It's Christmas Eve. For RaptorsHQ that means sending our annual wish list to the jolly man from the North Pole.
Like in years past, there is a lot to wish for.
First and foremost a Happy Holidays to all of the RaptorsHQ community and the broader SBNation. It's a time for family, friends and of course, talk about the Raptors. We hope everyone has a safe and joyous holiday and that Santa finds each and every one of you.
Speaking of Santa, it's time for the HQ's annual letter to Santa. There are a lot of things we're are asking for....
No matter how onside you are with this ongoing rebuild of the Toronto Raptors, it has been a frustrating season thus far. Amongst some surprising wins have been some devastating losses, and through it all the youth of this team shines through.
The team's inexperience and inconsistent play is not surprising, but it doesn't make it any more fun to watch. Young teams typically struggle and this year's Raptors' squad is no exception. They show flashes at times but for the most part this team is typically on the losing end of games. It's a season for the young talent to go through tough experiences and have the essential "growing pains" all the while hoping that these experiences will push them to work harder and take their respective games to the next level.
On many occasions we have discussed the lack of development from some of the young players, in particular DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems. We have also been critical of Andrea Bargnani, a player who has indeed stepped-up but consistently makes us want more. As fans we naturally want things to happen over night. We want Andrea to suddenly wake up and be the next Dirk. We want DeRozan to be that 20 ppg scorer on the wing that this team has been missing since Vince left.
We want progress and we want it right away. Prolonged gratification is not something sports fans are keen on, but it is that we need. As fans we must be patient with these players as they develop and this applies two-fold for management.
As a fan this is a nervous time. The team is just managing to stay above water - not quite in the playoff picture and yet not quite out of it. You have to wonder what Colangelo is thinking. He has never been one to sit idle when a team under his control is struggling, yet that is exactly what he needs to do. Making a trade for an Andre Iguodala type just to see the team grab the 8th spot and get knocked out of the first round in a blink of an eye while lessening the chances at a top lottery pick, is not in this organization's long term best interests.
What is in the best interests of this team? Patience, and lots of it. Let the young guys play. Let them learn on the job and let them become better players in the long term for it.
If there is anything this team needs to show it's consistency and hopefully this will come over time. The team needs to show consistent effort night in and night out. Consistency is one trait all of the league's top teams share. The Raptors are incredibly inconsistent and as a result you have miracle comeback wins, tough to swallow losses, and unexpected wins all within a week.
When the Raptors take the floor you have no idea what you are going to get and not just as a team, but also on a player by player basis. Will DeRozan go for 18? Which Linas Kleiza will show up? Will Bargnani take over for more than one half? Is there anything you can be absolutely certain of on any given game night? Last season you could be certain of a 20-10 effort from Chris Bosh. This season? The only thing to be certain of is a less than stellar defensive effort.
Speaking of defense, if Santa could put anything under the HQ tree it would be a Raptors team with a defensive mindset.
It hasn't been since the Kevin O'Neill days that the Toronto Raptors have been a strong defensive team. It's been a long time and it's hard to pinpoint exactly why this has been the case. Since O'Neill the team has been through a couple of head coaches and a number of assistant coaches, yet the defensive results have been the same - poor. It was just last season that the Raptors played like one of the worst defensive teams in the history of the league.
Until Toronto manages to find a defensive identity and a defensive mindset that they can hang their hats on night after night, the best case scenario for the team will continue to be less than desired in terms of results.
The Raptors need a break through moment defensively.
If Andrea Bargnani really wants to be the number one option for this team that moment needs to come from Il Mago and I believe it is possible. With his quicks, length and size there is no reason why Andrea cannot be the anchor to an above average defensive team. His one-on-one defense is above average. He now needs to take on the challenge of being a solid all around defender. Is that too much to ask Santa?
All this being said, for the Raptors to really find themselves back into true contention in the next few years they are going to need a little luck.
Players will need to stay healthy, some players will need to surprise, and perhaps more importantly the team will need a little luck when it's lottery time. One player can change the fortunes of a franchise - just ask the Spurs, the Cavs, the Lakers and the Thunder.
As this team coninues down the long road to respectability a little good fortune would go a long way. Think Santa might have that in this bag of toys? All Raptors fans sure hope so.
Merry Christmas from all of us at the HQ to you and yours.