It’s hard compress over an hour of Q and A with the GM of the Toronto Raptors into an article. On one hand, there’s so much information, and yet even with all of this, Franchise and I still came away looking for more as the media session was terminated before we could ask a few additional points of BC, namely, what the situation is with Marc Iavaroni.
In any event, most of the session can be found at Raptors.com for your viewing pleasure, but for sake of discussion, we thought it might be a good idea to break things down, piece by piece:
BC made no bones about how disappointing this season was. He didn't try and sugarcoat the fact that 33 wins didn't meet expectations (either internally or externally) and that this season can only be seen as something to build on. It is, after all, only the third time a Bryan Colangelo-led team has not made the post-season in his 14 years as a General Manager in the NBA.
As we all know it has been a busy year in Raptorland with blockbuster trades, a new interim head coach and slew of other on and off-court issues. Colangelo did his best to address all of these topics and more.
Where things went wrong:
If you recall, entering the season the biggest question mark at the HQ concerning the roster, as then constructed, was the lack of depth at the PG position. At yesterday’s press conference Colangelo said that this flaw in the roster was arguably the biggest obstacle the team had to face during the season. Colangelo was upfront with the fact that the team did not have enough experience behind Jose and that the jury is still out as to whether Roko can become a starter in this league or, for that matter, even a consistent backup. That being said BC was clear that Roko needed and still needs, a chance. He paralleled Roko's rookie year to Jose's.
At this point I thought Franchise was going to explode beside me, namely because while most viewed JO’s health and the lack of depth at the wing position as the main issues for this club in the pre-season, it was Franchise who repeatedly stressed that he could not understand the lack of depth behind Jose; a player who had never played a full season as a starter at the 1, and who was coming off of consecutive tours of duty with the Spanish National team over the summer.
The sense you got from BC was that Jose's hamstring was the main issue regarding "what went wrong" with this team. Without Jose, the club struggled to find its rhythm offensively and on the defensive end, Colangelo even went so far as to call Calderon’s defence thanks to his injury "atrocious." BC admitted that while Jose will never be considered a defensive star, he was much more capable at getting stops than was shown this season.
Colangelo discussed both deals involving Jermaine O'Neal this season. In terms of the JO/Ford swap he stated that he would still have made the deal for JO if he could go back in time provided it was still the best deal available. That being said he also recognized the move was a "swing for the fences" move that did not turn out as hoped. Again, to Franchise’s point regarding the depth behind Jose, why you make such a high-risk "we’re going for it" move with two point-guards with essentially no NBA experience running a team, is puzzling to say the least, and something that Colangelo finally acknowledged was his mistake. In addition, he acknowledged that while the O’Neal swap made the Raptors squad their best team on paper, this did not translate into wins on the court. What was particularly interesting was that he made note of how this roster as currently constructed needs a player with a more "maniacal" attitude and some help on the glass, exactly what JO brought to the table.
In terms of moving Jermaine for Marion he felt it was the right thing to do given the circumstances. The acquisition of Marion alleviated some of the financial pressures on the team. He was also sure to note that once Marion got acclimated the results were positive.
The Off-Season Ahead
Obviously there are number of questions about the coaching situation. Based on today we would be very surprised if Triano was not the man at the helm next season. As expected Colangelo commended Triano on doing a solid job under the circumstances but he also pointed out that during exit interviews all of the players mentioned how much respect they have for Triano and how much they enjoyed playing for him.
When asked whether the agents for unemployed coaches had contacted him, BC acknowledged that this has occurred but until he speaks with Triano, then these sorts of interviews would not be taking place. It seems clear that BC wants to determine if Triano is the guy before taking the process to another level.
According to BC, the focus of the conversations with Triano will be his experience, his growth as a coach and his relationship with the players and of course the rest of the coaching staff (none of whom appear to be signed going into next season). Colangelo mentioned that he will be looking for Triano's input on moves going forward should he become the new Head Coach. In that same vein Colangelo also stated that he is a consensus guy and wants to build the team that way.
The importance of the consensus comment can't be overstated. For the second half of the season we have been critical of the fact that this team doesn't have an identity, or a system. Without a consensus approach this is near impossible to do.
That being said is determining whether Triano is the guy before doing an extensive search the best approach?
A good chunk of the press conference was spent discussing the economy and how the current recession will impact the NBA. To no-one's surprise the cap looks to be coming down along with the luxury tax. Colangelo thought next year’s cap would be around $57 million and the tax threshold around $70. What was particularly interesting was that the cap is based on growth projections (usually 4%) with a provision allowing for the numbers to be adjusted based on the prior years performance. The result? An anticipated drop this year with a greater drop next.
It's clear this will have a big impact this off-season, in particular for free agents. Teams will be tightening the purse strings and free agents, with only 4 or 5 teams with cap room, will have to adjust their expectations accordingly. What does this mean for the Raps? Don't be surprised if we see a sign and trade with Marion with the Raptors getting rewarded in the process.
What was good to hear was that despite the poor economy the Raptors will still look to be active, in particular in the draft.
Colangelo, like most people who watched college ball this year, seems to believe there is only one sure thing in this draft (Blake Griffin). That being said BC seems committed to obtaining another pick in the upcoming draft to complement what is currently the 9th selection (pre-lottery, scheduled for May 19th). The roster needs an influx of young cheap talent and given our love for the draft we were very happy to hear this.
The Major Needs:
Outside of the back-up PG situation (discussed above) BC pointed out that the teams biggest needs were two-fold – a player who can both create offensively and be a solid defender to help protect Jose at the 2, and a rebounder. Raptors fans are craving the former but the focus during the press conference was on the latter. In regards to rebounding BC pointed out that the team, as currently constructed, will never be a great rebounding team. Although Bosh averaged ten rebounds, BC does not feel that Andrea "will ever be a monster on the glass" based on his style of play, and the team needs help in this department.
It's not just rebounding that the team needs help in however. The team is soft and Colangelo acknowledged as much saying that the team needs is too nice as a group. There clearly is a toughness deficit on this team and it's nice to hear that BC will be looking to address it even with the big guys he added over the course of the year.
During the press conference BC discussed a number of players including Jake Voskuhl,
Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Patrick O'Bryant, Carlos Delfino and of course Chris Bosh. Here is the quick run-down:
Jake Voskuhl: He had a solid impact on the team, more so in the locker room than on the court as his game is what it is. A hard worker. We read this as saying don't expect him back but thanks for everything.
Pops Mensah-Bonsu: The Pops situation looks to be one that gets drawn out over the summer as BC seemed to imply that it will be on Pops’ agent to see what his worth is on the market, and then the Raps will determine whether to match or not. Colangelo called Pops’ game incomplete, yet one that showed flashes of brilliance at times. It will be interesting to see what the market will bear for Pops. Based on the economy, discussed above, the former GW star could be forced to sign a contract that may be slightly below market.
Patrick O'Bryant: BC had some strong words for Patrick O'Bryant. Having been traded a number of times in his young career it is now up to O'Bryant to show that he can be an NBA talent and the Raps are willing to help him become a legitimate big man. Whether he does or not "is up to him" and "how much he really wants it" according to Colangelo. Given the small contract the Raps can't lose by taking a chance on the big man. O'Bryant on the other hand has everything to lose if he doesn't step up and take advantage.
Carlos Delfino: BC spoke about Delfino yesterday as if his return was already a done deal and discussed the Argentinean’s desire to win and his closeness with Jose Calderon. BC also suggested that Delfino could play a little back-up PG.
If you haven't noticed by now the back-up PG position was discussed at length. The one player that was not mentioned in this capacity was Marcus Banks. At no point during the press conference did BC mention or suggest that Marcus Banks could fill that role. I think this speaks volumes and it will be very interesting to see what Bryan manages to do with the young PG and his heavy contract.
Chris Bosh: CB4 was also a topic but there is very little to report. Although BC said the team has no untouchables he still views Bosh, Bargnani and Calderon as the key pieces going forward. That being said BC acknowledged that he's not expecting Bosh to come out and say he wants to sign here long term. Nevertheless Colangelo does not feel like he has to make a move, unless of course the move helps the franchise gain certainty and improve the roster.
We have been more and more in favour of moving Bosh as time has worn on, and regardless of what Colangelo’s take was yesterday, we still feel that if BC is going to make that move now is the time. Colangelo will have more leverage this summer than at any other point going forward. As he acknowledged, he doesn't have to deal CB4 and the CBA is structured in such a way that the Raps can offer Bosh more in terms of years and dollars than any other franchise. Of course the trick is that the closer and closer it gets to Bosh's impending free-agency, the worse the offers for Bosh will likely be. Opposing GM's will know that Toronto won't want to lose Bosh for nothing and as the options decline, more vultures will circle.
One thing that was bothersome was BC seemed to imply that the team would be offering CB4 the max. We've written countless times that this may not be the most prudent thing to do given the output, the results and the economy. To further that point, Colengelo mentioned that the feeling around the league is that this Raptors team has more talent then the record would indicate. One has to ask – whose fault is that? It's hard not to point to the leader and the face of the franchise.
Last, Colangelo constantly repeated that in his eyes the team was "not that far away". This is the same message he gave to me at the airport a few short weeks ago. The question that wasn't asked and probably should have been is, "Away from what?" Is BC talking about the playoffs? Championship? .500? Respectability? Until it's clear what he means here it's hard to really understand how Colangelo really feels about this team. Hopefully this is something that can be answered in the near future.
It's perhaps not surprising that there are still a number of questions that still have no answer after this press conference. There was only so much time available and as mentioned, there were a few things on the tip of our tongues that we didn’t get to touch on.
One thing is for certain though. BC has an unbelievable presence when he takes the stage and his competitiveness shines through. You can tell the results of this past season are driving him crazy and he is committed to fixing the situation. Regardless of some of the obvious flaws in his recent moves, you really have to ask yourself, "is there any other GM currently unemployed that you would feel more comfortable with running the team?"
Yes, he’s certainly got his work cut out for him, but he seems to be well aware of this and ready to get things back on track.