A majority of Raptors fans probably aren’t amused by the team reeling off three straight wins while outsiders may be asking, why not?
We’ve had fun with Tank Nation all season so why not look and laugh a bit more before we get serious. In the event you are unfamiliar with Tank Nation, it’s the group of fans that would be just fine with close yet competitive losses by the Raptors all season which would put more ping pong balls in the drum when it’s time to determine which team will get the first overall pick in June’s draft.
The Raptors’ recent success has slowed the tank on its way to the draft lottery as fans are worried that Toronto may be playing its way out of a high draft pick. But those pulling for the team to tank need not fear as the Raptors will be playing playoff teams in their final 11 games down the stretch. Teams like Oklahoma City, Indiana, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston and Milwaukee will have playoff seeding in mind and will be looking to get healthy at Toronto’s expense.
This season is all about changing the culture in Toronto, and head coach Dwane Casey and his staff have done a solid job accomplishing that in addition to laying the foundation for winning in the future. At least three coaches with teams bound for the post-season have had positive things to say about the change that is occurring in Toronto. But the most crucial aspect of changing the culture is tipping the balance in the number of wins and losses. While some fans want ping pong balls, the ultimate goal, victories, is what the organization most desires. The occasional win in a season where a foundation is being built reinforces the notion that the plan for the future is working.
It should be noted that since the lottery system was implemented in 1990, only four times has the team with the worst record actually received the first pick and only three of the players picked first overall have actually won an NBA championship.
Anthony Davis, who helped lead the University of Kentucky to the NCAA title, is currently the consensus top pick. Davis has a defensive mentality and matching skills that will help him transition well into the professional game. But here is the question: who’s No. 2?
The draft has always been an inexact science made more interesting because occasionally there is a focus on strengths a collegiate player possesses while turning a blind eye to potential weaknesses at the NBA level. There are a number of names behind Davis this season. But how good will Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot be at the NBA level where he simply can’t use his superior athleticism to overpower the opposition? Kansas’ Thomas Robinson has a tremendous motor, but what position does he play at the pro level? He may eventually develop into a difficult matchup for opponents but that won’t happen until he gains NBA experience and polishes his skills. How good is the ball handling of North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes? Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger compared himself in a round-about way to Kevin Love. But how much will Sullinger’s body type and comparative lack of athleticism be offset by his solid basketball acumen? There are plenty of questions.
During the interim some Raptors fans will continue to ride the tank and hope it picks up momentum, but in these eyes, for the players that are returning next season and the franchise in general, victories should not be frowned upon. Wins lead to success and the consolidation of a winning culture will hopefully make the squad more attractive to potential free agents. Victories also change the perception of the franchise around the league. So in that case, winning is never a bad thing.