One of the biggest questions heading into this coming offseason for the Raptors and their ownership is what exactly they are going to do with GM Bryan Colangelo.
Though he is highly respected within MLSE and has a very high-profile around the league, the results he has been able to achieve on the court have been a “mixed bag” at the best of times.
He did bring the Raptors their only Atlantic Division championship and did manage to manoeuver his way around some terrible contracts and big acquisitions that didn’t work out. He’s drafted well and is well-respected around the league. This season he liftedn the veil on the Raptors front office to create two highly successful television programs in Behind the Draft and Open Gym that have earned league-wide praise.
These shows may not seem like a big deal to the average fan, but both have raised the profile of the Raptors around the league and have likely helped to earn Colangelo a few “brownie points” with the “bigwigs” in the League offices. This type of positive standing around the league doesn’t really do anything for the product on the court, but it can definitely have positive impacts for the ownership.
On the flip side Colangelo hasn’t gotten great results where it counts. The Raptors, under Colangelo, haven’t made the playoffs in the past five years and he has given the fan base in the city no real reason to believe that the playoff drought will end anytime in the near future.
So what exactly should the team do with their high-profile man in charge?
On one hand there is little doubt that Colangelo has shown himself to be one of the classiest executives in the business over his career. He has been part of winning franchises and has proven to be a winner elsewhere. He managed the Phoenix Suns very well and was able to make a number of big moves that thrust that franchise into the championship conversation year in and year out.
Since arriving in Toronto he has taken a number of different approaches to winning. He was one of the first to really invest heavily in players playing overseas, signing a number as free agents in his first tenure (Garbajosa, Anthony Parker) and drafting one first overall (Bargnani). He has tried to make big free agent acquisitions (Hedo Turkoglu) and he has shown that he isn’t afraid to make a big trade (Jermaine O’neal, Rudy Gay).
None of these game game plans have worked to a positive conclusion. While it isn’t clear what his next course of action is one would have to assume it will involve Rudy Gay and Jonas Valanciunas as the core moving forward. Depending on your outlook this core might seem promising or not quite enough to compete for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
Still, he has shown an uncanny ability to fix the mistakes that he makes. When he was in Phoenix he was quickly able to turn the trade of Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury back into his favour. By acquiring Penny Hardaway he created capspace for himself to sign eventual two time MVP Steve Nash. The result was a solid run for the franchise.
Here in Toronto he quickly turned the hated Rafael Araujo into the serviceable Kris Humphries. He made a huge commitment to Hedo Turkoglu, which turned out to be a disaster, but then moved him to Phoenix for a dependable Leandro Barbosa and saved money in the process.
He is one of the best GM’s at fixing his own mistakes. What Raptor fans have to ask, is whether they want to let him make any more.
Another plus working for Colangelo is that he is not a “stand pat” kind of general manager. He never has been and never will be. Colangelo takes risks. He signs players he believes in and isn’t afraid to move confidently in a direction others may disagree with. Drafting Andrea Bargnani was a shrewd move as was his decision to draft Jonas Valanciunas with the 5th overall pick two years ago. The two decisions have worked out differently, but you cannot say that he isnt afraid to take risks.
Obviously, as fans, you want every risk Colangelo takes to turn to gold, but the fact that he isn’t afraid to do what he feels is right for the team is an admirable trait. Hopefully his most recent risk of acquiring Rudy Gay turns out like many of his others.
Colangelo’s risks have also earned him the ire of the fan base in Toronto at times. He chose not to trade Chris Bosh before his free agency and did not receive any compensation for the teams franchise player. His drafting and subsequent handling of Andrea Bargnani has incensed Raptor followers and may well be the reason he is ultimately let go this summer.
While Colangelo has made his fair share of mistakes in his time as GM of the Raptors and there are plenty of reasons to look to a new GM in the fall, the question remains: who out there is better? Who would you bring in that could do a better job?
Do you simply get rid of a quality GM because he hasn’t got the job done? or do you wait until someone better for the job emerges? Colangelo doesn’t have the results. This year, like the four before it, will end in disappointment and missed opportunities. But if you let Colangelo go, you have to replace him with someone better suited for the job, someone more likely to get results.
If not Colangelo, then who?
I am as disappointed with this season as anyone. I miss playoff basketball, hell I miss the possibility of playoff basketball. Losing stinks and under Colangelo we have done our fair share of losing. But there are a lot of positives in place with this team going forward. A young core, a potential star to build around and tradeable assets that can be used to help improve this team. Colangelo has shown over his career that he can swing a big deal to maximize the value of the player being traded.
So maybe he should stay for one more “playoffs or bust” season.
Colangelo’s fate has not yet been sealed and the decision to keep him around or not is not going to be as easy as it may seem.
The Zan Tabak Herald