Let me get this right out there in the open: As of now, I have NO idea whether the moves that Bryan Colangelo has made will turn the Raptors into a 40/45-win team, put them in the seventh or eighth seed and get them back to the playoffs after a two year drought. I need to see a few more Toronto dominoes fall before I offer any predictions, but I will say this: things are surely feeling a whole lot better in Raptorland than this time last week when Chris Bosh was walking out the door for no compensation to the Miami Heat.
There is lots more to keep an eye on with the Raps' usage of close to $18 million in trade exceptions, moving Marcus Banks' expiring contract and whoever else is being moved (Marco Bellinelli etc.).
The fact that they now have two No. 1 picks in the 2011 draft and a bit more financial flexibility in the future means they've got a shot (and I emphasize - a shot) to get it right not only for the 2010-11 season but beyond. And more importantly, when you think of why Bryan Colangelo was brought to Toronto, it was to contend in the Eastern Conference on a consistent basis for a top four seed, to go deep in the playoffs, to be the best team in the Eastern Conference and make a run at some point for an NBA Championship.
The Raptors are a long way from those categories but they've now got a shot right here and right now to right the ship and point towards the organizational long-term vision. It's time to continue doing what's "right" for the greater long-term good of franchise and not what is "popular" to appease those who are short-sighted, worrying about contending for an eighth seed.
I have every bit of confidence that Colangelo will do what's "right" for the Raptors franchise and add the building blocks to make this a potential turn-around scenario over the long haul.
I'm not a believer in the "instant gratification" school and I believe that this potential trade addresses some of the the symptoms that needed to be addressed to begin the process of changing the look, feel and vision of this franchise.
Here are the three reasons I like the trade:
1. THE FOLKS YOU MOVE OUT:
a. Hedo Turkoglu
I think we're all worn out talking about what a mess it was this year with him. It's good for both sides that this happens. It's addition by subtraction (lousy attitude and money relief, too) for the Raps and I think Hedo will perform a whole lot better in Phoenix. He exposed himself around the league and the word is out on him and now he's going to be on a short leash and I think he'll produce and rise to the occasion.
b. Jose Calderon
I'll personally miss him. He's a good person and a good player. His contract became an issue and his poor defence was a problem. It's a fresh start for both sides. I'm really curious to see him and Larry Brown (a defensive stickler) co-exist, but Brown loves his game and, as long as he's patient with Jose, it will be a good fit. It's an offensive (not defensive) upgrade for Raymond Felton (now with the NY Knicks) based upon what Brown wants to do with his team.
c. Reggie Evans
Injuries killed him and he never got in the mix. Sometimes I shook my head at his stubborn insistence that he was an offensive threat. That's the beauty of pro sports guys - they can never let go of their dreams and just do what they're supposed to do. It drives coaches nuts. He made sense when they got him and he'll battle for Larry Brown in the final year of his pact.
2. MONEY SAVINGS / FLEXIBILITY
We live in a salary cap world and moving two poor contracts (Turkoglu & Calderon) and taking back over $25 million to $30 million in exposure on three pacts expiring in the next year (Tyson Chandler) and the following season (Boris Diaw & Leandro Barbosa) helps the long term viability of what you're trying to build. The fact is that the Raptors don't touch the Miami trade exception ($14.5M); they have close to $18 million in overall trade exception to play with, allowing themselves the capability to be creative in the next year. They can still move Marcus Banks' expiring contract and have two No. 1 picks in 2011 NBA Draft. They're in a better spot than a week ago, based upon the devastating loss of Chris Bosh.
3. NEW LOOK (MOBILE/QUICKER/ATHLETIC)
Based upon the draft picks and the three new players, the Raptors will be longer, quicker, more mobile and athletic. There's a better chance that they can finally guard someone. I have no idea how this group will come together but from a defensive and running game perspective with a No. 1 star on the roster, it at least allows you the versatility to try to win games in other ways.
The Milwaukee Bucks grinded their way into the NBA playoffs this past season playing hard-nosed and inspired basketball. Jay Triano must get his group to do the same - no nights off from guys on cruise control. For Turkoglu, that became an issue last season.
I personally like Colangelo and think he's a hard working, hungry and passionate basketball man who can get this thing turned. Yes, he's made lots of mistakes in his four-plus years and he needs to stay the course he has ventured on to in the past few weeks (draft picks/Bosh sign & trade/this trade) in order to turn the tide.
The moment of truth has arrived, and sometimes you truly find out about a guy when he's up against it. I'm confident we'll find out that he can do it in Toronto, but he must stay focused on the "right" approach vs. worrying about making the "splash" that wins a press conference to quiet the shallow crowd.
Make the moves that have good common sense logic and substance to them and it will work out. The long-term health of a franchise is counting on that. They're not going to win the 2011 NBA Championship, so they need to do the things that move the process along in the right direction for the franchise, not as much getting caught up with the short-sighted 2010-11 team approach.
My bet is that Colangelo will get this thing on the course to turn itself around. Remember, 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary!' Take the "right" road.