When Bryan Colangelo stepped into the general manager position in Toronto in 2006, he had the vision of building Phoenix (his old job) East. He drafted Andrea Bargnani with the first pick in the 2006 Draft and brought in T.J. Ford and hoped they could pair with versatile forward Chris Bosh.
The experiment did not quite work. Ford and Jose Calderon never meshed as a backcourt and the team reached only two postseasons in that time. These ultimate failures to reach the postseason had Bosh going out the door last summer.
The Raptors were back to square one four years after receiving the number one pick. Bosh was the undoubted star of the team, but he did not have the support he needed for the Raptors to ever break through.
So Bosh was gone to Miami and the Raptors needed to find direction again. A star is not walking through the door and Toronto is left rebuilding with some young players and no direction. Toronto faced an identity crisis in 2010-11, trying to figure itself out after defining its franchise through Chris Bosh for years.
DeMar DeRozan appeared to be a promising young star, coming in and having a fantastic sophomore year — 17.2 points per game 46.7 percent shooting. Andrea Bargnani certainly scored like a first overall selection, getting his shots and scoring 21.4 points per game while shooting a 48.0 percent effective field goal percentage. But the increase in both of those numbers certainly came from the result of more playing time. The added responsibility came with growing pains as Toronto finished 22-60, and dead last in the Atlantic Division.
As good as DeRozan and Bargnani were, they both are young players with numerous faults. DeRozan, while a great slasher with the ability to get to the rim, struggled to hit from distance. Bargnani undoubtedly has the 3-point range, but as a 7-footer often pressed into playing some center, his rebounding and defense lead a ton wanting. Bargnani averaged 5.2 rebounds per game and had a whopping rebounding rate of 8.6 percent.
Even with the addition of Leandro Barbosa, Toronto could not improve its offense, finishing 21st in the league in offensive efficiency, and certainly did not improve its defense — finishing dead last in defensive efficiency.
It sure seems and feels like the Raptors are in for a complete overhaul. The question is whether coach Jay Triano and general manager Bryan Colangelo will be there with them.
Colangelo sure brought a lot of excitement with him when he came in 2006. The promises of Phoenix East failed and turned more into Golden State East; an exciting team that pushed the pace and scored, but failed to defend or win. The Raptors won the division that first year and Colangelo earned executive of the year. Things seemed to go downhill from there as Bosh failed to deliver and the team failed to surround him with the necessary talent to win.
There are certainly talks of starting a complete rebuild in Toronto. That would include trading Bargnani and perhaps changing leadership.
That would be an unsettling end to an era in Raptors basketball and perhaps more frustration for their fans. It appears then that only luck in the Draft Lottery could save a few jobs.
Yes, there is promise in DeRozan and a few of the other players on the Raptors, but last season proved this team needs a star to tie it all together and give them a chance. And it would need a lot more to become a true threat in the postseason.
Photo via DayLife.com.