The HQ takes a quick look at why a complete loss of a season is a worse-case scenario for a club like the Toronto Raptors...
I thіnk Ed hаѕ a grеаt upside bυt nο Summer League hυrtѕ. Thаt time gives hіm a chance tο bе wіth ουr coaching staff, tο gеt stronger, tο gеt reps, tο gain confidence playing іn regulation NBA games, albeit Summer League bυt still NBA refs, аn NBA court, NBA competition, I thіnk thаt wουld hаνе bееn bіg fοr hіm.
Coach Eric Hughes - May 2011
All these guys that are young that really develop, it's because they have playing time. There's very few young players that go from their rookie to their sophomore to their junior year improving dramatically, sitting on the bench, it's just unheard of.
Lance Young, agent for Joey Dorsey - August 2011
Last season the Toronto Raptors were the ninth youngest team in the league, with an average age of 26.21.
This was reflected on the court as fans saw moments that made them groan, as youth and inexperience factored into a great many of the team's 60 losses. (And even many of the 22 wins.)
However with nary an experienced and war-torn vet on the team outside of Reggie Evans, the Raps had to play the kids, and as Hoopism.com noted in a post on the subject, if you consider playing time allotted by age, the Dinos actually jumped into seventh spot overall in the league.
Looking at the interesting chart Hoopism built on the topic, there's a pretty solid correlation between team age and wins; ie older teams being the more successful clubs in the NBA. Using Hoopisms' weighted average, the oldest team in the league was the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA Champs.
Teams like the Spurs, Lakers, Celtics and Heat were also some of the old dogs and all were top clubs last season.
At the opposite end, the T-Wolves, Kings, Nets and Raps were the dregs of the league, and all rank amongst the league's youngest clubs.
There are exceptions of course. Young teams like OKC were quite successful last season, thanks to supporting cores consisting of very young, yet extremely dominant players. And other clubs like Detroit who while long in the tooth, fell short on wins.
Overall though, the younger you are, on average, the worse you can expect your performance to be. As the quotes we started this piece with illustrate, there's simply a necessity for players, no matter how skilled, to get NBA experience in order to translate said skill into wins and team success.
Which brings me to the Toronto Raptors and this lock-out.
The past couple days have been doom and gloom to a large extent regarding a season next year, even a shortened one, and I started thinking about the impact this would have on a young team like Toronto. Could there be some hidden benefits to the team starting fresh in 2012-13? Would a year off help erase the memory of Bosh's depature and last year's 22 win campaign?
However the more I pondered this situation, the more I started to feel like the inverse was probably true; a loss of an entire season was in fact the worst-case scenario for this franchise.
For starters, and from a macro level, Toronto was one of the few teams that made money last season. Whereas some owners undoubtedly are fine with losing a season as it saves them cash, this can't be said about the Dinos.
Secondly, this season was an opportunity to again acquire a top pick in the NBA draft, a draft loaded with the type of players the Raptors desperately need to beef up on. A shortened season would have kept this possibility intact. With a completely wasted 2011-12 session? Who knows how they'll sort things out come next June.
Most importantly though, and really the crux of things as per the quotes that led off this article, the Raptors are a young team that simply needs to play and develop. There are so many unknowns on this club from James Johnson to DeMar DeRozan and really the only way management can effectively evaluate their play is to yeah...actually watch them play.
A full year off means possibly another full year of "rebuilding" as players get to know a new coaching style and system, and for a young team like the Raps, it means pushing player development amongst the youngins, back another year. Yes, lots of these kids will continue to play and work on their games, but not in an NBA setting and against consistently upper echelon-type competition.
The bulk of the Raptors' core needs to get top-notch experience, and that's not happening with a year off.
The other confounding factor for me is the team's average age - about 26. In many ways, I wouldn't be so concerned if we were talking a team full of 20 and 21 year olds like Minnesota. A year off hurts, but many of these players are still learning fundamentals and honing basic principles. These can be given the attention needed outside of a structured system to some extent.
But look at the Raps.
As a team they're indeed young, but they've got a number of key guys like Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, James Johnson and Jerryd Bayless entering, or currently in, that key 23 to 25 age range, the range where historically we see what type of NBA'er a player will become. A year off clouds management's ability to project where these types will net out, and for a team trying to rebuild and understand which players need to stay and which need to go, that's a major issue.
In fact I'd argue that the only NBA fans who should be more upset about the potential loss of a season than those of the Raps, are the backers of clubs like the Celtics and Mavericks. These franchises as mentioned are on the elder statesmen side of the league age divide, and therefore have very small windows in terms of repeating past NBA Championship success.
However on the selfish side, said clubs have already had their day in the sun.
Pushing back a year of necessary development for the Toronto Raptors just means that a potential day in the sun for our own franchise, seems a lot farther away.