Just two days ago, my esteemed Tip of the Tower colleague Andrew Millichamp wrote his thoughts on the Toronto Raptors, throwing out the suggestion that given the sorry state of the Atlantic Division in th NBA, the Leafs should go all in. Millichamp shared his thoughts (that I agree with) that as currently constructed, this Raptors team is too good to tank, but not nearly good enough to make a run.
After reading Andrew’s piece, I was a convert. With a few key acquisitions, the Raptors could not only make the playoffs, but have home court advantage in the first round and possibly see their way into the second round! While not the end goal, it would be a whole lot better than cruising to a ninth place finish.
Well my stay on the anti-blow it up right now bandwagon lasted all of one day, coming to a head when the Raptors managed to blow a franchise record 27-point lead last night in Golden State to the high flying Warriors. The embarrassing, inexcusable loss dropped the Raptors to 6-11 on the season, a horrendous record in anything but the
Atlantic Titanic Division, where they now sit just a half game from the playoffs.
While Andrew’s suggestion that bringing in Rajon Rondo would certainly help this team return to respectability, Tuesday night’s loss illustrated that the Raptor’s problems are more than just superficial. This team is fundamentally flawed and in all likelihood needs to be be taken down to the foundation and rebuilt the right way.
The Tank-Nation 3-Step Plan
Fire Dwane Casey
It starts with the head coach. Since being hired in 2011, I have been an adamant supporter Casey as head coach, after all who could win with the rosters he was given. But last night was a microcosm of Casey’s tenure. Down 27, it was clear that the Warriors were going to bomb away from 3 (which they tend to do anyways), so it would stand to reason that defenders should probably refrain from helping off their man and leaving them open at the three-point line. So what did the Raptors do? They over helped and left prolific three-point shooters (hello Steph Curry) wide open for 3′s. While the players need to execute the game plan, this happening repeatedly while a 27-point lead evaporated is on Casey.
This, combined with his awful instances of clock management earlier this season (seriously if the Raptors don’t foul early in the clock while needing to get the ball back with less than 30 seconds left I’ll lose my mind), has led me to realize that Casey is not the coach that will lead the Raptors back to relevance.
Keep Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay has been an unmitigated disaster. Last night in Golden State, Gay managed to shoot above 50% for a game in the first time this season. If the Raptors are going to do this the right way, they’re going to need to lose. If they’re going to lose, the Raptors will need a terrible player to throw up (and miss) a whole lot of shots and Rudy Gay is that guy.
By keeping Gay, the Raptors will likely be able to reap the reward of his expiring contract at the end of the season. With the way he has played, it seems very unlikely that the Raptors will be able to get a return even close to the value of the cap space Rudy’s expiring will provide, so unless it’s part of a bigger deal bringing in real assets, Rudy stays.
Kyle Lowry Must Go
Kyle Lowry is an effective point guard, currently being paid a relative pittance who has an expiring contract. There are a number of contending teams that would love a player like Lowry to come in for the rest of the season. He won’t break any budgets, and can be an asset in the starting lineup or off the bench, all at no risk at all!
Lowry is too good to keep if the Raptors plan on tanking, and quite frankly does not look to be a part of the team’s long term plans. Lowry’s value for the Raptors in the trade market will likely never be at the levels it is right now, so they must act and get this tank into full swing while they have the chance.
A first round pick in this year’s draft is highly unlikely, but a future pick to go with the future first rounder received in the Bargnani trade, could go a long way into setting Masai Ujiri’s road map to contention for this embarrassment of a franchise.
If you think the Raptors offense has been ugly so far, just wait until the likes of Julyan Stone, DJ Augustin, and Dwight Buycks are running the team full-time. I’m giddy with excitement at the prospect of the Raptors actually doing something (even if its losing) right.
So what do you think? Should the Raptors start the tank or push all in? Do you agree with the Tank-Nation 3 Step Plan?