The last seven years have been pretty sweet if you are a Toronto Raptors fan. They set franchise records, produced All-Star quality players and won themselves Toronto’s first Larry O’Brien – life has been good.
If you ask any Raptors fan, I am willing to bet most of them will credit a large chunk of their success to how good their player development program has been.
And it is tough to deny that notion
Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby all came into the league with little expectations and are now the future of the Raptors franchise large in part to the amount of time and development Toronto invested in these guys.
Hear me out!
I remember the DM’s I got after I wrote this article…
So I would appreciate it for those who are reading this to not take me too seriously when I say that, it is possible that maybe we have been a little too confident in the Raptors player development.
You know what I mean?
Sure they have hit a bunch of home runs, don’t get me wrong, these guys are awesome but surely not everyone they sign is going to turn into some diamond in the rough.
I feel like everyone just assumes that as soon as a dude throws on a Raptors jersey their overall on 2K goes up by five.
Aron Baynes for example.
I will say time and time again, when Aron Baynes signed with Toronto this year the fanbase – myself included – was convinced this dude was going to be awesome.
I also can’t ignore that Kyle Lowry kind of poured gasoline on the bonfire with this comment too…
Which turned everyone into one of these guys…
Which led to major disappointment.
My point is — and forgive me if it doesn’t really seem all that sound — we had a little bit too much trust in:
A) Toronto’s ability to make players play basketball well.
B) Aron Baynes’ ability to play basketball… well.
The poor guy probably had the worst year of his life being the butt end of every Raptors related joke – most of those jokes coming from me.
Imagine being Aron Baynes, coming to a team where the entire fanbase expects you to replace Serge Ibaka AND Marc Gasol at the same time.
Let’s Talk about Khem Birch
*Please for the love of Masai, understand that in no way am I about to slander Khem Birch. I think he’s great, he’s Canadian and has played very well so just keep reading and stop plotting the angry and emotionally harming DM you’re about to send to me*
Khem Birch played as well as you could have wanted him to in his 19 games as a Raptor, averaging 11 points and seven boards, so far he has given us a reason to be excited for next year, but was there much of a reason to be as excited as we were when Toronto signed him?
His stats with Orlando were nothing to write to mom about, yet we were already singing his praises.
That very well could have to do with the fact that he was replacing Aron Baynes but we did it with Gary Trent Jr. as well.
I am not ignoring the fact that GTJ has scored career highs and looked amazing with Toronto, but theres no way to tell what kind of player he’s going to be and how much he will improve under the Raptors training – so try not to ruin whatever he does provide for the Raptors by expecting him to be the next Fred, or Pascal or even Norman Powell.
So far we have seen more guys improve under the Raptors player development program than not, so we know it’s working, but that doesn’t mean it works for everybody.
Alex Len, Aron Baynes, Jeremy Lin, Matt Thomas and many others contributed virtually nothing during their time as a Raptor and all had the same opportunities as everyone else.
Sometimes players are bad, no matter how good their coaches are.
Sometimes they don’t fit the system.
And sometimes they blossom into All-Stars and win over an entire nation of passionate fans.
But not every time, so let’s try not to set our expectations too high, and just go with the flow, we will have a lot less holes in our walls.