Saturday, January 8, 2011

Toronto Raptors Lose To Boston... Should The Raptors Tank?

The Cleveland Cavaliers tanked in 2002-03
for the rights to to draft LeBron James.
What is to make of the Raptors 2010-11 season? Despite a horrendous 12-24 record, the team sits just three games out of a playoff spot, yet only four games ahead of NBA-worst Cleveland. Last night, they lost by 20 points to a Celtics team without Kevin Garnett.

There were positives - DeMar DeRozan put up 20, Jose Calderon was efficient, Kleiza and Barbosa had good games.

But in my opinion, nothing on the current roster is worth getting excited over. Much to the disagreement of some local fans, the Raptors have perhaps the worst future outlook of any NBA team, being devoid of anyone harbouring potential to be a 'franchise player' that championships teams are built around.

Sure, you can argue your case about DeMar DeRozan and his explosiveness, but he's far from the full package, with a 2-22 campaign from three-point land this season. Or Andrei Bargnani, who can neither defend nor rebound adequately as a center. Or Amir Johnson, whose new contract was heavily questioned this offseason and despite casual fans believing he has taken the PF job with a stranglehold, is only averaging 9/6.

Ed Davis may have eventual 20-10 potential, but his future is too cloudy to properly dissect at the moment.

Just look at all the teams behind Toronto in the NBA Standings and you'll see what I mean: young superstars in the making all-around. Washington has John Wall, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche. New Jersey has Brook Lopez and Devin Harris. Sacramento has DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans. Minnesota has Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Ricky Rubio (although overseas). The Los Angeles Clipper have Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon.

Cleveland is probably the closest to Toronto talent-wise but they're setting up nicely to nab a Top 2 or 3 overall pick in the draft.

So... should the Raptors try to tank and try to get the number one pick, improving their future significantly while throwing out this lost season for good?

Let's face it, even if the Raptors do make a turnaround and get the eighth-seed, they're not making it out of the first round of the playoffs.

And tanking does happen, it's not just some cheap scheme devised by fans that never happens in the real world. The 2002-2003 Cleveland Cavaliers tanked for the rights to select LeBron James and turn their franchise around.

In basketball, championship teams aren't built around full teams of players sharing the basketball around, without consensus go-to players. They're built around superduperstars putting up 35 nightly in the Finals.

Sure, the 2006-07 Golden State Warriors can dispatch the #1-seed Mavericks in the first round and the 2009-10 Milwaukee Bucks can, without Michael Redd, defy the odds by grabbing the sixth seed in the playoffs, but while these teams make noise, they aren't winning championships or even making the Conference Finals.

There's nothing to lose. The Toronto Raptors aren't going to be able to sign Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard or any other franchise players entering free agency soon.

They'll have to build through the draft.

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