Originally posted on Beating The Buzzer  |  Last updated 12/5/11

BY: ALEX BOGACH

How do the Raptors escape the bottomless pits of the NBA’s basement? Are we in the worst situation in the league? Is there any hope?

Fear not, young Raptor fans, I’m here to tell you the Raptors are in the perfect opportunity to become a championship contender. With Dwight Howard and Chris Paul teaming up with all the other good players in the NBA, I know what you’re feeling. You’re frustrated. I’m here to answer your questions.

Didn’t we just have a whole lockout to solve this problem? Aren’t we supposed to stop having superteams?

Chris Paul has expressed that he won't re-sign in New Orleans and would like to be moved to the Knicks.

Not really. As much as the owners claim to want more competitive balance, we’re not getting it. Paul and Howard are looking to team up to create superteams. And the NBA is loving it because it doesn’t hurt the league—it helps them! The Miami Heat drove ratings and attendance this year and no doubt the league would love Dwight and Kobe or Paul-Amare-Melo to battle it out with the Big 3 in Miami.

The league has always been run by dynasties. Boston and the Lakers have dominated winning 33 NBA championships combined. The next best is Chicago with 6, who had their own dynasty in the 90s with Jordan. Next on the list is San Antonio with 4 championships—which also have come in dynasty like fashion from 1999-2007. Conclusion: teams that win usually win in bunches.

You’re painting a pretty bleak future for Raptor fans. How do we become a championship contender?

Well, the way the NBA works, you need to have a superstar to win. Magic, Bird, Duncan, Jordan, LeBron, Durant, Rose, Kobe—all of those players have had successful careers because they are superstars. Not stars. Superstars. And no, DeMar DeRozan will not be a superstar.

So, how do we get a superstar?

It’s simple math. Drafting well gets a superstar. Drafting high allows you to draft well. In order to draft high, you simply need to be bad. Luckily, this will be no concern for this Raptors’ team. With no true centre, a point guard who can’t play defense, a star player that looks like he’d rather be eating pasta than rebounding and a general lack of overall talent, the Raptors will have no problem separating themselves from the pack and drafting high up. It seems the only question is how high?

Seems like that puts us in a good situation. How can we screw this up, then?

Trying to become a treadmill team. One of the best things that happened to the Raptors was Chris Bosh leaving. Sure, it wasn’t great losing our best player for virtually nothing—but losing Bosh was necessary. Building around him would have netted us consistent 2nd round exits every year.

Look at Portland’s situation now. They’re paying the luxury tax (which gets way tougher in two years from now) and have no realistic chance of breaking out in the Western Conference with their current roster. They also just traded for Gerald Wallace last February and gave up 2 first round picks sealing their fate to be trapped by the luxury tax to get better and not bad enough (or having any draft picks) to infuse new talent.

That’s the last place you want to be. The biggest mistakes we can make are thinking that what we have now is a legitimate core moving forward. Bargnani, DeRozan, Bayless, Calderon, Davis and Valanciunas are all nice pieces but we can’t commit to any of them long term yet. We need to continue to suck and not get caught up in becoming a treadmill team constantly picking between 8th-16th every year and never having a chance of making a realistic push for a championship.

What kind of moves should the Raptors make in free agency and trades now that the lockout has ended?

Dwight howard is another superstar in the last year of his contract. He to doesn't seem like he'll re-sign with his current club.

We have the perfect roster for our needs. We need to lose and this roster is built for it. Other than filling in some small holes here and there and maybe making a low-risk high-reward move or two (ie. James Johnson or Bayless trades last year), there really isn’t a need to make a move if you’re the Raptors. Obviously assuming we’re out of the Chris Paul and Dwight Howard sweepstakes.

 

What about Tyson Chandler? Doesn’t he have a good relationship with new head coach Dwane Casey?

Chandler is 30. He has had an injury prone career. He had a massive impact on the Mavericks winning the NBA title and will be looking to get compensated. Why would we pay him big money to be counter-productive to the teams’ needs (ie. losing games) No sane person thinks Tyson Chandler is turning the Raptors around overnight.

Yes, he’s a good fit. We need a big, defensive-minded centre. But with Valanciunas coming over next year and Chandler likely making us at max a team just scrapping at the playoffs’ bottom rungs—why in the world do the Raptors do this?

We need to build our team from the top down.

What does that mean? How do you build a team ‘top down’?

We have to start with our superstar. If he’s a dominating centre, we find him a point guard to play pick and roll. If he’s a quick point guard, we find tough big men to defend inside. But the key is finding the strengths and weaknesses of our superstar—but we don’t have one yet. So the key is to leave the slate as clean as possible by not committing long term money to players who may or may not fit with our superstar. Until we find that superstar, we need to leave cap space as available as possible so that when the superstar comes over we have the ability to make moves to suit his personal needs.

Oklahoma City did this perfectly. They drafted Durant with boatloads of cap space and have added a second-tier scorer (Westbrook), inside presences (Perkins, Collison and Ibaka), perimeter defenders for the Kobes, Wades and LeBrons (Sefolosha) and bench scoring (Harden, Maynor). But it started first with Durant and then building around his skillset. If you’re an older NBA fan, the way San Antonio built around Duncan is also very similar.

Are you suggesting we start tanking?

Tanking isn’t the right word. No team starts the season actually tanking. Tanking implies that you’re attempting to lose games.

What the Raptors need to do is keep long-term interest in mind at all times. Giving Bayless, Alabi, Davis, Johnson and (eventually) Valanciunas playing time to prove themselves and work on their games? Of course. Playing Alabi forty minutes a night? That’s pathetic.

Players like Reggie Evans, Jose Calderon and Bargnani have value on this roster. They can provide veteran presence, shoulder the burden of an 82 (now 66) game season and ensure that team morale is still high. You don’t want to breed a negative culture of losing, but you also don’t want to build a mediocre team by going all out to try to win this year?

Are you cheering for the Raptors to lose?

No. As much as its beneficial, I don’t start cheering for loses until the standings start heating up towards the back end of the season. I’ll be hoping they win on opening night and probably until after the All-Star Break. I don’t know why, but it feels wrong to root for losses this early in the season. But if they do lose, I’m not nearly as upset. I think that’s the right approach to take.

What should a Raptor fan do now considering that the Raptors should lose and probably, given their talent, do exactly that all season making the entire season useless? I mean, won’t this just be a colossal waste of time? Shouldn’t I just set my Raptors fan clock to the NBA Draft Lottery? I find it so frustrating that I have to listen to Dwight Howard and Chris Paul pushing their way to creating superstar teams while I’m stuck watching the Raptors every night. Why did we even have this lockout in the first place? We’re back in the exact same situation we were before!

Follow Beating the Buzzer on Twitter @btbsports and check out our Facebook fan page here. You can also follow Alex Bogach on Twitter @the_REAL_alexb

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