When the Legomaster stated that last year's version of the Toronto Raptors was "not that far away," Franchise had his doubts. And based on his actions so far this summer, apparently Colangelo had his doubts too...What can you say about Bryan Colangelo?
As I sat at the Thomas and Mack Center through Toronto's first two Summer League games, that was exactly the question that kept popping into my head.
While other GM's and coaches in attendance were all dressed like they were about to hit the showers, here was The Legomaster fully suited up, eyes focussed on the action like a hawk's on its prey.
And when he wasn't zoned-in on the game-play of his Toronto Raptors, he could be seen huddled amongst his brain-trust, darting off to take calls, or exchange pleasantries with agents and media.
Yes, the man for all seasons.
The interesting thing is that watching him in action, you'd never know that this was the GM of a team that was one of the most disappointing in the league last year; a club that many believed would threaten the Clevelands and Bostons of the East, only to stumble early, trade its key acquisition, and wind up back in the spot it started when he first joined the club - the NBA Draft Lottery.
Yet in the span of only a few weeks, all of last year's angst has nearly been forgotten.
Colangelo has drafted one of the most promising rookies in the draft, managed to land arguably the biggest free-agent of the off-season, and then somehow managed to do so while retaining important financial flexibility; flexibility that may now give his club the much-needed depth it missed last season.
So here's a question: what happened to the whole "we're not that far off" bit?
This is something Howland astutely pointed out to me as we sat watching Toronto's Summer League entry being dismantled by the Detroit Pistons' Vegas' reps. For a club that was supposedly a few healthy bodies away from taking the next step, Raptors fans are going to be seeing a very different looking club next year.
In fact, it's quite possible now that next year's squad will only have 3 key pieces remaining from last year's roster; Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon. Counting free-agents who have not had their rights retained, Colangelo has already waved good-bye to a third of last year's roster and he may not be done yet.
And in my opinion that's a good thing.
You may recall that I spent a good chunk of time right after the season comparing the Raptors statistically to lower-seeded playoff teams like Miami and Philly and the evidence was quite clear; Toronto was simply not a good team no matter what anyone said. Many of us at the HQ felt that this team couldn't go back next year with the exact same roster, one that was flawed in so many areas, and obviously BC felt the same way too...
...no matter what he told us media.
That's what's so impressive about Colangelo's actions this off-season, no matter how you feel about the results of his dealings. BC knew he didn't have much to work with, but also knew he needed to make some major moves to overhaul this roster, and so he's so far turned an inch into a yard whenever he could.
He needed some toughness and rebounding so he went and got Reggie Evans.
He needed to get more athletic so he drafted the most gifted athlete of the incoming rookie class, DeMar DeRozan.
He needed to get another option offensively, and a wing at that who could make a play with the clock winding down. Hello Hedo!
And seeing the drop-off at the 1 when Jose Calderon was injured or simply needing a rest, he's targeted a back-up that could even start if needed.
That's not a bad haul so far. If Jack can be brought on board that suddenly gives the Raptors a very intriguing core group and with some additional funds still to be spent, the top eight or nine that the Dinos go to war with next year should be much more effective than last year's group.
It's hard to argue otherwise.
Toronto's Summer League team is one of the worst I've had the pleasure of watching up close and personal these past few days and it's a bit scary to think that several of its members played key roles for Toronto last year. It shouldn't be much of a surprise then that the Raps failed to make the playoffs and struggled when they had to rely on their bench group.
BC is trying to remedy this situation and hopefully he'll be able to complete the task without blowing the bank too much. With the salary cap expected to drop further next year, Toronto's management team will have to be wary of this when making contract offers and I therefore wouldn't be surprised to see many front-loaded deals.
So who's next on the Legomaster's list?
Kleiza if Jack doesn't work out?
Whoever the choice or choices, I'm not sure it matters in some ways. What does matter is that this team has a GM that knows how to move the pieces around and get things done even in the face of financial and perhaps geographic adversity. BC now has a long enough track record with the Raptors that you know he won't rest on his laurels; if he sees an opportunity to make a change to improve the club, he's going all-out after it.
Now if we can just figure out why Jack McCloskey has been sitting with the rest of the Raptors' brass so far in Summer League...