Slam online: Raptors resurgence
Old 01-08-2014, 08:08 AM   #1 (permalink)
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SLAM ONLINE | Raptor Resurgence


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The Toronto Raptors are an NBA franchise that has been middling in mediocrity for much of their existence. Now in their 19th NBA season, they can only claim four winning seasons, five playoff appearances, one playoff series win, and a combined winning percentage of .409.Most of the team’s best draft choices bolted when they got the chance (Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady and eventually*Vince Carter*and*Chris Bosh) and they’ve suffered through a litany of mistakes, miscues and misfortunes.

Their GMs have had a history of making questionable draft picks, trades and free-agent signings and they’ve never had a coach who had a winning record during his tenure with the team. Arguably the biggest free-agent signing in the team’s history is*Hedo Turkoglu*(I won’t even bother trying to be funny there, as that statement is a joke in and of itself). They’ve pulled off some blockbuster deals, but their biggest trades have been for players well past their primes (Hakeem Olajuwan, Jalen Rose) or players whose skill sets didn’t quite fit the rest of the roster at the time (Jermaine O’Neal,*Shawn Marion).The Raptors have always had an uphill battle to claim relevance in Canada, a nation full-heartedly committed to hockey and the NHL.

That’s not to say they don’t have passionate fans, because they have one of the most rabid fan bases in the Association, but the casual Canadian hoops fan has no time for this team and even the diehards have trouble holding on when the losing seasons pile up. Being the only basketball team in Canada, they have a whole nation willing them to be good, but it has yet to work.The winds of change began blowing through Toronto this past summer, however, when the Raptors hired reigning Executive of the Year, Masai Ujiri, away from the Denver Nuggets. In his time with Denver, Ujiri traded away the franchise’s best player,*Carmelo Anthony, and got a bounty of role players and draft picks that he converted into a starless contending team in a tough Western Conference. Considering Toronto’s history of losing its brightest stars to free agency and bad track record of attracting outside talent, Raptors fans were drooling at the potential of having a roster-tinkering guru like Ujiri at the helm.The turnaround was supposed to take a few years, considering the mess of a roster Ujiri inherited from former GM Bryan Colangelo. Coming off a disappointing 34-48 campaign, the Raps didn’t have the needed flexibility to turn their fortunes around quickly. They had two of what most NBA pundits considered to be the most untradeable contracts in the NBA in*Rudy Gay*and*Andrea Bargnani, and didn’t even have a pick in this past year’s Draft, despite being a lottery team (their first-round pick was traded last year for*Kyle Lowry*and bounced around from Houston to Oklahoma City before eventually becoming promising Thunder rookieSteven Adams).Now, after an impressive 10-4 run, including a stellar 7-2 road record and key victories over the top Eastern and Western Conference teams (the Pacers and Thunder respectively), the Raptors rebuild seems to be ahead of schedule.

What happened?A TALE OF TWO TEAMSThe elephant in the room when it comes to this Raptors season is Rudy Gay. Yes, Ujiri’s first masterstroke of the season was trading Bargnani’s remaining $23 million and career of negative*nERDs (last year he finished the season at -4.2) to the Knicks, but that didn’t right the ship completely. The team started the season 6-12, and many were blaming Gay’s iso-heavy, shot-chucking ways for the underachievement.

There was a growing belief that if the Raptors could just get rid of Gay, they could turn things around and have a shot at being at least a decent team in a terrible Eastern Conference and maybe even have a shot at winning the wide-open Atlantic Division (I said as much*here).What has actually happened is that, since the trade, the Raptors have transformed into one of the best teams in the League. You might consider that to be a hyperbolic statement, but the numbers certainly back it up. Just look at their ratings before and after:
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The net rating is particularly impressive, as that stat tends to sift out the teams that are good on either offense or defense and not the other way. It basically tells us who the best teams in the league are and the Raptors admittedly look like the campus nerd that snuck into the cool frat party. They rank fourth in net rating since the trade, right behind the Thunder, Heat, and Spurs and ahead of the Clippers, Warriors, and Pacers. Those are all excellent teams that we take very seriously as contenders in this league.The big question is, will the Raps sustain the change from geek to chic like in every Hollywood movie about such transformations, or will the stumble and fall back to Earth?

FOUR FACTORSAs I discussed recently in*a piece about the Portland Trail Blazers, Dean Oliver’s*Four Factors*(effective field goal percentage, turnover ratio, rebounding percentage, and free-throw rate) have become a standard way for predicting a team’s ability to be successful and sustain that success. Here’s a breakdown of the Raptors over their last 14 games:
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Old 01-08-2014, 12:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Click the link because its really worth reading it all. Tough week coming up too, go raps.
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Old 01-08-2014, 02:23 PM   #3 (permalink)
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One of the best teams in the league


But of course if we have a shot at Wiggins we should blow one of the best teams In the league up.
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Old 01-08-2014, 02:28 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by pzabby View Post
we should blow one of the best teams In the league up.
Let's not get crazy. We're far from one of the best teams in the league.
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Old 01-08-2014, 03:07 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by pzabby View Post
One of the best teams in the league


But of course if we have a shot at Wiggins we should blow one of the best teams In the league up.
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Old 01-08-2014, 03:15 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Pre trade: 6-12 (ranked 23rd)
Post trade: 10-4 (ranked 6th)

Off Rtg
Before trade: 101.1
Post trade: 105.1

Def Rtg
Before the trade: 102.1 (14th)
Post trade: 98.6 (6th)

Net Rtg
Before trade: -1.0 (17th)
Post trade: +6.5 (4th)
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Old 01-08-2014, 03:32 PM   #7 (permalink)
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this is a good stretch and it's exciting for sure, but calling it a resurgence is so premature. if we were to go 4-10 over the next 14 games, there wouldn't be talk about "why are the Raptors struggling, who needs to be traded, who needs to be fired, etc." there just would be no discussion at all. We would just slide right back to irrelevance.
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Old 01-08-2014, 04:49 PM   #8 (permalink)
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pretty good article, however, the conclusion, which was probably meant as a rethorical question, it really is the crux of the whole dilemma:

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No one expects them to beat the Heat or Pacers, but isn’t a shot at the franchise’s best record and matching their deepest playoff run a good first step in Ujiri’s first year? We’ll see if the team has what it takes as they try to keep their impressive play going against the Pacers on Tuesday night.
Going back in time to BC's first season, that same question could have been asked back then. Is winning 47 games, a 3rd seed and the best record in franchise a good first step for Colangelo? And is it worth forgoing a chance to draft oden/durant/horford/noah?

I just hope we don't look back 3 years from now and have the same regrets. As they say, to err is human, to truly fuck up you need a general manager
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Old 01-08-2014, 05:45 PM   #9 (permalink)
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something that hasn't been mentioned through all this tanking/non tanking bullshit.


we have huge cap space 2 summers from now right? (correct me if i'm wrong).


if say we get to the second round of the playoffs this season, or even the first round this season then with more experience the second round next, don't you think we'll look more appealing to talented FA then if we blew it all up and sucked for the next 2-3 years?


face it. winning does breed winning. it does so by attracting players. prime example, spurs.
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Old 01-08-2014, 05:54 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by pzabby View Post
something that hasn't been mentioned through all this tanking/non tanking bullshit.


we have huge cap space 2 summers from now right? (correct me if i'm wrong).


if say we get to the second round of the playoffs this season, or even the first round this season then with more experience the second round next, don't you think we'll look more appealing to talented FA then if we blew it all up and sucked for the next 2-3 years?


face it. winning does breed winning. it does so by attracting players. prime example, spurs.

the spurs are kind of a weak example because they lucked out in the lottery and landed Tim Duncan. Their two other star players Ginobili and Parker were a product of phenomenal due diligence in the scouting department.
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Old 01-08-2014, 06:19 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by pzabby View Post
something that hasn't been mentioned through all this tanking/non tanking bullshit.


we have huge cap space 2 summers from now right? (correct me if i'm wrong).


if say we get to the second round of the playoffs this season, or even the first round this season then with more experience the second round next, don't you think we'll look more appealing to talented FA then if we blew it all up and sucked for the next 2-3 years?


face it. winning does breed winning. it does so by attracting players. prime example, spurs.
you are (probably) wrong.

assuming you want to keep amir, lowry, JV and Ross, all 4 will need to get paid. We could have some cap space this summer if we let lowry, salmons and patterson walk. Next summer we have to resign amir.

IF we don't sign any more long term contracts, we may have about 14M in cap space in 2016, assuming only JV, Ross, Kyle, Amir, Demar and the 3-4 players drafted in the next two drafts remain our our roster. Enough for a good, non-all star level contract.
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Old 01-08-2014, 06:29 PM   #12 (permalink)
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the spurs are kind of a weak example because they lucked out in the lottery and landed Tim Duncan. Their two other star players Ginobili and Parker were a product of phenomenal due diligence in the scouting department.
They did win for the decade before scoring with Duncan. That's where i think this team should be aiming - long term, sustained levels of winning. Then you don't have to rely on any one means of improving, but rather just keep capitalizing on any means that present themselves. We're a long ways off from that kind of insulating culture that creates its own good fortunes, but you have to start somewhere, and now seems like a good time.
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Old 01-08-2014, 06:39 PM   #13 (permalink)
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you are (probably) wrong.

assuming you want to keep amir, lowry, JV and Ross, all 4 will need to get paid. We could have some cap space this summer if we let lowry, salmons and patterson walk. Next summer we have to resign amir.

IF we don't sign any more long term contracts, we may have about 14M in cap space in 2016, assuming only JV, Ross, Kyle, Amir, Demar and the 3-4 players drafted in the next two drafts remain our our roster. Enough for a good, non-all star level contract.
When he said two summers from now, I think he meant 2015. Lots of people have been talking about our flexibility going into that summer.

This summer is the first summer and 2015 is the second. In that situation, JV and Ross will still have the team option years from their rookie contracts, so they'll be cheap. But, yes, Lowry and Amir will need to get paid if we keep them. It's hard to say what that will cost. Amir's cap hold will be for 10.5 million, and Lowry's cap hold for this summer is just over 9 mill. So let's say that their contracts that summer will be the cost of the cap hold, although they might actually be slightly lower or higher, with more money coming in later years through raises.

So....for summer 2015

Demar - $9.5 mill
JV - $4.7 mill
Ross - $ 3.6 mill
Novak - $3.8 mill

Plus projected 2015 salaries for Amir and Lowry (the per year might be higher or even lower; this is just a projection for that season)

Lowry - 9.5 mill
Amir - 10.5 mill

Assuming we make the playoffs this year, our pick will be outside the lottery and much cheaper. that's another efficient contract.
that's a total under $44 mill for 7 players, including the 2014 pick, although I suspect he'll have a few other guys signed up on efficient contracts like Hansbrough money or Patterson at MLE type money.

If the cap is up a bit, say, to over $60 mill. Then we can add a high quality player as soon as July 2015, if one wants to come. Winning now can help make that happen.

Also, once you have like 10+ mill in space, you can always shed a player if an all-star wants to come. If it came down to having Hansbrough and/or Patterson and a high quality $15 mill a year player, Ujiri will likely make a move to free the extra space to get that all-star. He might even be able to shed Novak before then, somehow.

The point is, there does appear to be some nice flexibility as early as 2015.

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Old 01-08-2014, 06:45 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Enough for a good, non-all star level contract.
Actually, a number of all-stars make under $14 mill. Not every all-star level talent is going to command a max contract.
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Old 01-08-2014, 07:40 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Actually, a number of all-stars make under $14 mill. Not every all-star level talent is going to command a max contract.
Yes, the ones that become all stars after they get their contract, and those past their prime.
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Old 01-08-2014, 07:46 PM   #16 (permalink)
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When he said two summers from now, I think he meant 2015. Lots of people have been talking about our flexibility going into that summer.

This summer is the first summer and 2015 is the second. In that situation, JV and Ross will still have the team option years from their rookie contracts, so they'll be cheap. But, yes, Lowry and Amir will need to get paid if we keep them. It's hard to say what that will cost. Amir's cap hold will be for 10.5 million, and Lowry's cap hold for this summer is just over 9 mill. So let's say that their contracts that summer will be the cost of the cap hold, although they might actually be slightly lower or higher, with more money coming in later years through raises.

So....for summer 2015

Demar - $9.5 mill
JV - $4.7 mill
Ross - $ 3.6 mill
Novak - $3.8 mill

Plus projected 2015 salaries for Amir and Lowry (the per year might be higher or even lower; this is just a projection for that season)

Lowry - 9.5 mill
Amir - 10.5 mill

Assuming we make the playoffs this year, our pick will be outside the lottery and much cheaper. that's another efficient contract.
that's a total under $44 mill for 7 players, including the 2014 pick, although I suspect he'll have a few other guys signed up on efficient contracts like Hansbrough money or Patterson at MLE type money.

If the cap is up a bit, say, to over $60 mill. Then we can add a high quality player as soon as July 2015, if one wants to come. Winning now can help make that happen.

Also, once you have like 10+ mill in space, you can always shed a player if an all-star wants to come. If it came down to having Hansbrough and/or Patterson and a high quality $15 mill a year player, Ujiri will likely make a move to free the extra space to get that all-star. He might even be able to shed Novak before then, somehow.

The point is, there does appear to be some nice flexibility as early as 2015.
You also have to count a number of empty roster spots for whatever the amount is, and you assume we will only sign only one year contracts this summer, which probably means a lottery pick next summer too. That pick also counts against your cap.

If we end up with 12 million and you could probably get a good, not quite all star player for that. Not sure what good would that do, we already have a starting 5 full of good, not quite all stars ...
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Old 01-08-2014, 08:13 PM   #17 (permalink)
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You also have to count a number of empty roster spots for whatever the amount is, and you assume we will only sign only one year contracts this summer, which probably means a lottery pick next summer too. That pick also counts against your cap.

If we end up with 12 million and you could probably get a good, not quite all star player for that. Not sure what good would that do, we already have a starting 5 full of good, not quite all stars ...
Yup. And those cap holds are the absolute minimum, if you want to have an actually decent bench and not vet min guys, you'll have to add them on. Say we get 3 rotation players for roughly 2 mil each (on the low end if you ask me but I digress) that cuts us down to 8 mil. We'd have 10 players on the roster at that point, and correct me if I'm wrong, but then you gotta add the cap holds for at least 2 players, likely more, and you're ending up with around 6 mil to make a signing. And I don't think you could sign those decent rotation guys after the marquée player since teams that start free agency under the cap are not allowed to use the MLE from what I know.

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Old 01-08-2014, 08:29 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by pzabby View Post
One of the best teams in the league


But of course if we have a shot at Wiggins we should blow one of the best teams In the league up.
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:17 PM   #19 (permalink)
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You also have to count a number of empty roster spots for whatever the amount is, and you assume we will only sign only one year contracts this summer, which probably means a lottery pick next summer too. That pick also counts against your cap.

If we end up with 12 million and you could probably get a good, not quite all star player for that. Not sure what good would that do, we already have a starting 5 full of good, not quite all stars ...
No...to me assuming we will only sign one year contracts. I stated that I suspect we re-sign Hansbrough and Patterson. That was above the $44 million, pushing us to $50ish. If the cap is above 60, that's still $10. Then you decide if the quality of the player you can sign is worth shedding someone to create a bit of extra room.

Yes, you have to count the number of empty roster spots since they will have league minimum cap holds. So, yeah, that's a few million. But we might also shed Novak by then.

Again, the point is, there is some flexibility to get a good impact player as early as 2015.

As for the "not sure what good that would do" to get almost all-star player, are you saying our team wouldn't be better off with Paul Millsap instead of Patterson or Hansbrough? That seems just...wrong to me.
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:20 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Yup. And those cap holds are the absolute minimum, if you want to have an actually decent bench and not vet min guys, you'll have to add them on. Say we get 3 rotation players for roughly 2 mil each (on the low end if you ask me but I digress) that cuts us down to 8 mil. We'd have 10 players on the roster at that point, and correct me if I'm wrong, but then you gotta add the cap holds for at least 2 players, likely more, and you're ending up with around 6 mil to make a signing. And I don't think you could sign those decent rotation guys after the marquée player since teams that start free agency under the cap are not allowed to use the MLE from what I know.
You're trying to hard to be a negative nancy all the time, bruh.

There were 7 rotation players in the salaries I listed if the 2014 pick is a rotation calibre player, and 9 if they re-sign Hansbrough and Patterson. Then the cap space adds someone of quality. That's more than enough players, you silly goose. They could even look to shed somebody to increase cap space for the addition they make.
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