusive embezzlement charity Isiah Thomas was running for Knicks players.

There isn’t a tonne to say on behalf of Raptor decisionmaking and the lockout besides this: the rules stemming from the new CBA are noticeably more stringent and more punishing to expensive mistakes and that I severely overestimated the impact of the amnesty provision, also known as “oops.” In theory, any new system that introduced chaos or cost-cutting or panic due to complexity would be good for a rudderless, momentumless, afterthought of a team like Toronto’s. They were losing the game so why not flip over the table and walk away?

(The answer: because your leader is playing checkers at a chess tournament).

June 21 2011
Named Dwane Casey head coach.
June 1 2011
Named Jay Triano special assistant to the president and general manager.

A few moves pre-lockout. Triano was fired (up) to manager while former Mavs assistant (and T-Wolves head) Casey was put in place. I never feel qualified to evaluate coaches. I believe, generally, they are much less important to the outcome than conventional wisdom purports. But they are less patsy-like than, say, baseball managers. I thought Triano did an admirable job, especially once Bosh left and the team was left with an absurdly talent-poor team. I’m not sure if we can blame him for how much he played Andrea Bargnani (especially over rookie Ed Davis) but he, at least, recognized he was sporting some of the worst defensive NBA talent ever assembled and took calculated risks like showing hard zones often and drumming up a pack-the-paint prevent that gave up a nauseating 37.6% from the three point line (28th in the league) but, hey, he had to try something unconventional. There was an impression of Triani being, sort of, kind of... meek. Like he was a substitute teacher over an unruly class of misfits. Whether true or not, he was perceptually different than Sam Mitchell who came across as confrontational and lacking in the cerebral elements of game and roster management.

On many nights, I feel as though Casey is a watered down version of his last two predecessors. He appears to run dogmatically rigid defensive sets, like Triano, which is probably a good thing. He also seems to (attempt to) make statements with wonky rotations that may be due to stubbornness but could also be plain lack-of-strategy. I like to look at a few situations when I am eyeballing a coach: inbounds plays, end-of-quarters/games, two-for-ones, foul management. This current season, at least, I haven’t seen anything exemplary in these situations. Maybe I’m being intractable or projecting my frustrations over the talent deficiency or the result of 50/50 decisions going the other way or maybe Casey is a below average coach. Couple that with an aimless team and a maniacally wayward GM, and you have a recipe for a big ol’ poo sandwich.

No, I don’t think coaching is the biggest or even a top five concern but with certified coaches, like Stan Van Gundy and Nate McMillan out there, it’s hard not to intimate that an outside-the-cap move like bringing in a better coach might be worth a few wins.

Draft 2011
Selected center Jonas Valanciunas (5th overall pick).

We (I) have to stop and remember the 2000, 2006, 2009 and 2011 draft every time we (I) go off about the cap value of draft picks. Even the insanely team-friendly structure of how rookies get paid in the modern NBA can’t combat a bag-of-stink draft. While it’s much too early to properly evaluate the ‘11 draft, the only sure thing to emerge, so far, is #1, Kyrie Irving. There were some steals in the late first round, including Kawhi Leonard at #15 and Kenneth Farreid at #22, but lottery picks like #2 Derrick Williams, #6 Jan Vessely, #7 Bismack Biyombo, and so on and so forth and Jimmer Fredette have yet to prove they belong on NBA rosters, let alone All Star teams. Fortuitous then, that the Raptors chose Valanciunas, the Lithuanian big man with the #5 pick. I’d bet if the draft was done over again, JV goes #2. Not only is he an intriguing prospect who’s shown flashes of deep talent (amid natural rookie mistakes and hesitancy), Colangelo (praise alert) was in the position to keep the big man in Europe during the lockout, ensuring playing time in a pro league and delaying the deployment of his rookie scale contract.

Whether he turns into something or not, Jonas is an asset. Good for you, Bryan Colangelo. I would have been very happy with an Ed Davis/Valanciunas starting line for the next decade.

June 27 2011
Tendered a qualifying offer to guard Sonny Weems.

I, literally, have no recollection of this happening. I guess this offer wasn’t for as many litas as Sonny thought he deserved.

December 9 2011
Signed center Jamaal Magloire.


December 11 2011
Signed center Aaron Gray.

Big white dude!

March 15 2012
Traded guard Leandrinho Barbosa to the Indiana Pacers for a second-round pick and cash to Toronto.

A money dump to officially end the trail of Hedo. The pick was used on this gentleman.

March 26 2012
Signed guards Ben Uzoh and Alan Anderson to a 10-day contract.

Alan Anderson is like that friend who asks if he can crash on your couch “for a day or two” and sticks around for a year-and-a-half. A 30-year-old, below replacement shooter who can’t really shoot, his continued presence and considerable playing time is a testament to both how awful the Raptors are and their inability to recognize talent.

April 27 2012
Exercised the contract option on head coach Dwane Casey through 2013-14.

It’s a little bit interesting that Colangelo extended Casey to 2014 when his own deal comes due in 2013. I don’t know what it means but it means something.

The Raptors won a surpising 22 games in the 66 game lockout season. The combination of Davis/the Johnsons, Amir and James show that it is possible to win games with defence. With only Kleiza and Bargnani tipping the “overpaid” scale (and either of them subject to amnesty) and a few interesting and promising pieces, the Raptors could have finally cleared house, turned a new chapter and other, glorious cliches on their way to actually building a sustainable, improvable basketball team. Will they? Won’t they? (They won’t).

Friday, March 8, 2013

The BC Autopsy 10-11: Talents Taken

July 6 2010
Signed forward Ed Davis.
Draft 2010
Selected forward Ed Davis (13th overall pick).

If we’re allowing ourselves to take a warm, steaming dump on Bryan Colangelo’s aimless aversion to scouting and drafting, a self-aggrandizing, echo chamber-rattling position that rivals the worst cases of headstrong egoism, then we have to give praise when its due. Ed Davis! I won’t say that I loved Davis from the start but I did watch him improve on every NBA skill in his two-plus seasons. Yes, he still got backed down with ease by larger post players. Yes, his outside shot was not there. But he had the rare rebounding ability where he was both positionally sound and athletic enough to jump and battle for them. He scores from close range and avoids the urge to take long jumpers. And he has tremendously quick hands that he uses to bother offensive matchups, though it’s yet to lead to a passing game. He improved every season and made a paltry $2.2 million this season on his rookie scale. I chose to pretend Bargnani and Ed’s salaries were reversed so I could sleep at night.

I was completely satisfied with an Amir Johnson/Ed Davis power forward lineup. I miss him every day. ED!!!!!!!

July 8 2010
Re-signed forward Amir Johnson, signed forward Linas Kleiza to an offer sheet and signed center Solomon Alabi.

Colangelo got skewered for re-signing Amir Johnson for this 5 year/$30 million extension. Scott Carefoot tackled some of it here. Johnson has more than earned this paycheque. That he is not a 17 point-a-game scorer belies a general ignorance about what wins basketball games. That he’s mostly come off the bench is a product of whatever magical fairy dust Colangelo believes Andrea Bargnani is made of. To answer Bill Simmons’ question: would I rather employ Amir Johnson or Michael Beasley? You can have your knee rubber.

As for Linas Kleiza, Colangelo showed he was incapable of doing three things right, in a row. After a few... I wouldn’t say promising... but respectable years playing garbage time while Carmelo Anthony drank his Gatorade in Denver, Kleiza skipped out to Europe for 2009-2010, seemingly moving on the next stage in his career. Inexplicably, Colangelo not only lured back the restricted free agent, but showered him with a 4 year/$18 million offer sheet, to which the Nuggets responded with a “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA LOL LOL LOL ROFL LOL.” Kleiza’s been a lumbering, bad-shooting, no-defence, gimpy pylon ever since and, at one point, made me seriously ponder if there was someone more deserving of an amnesty than No Mago. Dark times, bro. Kleiza has a player option for next year and if you’re reading this and you happen to be Mr. Blond, please find Linas and persuade him to take his talents to Bakersfield.

July 9 2010
Signed forward Chris Bosh and traded him to the Miami Heat for two first-round picks in 2011 and a trade exception.

We’ve already talked about Chris’ departure. But the mechanics of the leave, through a sign-and-trade were much contested by the chatterers. The assumption was that, in retrospect, everyone knew Bosh would bolt so why not trade him mid-season? The answer is that the value of a a rent-a-player, even one as good as Bosh, was not higher than the return of draft picks the Raptors’ had previously sent in the O’Neal trade. This is even more true if you believe the Miami union was pre-ordained and, therefore, the receiving team would have had no chance to re-sign Bosh.

“What about the Carmelo Anthony trade?” you ask. Well, there were multiple differentiating factors.

  1. the Knicks did not have cap space and were therefore less flexible than Miami to absorb max contracts.
  2. Melo was facing an NBA lockout where there was sure to be clamp downs on max salaries, max years and trade flexibility that could limit his earning potential should have have gone into free agency in 2011.

In a perfect and just world, maybe Bird Rights wouldn’t be so easily transferable through sign-and-trades and therefore, there’d be additional barriers for players wanting to leave in free agency. But, then again, why shouldn't have Bosh signed where he wanted and why not, at least, should the Raptors receive (back) a pick for the trouble.

July 14 2010
Traded forward Hedo Turkoglu to the Phoenix Suns for guard Leandro Barbosa and center Dwayne Jones.

The latest in Colangelo’s signature move of trading away a player he brought in with fanfare (Kapono, O’Neal) and expecting (and mostly receiving) hero's praise. For a declining player, the Raptors received a declined player, but one who made less money and for less years. To think that Turk’s contract still has another year after this (though I’m sure the Magic will exercise their early termination option) it boggles and scrabbles and monopolizes the mind how much money he will have made in the NBA.

November 20 2010
Traded guards Jarrett Jack and Marcus Banks and center David Andersen to the New Orleans Hornets for guard Jerryd Bayless and forward Peja Stojakovic.

This was a salary dump, though buoyed by Jarrett’s early season shooting slump (slumpier than usual). Finally, Marcus Banks, the fat contract and fat body throw-in from the O’Neal for Marion trade, was gone, after stealing $9 million or so from Raptor benefactors. In return, Colangelo got 22 minutes from Peja before buying him out so he could help the Mavericks win the NBA championships, his the gigantic expiring contract and an underwhelming back up, Jerryd Bayless.

February 22 2011
Traded a first-round pick to the Chicago Bulls for forward James Johnson.

It’s funny (not ‘ha ha’ funny but ‘sigh’ funny) that post-lockout, you couldn't have bought a first round pick for Luol Deng but way back in the hazy days of early-2011, James Johnson was the going rate. I had a soft spot for Johnson’s defensive pressure but he’s currently wasting away on the Sacramento bench and it’s hard to make the case his acquisition was worth the price. NB: when he was traded to the Kings, the Raptors received a second round pick. You know you’re Bryan Colangelo when you’re trading a first for a second.

The BC Autopsy: Chris Bosh Interlude

To say that the summer of 2010, in NBA circles, was dominated by LeBron James is like saying the early 40s were dominated by World War 2. “Domination” is not a strong enough word. It was -- annihilated. In most senses, there was no NBA outside of James and his infamously, heinously mishandled exit from Ohio to Florida. In retrospect, the shock and fury was overblown; the angry mobs misguided; the “Heat Index” destined to cool. But if we've jumped into the Autopsy Time Machine™ back to July 2010, then we've landed in the middle of a chaos that was sure to realign the power structure of the NBA. We were never going to be the same.

Of course, there was another player of (some significance) who flapped his snowbird wings and flew south (and I don’t mean Mike Miller). Chris Bosh, after years of existential speculation, extradited himself from the orbit of this Raptor team. The most productive player in its history (shots fired, Vince) was gone.

Can you believe that I never really thought he would? Not for some naive sense of loyalty but because I assumed the money issues, and the lingering concern that Bosh was only as good as a big fish in a small pond, would scare him into taking Toronto’s lottery ticket. Hell, he could always whine until he was unceremoniously traded to the Nets for a package of scrubs.

I was wrong. And I got sad (but only briefly). Not for the expulsion of talent as the Raptors have managed to admirably soldier on with a committee of power forwards since. But, because whether his intentions were true and good or reasonable and fiduciary, I had some notion that (okay, this was naive) to be a real franchise, one with reverence and tradition and history and perennialism, we (I know, I know) needed a careerist. Our Reggie Miller or Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant or Larry Bird or Magic or Jordan (more or less). Someone with the possibility to go to the Hall of Fame in an awful purple jersey.

But I got over it, and quickly, because I realized that a fairly good player making a lot of money then leaving for more money was actually a low impact concern, considering the history of this team and this GM. I’d take a hundred Bosh exits if it avoided one Jermaine O’Neal or Bargnani extension or l’affaire Turkoglu. Here was an opportunity to cut costs, invest in the draft and starve themselves of the idiot’s fallback plan: to spend contender money on a 35 win team.

Chris Bosh’s exit was not a cause of the Raptors past or current woes. It wasn't even a symptom. That I only spent a week dwelling on this supposed affront and betrayal before ultimately shrugging it off? That was the symptom.