BOSTON -- Former Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo admitted Friday that his team tried to tank during the 2011-12 season.
While discussing the future of the NBA's draft lottery and the problems with the current system, Colangelo revealed that the Raptors' front office was not interested in winning during the '11-12 season, hoping instead to secure a high draft pick. The team finished 23-43 under first-year coach Dwane Casey in the lockout-shortened season.
"Admittedly, I tried to tank a couple of years ago," Colangelo said during a basketball panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. "I didn't come out and say, 'Coach, you have to lose games.' I wanted him to establish a winning tradition and culture, but I wanted him to do it in the framework of playing and developing young players."
Toronto tied with the Warriors for the seventh-worst record that season. Colangelo noted that the regular-season finale proved critical. The Raptors blew out the Nets 98-67, while the Warriors lost to the Spurs to complete a 6-22 finish. Toronto ended up finishing one game ahead of the Nets, and it drafted eighth after losing a coin flip with Golden State.
"The last game of the season, [Nets coach] Avery Johnson had a 24-point deficit and was looking down at the floor smirking," Colangelo said.
Colangelo pointed out that the victory essentially kept the Raptors "from a coin flip for Damian Lillard potentially." Lillard went sixth to Portland, which had acquired that top-three-protected pick from the Nets in an earlier trade. The Warriors picked small forward Harrison Barnes seventh and the Raptors selected shooting guard Terrence Ross eighth. Ross has shown plenty of potential in his two NBA seasons -- including a career-high 51 points in a game in January-- but Lillard was the Rookie of the Year last season and an All-Star this season. Colangelo was stripped of his GM duties last May. A few weeks later, he stepped down from the Raptors' front office.