Toronto Raptors Should Pray They Don't Return to Mediocrity

David Aaron LindsayContributor IFebruary 24, 2009

With the hope and/or changes that the trade deadline provided now basically gone, I think it's time to think about what those changes mean to the franchise going forward and what would be in their best interest for the rest of the year.

I would argue that a horrible start to this season would be a terrible thing to waste. As Raptors fans, we've already been through the disappointment and letdown that was the first half of this season. This also has absolutely nothing to do with the evaluation of the success or failure of the Marion/O'Neal deal going forward.

When you examine the current state of the Raptors a couple of things jump out at you. First off, honestly, what is the best case scenario for this year? We would probably have to win over two-thirds of our remaining games to get even a sniff of the playoffs.

And then, once we were there, what could we honestly expect when, as the seventh or eighth seed, we would draw a powerhouse such as Boston or Cleveland? (Against whom we would stand absolutely no chance.) Would a first round beatdown against a far superior team really help in the development of our so-called young players?

I just don't see the benefit of getting in and then getting trounced. I'm sorry, but I don't.

That means this year is basically a washout whether we get into the playoffs or not. And what is one of the only possible positives that could come from a lost season? A really good draft pick, that's what.

Let me ask you this: Would you rather make the playoffs (barely), get beat down quickly, and end up with the 16th, 17th, or 18th overall pick? Or would you rather just throw it in cruise control and shoot for a top fourth, fifth, or sixth pick that could be legitimately critical to our future success? (Things such as getting Bosh that little extra rest and making sure guys are completely healthy could go a long way.)

If nothing else (and don't mistake this for me hating on Bosh, because I am still in his corner, and we need him going forward), haven't we learned that Bosh isn't going to get us over the top without an elite level wing player to help?

Marion, even if we re-sign him, can hardly be considered that player. His body of work proves that while he is a nice player, he isn't that third-spoke-in-the-wheel kind of guy.

He couldn't help the Suns get over the top with Nash winning MVPs and Amar'e playing the role of Bosh, so we cannot reasonably expect him to do it with this cast of characters.

I wouldn't mind retaining Marion going forward for something in the $6 to $7 million range (which is likely unrealistic), but anything more than that and I'm taking a pass.

There were high hopes for this year, and I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that would analyze this Raptors season as anything other than purely underachieving. So we're likely going to be better next year almost by default.

Take this rare opportunity and nab one more really high draft pick to add to this core. If we could get to the four to six range we could realistically end up with a Brandon Roy or Danny Granger type.

In my opinion, it's really our only shot at taking the next big "step." The Wades, LeBrons, Carmelos, and Roys of the world almost never end up in free agency, and we all know what happens when they are scheduled to: Big cities and teams start clearing the decks for them.

What would be our legitimate chances at luring one of those guys here? One percent? Less than that? Probably.

This draft does seem to contain some promising wing players. That Harden kid out of ASU would be a great fit, I think. Although most mocks have him in the top three, some people think he could fall to four or five depending on which three teams are in the top three just based on their needs.

Aminu out of Wake also looks like a good athletic wing with an NBA body, although he is not as offensively polished. Even DeRozen out of USC, who is more of a project, seems to have loads of potential.

But I'm not here to anoint the "guy" we should take—that's what Colangelo gets the big bucks for. I am just here to say that I have come to terms with the Raptors' 2008-09 season and that I am okay with being bad the rest of the year if it means that I have legitimate hope for the future.

So, there it is. While I cannot bring myself to openly cheer for losses as I much prefer to watch them win games, I am finding solace in each loss from here on out.