The Irrelevance of the Toronto Raptors

Apr 20, 2013 by

The Irrelevance of the Toronto Raptors

The NBA playoffs begin today and once again, unsurprisingly, the Toronto Raptors, with their 34-48 record, are not among the participants.   Only twice in the last 11 years has this team made the playoffs, and in only one of those seasons did they have a winning record. Is it just me or has no one recognized how horrible this team has performed for as long as it has?  If you live in Toronto you will notice the fans have become uninterested and apathetic.  Even I hadn’t realized they played their last game of the regular season a few days ago up until yesterday.  No one talks about the Raptors anymore, but then again why would they?  With the emergence of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the excitement surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays, the Raptors are no longer on the local sports radar and with no up and coming or identifiable superstar, you can be sure no one in America cares much either.  Sadly, this franchise is slowly and methodically turning into the Vancouver Grizzlies.  The Raptors may not become extinct like their long-lost Western brother, but they are certainly becoming irrelevant to the basketball world.

The reality is high-profile free agents don’t want to come to Toronto and this team hasn’t drafted a true superstar since Vince Carter.  Yes, Chris Bosh was a very good player, but he did not have the skill set or presence to take over games with regularity the way Carter could.   Rudy Gay is the closest thing the current Raptors have to an impact player, but if the Memphis Grizzlies traded him in his prime, simply to unload his contract, you don’t need to watch him in order to know that he isn’t the franchise type player the Raptors desperately need to turn things around.  Teams simply don’t throw away their young high performing assets, like Memphis did, unless there’s a good reason. Like Bosh, Gay is a highly skilled player and could be a nice piece to a winning team, but he’s not a franchise type player.  The same can be said about other recent drafted players like Andrea Bargnani, Demar Derozan or Terence Ross.  Again, all are good pieces, but as a team they haven’t gelled and there is little reason to believe that will change.  The truth is this team needs to be the worst team in the NBA on a year that a franchise changing type of player is available.   The Raptors already traded their first round pick this year (and were not bad enough anyway), but interestingly the 2014 draft class projects Toronto born, Andrew Wiggins as the first overall pick.  Wiggins has been called a freakishly talented small forward and has drawn comparisons to the likes of Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen. Wouldn’t Wiggins look good in a Toronto uniform for the next ten+ years?  Did I mention he was Canadian and born in Toronto?  The thought of that possibility should encourage all Raptor fans to cheer for the opposition every game next year, but only because the outcome could potentially yield incredible long-term results.

Drafting Wiggins would most definitely shift the sentiment towards the Raptors overnight, but sadly, it’s not likely to happen either. The problem with this scenario is that Toronto would have to be the worst team in the league to have a chance at him, and like other Toronto franchises in recent history, like the Maple Leafs, the Raptors tend to be just good enough to ensure they don’t have an opportunity to draft a franchise type player.  Their team as currently constituted is just too good; they may even have an outside chance at making the playoffs next year.  Wouldn’t that be great?  Build a team good enough to get squashed in the first round by the Miami Heat.  Great idea, that’s something to look forward to…

If you’re a fair-weather fan who thinks participating in the playoffs is a success, congratulations you might get your wish next season; however, that approach will not bring you a championship or even the threat of that possibility – just mediocrity. The only way the Raptors will make a significant step is if they draft a franchise type player in the vein of a Lebron James or a Kevin Durant; only then will top players want sign in Toronto.  Only then will the Raptors have a real chance at winning a championship. In order for this to happen there needs to be a dramatic change in philosophy – starting with the front office.

Simply put, its time the Toronto Raptors call Oprah and get a makeover. Year after year, excuse after excuse the Raptors management has put a spell over its fans convincing them that next year will be better and sure enough they return to the Air Canada Centre en masse hoping the new season will bring something different.  However, if you take your fan cap off and rose-colored glasses for a few minutes, you will notice that tomorrow never comes and the prospect of that changing seems unlikely under current leadership.  Bryan Colangelo looks and talks like a general manager should, but his tenure has been an absolute failure.  He was unable to re-sign Chris Bosh, get a significant return for him or build enough pieces around him to make a serious playoff run.  Since Bosh’s departure Colangelo has built barely mediocre teams, often with an international flare, that at best threaten to make the playoffs, but nothing more.  All of his experiments have failed and its time a fresh face be given an opportunity to rebuild this franchise. Professional sports are about winning and only winning and the Raptors have sadly turned into a franchise defined by losing and only losing.

At the very least, if Colangelo is retained, he should dismantle this team over the off-season and do everything in his power to give the Raptors a chance at Wiggins or the next potential franchise player that this team has been lacking for almost a decade.  If you’re a true Raptors fan you should hope that the suits at MLSE see the light and incur the major changes that are required.  Without it, the Raptors could one day be destined for the same fate as its namesake experienced millions of years ago, which in my opinion would still be a better alternative than watching a franchise peddling patience and pride itself on being mediocre year in and year out.



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