The 2004-05 Phoenix Suns were a special team. Led by two-time MVP Steve Nash, the Suns boasted a league leading 62 wins while scoring an unbelievable 110.4 points per game (ppg). Among Nash there was definitely no lack in talent with a roster including all stars of the 04-05 season Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion as well as future allstar Joe Johnson, and future 6th man of the year Leandro Barbosa. This team was an offensive dream paired with the run and gun tactics of coach Mike D’Antoni. A team like this would only be able to have been built by a brilliant mind and maybe a little luck. That mind with some luck happened to be Bryan Colangelo.
Following the Suns impressive 04-05 season, the Toronto Raptors were able to sign Bryan Colangelo. Colangelo instantly became the franchises prized general manager, coming fresh off of an Executive of the Year Award. The hype surrounding Colangelo was immense and he was tasked with not so easy job of cleaning up the mess left by former GM Rob Babcock. With the success came the high expectations, something that B.C. lived up to in his first two seasons. Starting with being awarded the 2006 first overall selection used to select Andrea Bargnani, Colangelo quickly overhauled the roster bringing in T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovič, Anthony Parker, and Jorge Garbajosa. Despite having a six new rotation players, the Raptors were able to win a franchise best 47 wins. Colangelo was awarded another Executive of the year award and for the first time in franchise history, Raptors fans truly began to rally behind the team. After winning their “first division title in franchise history, [they] had about a 98 per cent renewal rate on season tickets… the team eclipsed 11,000 in season ticket sales, approaching their best level ever, when they had about 12,000 at the height of Vince Carter’s popularity and the team’s success of the early 2000s”(Doug Smith, http://www.thestar.com/Sports/article/253271).
Unfortunately, the 2006-07 Raptors season remains the only Canadian team’s best season of all time. Since then the Raptors have been on a spiral downwards and have suffered through some of Colangelo’s worst mistakes including the acquisitions of Jermaine O’neal and Hedo Turkoglu, the overpaying of Jose Calderon, and 3-point marksman Jason Kapono, failing to get anything of value in return for former franchise player Chris Bosh, and most recently just this offseason overpayed swingman Landry Fields. Fields, “who will make somewhere just south of $20-million over the next three seasons, was crucial in the New York Knicks’ plans to acquire Canada’s own two-time NBA MVP, Steve Nash, from Phoenix” (Ganter, http://www.torontosun.com/2012/09/26/raptors-fields-ready-to-deliver). Had Colangelo’s tactic worked out this contract would not be seen as such a big deal, it would be a small price to pay for what Nash would do to the Raptors franchise as a whole.
Coming off of a lowly 23 win season, Colangelo in a contract year has made this season clear, he wants to improve and the time to make the jump out of rebuilding and mediocrity is now. With the additions of veterans Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, John Lucas III, and rookies Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, and Quincy Acy, the Raptors seem primed to come out of the gate swinging. Not only has Toronto revamped its roster, this season fans can look forward to a full season of Andrea Bargnani hopefully continuing his allstar play before being shut down for much of the season with a calf strain. Also not to be overlooked is the fact that head coach Dwayne Casey will have his first full training camp since coming to Toronto to implement his plays and schemes.
The 2012-13 Raptors roster has all of the pieces for a serious playoff push and after years of “retooling”, fans have rightfully grown impatient for Colangelo to build a playoff team. As Colangelo enters into the final year of his contract with no extension offered, his back is against the wall and the pressure for his team to perform has never been greater. If the Raptors fail to live up to their expectations (fighting for playoff contention), it would be devastating to Colangelo’s already unimpressive legacy in Toronto. It would mark six years since taking control of the franchise with just two first round playoff exits to show for it. With patience running thin and in the final year of his contract, this will be Bryan Colangelo’s make or break year in Toronto.