Tanking is risky

Toronto Raptors' Jose Calderon battles for the ball with Charlotte Bobcats' Reggie Williams (L)...

Toronto Raptors' Jose Calderon battles for the ball with Charlotte Bobcats' Reggie Williams (L) during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Toronto, February 17, 2012. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

Steve Buffery, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:35 PM ET

TORONTO - It’s Tank Nation, rumbling across the Internet like a division commanded by George S. Patton.

Tank Nation wants the Raptors to lose frequently and consistently to get the highest possible pick in this year’s draft.

They wouldn’t mind if head coach Dwane Casey gives his young players huge minutes to the detriment of the team’s record. ‘Play the hell out of the young players, let them develop, but allow them to lose.’ That’s the attitude.

The 2012 NBA draft is said to be the deepest in years, so the lower the finish, the better chance the team has at a top three pick. And Tank Nation wants that high draft pick.

And that’s all well and good. The problem, or at least the way a number of basketball insiders see it, by tanking, you’re laying a dangerous foundation for what you hope will be your dream home, and that could ultimately backfire. Young players may benefit from big minutes early in their career, but a losing atmosphere can damage a young player’s development.

“Win, lose or draw, one thing we have to do is establish a culture, maintain a culture, and just because you talk about it, doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way,” said Casey, following Toronto’s 98-91 loss to the 4-26 Charlotte Bobcats on Friday.

“We can’t let our culture erode by not coming out and performing each and every night.”

Here’s the latest train of thought with Tank Nation: They say it’s time to trade the Raptors’ starting point guard Jose Calderon, for draft picks or prospects or whatever. But that’s a tricky proposition.

Yes, Calderon’s value is high right now (heading into Friday’s game, he had scored 16 or more points in his previous four games, and picked up 14 against Charlotte). He is getting up there in age (30) and has only one year left on his contract. But if the Raptors trade him now, who is their point guard this season and going forward? Is anyone convinced that Jerryd Bayless is the team’s point guard of the future? Not sure anyone in the organization is even sure of that.

If not Bayless, what do you do for a point guard if Calderon gets shipped out? Quality point guards are at a premium in the NBA. How would the Raptors get a good one if the Spaniard is traded? Trade for one? Free agency? Don’t count on it. Realistically, what team is going to give up a quality point guard?

Or do the Raptors draft a point guard in June? It’s a deep draft, but not necessarily at that position. Even if there was quality at the One in the draft, do the Raps rely on the draft for their future No.1 PG? That’s a huge gamble.

“There is no guarantee of success with draft picks,” said an NBA insider.

“For every Kevin Durant, there’s a Greg Oden — a guy you think is going to be a great player but ends up being hurt,” added Raptors broadcaster Jack Armstrong. “Drafting is an inexact science. And the fact that you’re likely going to have another high pick doesn’t guarantee that player is going to be a game-changer and change the franchise around.”

And ... it’s not always a good idea to draft by position.

“Fans are so hell-bent on the draft, and it’s a great draft class, but that’s just one piece of the team building,” said Armstrong.

Spend wisely

“The other pieces are: You’ve got to spend your money wisely, you’ve got to trade wisely, you’ve got to have the right coaching staff. And I think they do have the right staff, I think they’ll get this thing turned around. Look at the Clippers. They used to have high picks every year and what did they do? They lose. And it perpetuates itself. It becomes dysfunction junction.”

The Raptors could give second-year forward Ed Davis — whom they drafted 13th overall in 2010 — major minutes every game this season.

But Casey has actually cut his minutes from last season. Davis is averaging 22.5 this season (heading into Friday’s game), compared to 24.6 in his rookie year.

The message the coaching staff seems to be sending to Davis is: ‘If you want minutes, you have to earn them.’ And that’s the right message, and probably better for Davis’ development than throwing him out on the floor for 30 minutes every night in a guaranteed losing cause.


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