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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to eloquently sift through the entrails of Colangelo's tenure with the Raps.

After reading your series, I sometimes wonder if Colangelo has been secretly yearning for the GM position of the Washington Generals. The way most of his actions put the Raptors on a miserable path to losing seems to suggest that just may be the case.

I miss Ed Davis. When you consider that Gay forks over so many lost possessions I think keeping Davis and his rebounding should have been a priority. Colangelo should have sent Ross instead of Davis, but that argument may be entirely pointless if you, like me, think Gay should never have been traded for in the first place.

There have been lots of lean times being a Raptors fan, but I can't recall a two or three year stretch like the last that has been more depressing. I've never found a Raptors general manager as derisive as Colangelo. I despise him even more than Babcock.