I'm in a good mood this morning.
Maybe it's because I've been listening to a slew of great new releases from bands like The So So Glo's and Ghostface Killah.
Or maybe it's because the weather here in Toronto is finally looking a lot more like Spring than Fall.
And obviously the weekend news that MLSE hired Tim Leiweke as President and CEO certainly helps.
Which got me thinking...
...with Leiweke now in charge, what would be the best-case scenario for the Toronto Raptors? I mean, if I just took some crazy LSD or pounded back 10 packs of Fun Dip - what dreamy scenarios would I envision for the Dinos?
1. Bryan Colangelo is demoted to Zamboni driver. The first one is obvious. Well, maybe not the Zamboni part, but BC needs to go. This would precipitate a full-on GM search, the one I was hoping for when I penned this piece two years ago.
Unfortunately a number of the top options I presented such as Kevin Pritchard, are now off the market, but the point I was making was that there are options out there, even if they aren't necessarily big names. Big names don't always equal successful results as hey, the Bryan Colangelo era can certainly attest to.
2. Andrea Bargnani is traded for something useful. Ok, now that BC is gone, let's get this team back on the right track. Whoever is running the show needs to get rid of the Loony Tunes-sized anvil that is Andrea Bargnani. This may mean parting with some small asset now, or taking on an unenviable contract, but since we're playing make-believe here, how nice would it be to get something decent in return? I'm not expecting to land Pau Gasol at this stage (I'm not that high), but what about someone like Emeka Okafor, an idea I outlined during the past season?
3. Linas Kleiza is amnestied. I was contemplating using the amnesty clause on Andrea, but again, under this situation I'm looking at best-case and that would still be that Signore Bargnani is dealt for something useful in return.
That means Kleiza gets the axe.
4. The Raps trade Rudy Gay for expiring contracts and a prospect or two. If you haven't guessed, we're going full on Andrew Wiggins in this scenario and REALLY tanking. Remember, the 2014 draft isn't just about Wiggins, but Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker and Andrew Harrison, among others.
Gay's trade restriction comes off July 1 so ideally the Raps would move him to a club that felt it was missing a scoring wing option, and could part with some expiring contracts and potentially even prospects.
Of course there aren't many clubs that fit this description, not to mention have the ability to absorb Gay's contract, so this is up there with Bargs in terms of ease of execution. I'm not even completely opposed to keeping Gay. The problem is he's only got two years left on his giant deal, and since there's no way you're extending him at the price he likely envisions, then why hold onto him when you're in full rebuild mode?
I'd prefer to keep Mr. DeRozan which brings me to...
5. DeMar DeRozan develops a 3-point shot. To be clear, I'm not a fan of DeMar on his current deal. But I'm much more of a fan of it if he's not paired with Rudy Gay. DeRozan might be easier to move than Gay so if that's the best option, then I'd do it. But if you can get rid of that giant Gay contract and eventually pair DeRozan as a third or fourth option with the likes of Valanciunas, Lowry and Wiggins etc, don't you prefer that? There are no questions regarding DeRozan's will to improve and he's been one of the more durable players on this club.
Under this dream scenario, he comes back to camp with the consistent long-range shot that we saw glimpses of at season's end, and continues to improve at the defensive end of the court.
6. Kyle Lowry returns to his Houston-terror ways. Speaking of coming to camp ready, how about seeing a healthy Mr. Lowry come November, and one that coach Dwane Casey lets the cuffs off a bit? Lowry was at his best in Houston tearing up both ends of the court and again, under this "best-case scenario," we see him return to that form.
7. Amir Johnson becomes a dead-eye three-point shooter. Let's see, what else can we hope for over this off-season...
...I know, Amir Johnson becomes the team's "Stretch 4!"
Ok, Johnson is not Ryan Anderson, but if he can continue to extend his range and hit those long-range shots on a consistent basis, that would be a big help for a Raptors' team lacking anything resembling consistent, accurate 3-point shooting post-Jose Calderon.
8. Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross take big steps forward in development. Raptors' Assistant Coach Eric Hughes in our annual off-season chats, always stresses the importance of the off-season in terms of players improving. While the Raps' rookies obviously deserve a nice chunk of rest after a very long campaign, let's hope they get right back at it and come to camp ready to compete on another level. This includes Quincy Acy too of course although I get the feeling he's already in a gym in Tyler Texas somewhere putting in work...
9. Landry Fields fixes his shot. Remember the Landry Fields that made the NBA's All-Rookie First Team in 2010? No? Well that Fields was the one Bryan Colangelo and co. were hoping they were getting when they signed him to a very optimistic deal this past summer. As we know though, that's not the Fields they got, and the club would certainly receive a big shot in the arm if Fields could find some semblance of his 2010 game, the one that made him such a valuable contributor to the Knicks and an advanced stats darling.
10. Dwane Casey fully embraces analytics. Yes, I'm keeping Casey as the coach here. While I wasn't a big fan of many of his decisions last season, I do think given some more "Casey-esque" players and a more open mind, he could get the job done.
One of the big stories from this past season was that the Raptors were no longer dinosaurs in the realm of analytics. The club of course had been looking at this data for a few years, but it wasn't until Grantland's Zach Lowe gave us this degree of insight on the club's use of the SportVu system, that we truly began to see the degree to which the Dinos were carving up data.
Now, we just need to see the team's coaching staff fully embrace it.
Casey is no Doug Collins, but under this ideal scenario indeed next season we'd see a much better meshing of the two methodologies so to speak.
Obviously, most of the above lead up to the biggest "Best Case Scenario" of them all, and that's landing Andrew Wiggins. If that occurs, not only would the club be squarely pointed back towards a winning record, but also to NBA relevancy, something that's escape this club since Vince Carter was dealt to the New Jersey Nets. A line-up of Lowry, DeRozan, Wiggins, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, with a rejuvenated Landry Fields and more developed Terrence Ross is a solid start, and with the extra cash from moving Gay and Bargnani, and cutting Kleiza, there's a lot of opportunity to add to this core.
But wait...that's not all.
Those on-court changes would be nice but the true dream season wouldn't be complete without a few other items:
-How about replacing the current Game Ops team with Skratch Bastid? Mimicking a move by the Brooklyn Nets who use J. Period to provide their sonics, Halifax's own would be an immense upgrade over the Venga Boys and friends.
-Switching up the The Pizza Pizza promo. Seriously, this thing is the worst. Either switch it to the Raptors holding teams under a certain number of points, or kill it entirely. Nothing worse than having fans boo because the Raptors won 98 to 95.
-Re-jig the Raptors' broadcast team. We know Matt Devlin can be a great play-by-play guy. We hear it on TNT during non-Raptors playoff coverage. But when he's meshed with Jack Armstrong or Leo Rautins, he turns into this bizarre caricature of himself and all normal basketball analysis goes out the window. Maybe he's paired with someone either than these two, (Leo needs to go period) or MLSE tells him to tone it down, but it would be nice not to have to consistently mute the television during broadcasts next year.
And with that, Raptors fans will have a perfect season in store for them.
Now...anything that I missed before I put down the Fun Dip?