By Dan Levine
Many people will hate Michael Grange’s notion that it would be best for the Toronto Raptors to finish dead last this season. It’s true, nobody likes cheering for the home team to lose, especially when they’ve spent their hard earned cash to see it live.
It’s also true that nobody knows what the future may bring. Anti-tanking folk will correctly argue that it makes little sense to waste an entire season on a single unknown draft pick, who could turn into, say… Greg Oden.
But for the most part, NBA drafts produce superstars that impact franchises at a higher level and at a faster pace than in other professional sports. That Oden draft saw Kevin Durant go second, and he’s turned the Thunder into real contenders. Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin.. these players are almost impossible to sign, but they just became easier to keep down the road. It’s just a matter of finishing in the basement at least once.
Of course, the Raptors did get a No. 1 pick in one of the weakest classes ever, and Andrea Bargnani is another prime example for the anti-tanking crowd. The good news here is that 2012 should be loaded, provided nothing changes with age limits. There will be superstars for the picking, and it might be a good thing if Toronto ends up with one of them, even if it stings a bit along the way.
In the end, it might be best that Toronto simply doesn’t need to intentionally tank this season. The roster is plenty bad enough, especially with Jonas Valanciunas stuck in Europe until the following year. Fans should be content with a good defensive effort under new head coach Dwane Casey, and should hope for progression from guys like DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless and maybe even Bargnani.
The future could be very bright, very soon, with the talented Valanciunas and a second potential lottery pick on the way. And no, I’m not trying to paint a picture that is too optimistic – but to properly rebuild without a current superstar, one must usually fall to the bottom to get one. It’s not only great management that makes a team like the San Antonio Spurs a dynasty.
That being said, I’ll cheer for the Raps when I watch but I won’t be disappointed when they lose. The worst thing here would be a year of mediocrity and a 10th place finish in the East.
Where do you stand on tanking, both in general and specific to the Raptors this season? What are you expecting out of the team this year?