Is it safe to write this, yet? The Turkoglu trade is finally official, so I’m guessing it is. I had written another version earlier this week I had to scrap after Michael Jordan got cold feet and decided not to take Calderon, or more precisely, not to give up Tyson Chandler (in this trade, anyway). I understand his misgivings. I think Calderon would have been a good addition to the team, but Chandler and Boris Diaw are a little too much to give up for him. Especially with his contract (Of course I would rather have taken the trade with the Raptors than the junk he got from Dallas, but that’s another story).
That’s why, despite my affection for Calderon’s game, I liked the trade overall. I have, however to say I’m not disappointed that Jose is still a Raptor. I just wonder for how much longer. It now seems there are rumours about him heading to Indiana for Roy Hibbert, although someone else would have to be added. I did find it incredibly ironic that Calderon was going to be replaced by Chandler, one of the best ally-oop finishers in the game, by really the only player on the Raptors that can throw them effectively. Calderon, for all his weaknesses, IS the perfect PG to play alongside young players like DeRozan, Weems, Johnson and Davis because he is an adept passer and knows where to give it someone to put them in a position to score. Plus his steady hand would offset the turnovers that a young team like the Raptors are no doubt going to rack up next season.
I do think the aborted trade did give a glimpse at the overall plan of Colangelo. The Turkoglu for Barbosa trade could mean anything. Raptor fans are just ecstatic not only to get rid of Turkoglu, but for a player with not only a much better contract, but who can actually contribute. Even better is that if Barbosa has a good year, he could opt out of his contract next summer, making his essentially an expiring contract. Barbosa may not be a real PG, but the fact that he plays that position means that the Raptors have a glut at that position, and that means one of them has to go.
The inclusion of Charlotte in the deal gave you a sense that it might have been Barbosa’s contract that was most appealing to Colangelo. If Calderon had been dealt for Diaw and Chandler, the Raptors would have cleared the books of the two worst contracts on the roster, without bringing back any long term contracts. Calderon would definitely be the better PG to play on this team, especially with Barbosa backing him up, but the fact that Calderon is now apparently being shopped tells me one thing.
Ah, yes, the “R” word.
“Rebuild” is the dreaded word that no GM is ever supposed to mutter. Even if it’s what they mean. In his discussions with the press after the press conference for Amir Johnson, Colangelo accidentally used the “R” word, and then backtracked, instead opting for the word “re-tooling”. He even preferred the word “re-engineer”. Anything but rebuild. The reason is not that Colangelo doesn’t actually wish to rebuild. It’s that a GM cannot use the word rebuild without ramifications. Even if that’s what he’s doing.
The reason Colangelo cannot use the dreaded “R” word has nothing to do with his intentions, but of perception. Admitting you are rebuilding scares away both ticketholders and corporate sponsors, cutting deep into the bottom line. Ownership wouldn’t be very happy about that. Raptor fans criticize MLSE, but as long as they stay in the black, they pretty much let Colangelo do what he wants.
That’s why Colangelo has to give the perception that the Raptors are going to compete, and his aborted deal actually would have brought in players who look like they could have helped, but in actual fact, would have had a negligible effect in the win/loss column. That was the genius of this move. Barbosa, Diaw and Chandler are all talented players. It was not necessarily their talent that Colangelo was after, however. It was their contracts.
If Colangelo were simply retooling, as he claimed, then he would not have worried about getting shorter and expiring contracts, and would have focused on trying to acquire impact players, none of which describes the players he attempted to acquire.
I’ve debated the merits of rebuilding versus retooling among Raptor fans, and the fact that so many fans are against rebuilding is a good indication why Colangelo backed away from that statement. The thing, though, is that many fans seem to be confused by what rebuilding would entail. The fact is, though, the Raptors ARE well on their way in the rebuilding process. Most teams that rebuild don’t have the pieces that the Raptors have. Rebuilding usually requires the team to turn over it’s roster, get rid of any big contracts and acquire younger players and draft picks.
Currently, the Raptors are one of only three teams without a player making 8 figures (Minnesota and Oklahoma are the others). If they trade Calderon, they will have gotten rid of all their bad contracts, and the roster consists of 9 players 26 years of age or under. If the Raptors are rebuilding, they’re already halfway there.
The fear that most fans seem to have is years of losing while acquiring pieces and developing players. The fact that the Raptors are one move away from financial “flexibility” and already have acquired quite a number of talented young players means they are well ahead of the game.
When the Thunder/Sonics drafted Kevin Durant, they only had Jeff Green. It took them a few more years to acquire Westbrook, Sefolosha, Harden, Serge Ibaka and now Cole Aldrich. And still, the situation was completely different for Sam Presti. With the team’s lame duck status in Seattle, he had the luxury of not having to appease fans or corporate sponsors since the team was on it’s way out of town. Colangelo simply doesn’t have that luxury.
If Colangelo wants to rebuild, he has to make it appear to the fans and corporate sponsors that the Raptors are at least going to be competitive. At least reasonably.
Now, admittedly, I’m making a rather large assumption but it’s one that seems to have some basis in fact. The fact that Colangelo has so far refused to use the rather large trade exception they got when Bosh left for Miami shows that he’s not simply willing to do what a team like Utah did, and use it to try and simply replace Bosh. Hopefully Colangelo has realized what many of us have, and that’s that the roster, even with Bosh, was flawed. Simply trying to plug a hole with a lesser talent, like Monta Ellis or Al Jefferson, would have been disastrous. It would have doomed the Raptors to mediocrity. Something that both Charlotte and now Utah seem content on doing. For a fan like me, this is like death.
Instead, Colangelo seems to be attempting to rebuild, yes rebuild, the roster with players that fit better together and hopefully do what it takes to win. With Turkoglu gone, and Calderon apparently next, the Raptors seem to be ridding themselves of below average defenders, something I wholeheartedly applaud. And if that’s the case, Colangelo can’t hold onto Bargnani any longer. Losing Turkoglu and Calderon will only help so much. If you’ve got a weak link in your front line defensively, no matter which position he plays, it will hurt you.
Personally, I was hoping the addition of Chandler meant that Bargnani had become expendable. Sure, they certainly could use his front line scoring, as he’s the only big man on the roster that has any real hope of scoring double digits, but what they need even more is a front line that can protect the hoop and rebound the ball. That’s how you win in the NBA.
So Raptor fans, don’t be afraid of the “R” word. It’s not as scary as you might think. A year or two of losing while building the right kind of team is far, far more appealing than a decade of mediocrity.