Mackenzie on Colangelo: It’s been five long years

Raptors president Bryan Colangelo represents his team during the NBA draft lottery. (AP/Jason DeCrow)
May 22, 2013, 10:48 AM

Tuesday morning marked the end of Bryan Colangelo’s tenure as Toronto Raptors general manager after seven years at the helm.

It’s been a bumpy ride to this point, where Colangelo will remain with the team as president while the organization continues to look for its next GM. Before focus shifts to the candidates to come in and potentially take over as general manager, it would be remiss not to look back at how we arrived at this point. Specifically, the last five playoff-less seasons.

Here are the biggest moves made to set up each of the past five seasons in which the Raptors finished playing in April. Reminder: This franchise has won just one playoff series in its 17-year history.

2012-2013

Record: 34-48

When the organization traded a future first-round pick and Gary Forbes to the Houston Rockets for Kyle Lowry, there was a press conference held were Lowry was all but given the keys to the city, playoff talk began and the team appeared to have the point guard they desperately wanted. And then the season started. Actually, even before the season started, Lowry was injured and missed most of training camp. He would have a brilliant start to the regular season and then be slowed by injuries for the rest of the year. He struggled with trying to balance being a distributor and scorer, especially after the team traded Jose Calderon and Ed Davis in exchange for Rudy Gay. There was friction between Lowry and head coach Dwane Casey and it wasn’t the perfect fit everyone had envisioned when the move was made.

Bonus: Signing Landry Fields to a three-year, $20-million contract in an attempt to block Steve Nash from going to the New York Knicks only to have Nash head to Los Angeles. Fields would discover he needed surgery on the elbow of his shooting arm early in the season and would never really get back on track.

2011-2012

Record: 23-43

The lockout-shortened season wasn’t a bad one for the Raptors. The record was ugly, but expected. New head coach Dwane Casey came in and instilled a defensive system that the team had been lacking under Jay Triano. Andrea Bargnani had the best 11-game start of his career before suffering a calf injury, reigniting the front office’s love affair with his potential (okay, so this part turned out to be a disaster) and no one was shocked when the team failed to make the postseason. It was a rebuilding year and the first with a new coach, after all.

Bonus: A victory over the New Jersey Nets in the final game of the season starring Ben Uzoh, his 10-day contract and a triple-double that will forever remind Raptors fans of how close they were to landing Harrison Barnes or Damian Lillard in the 2012 draft.

2010-2011

Record: 22-60

When you talk about nightmare seasons, this is one of them. It wasn’t shocking or unexpected, but the first season post-Chris Bosh (bolting for Miami) was a tough one. In the summer of 2010, Colangelo makes what will turn out to be one of his best moves as GM, signing Amir Johnson to a five-year, $30 million contract. At the time it looked like a lot of money to give to a reserve. Today it looks like one of the best contracts in the league. Not so great a move: signing Linas Kleiza for four years and $20 million. The season itself? Painful. The team doesn’t play defence, is unable to win games and lacks an identity without Bosh. The bright spot happens after the season when the team scores at the draft by selecting Jonas Valanciunas with the fifth overall pick.

Bonus: Colangelo pulls one over on Phoenix, managing to ship off Hedo Turkoglu and end a hellish one-year campaign. He made the mess, and missed the map by a mile with the Turkoglu signing, but to his credit, he fixed it.

2009-2010

Record: 40-42

As if this season needed another storyline besides the never-ending questions about Bosh’s free agency, the offseason acquisition of Hedo Turkoglu (and his five-year, $53 million deal) might be the worst deal Colangelo has made. In a move to bring in a complimentary player to appease Bosh in his final season with the Raptors, the team overpaid for a guy who had more interest in what was happening in his new city off of the court than what he was being paid to do on it. This was the team’s best finish over the five years, and they would have likely made the playoffs had Bosh not missed much of the second half with injuries, but there was a dark cloud surrounding the year as everyone waited on Bosh to decide his free agency fate.

Bonus: During the offseason of 2009, Colangelo signed Bargnani to a five-year, $50 million extension. If you’re wondering how that is panning out, see his 2012-2013 season stats.

2008-2009

Record 33-49

Jermaine O’Neal is expected to pair with Chris Bosh to become the winning big man tandem in the Eastern Conference. The team wins its first three games and then everything goes downhill from there. The O’Neal era lasts a whopping 41 games before he is dealt to Miami at the deadline. How does O’Neal wind up a Raptor? After the team drafts Roy Hibbert 17th overall and then trade his draft rights to the Indiana Pacers along with T.J. Ford, Maceo Baston and Rasho Nesterovic in exchange for O’Neal and the draft rights to Nathan Jawai.

Bonus: The team fires Sam Mitchell during a West Coast road trip in early December and names Jay Triano as head coach and the all-offence movement begins.

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