With August now upon us and the vast majority of free-agent moves over and done with, we're starting to see some off-season grades and 2013-14 predictions roll in. Yesterday, ESPN.com's Chad Ford posted his off-season team grades for the Eastern Conference (Insider), and The SportsGuy, Bill Simmons, took a different approach, using lines from the classic Robert DeNiro flick, Midnight Run, to evaluate each NBA team's off-season moves.
The Toronto Raptors received markedly different results from both with Chad Ford doling out a D+ to the Dinos, and Simmons noting the potential fresh start for a franchise that had just endured seven years of Bryan Colangelo.
From Ford's post:
...it appears Ujiri isn't in any hurry to make the playoffs. Toronto's two biggest acquisitions, Hansbrough and Augustin, were both part of a much maligned Pacers bench last season. Thrusting them into bigger roles in Toronto doesn't exactly scream "We're going for it!"
The problem for the Raptors is that they aren't bad enough to grab a lion's share of pingpong balls, nor are they good enough to compete for a playoff spot. And next year they aren't likely to have much in the way of cap room. So either Ujiri waits this out until the 2015 season or someone like Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry should keep his bags packed this season.
All true, but it doesn't really explain the D+.
To me the off-season is a smashing success for many of the reasons Ford DID mention in his post, including the removal of Bryan Colangelo, and jettisoning of Andrea Bargnani.
No, the team didn't pull a Philly and make it overtly clear that a top pick next year's draft was the real target next season.
But the club didn't make a number of middling moves like the Milwaukee Bucks (who received a C+) nor did they lock inefficient and/or declining players into expensive, long-term deals like the Dallas Mavericks (also D+ recipients) so the grade is a bit puzzling. Following Ford's logic this should be more of an INC than an overly negative or positive grade.
"There's good and bad everywhere, don't you think?"
"I'd say there's bad everywhere. Good I don't know about."
To the embattled Raptors fans, who endured nearly two decades of organizational hell that included the GM Bermuda Triangle (Isiah Thomas, Rob Babcock and Bryan Colangelo) and Sportsnet.ca recently writing that Glen Grunwald was "popularly viewed as the Raptors' best GM" and "the man who orchestrated the construction of the most beloved Raptors teams," as well as a man "behind a multitude of moves that are still cast in a warm, nostalgic glow."
When you have a "warm, nostalgic glow" about a seven-year span that yielded three winning seasons and one trip to the second round, you need to reevaluate things. Fortunately for the Raptor Truthers, they suddenly have an accomplished CEO (Tim Leiweke) and a top-five GM (Masai Ujiri)...
While Simmons appears more optimistic regarding the team's future, neither are exactly predicting a championship next season based on the Raps' off-season moves.
However I maintain that offseason grades for the Raptors are quite useless at this point, as it will likely be partway through next season that we begin to see which direction Masai Ujiri decides to take the franchise.