(Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Well, I can honestly say I did not expect to see this happen this season. Yes, the franchise player took his talents to a warmer climate but with the moves the Raptors made in the offseason and during the draft I still figured the Raptors could put together a 30+ win season and potentially fight for the 8th spot in the East if things went really well. Call me an optimist, but I felt the talent on the Raptors roster was enough to be competitive. It seems that was just a pipe dream, and practically an impossibility now.
The Toronto Raptors fought the early February weather and managed to arrive in Atlanta, Georgia this morning in time for shootaround but when it was game time the Raptors were unable to turn their fortunes around and the losing streak continued at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks with a 100-87 loss.
All 5 Raptors starters ended up with double digit points tonight and they managed to keep the score close for the first half, which essentially has been the case all season. But what has also been the case all season is the Raptors' 'tale of 2 halves' where a poor third quarter ends up putting them behind too much to be able to rally with effectiveness down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
I'm not saying anything that Raptors fans aren't already aware of, but the rash of injuries have played a major role in the Raptors' inability to win games. The Raptors are currently without the services of Reggie Evans, Leandro Barbosa, and Linas Kleiza, not to mention various players in and out of the roster so far this season - Jerryd Bayless, Sonny Weems, Ed Davis, and Jose Calderon. Other than financial benefits, I don't know if the Jarrett Jack/David Andersen trade has helped the Raptors thus far this season. I guess I should just resign to the fact that the trade was made with financial flexibility and a potential (and likely) NBA lockout in mind.
I'm extremely interested in seeing what, if any, moves Bryan Colangelo makes leading up to the trade deadline, which is now 3 weeks away. The Raptors have the rest of the Bosh trade exception to use by July, some expiring contracts, and some cleared cap room through buyouts (Peja Stojakovic). I know the talk of tanking always heats up any time a team is in the basement, but I think that strategy & mentality is more hype than anything else. Let's face it, many years there is not a consensus #1 overall pick leading up to the NBA Draft (I don't see this year being an exception), the NBA Draft itself is a lottery really, not just the slotting of the top 14 picks.
But what should the Raptors do this offseason? Court another 'name' or 'names' like they did with Hedo last summer? Or continue to build? Obviously things have to change, but what exactly? Will players come to Toronto and want to stay? As a follower of the franchise since it's inception, I am starting to become leary (and somewhat jaded) about the reasons and factors that play into the Raptors best players eventually leaving the franchise, with the Raptors practically getting nothing in return. This could all be a moot point depending on what happens with the timing and results of the NBA labour discussions, but management still has to work toward building a competitive team despite all of the other unanswered questions.