Now that the dust has really settled on the 2010-11 season for the Toronto Raptors, "Team HQ" gives their thoughts in the first of a three-part series...
It's hard to believe that the NBA regular season has been over for almost three weeks now.
But yes, the second round of the playoffs has started, and we're only a couple weeks away from the NBA draft lottery.
In the past few weeks on the site we've been talking primarily about the team's future, be it via the draft, new management, etc, etc. This week though I thought we'd take a look back...on a 22 win season that now has the Toronto Raptors firmly in the running for a top draft pick.
To do that, I've turned to the members of our trusty Raptors HQ team that covered the season with me; Howland, D-Stance, Vicious D, and our interns, Sean Tepper and Sasha Kalra...
1. Franchise: We'll start with the big one. Toronto won only 22 games this year and finished with the league's third worst record. Do you consider this season a disappointment, a disaster, or a necessary evil due to previous personnel moves?
Sean: I don't think that any Raptors fan can look at this season and consider it a complete and total disaster. Yes the Raptors may have finished with a mere 22 wins on the season and yes they may have suffered a number of embarrassing loses, but the experience that some of their young players gained over the course of the season wouldn't have been possible had they been a somewhat competitive team. Ed Davis, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson have all answered many of last off-season's lingering questions and they have all solidified themselves as key player in Toronto's rebuilding process. Even Jerryd Bayless made a name for himself in the latter part of the season and his last few games may have shown the Raptors enough to invest in him long-term. There were many disastrous and downright embarrassing moments for the Raptors this year but as the old saying goes, you have to learn to lose before you can start to win. If that is true, then the Raptors' future shouldn't be as grim as many people think it to be.
Sasha: When Chris Bosh decided to enact the inevitable and sign with the Miami Heat last summer we all knew that the 2010-11 season was going to be a long one. Rather than trade CB during the season when we could have gotten some value in return, management decided to stand pat and try and make the playoffs. Some of the moves we made in the offseason were pretty decent. Getting rid of" Hedo Turkoglu's contract by picking up Barbosa and drafting Ed Davis come to mind. Other moves were questionable and these include inking Linas Kleiza to a multiyear deal and throwing 36 million dollars at Amir Johnson. When the season started it became clear that this team wasn't going to win many games by virtue of their talent, and most of their 22 wins have come as a result of outworking the other team. Having the 3rd worse record obviously isn't a great situation in a market where basketball has played 2nd fiddle since the Raptors' inception and I can't imagine what this season might have done to neutrals in the city. Time will tell whether or not it was a disappointment, disaster or necessary evil and that all depends on what gets done moving forward. For example, if we can find a taker for Andrea Bargnani, get into the top 2 in the lottery and make some use of the TPE, this season could be looked at as a necessary evil, and that's what the optimist in me is saying at the moment.
Vicious D: Was it necessary to get young players like DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, James Johnson and Ed Davis the touches they needed? Yeah, and it's allowed them to play through their mistakes. It's a season that we all expected, it's a season that was inevitable, but at the same time, 22 wins is not something that I'm happy or content with and here's why.
I know that some of us are going to disagree about the draft, but in my mind, drafting around third in a weak draft year should never be the goal of a franchise. What this is going to mean is that our players didn't play meaningful games down the stretch, they didn't play with the attention to try to win every game, and now the organization has a high probability of drafting a player who won't be an NBA starter-calibur player.
In my opinion, this season will be looked on as mediocre to necessary if the ping pong balls fall in our favour, and at worst, a wasted year if we draft poorly which will lead to another ugly year. I can foresee this franchise having another terrible year before finally drafting someone who is a franchise-type player in 2012.
D-Stance: I wouldn't go as far as calling it a disaster. The team performed as expected (maybe slightly worse). But I think this season was both a disappointment and necessary evil due to previous personnel moves. The Raptor organization is going to continue to disappoint as long as they cling to the belief that Andrea Bargnani is a franchise player and the centrepiece of what they are building going forward. Look, I understand the 2010-11 Raptors weren't going to win many games anyway. But when you have a guy soaking up 2,353 minutes and 1,173 shot attempts while "contributing" -6.0 wins, you're not exactly inspiring the rest of the young talent who are by all accounts playing hard and trying to improve.
There are enough pieces in place to build something positive next season and beyond (2011 lottery pick, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, etc). But the first move is getting rid of Bargnani, if the team wants to avoid another season like this one in the near future.
Howland: I guess you could say this season was a disappointment in that it probably turned fair-weather fans against the Raptors for the foreseeable future, but I actually don't think it was any of these things. Frankly, all of this was predictable and the result of terrible management over the course of a number of years. Now, that being said, this should be absolute rock bottom and there is no-where to go but up. There is a solid foundation of youth here, the question is how do you build on it. Management (whether new or old) will need to take small calculated steps to ensure that in two or three years from now we can all look back on this season and think about how great it was for these young guys to get so much experience under their belts and not about how this was another rebuilding process wasted. Best case scenario is that we look back on this as a necessary evil....but in reality it was definitely not necessary. It was more inevitable.
2. Franchise: So it sounds like the whole HQ team here is pretty much on the same page with the season as being a tough one, but somewhat expected all things considered. Looking back then on the season, what would you say the worst moment was, or moments were, and what were some of the best ones, or bright spots?
Howland: Highs and lows....Well I think the high for me were the wins against the like of Orlando, Boston, Dallas, Chicago and Oklahoma. These are all teams that have a legitimate shot at winning the championship this year. In a season with so few wins it is nice to know that some of those wins cam against quality opponents. There's something to be said for that. The biggest low point for me had nothing to do with the Raptors themselves but rather the opinion out there that the HQ is simply the home of Andrea Bargnani haters. It's just not true. Obviously we don't think he is the player others do and the stats back it up, but for one reason or another people think we pick on this guy. He is the face of the franchise in a season of lows - isn't it fair to call the guy out sometimes? Hell even Michael Grange is doing it. Why? Because it is deserved. Here's hoping this subject is moot once Colangelo deals the former number one overall pick this summer to Cleveland for Anderson Varejao.
Vicious D: Bright spots for me were Ed Davis and James Johnson. I know that both have a long way to go, but I also think they're the type of players that the Raptors will need to turn around their identity. Yeah, there are a handful of games where the Raptors out hustled and did better than their opponents. It's going to happen in the NBA. So for me, getting Ed Davis back from surgery, seeing what he could do, and seeing that he can play in the NBA level was most encouraging. Trading for James Johnson was a move that I applauded and hopefully it means we've got someone who will be a solid defender and rebounder from the SF position.
Low points this year was watching Reggie go down with that foot injury in Boston (what is it with our toughest and best leaders going down in Boston with leg injuries?) and allowing offensively challenged teams like Detroit have a field day against our boys.
D-Stance: I know +/- stats for individual games need to be taken with a large grain of salt. But I'd like to single out the fine work of Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and James Johnson, who combined to post an incredible -118 vs. Golden State on March 25th. Bargnani, in particular, put a giant cherry on top of his crappy-play sundae by scoring only seven points on 10 shots to go along with zero rebounds. Truly a magnificent performance.
One of the best moments? Besides the play of Ed Davis and Amir Johnson, I'd have to single out Isaiah Moro of Hamilton aka Million Dollar Shot Guy aka the guy from FUBAR aka the Fraggle, who provided some much-needed comic relief during the final game of the season...