I predicted the Toronto Raptors would win 28 games this season.
The team only won 23.
I believe I deserve some slack though, considering Andrea Bargnani was injured for 35 of the Raptors’ 66 games.
Toronto made progress this year. Their defense was ranked in the top half of the league, Andrea Bargnani played All-Star level basketball when he was healthy and the Raptors winning percentage was 30 percent higher than the 2010-11 season.
Not bad considering the lack of a full training camp and the same roster as last year, but with more injuries.
At his end-of-season press conference, General Manager Bryan Colangelo said he's “roaring” to go ahead. He wants to improve the roster so it can contend for a playoff spot next season.
He has the right attitude. I just hope he has the right plan.
Here’s what Colangelo should do this summer:
1) Don't trade the first-round draft pick and draft the best available talent regardless of position.
2) Re-sign Jerryd Bayless.
3) Make offers to elite-level free agents such as Deron Williams or Eric Gordon.
4) Don't sign any mediocre players for any contract longer than one year (no Hedo Turkoglu-type signings).
The Raptors have to keep developing their young core, because their potential is still unknown.
Ed Davis underwent the sophomore slump, but big men usually take a few years to mature. Jonas Valanciunas has not even played a single NBA game yet. Demar Derozan and Jerryd Bayless are still discovering their true NBA potential.
Not to mention the Raptors currently unknown draft pick.
Signing Williams or Gordon would guarantee the Raptors the playoffs next year, without taking away much playing time for their young players. These players are proven stars and are worth the cap space they would occupy for the next five years.
It’s likely Williams and Gordon would laugh at the idea of playing for the Raptors. In that case, the next step is simple: Do nothing major.
Don't sign an $8 million to $10 million per year player who will never make an All-Star game. Don't sign an injury-riddled or past-his-prime fringe All-Star.
Moves like these won’t make a substantial difference to the Raptors' playoff chances. All they do is take up cap space for the foreseeable future.
If the Raptors' young core develops into something special, Toronto will automatically become a playoff team. An elite-level free agent would simply speed up the process.
The only mistake Colangelo is the same one he made in the Chris Bosh era: Sacrifice future cap space and draft picks by signing mediocre free agents.
Cap space and draft picks are insurance for the future. They’re the backup plan in case the Raptors' young core doesn't pan out. Lose them and the future may look a lot like the previous two years.
Therefore, the Toronto Raptors must continue building without sacrificing future flexibility.
Bryan Colangelo’s motto should be: "The Toronto Raptors, where patience happens."