Bryan Colangelo shared the plan with anyone who would listen last December. Every time the Raptors GM even considered wavering from it, a look at the white board in his office got him back on track.
“There was the occasional: ‘Should we think about something like this? Na, it’s away from the plan,’ ” Colangelo said Friday.
“I had it written on the white board in my office that I couldn’t get away from it. It’s right there, we followed it, we carried it out and I think we’re in good stead because of it.”
The plan in short was a three-pronged mission: Change the culture into a team whose focus is tough, with unrelenting defence; allow the current young roster to grow, and resist any temptation to take on salary or restrict financial flexibility until at least the summer of 2012.
Colangelo was able to put a check mark next to each pillar of the plan.
And having been, what for Colangelo, must have been frustratingly patient throughout this season, Colangelo is now free and looking to make up for lost time.
“I’m raring to go,” Colangelo said. “(Thursday’s season finale) could not have come soon enough. I think that again, now that the short term pain is over, we’ve got nothing but positive things to look forward to. Again, regardless of the results of the May 30th lottery, we’re going to get a quality player, we’re going to be prepared. We are prepared, but we’re going to be even more prepared to make the right selection to add to the group and then we’re going to need to really kind of cut through all those ideas that we have with respect to trades, free agent moves, etc. There’s going to be a lot of options. That’s where there are going to be a lot of decisions to be made with looking at all those things that we look at. There’s a lot of tools available for us to do that.”
The draft lottery should clear up a few things right away.
A coin flip in New York yesterday determined the Golden State Warriors and not the Raptors would go into the lottery with the seventh worst record despite tying the Raptors for seventh worst. The Raptors now own a 10% chance of jumping into the top three in the draft but a 72.4% chance of picking eighth, a 16.8% chance of picking ninth and a slim chance of dropping all the way to 10th or even 11th.
Colangelo didn’t rule out trading the pick, which seems the most likely scenario given he can find the right fit for a trade and the Raptors don’t jump into that top three in the lottery, but he didn’t commit to trading it either.
“We’ll look at everything,” he said. “It’s probably too early to determine that right now; May 30, the draft lottery, will determine the actual position of the pick. We will be in a unique position with that $12 million or so we have in terms of cap space before the draft and before July 1 to entertain deals where significant contracts could come into play.
“You could move a player out with some value, taking back a player with significant value higher than that $12 million. If you package the pick along with a young player, what does that net you? All those questions will be answered over the course of the next several weeks, months as Ed Stefanski and I entertain those phone calls from various GMs and place phone calls to the various GMs.”
Bottom line is Colangelo is now free to go out and substantially improve his basketball team.
He has last year’s draft pick in Jonas Valanciunas coming in, he has a pick no worse than 11th and possibly as high as first, second or third to either use or deal, and he’s got talent he can move with that pick to sweeten the pot.
“We feel like we’ve got everything lined up,” Colangelo said. “We’re poised with all the tools in front of us to make this team substantially better.”
While he made sure to lock up head coach Dwane Casey, his biggest success from last off-season’s work, for at least the next two seasons with an extension, Colangelo himself will head into 2012-13 in the final year of his own extension.
He suggested he is not even remotely concerned with that and promised a room full of media that it would not affect his own re-modelling of the roster in any way just as he didn’t deter him from picking a long-term fix like Valanciunas in last year’s draft.
“People asked me at the time how I could make that pick without my own situation stable,” Colangelo said. “It wasn’t about me. It was about making this team better so we’ll continue to make those decisions (with that in mind).”