What could've been for Raps

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:28 AM ET

Bryan Colangelo arrived in Toronto walking on water.

Today, he’s furiously trying to bail out a sinking ship.

Colangelo has pleased his corporate masters by turning a franchise that was losing season seat holders by the day thanks to Rob Babcock’s reign of error, into one that is pretty successful at the gate.

But the on-court product? It’s a mess.

Colangelo came in with an all-star big man in Chris Bosh, a No. 1 overall selection to make and a good chunk of cap space. In other words, a dream scenario for any GM.

Now, Bosh is about to leave, likely for a middling return, top pick Andrea Bargnani remains a 7-foot riddle and that cap space is long gone with little to show for it.

Colangelo made the mistake of gambling the NBA game was heading one way when it clearly was not.

He built his teams based nearly 100% on skill, with little regard for the equally important traits of toughness and desire. Winning teams defend and play hard, Colangelo’s Raptors have, for the most part, done neither. Most of the recent successful teams get easy buckets, created by talented swingman, meanwhile, the Raptors bomb away from the outside from all positions.

To make matters worse, when Colangelo attempted to tinker to plug some of the club’s holes, he only managed to make the situation worse.

The Miami Heat seems to be on the verge of adding Bosh to play alongside superstar Dwyane Wade. How did the Heat acquire the cap space necessary to add Bosh and others to Wade? Easy, Pat Riley took on Jermaine O’Neal’s monster deal from the Raptors (along with a future Toronto first-round pick), knowing it expired just in time to take a run at Bosh, in exchange for Shawn Marion, who came off the books a year earlier.

Marion, of course, became the Hedo Turkoglu albatross.

This is all on Colangelo, but save some sympathy for the guy, because with a little luck, things never would have come to this.

How so? Well, at one point, Colangelo was on the right track with a sound plan.

He had the pieces to turn the Raptors into a team that had a chance to annually win a round or two of the playoffs (not ideal, obviously, but a massive step up for this perennially sad-sack organization).

The NBA has become a league where the successful teams either have a lightning quick point guard capable of breaking down defences for easy scores or kickouts to open shooters and/or a swingman capable of putting up 20-30 points a night.

Colangelo and the Raptors could have had both. T.J. Ford was becoming that type of PG (though he wasn’t all the way there, he and the team were really rolling), that is, until, Al Horford crushed Ford and turned him into an ineffective backup. Colangelo hasn’t been able to recover from losing Ford, the engine of the offence he was trying to build.

And then there’s John Salmons, who evolved into the type of deadly scorer good teams need. Colangelo was ahead of the curve on Salmons, signing him to a very reasonable deal before he became a star. Salmons would have solved the scoring problem and given Chris Bosh a much-needed boost.

It’s not Colangelo’s fault Salmons reneged (Turkoglu’d?) on a signed deal when he was offered more money by Sacramento.

With a healthy Ford and Salmons in the lineup, not to mention glue guy Jorge Garbajosa who had his NBA career ended in a freak accident, the Raptors would not be in this position right now. They would be a 45-55 win squad with homecourt in the first round.

So feel free to blame Colangelo for this mess, it is his doing. It is up to an NBA GM to recover well from misfortune. His moves to bounce back from the Ford/Salmons/Garbajosa setbacks have not panned out.

Possibly setting up the Heat to become a dynasty is inexcusable.

But, know that without a couple of bad twists of fate, it never would have come to this.


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