It's an odd fate being a Raptor fan.
If you asked me if I thought this team would be in the similar position to where they were a year ago, I would have thought you were crazy.
And let's not even talk about worse, now that the Raptors have used up a hefty chunk of resources.
I mean, I thought there's no way with salary cap space and two strong draft picks coming in that the Raptors would be on the outside looking in at a playoff spot.
I thought Bryan Colangelo, in showing restraint for a year and in trying to grow through a few draft picks was getting his act together.
When I heard him say that it was hard sitting and doing very little while the Raptors went through another losing season, I thought he had taken the time to create a plan about which players he wanted to target and what he wanted to do to move this franchise forward.
That's totally on me for having that expectation.
I guess the first sign that things wouldn't be ok was how he approached the Steve Nash situation.
Attempting to play to Nash's sense of national pride and bringing in such a luminary figure as Wayne Gretzky to sell Toronto seemed like a good plan. That is, until Nash decided, like Gretzky, to bolt for L.A.
It's all part of Colangelo's pattern in his time in Toronto. Place all your eggs in one basket, and not have any backup plan. I'm not sure the casual fan has had enough, but the hardcore fan certainly has. And while I've tried not to think about "what if's" as a fan, for the first time in quite a while I've been thinking about what chances a different GM would have taken.
I think about Glen Grunwald and how he managed to surround his rookies with a strong veteran veteran presence, the like of which Colangelo has only managed to do in the forms of Rasho Nesterovic and Jorge Garbajosa. I think about how others like Sam Presti have understood the need to always be mindful of cap space and working under that constraint to trade players in order to get manageable contracts. About the only strong cap move that Colangelo has performed was thanks to Steve Fruitman, and we all know how that turned out.
Then there's also Phoenix who has a worse record than the Raptors. While the Suns are a mere 21-39, they are now riding a 3 game winning streak the Raptors wish they had. In order to break that streak the Raptors will need to do the following:
1) "When?" - As in when will the Raptors finally start playing assets they need to develop and put away that fantasy that they'll make the playoffs. Yes, the Raptors went on a miraculous run before, but that was with a group that included Alvin Williams, Morris Peterson, and Antonio Davis. Does this group have that same fortitude? That was the collective sound of the 2002 team laughing.
I also think playing players like Ross and Valanciunas actually increases our chances of winning, but what do I know?
2) Rebounds - Over the past month, the Suns have been one of the best rebounding teams in the league. 3rd in Offensive rebounds, 8th in Defensive, and 1st overall, the Raptors need to be fighting for every possession. It's these rebounds which have allowed Phoenix to have the fifth most shot attempts in the league for the past month.
With the Raptors being at the very bottom of the league at 29th, 27th, and 29th for OReb, DReb and overall Rebounds respectively, it'll take a total team effort and an out of character performance for them to shrink the gap between the two teams.
3) Efficient shooting - Do you know where the Raptors are in shooting percentage for the past month? 27th. Assist ratio? 29th. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the Raptors now have combined bad shooters, with point guards who don't pass the ball. In January, they were 3rd overall in assist ratio, and 7th in field goal percentage. Wasted possessions put a lot more pressure on the Raptors' defense, and it's not like they're particularly strong at that field either.
In its current incarnation, the ball simply sticks too much for large parts of the game. When they're passing, the Raptors are seen as an exciting, and energetic. When they're not, they rely too heavily on players like Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, and Andrea Bargnani to hit outside shots.