Steve Nash this. Steve Nash that. The HQ notes that instead of grasping at straws, the team should be looking to their Eastern Conference brethren, the Hawks, in terms of what the real plan of action should be this off-season.
Yesterday some of the HQ team dropped by to shoot the next series of videos for the site.
Prior to this, we got into a big discussion about Steve Nash, the pros and cons of his acquisition, etc, etc. While we all agreed that going after Nash was the right move, we also concurred that going after Nash was the ONLY move given the man running the show, and the situation he currently finds himself in. We noted that in many ways adding Nash and potentially another productive player like Nic Batum or Ersan Ilyasova was only laying down some decent players to mask the inefficiency that still lay at the core of the franchise.
I likened it to a situation I often find myself in at my 9-5 job.
If we run a marketing campaign and there's zero interest in the promotion, that is to say our offer, let's use "make x purchase and get a $50 voucher towards future purchase," is a dud, we don't simply keeping trying it but with different versions of advertising! We let the campaign end, run the numbers, and re-evaluate the promotion itself before beginning anew. Very rarely is the marketing messaging the issue for us. Sometimes the volume of the message (ie we're not running TV spots or only run in certain markets) can hamper the promotion. But in most cases it's the promotion itself that is flawed.
For the Raptors, their promotion has been flawed for some time now. Their two main building blocks, Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan, just aren't consistently great basketball players. Andrea has shown signs, but aside from last year's small sample size, we're left with a history of inefficiency and ineffectiveness despite upper tier talent.
DeRozan may be even worse, failing to even hit the league average PER so far in his career and looking more like a bench option than the starting stud shooting guard most envisioned out of USC.
Surrounding those two are a few bright spots like the improving James Johnson and the effective Amir Johnson but aside from the steadying hand of Jose Calderon, we're talking about players being given starter quality minutes, who simply aren't producing as such.
Is I briefly noted on the site the past few days, the macro decision this off-season shouldn't have been to chase or not to chase Nash. It should have been to decide how best to continue with a rebuild that Bryan Colangelo started just two seasons ago, and only after his hand was forced thanks to the ridiculous Hedo Turkoglu situation. This team simply does not possess an adequate foundation to eventually move into the NBA's upper tier.
As I saw it, the ceiling for a Nash-led Dino club, even one that added another useful piece or two, was somewhere around the Atlanta Hawks; good enough to make the dance, not good enough to go round the floor for more than a song or two.
No one wants to be in that position, perhaps the most unenviable in the NBA.
It's so unenviable that within about a 90 minute time span yesterday, new Hawks' GM Danny Ferry blew up the former bastion of mediocrity in hopes of much better future. The Hawks realized that Marvin Williams, the unfortunate draft choice in 2005 over the likes of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, was never going to pan out as the superstar they expected, and that Joe Johnson despite being paid like a franchise player, was not.
So off they went.
Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports did a bang-up assessment of Ferry's moves yesterday and after reading it, I couldn't help but wish the Toronto Raptors went down the same road. Especially after reading this passage:
Options. It's going to be a weird thing for Hawks fans to get used to.
It has to be exhilarating, though...And in an instant - or afternoon, because it's still light out in Atlanta - Danny Ferry has saved his bosses over $80 million dollars while still working around a roster that may have a chance at the playoffs. Nothing is guaranteed with cap space, nor assets, nor something as vague as "options," but this isn't the point. Because after years of treading water, the Hawks have a chance at something different than what wasn't clicking the turnstiles or spinning the second round. Or vice versa.
The Raptors of course aren't in the exact same situation as ATL, having considerably more financial flexibility at the moment. And the detonation of the club's former core had to more alluring when a) the Hawks still had two huge assets in Josh Smith and Al Horford on board and b) Dwight Howard (and gasp, Chris Paul!) was potentially looming, both points that the Raptors can't come close to claiming.
But that doesn't mean there aren't enough compares to make Colangelo and co. think long and hard about the club's direction. I mean, in terms of franchise trajectory, I'm finding it hard not to think that this off-season's potential improvements only take the club as far as Hawks territory, and even then, only for as long as Steve Nash stays.
I'm not worried about the risks inherent with giving upwards of $36M to Captain Canada. As Tom Liston perfectly lays out at RaptorsRepublic, there are precedents for elite point guards playing at high levels even this late in their careers. I truly think that Nash will equate to a substantial improvement in the team's win column.
I'm more worried that in two, maybe three years time, we're still looking at a team that struggles to win 40 games and suddenly is watching the catalyst for whatever little success it's had, walk off into the post-NBA sunset.
To me Nash is the right choice now.
But the best choice would have been to emulate Ferry and the Hawks and ensure the proper foundation was in place before moving onto building the ground floor.