We admit… it’s been a long summer.
This summer we had a few interviews that for one reason or another fell through at the last minute and over the past month there’s been little to report Raptors wise. Since the signing of one Will Solomon the roster has been set, everyone knows what the issues are going to be heading into camp and we are all desperately craving some basketball. It’s too bad the Jays run ended because that at least kept me entertained for about a week.
Finally though, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and there is something fresh out there to discuss.
As reported in yesterday’s Toronto Sun the Raps are heading to camp with their 13 man roster…and no more. Is this earth shattering news? No, but it is the first indication of what might be a much bigger problem down the road. Let me explain.
There is really two ways to look at this. The first, and the angle being pitched by the Raptors brass, is that training camp this time around will focus solely on the talent assembled and ensuring the players are prepared for the upcoming season. The Godfather summed it up with this quote –
"We can try and put in things that actually help our team game, work on similar concepts, offence, defence and use the pre-season games as a test, not as a way to try out new players."
Seems to makes sense. The roster is set and the focus really needs to be on (i) developing chemistry between O’Neal and the rest of his teammates, (ii) improving team defense, and (iii) setting a line-up. If the team enters the regular season and has taken training camp to address these three items then it’s all good right?
Well, not quite. What’s being sugar coated here is that the Raps don’t really have a choice then to head to camp with the 13 guys they have signed-up to guaranteed contracts. The team is frightfully close to the luxury tax threshold and players and agents alike are well aware that paying the luxury tax just isn’t in the cards for this franchise.
From a free-agent standpoint even if there was an invite to camp there is little incentive to come. Sure there would be an opportunity to showcase your skills in hopes of leaving a lasting impression, but in all reality you would be better off at a camp where there is a roster spot up for grabs. Hypothetically even if a free-agent PG were to come in and dominate both Roko and Solomon during camp, at the end of the day they would still end up like the poor folks at Lehman Brothers…looking for work.
The team also has little incentive to bring other players to camp. What if a free-agent PG were to come to camp and be the second best PG on the floor? What’s the team to do then? The reality is the team has nothing to gain from bringing in a few extra guys. Given the lack of flexibility the Raps have cap wise bringing in additional players could put them in a predicament that they are otherwise best avoiding. It is much safer to simply hold a quiet uneventful training camp where the questions being asked are obvious ones than risk the chance of opening Pandora’s box.
One has to ask though… is this what’s best for the team? What if there is someone out there who would be a better fit for this squad than Will Solomon? It’s not a stretch to suggest that there are better players out there still looking for a deal and if that’s the case shouldn’t the team at least be exploring the possibility? We have gotten a number of emails from readers as of late voicing their concerns about the PG position. Colangelo’s decision to hold a "private party" should do little to calm their fears.
I’m not ignorant to the fact that what we are talking about here are bench and limited role players, but this decision by the Raps is concerning on another front as well. Being so close to the luxury tax threshold what happens if a player of significance goes down? Are those in control of the MLSE coffers willing to dole out the required funds to fill holes as the season moves along? Just what sort of position will Bryan Colangelo find himself in should the roster need a shot in the arm or simply another body?
It’s a little naïve to think this team, as structured, is going to make it through the upcoming season without its fair share of injuries. Injuries are simply part of the game and given the shortened bench many players will be asked to do more than ever before. Knowing this can’t the team even look at a few other guys?
To me the decision to go to camp with only thirteen guys is a concerning one…but those concerns are somewhat overshadowed by the fact that training camp and the season ahead feels much closer today than it did yesterday.