First off I apologize for no blog yesterday. Just was a lot of stuff going on life wise to take care of. We never did recap the Raptors loss to Miami but basically it could be summed up in one line. Lebron James is awesome. You may not like the guy as a person but he is a hell of a basketball player however you care to cut it. His detractors will point out his lack of rings and the fact he has had sometimes in the 4th quarter where he can go missing. All that said he is a pure athletic freak that it is fun to watch perform if you can get over all your hate.
The season is winding down for the Raptors with just 3 games left to go. It honestly has seemed to fly by, as it seemed like the Raptors had a game every other night. Oh wait, with the NBA Lockout schedule they pretty much did. They say time flies when you are having fun. I am not sure much about this season was all that fun. It would appear though that the Raptors have at least hired the right coach. Dwane Casey has been nothing short of fantastic this season. I am not sure if many believed he could actually turn around the Raptors miserable defense into something respectable but he has. That fact alone it pretty amazing but when you consider how he was able to with all the disadvantages the lockout offered it is flat out beyond logic. On top of all of that you have a season in which your squad was injury plagued. Miracle worker might be going to far, but whatever comes just before that would some up what Dwane Casey has done this year.
That was a success, what was not a success to any large degree was the moves Colangelo made in the off-season. When Aaron Gray looks like the best signing that you made there is a problem. This talk of the Raptors adding all of this leadership they so desperately needed was about as believable as the "It's not you, it's me" line someone gives you when breaking up with you. Carter and Butler didn't even last the season and Jaamal Maglorie might be the most over hyped Raptor for doing next to nothing that I have ever seen. Aside from that band of veteran leadership brought in there is Gary Forbes who even after 63 games remains a bit of a riddle as to what he is or can be? The Raptors did find a decent player in Alan Anderson with their 10 day contracts. There is no guarantee he will be around next season.
Demar DeRozan after starting off having all kinds of trouble has rallied in the second half of the season. He still looks like he has the potential to grow into the star many hoped he could be. Ed Davis meanwhile has perhaps shown why he slipped into the draft down to the Raptors at 13. He until very recently had shown zero signs of improvement or even life. Still, the giant question left by this season will be which was the real Andrea Bargnani? Was it the guy that started the season like gangbusters and after 13 games was being hyped and an All-Star Candidate? Or is it that guy that came back after his calf injury that hobbled him for most of the season. That guy looked a lot like the Andrea from the past 6 seasons before Casey arrived.
Then we have hype in two forms. Let's get the obvious one out of the way first. That would be the Raptors insistence on hyping up their draft choice that never got to play this season. I think his name is Jonas something. You might have heard of him a time or two or 2 thousand times from the Raptors this season. I think they have made a huge mistake in building all of this hype. It will bite them in the butt if Jonas Valanciunas does not come through right away. They will then whine to their fans to be patient. Well maybe they would be if you hadn't run a year long hype campaign about the kid. I am convinced by the time he gets here he will walk across Lake Ontario to his first practice with the Raptors. At the end of the day I don't blame him at all for all of this. A dose of reality on all of this hype is that big man in the NBA seldom just show up and take over. It takes a long time to develop them generally. So why you would tie a rocket to this kids back and send expectations to the moon? It is short sighted and ultimately stupid.
Now to the less advertised hype. Bryan Colangelo has consistently laid out a plan that is centered on this upcoming off-season. He basically in his actions and words wrote this season off before it ever started. I think he might be as shocked as anyone that Dwane Casey has been able to get 22 wins and counting out of this group. It almost feels like a wrestling hype job when I say what comes next. This is likely the most important off-season of Byran Colangelo's career with the Raptors. I feel like we say that almost every summer. Just like ever wrestling or UFC show is going to be better than the last one. However, this is the truth if for no other reason than Bryan Colangelo has made it the truth in how he has approached talking about this season and next. If all he has is another top draft pick and his boy wonder Jonas than he is in trouble. Don't expect the changes to come through free agency though. Colangelo is likely to use his cap space in trades to look to improve the Raptors. Given his track record at free agency that might be a wise idea. Although a lot of his trades have not exactly worked out that well either especially lately.
It promises to be an interesting off-season and given how Colangelo has set things up the off-season moves could come very early on. The trade of Barbosa made that possible. It is safe to say the Raptor fan base will expect and demand much more next season. The pressure is on MLSE and Colangelo to provide a winner and not an apology and excuses.