A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Bryan Colangelo deserved to be a GM again

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By the end of Bryan Colangelo’s Raptors tenure he had gone from conquering hero to the goat. Misfires including drafting Andrea Bargnani 1st, going all in for a past his prime Jermaine O’Neal and giving Hedo Turkoglu 5 years, 50 million drove Chris Bosh to greener pastures in Miami and the team with a long playoff drought. After a few post Bosh rebuilding seasons, the team moved on.

But then something funny happened. Many of the pieces he left behind began to shine. The Kyle Lowry trade gave the team a future franchise point guard and will go down as one of the best in the team’s history. DeMar Derozan, drafted 9th in 2009 went on to blossom and make 2 all-star games and counting. 2011 5th overall pick Jonas Valanciunas is playing the best ball of his career on both ends since the all-star break. It will be no surprise if he’s an all-star in the East in an upcoming year. The Terrence Ross pick at 8th in 2012 was controversial for passing on future all-star Andre Drummond. While Ross hasn’t gone on to reach those heights his shooting and athleticism has made him an important part of the team. Colangelo also hired Dwane Casey who’s gone on to be the franchise’s most successful coach and played an integral role in the team’s strategic and cultural fabric. The end result has been three straight franchise record seasons and breaking 50 wins for the first time.

It’s not enough to just have the ingredients, one has to make them work. Masai Ujiri trading Rudy Gay and acquiring players such as Patrick Patterson, was the crucial step towards a team that fits. But much of the legwork Colangelo did in the years before his departure left the team a step away from success. As does the success of the Seven Seconds or Less era Suns and acquisitions of core pieces such as Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Mike D’Antoni that brought them to the edge of a championship and into the hearts of all basketball fans, a shining gem to have on a resume.

When looking closer at Bryan Colangelo’s resume with the Suns and Raptors, there’s plenty of mishaps such as the contracts of Tom Gugliotta, Penny Hardaway in Phoenix or Jason Kapono, Hedo Turkoglu, Landry Fields in Toronto. But Steve Nash was once one of those aggressive signings. There’s been trades that backfired such as dealing for Jermaine O’Neal, or trading Jason Kidd for Stephen Marbury, but other trades have been huge successes such as bringing Kidd to Phoenix originally or Lowry to Toronto, or other trades such as Joe Johnson to Phoenix and Amir Johnson to Toronto. There’s been picks like Bargnani that flopped, but other picks such as Stoudemire, Marion or Derozan help redeem that resume. For the missed shots along the way, end result is that Colangelo has had an integral part in 3 successful cores, in the Kidd Suns, Nash Suns and Lowry Raptors.

In the end like almost everything about him, Colangelo is the opposite of Sam Hinkie. Sam Hinkie’s 76ers were supposed to be a win for process over results, for philosophy and exploiting market inefficiencies. Colangelo is a gunslinger where the theory and process doesn’t look great. But what he can say that Hinkie and other can’t, is he’s drafted all-stars, he’s traded for all-stars and he’s hired top coaches, and done it on several teams in each case, or eras on the same team. Perhaps this is all an illusion, a trick of correlation over causation. But maybe it’s not. Maybe something about Colangelo’s ultra-aggressiveness and player evaluation actually wins out in practice over more theoretically driven plans. In any case, with the recent success of the Raptors helping redeem his last few years of work there, there’s a good argument Colangelo’s three decade spanning resume is successful enough to deserve another go.

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Written by jr.

April 8, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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