Wizards Represent Cautionary "Tanking Tale" for Raptors' Fans

I just finished watching the New Jersey Nets beat the Sacramento Kings.

The win was Jersey's third straight, and it puts them two wins ahead of the Raptors, and thus behind TO, in the race for Anthony Davis.

Toronto sits in fourth, and can get even closer by losing tonight's game against the Washington Wizards.

What a way to start a preview though, hoping for a loss. I strongly feel that the Raptors need a top three pick in the upcoming draft but to cheer for losses? It's not admittedly something I'm a fan of, but what other choice does one have with the way the current NBA system is set up? Toronto has some cap space this coming off-season, but without being a free agent hot spot like LA or Miami, or a winning culture like San Antonio, the club HAS to build through the draft, or at least use the draft to create trade advantages.

The problem is, even that is no sure thing.

As we linked to in our "tanking edition" of Lunch Box Links last Friday, a team like Oklahoma City has made tanking the blueprint to use, but they've also had some incredible luck. From the post:

Here's my list of top five picks that have become surefire franchise players (and the spot at which each was taken) in the last 10 years:

Yao Ming (2002, No. 1), LeBron James (2003, No. 1), Dwyane Wade (2003, No. 5), Dwight Howard (2004, No. 1), Deron Williams (2005, No. 3), Chris Paul (2005, No. 4), LaMarcus Aldridge (2006, No. 2), Kevin Durant (2007, No. 2), Derrick Rose (2008, No. 1), Russell Westbrook (2008, No. 4), Kevin Love (2008, No. 5), Blake Griffin (2009, No. 1) and Kyrie Irving (2011, No. 1).

That's 13 players in 10 drafts. If your team drafted in the top five, you had a one-in-four chance of snagging one of the future All-NBA candidates on the list above. That means most top-five draft choices cannot turn around their teams. Drafting in the top five, a team is more likely to end up with Raymond Felton, or if you're lucky, Mike Conley, than Chris Paul. Still, teams are willing to make that long-shot bid, because any chance at all to get the next Dwight Howard is a chance worth tanking ... err, taking.

It's an interesting situation. Yes, teams that hit the jackpot in draft lotteries can come out with a franchise player, but there's way more to it than that. All the Blake Griffin's in the world aren't going to save you from a Vinny Del Negro, and yes the Chicago Bulls struck pay dirt with Derrick Rose, but they also smartly drafted guys like Taj Gibson and Omer Asik to surround him with.

That's why when I say "tanking," I'm not just talking about the Raptors hopefully landing Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. (Although considering the way some of the other "top" prospects like Terrence Jones, Jared Sullinger and even Thomas Robinson played in their Final Four matches, do you feel that safe landing anyone else?) The "tanking" piece is simply in reference to the upcoming draft but in reality, I'm talking about a much broader OKC style overhaul that has Bryan Colangelo and co. stockpiling various assets and sacrificing current talent and productivity at times to do it.

And starting with the end of last season, so far so good.

From the Casey hiring to the drafting of Jonas Valanciunas, and even the trading of Leandro Barbosa, we're on course for brighter days in my books.

But there's lots more work to be done.

The Raptors have a few pieces that look like franchise building blocks, but they've got to choose their next moves wisely or they could end up like their opponents tonight.

Want the opposite of the Oklahoma City rebuilding plan? You might be looking at it tonight when the Raptors face the Washington Wizards. The Wizards landed the top overall pick in 2010 grabbing John Wall, but have little to show for it. The club has 12 wins so far this season, and has only won on average 23 games the past three seasons before this one. First round pick after first round pick has failed to pan out, and while they weren't all high lottery picks like the Thunder's "tanking" options, expectations were certainly a lot higher of the club at this point.

In fact Wizard's management finally gave up on waiting for a few of said picks to mature and Nick Young and Javale McGee were both dealt this year at the NBA's trade deadline, and who knows what other changes the team makes this offseason.

Yes, the Wizards should indeed represent a cautionary tale for Raptors' fans and that's why again, this tanking stuff is not for the faint of heart. Adding a top three pick this year would be ideal but after that, it's on the Raptors' braintrust to make complementary moves to get this club back on track and out of the NBA's basement.

Even a jump to 30 or 35 wins would be something Dino fans haven't seen since Chris Bosh roamed the paint for Toronto and would invigorate a starving fanbase.

The alternative?

It's not pleasant, ask any fan of the Washington Wizards, stranded in a constant state of "suspended tankination."

Or better yet, check the mess going on in Golden State right now, a scary reality that Raptors' fans have seen a bit of, but might be forced to endure a lot more of if Bryan Colangelo and co. can't continue on the OKC path.

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