The Tragedy of Toronto: The Continued Irrelevance of the Toronto Raptors

Forget the Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors have exemplified futility in the city of Toronto

By Konstantine Roccas, Staff Writer

Image courtesy of Torontoist.com

Image courtesy of Torontoist.com

Which professional basketball team ranks near the bottom of the NBA in offensive and defensive efficiency, has no salary cap space and no draft picks for the upcoming draft?

If you guessed the Toronto Raptors, then you are correct.

Since its inception into the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1995, there has rarely been a franchise so mired in mediocrity. Aside from a brief three- year window during the Vince Carter era from 1999-2002, the Raptors have struggled with personnel decisions, questionable decision making, both on and off the court, as well as schizophrenic quick fixes by management. While Canada likes to berate the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team for their failure these past few years, the Toronto Raptors make the Leafs look like a dynasty by comparison.

The Colangelo Effect:

In recent times, the architect of this mediocrity has been General Manager Bryan Colangelo, the son of Team USA architect and former owner of the Phoenix Suns Jerry Colangelo. Since securing the reigns of leadership in 2006, his stewardship has resulted in a lacklustre period,  stunning in its length and reach. While even perennial losers, such as the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers, have managed to claw themselves out of the abyss and become viable contenders, the Toronto Raptors have remained frozen in place.

Bryan Colangelo’s (BC) résumé reads like an ancient Greek tragedy. When he gained control of the Raptors, he was also bequeathed with the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, which he parlayed into Andrea Bargnani, who has since become one of the most reviled first overall picks in recent memory. Standing 7 feet tall, the Italian has become known for his lackadaisical play, injury woes and pitiful rebounding rate;he has become the poster child for the continued struggles of the team. In addition, Bargnani also boasts a below league average player efficiency rating (PER), having only broken the average twice in his 7 year career. Respectively, future all-stars Lamarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy were passed up in the same draft so the Raptors could pick Primo himself.

Draft busts can be forgiven. After all, nobody can fully predict how someone will adapt to the NBA game, which is vastly different from both the European and College levels. Yet, what makes the Bargnani effect so deep and long-lasting in its torture is that BC has continued to commit to his development. He has attempted on many occasions to make Bargnani the team’s star player when most sane General Managers would have cut their losses and traded the man back in 2008. As a reward for his ‘stellar’ contributions, BC rewarded Bargnani with a 5- year, $50 million contract in 2010, which has since been widely denigrated as one of the worst contracts in the league.

Contractual Misery:

The Bargnani experiment is only the tip of the iceberg. While most teams choose to either go through a ‘tanking’ period to acquire draft picks to build a young team, or clear salary cap space to sign superstar free agents, the Raptors have done neither.They frequently trade away the rights to their picks for role-players,or pay obscene amounts of money for players who neither deserve, nor are worth, the contracts to which they are signed.

Since taking  the reins in 2006, BC has made a plethora of big deals, the first of which was trading a package of players and the 17th pick in the 2008 draft to the Pacers for an injury depleted Jermaine O’Neal.

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