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Old 05-19-2012, 02:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
jeffb
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Raptors Chisolm: many different ways to build a winner

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The Raptors are shifting into win-now mode. That much is settled. Many of you think they should keep losing until they get a high draft pick, but that was never the reason they were losing in the first place. They were losing for the last two years because thatís how long it took to rid the franchise of the detritus of the Chris Bosh era. That means unloading contracts that were meant to help Bosh win (Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, Hedo Turkogluís deal that became Leandro Barbosa), developing the youngsters that were mitigated by Boshís presence (Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson) and finding a coach that could radically transform the culture of a traditionally soft organization. They were trying to get as close to a clean slate as they could as quickly as they could so that they could go about the business of winning again. High draft picks were a side benefit to that plan, but certainly not the motivating factor that set that plan in motion.

People love to make the argument that teams need high draft picks to turn their fortunes around, but they are quick to forget that the Raptors already have two of them: Andrea Bargnani (1) and Jonas Valanciunas (5). Are they enough to mollify the draft lovers? Itís doubtful, but as a team you canít just keep digging in the same mine hoping to strike it rich. Sometimes teams get Durant, sometimes teams get Oden. Heck, sometimes teams get Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic, Adam Morrison, Wesley Johnson or Hasheem Thabeet. High picks guarantee nothing. The Raptors have had a couple of cracks at it and now have to move on. You canít keep artificially finding reasons to go back to that well or youíll winding up falling in like Sacramento and Golden State. High picks are one piece of team rebuilding, but there are dozens of other pieces that have to be considered, too. If a franchise becomes obsessed with only one way of doing things they are going to miss out on dozens of opportunities to improve in other ways.


Take my favorite recent example for proof: Indiana. Do you know how many top-five picks they have on their roster? Iíll tell you - zero. The Pacers were the third-best team in the East this year, fifth-best in the NBA, yet the highest any of their players were picked in the draft was tenth (Paul George). Sure, they drafted wisely in the mid-to-late teens with guys like Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough, but they used the draft as only one tool in their rebuilding plan.

They also traded wisely, nabbing George Hill, Darren Collison and Leandro Barbosa from other teams, and hit a home run in free agency this offseason when they secured David West on a cheap and flexible two-year, $20-million deal. They lucked out when they promoted Frank Vogel to interim head coach last season and were wise to lock him up last summer. They are currently tied with the Miami Heat in the second round of the Playoffs and Larry Bird just won Executive of the Year for his efforts.
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