Reports surfaced yesterday that Toronto Raptors’ General Manager Bryan Colangelo will not return next season after seven years as the team’s GM and President.
It is about time.
While the Raptors had success in their first year under Colangelo, winning the Atlantic Division with a 47-35 record in 2006-07, they have been in decline since. From that season on, the Raptors are a combined 193-283, and though they made the playoffs the following season (2007-08), they would lose in the first round in five games to the Orlando Magic. Saying that Colangelo’s tenure in Toronto was a failure would be quite the understatement.
His run as the Raptors’ boss will be marked by his inability to surround now Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh with enough talent to be a legitimate contender. Granted, the 2006 NBA Draft – when the Raptors took Italian forward Andrea Bargnani with the number one overall pick – wasn’t the most talent rich of drafts, but Bargnani is most likely gone this offseason, and the team could have had someone better. One name that stands out is Portland Trail Blazer Lamarcus Aldridge (the second overall pick), who has developed into a very good player.
Colangelo also whiffed big time on a 2008 trade for Indiana Pacer forward Jermaine O’Neal, whose knees wouldn’t allow him to be the type of big man sidekick to Bosh that Colangelo envisioned.
The General Manager’s comparison and hope for the Bosh-O’Neal tandem to be anything like the championship ring-baring twosome of San Antonio Spurs’ greats David Robinson and Tim Duncan failed miserably. O’Neal appeared in just 41 games in his injury riddled stint with Toronto during the 2008-09 season. He averaged 13.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, before being traded for expiring contract Shawn Marion near the 2009 trade deadline.
By the way, the Raptors also gave up the 17th pick in the 2008 draft in the O’Neal trade. That pick? Current Pacer center Roy Hibbert. I’m pretty sure Colangelo would like to have that one back.
Colangelo’s tenure will also be marked by trying to establish – along with assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini – a European, up and down style of play with the Raptors. Guys like Spaniard Jorge Garbojosa, who did play well off the bench in 2006-07 before breaking his leg and being released in 2008, Jose Calderon (recently dealt to the Detroit Pistons in the Rudy Gay trade), Marco Belinelli (who was key for the Chicago Bulls this postseason), Carlos Delfino (now fitting in nicely with the Milwaukee Bucks as a secondary bench scorer) and Hedo Turkoglu (signed to a ridiculous five year, $53 million deal in 2009 by Colangelo and the biggest recent disappointment), all tried their hand at giving Colangelo the product that he wanted on the court.
But it didn’t work. That style of play, similar to what Colangelo had when he was the General Manager of the runnin’ and gunnin’ Phoenix Suns teams that were quarterbacked by Steve Nash, can only be effective with the right pieces. The Raptors never had that. They wanted to play fast but had true seven-footers down low. Contrast that with what those Suns teams had, a young Amare Stoudemire and Frenchman Boris Diaw at 6’8” who played power forward and some center for those teams, and it’s like night and day.
If he wanted that style of play to truly work, then don’t make the trade for O’Neal (injury risk with a player that couldn’t move like he used to), and don’t trade for Turkoglu (a stand still shooter). He should have played Bargnani at center alongside Bosh, and if Bosh still left, kept Bargnani at center to stretch the floor.
Questionable trades, head-scratching contract signings and bad drafting all sealed Colangelo’s fate in Toronto. But it wasn’t all bad.
He did create the core of the current team. Gay is a very good player, and he and Demar Derozan form one of the league’s best wing tandems. Point Guard Kyle Lowry is strong and a good floor general. And 2011 first round pick Jonas Valanciunas had a solid rookie season and was named to the All-Rookie second team. The team has work to do, but all things point to a bright future in Toronto.
Obviously, Colangelo won’t be part of that future.
And that isn’t at all a bad thing. It was time.