Bryan Colangelo has served as Raptors
GM since 2006. (Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto's acquisition of scoring forward Rudy Gay could easily be painted as a job-saving maneuver by Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo -- the kind of higher-profile, splashy move that might buy him a little time in anticipation of an option year. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the ownership group at the helm of the Raptors franchise, ultimately has final say over whether Colangelo will return for the final year of his contract or whether he'll return at all, though Colangelo reportedly is considering taking matters into his own hands with a preemptive resignation.
From Michael Grange of SportsNet:
It was expected there would be some resolution in time for the company’s meeting of the board, scheduled for Wednesday but according to sources the board -- who have ceded the decision on Raptors personnel to [incoming president and CEO of MLSE Tom] Leiweke -- is prepared to wait a little longer to make a decision about Colangelo’s current deal or offering him an extension.
That timeline may not suit Colangelo and there is some suggestion that he may take action preemptively and offer his resignation in the coming days.
In last Tuesday’s meeting Colangelo faced tough some questioning from Leiweke and MLSE ownership who were seeking an explanation for the franchise’s five straight years outside the playoffs in a meeting that ran three hours.
According to sources, Colangelo may be growing frustrated waiting for a decision to be me made, with the longer it drags on serving as evidence to him that he is not Leiweke’s first choice to run the basketball operations going forward.
MLSE has every right to take a good, hard look at whether Colangelo really is the best managerial fit for Toronto in the long term, and they need to balance those interests with the alternative options that might be immediately available. According to Grange's report, the odds of Phil Jackson -- who has reportedly drawn interest from a number of teams around the league, and has been linked to the Raptors in particular -- filling the post as Toronto's lead executive are "remote." That rules out Toronto's likely first choice for a Colangelo replacement, and forces Leiweke to circle back on the idea of picking up Colangelo's option or extending him a longer deal.
The current state of the Raptors' roster is a frank and fair representation of Colangelo's tenure. He's done well in spots. Acquiring Kyle Lowry for a pick that's projected to fall in the late lottery was a sound decision, even if Lowry has floundered a bit of late; Amir Johnson's five-year, $30 million deal turned out to be quite the bargain, as Johnson panned out as Toronto's best two-way player this season; Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross came on strong in spots to have nice rookie seasons; and low-cost acquisitions like John Lucas III, Alan Anderson and Aaron Gray made the Raps a better team.
Yet all of those positives can't make up for a weird roster with a glut of committed salary, headlined by the costly acquisition of Gay. With that particular move, Colangelo made a big play for a sub-star player, accepting $53.7 million in salary over the next three seasons. That's a huge gamble in an NBA environment that's increasingly cap-conscious, not to mention a massive price to pay for a team that has no playoff guarantee. Toronto is likely to be better next season, but the same could be said of several teams on the fringes of the East's playoff race. The Raptors could very well be a luxury tax-paying lottery team a year from now, should they pick up just a few million in salary over the summer and fail to meet their developmental expectations for next season.
Whether that deserves a picked-up option or extension is ultimately up to MLSE, though I suppose Colangelo does have a final card to play. I'm not sure what good it would do him to resign outright, but the possibility has been reported. One thing is clear: The future of the Raptors' front office remains unresolved.