Expect Raptors to stay on path to sustained mediocrity | Basketball | CBC Sports

NBAExpect Raptors to stay on path to sustained mediocrity

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 | 01:29 PM

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Rudy Gay (22) is not yet considered a superstar, but he promises to be a significant player for the Raptors moving forward. (Brian Babineau/Getty Images) Rudy Gay (22) is not yet considered a superstar, but he promises to be a significant player for the Raptors moving forward. (Brian Babineau/Getty Images)

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The Toronto Raptors finished with a 34-48 record and out of the playoffs this season, but rather than make wholesale front-office changes, will likely stay on the path to sustained mediocrity.  

Another playoff-free Toronto Raptors season ended Wednesday with a feeling that the team had just ended three seasons in one.

In the autumn, an atrocious 4-19 start; the winter, a rebound highlighted by the end of the Jose Calderon era and the dawn of the Rudy Gay one; and with spring, a five-game losing streak that ended, once and for all, any post-season hopes. The result is a 34-48 record, seventh-best in franchise history. That's 18 seasons of history. More on that later.

In a fast-food media age where information and hype is half-processed and forgotten within minutes, perspective is something that appears to be going the way of the daily newspaper. Yet the case can be made that the Raptors, 10th in the Eastern Conference, ended up exactly where most pundits expected. John Hollinger, in a different career back in October, predicted the Raptors would win 33 times. He came up one short.

That's not to say all news is bad.

This is a different team than the one that started the season, one that played .500 ball after that hellish start. You can make the case that they would have made the playoffs had the current core been in place all year. Jonas Valanciunas' development was a pleasure to watch and he's clearly a player on the rise. Amir Johnson was the team's true MVP. Don't believe me? Look up his advanced stats.

Yet the questions begin after that.

Acquiring Gay was, by team president and general manager Bryan Colangelo's own admission, a move made to secure a top-flight player in part because of the perception -- real or imagined -- that Toronto is nobody's top choice in free agency. Of course, it's also debatable if Gay is, in fact, a top-flight player. Yes, he's a good player. But a superstar? In paycheque only.

There is also the issue, quickly dismissed by Gay and DeMar DeRozan, that the two wing players, lacking effective outside shooting, duplicate each other too much.

Then, there is the curious case of point guard Kyle Lowry and his relationship with head coach Dwane Casey.

Those can be resolvable issues, however. Colangelo, or whoever is in charge of the team this summer, must liberate the franchise of Andrea Bargnani. Subsequently, there is logical conjecture that DeRozan could be dangled as well. Casey, as good a coach as he is, didn't have this year's team on the same page the way he did with last year's less-talented group.

Which brings us to the $50-million question: What about Colangelo?

This is his team. There is about $50 million in guaranteed money next season for five players (including Bargnani) who have never played in an NBA all-star game. That's the negative. Some positive value can be gleaned from the play of Johnson and DeRozan this year. Yet more questions pop up regarding probable extensions for Gay and Lowry.

Colangelo is good corporate soldier

Keeping Colangelo means Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment stays the current course. It's a course most agree is a path to sustained mediocrity. Yet before fans assume that MLSE will clear the decks and start fresh just because they fired Maple Leafs president and GM Brian Burke and rebooted Toronto FC, keep in mind that Burke's dismissal was not only performance-based. As for TFC, they've been a gong show from Day 1. Colangelo has had past success, is a good corporate soldier for MLSE and is, by all accounts, well liked.

But that's the micro. The macro is the Raptors' standing overall. It's been written and broadcast to death how the franchise has chased its tail for years, how minus two legitimate bright spots (2001, 2007), it's been mired in mediocrity. In a city obsessed with continental relevance, observers far too frequently wax poetic about the Raptors' relevance within it. Most of the stories I read Thursday morning alluded to it.

If the organization is not going to hit the reset button -- which it most certainly won't -- and go all-in on a shot next year at Andrew Wiggins, a player who may well represent an unprecedented opportunity in Canadian sports history, can we please drop the relevance talk for good?

Yes, a new GM would likely signal the sort of rebuild predicated on high draft picks. But MLSE doesn't operate in high-risk territory. My opinion or fans' opinions mean nothing here. For better or for worse, I expect Colangelo will be back, perhaps without Casey, and this team will challenge for one of the bottom-three playoff spots next year.

Follow John Chick on Twitter @roofthatpeach

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