Blake Murphy over at Raptors Republic has a worthy post about how it’s time, or long past time, for the Toronto Raptors to invest in a Development League affiliate. I happen to agree with his premise and with his points. All I’m going to do here is add a few more reasons for getting a team to Blake’s list.
In this year’s draft, the Raptors currently have one first-rounder (#20), and two seconds (#37 & #59). In 2015, we have a first-rounder, then two of them, and a second, in 2016. Where are all these people going to play? It’s not like the big team is hanging out “Help Wanted” signs. We’ve got a wealth of players, thanks to astute drafting finally starting to pay off. Guys like Steve Novak, Landry Fields, Nando De Colo and even Chuck Hayes would likely get a lot more burn with lesser teams. So our new players will have to fight a (probably) unsuccessful battle for precious playing time. And what about perennial hopefuls like Dwight Buycks and Julyan Stone? Without a D-League affiliate needing a full roster, these people, and our new ones, whoever they are, will stagnate.
And there’s another reason why we need our own team. Masai Ujiri has rightly asked the rhetorical question: What does it mean to be a Raptor? What’s our identity? If the Raps want to answer that question, and I think they should, one critical element would be the creation of a Raptor playbook. Here’s how everyone in our organization runs a high screen-&-roll, a pick-&-pop, a 2-3 zone defense, here’s where our shooting guard will be with 2 seconds left on the shot clock…you get the idea. Whether you’re a member of the starting five in Madison Square Garden facing the Knicks, or on the bench as a member of the Buffalo Rustbelters, Toronto’s D-League affiliate in 2016, you know what’s expected of you. If Nick Nurse calls out “Down 7″ from the bench, or Kyle Lowry holds up 2 fingers, as you run up the floor, you can respond appropriately. Why? Because you’ve learned The Raptor Way.
The Raptors are on the verge of a new era, characterized by consistent winning and strong fan support. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the team’s owner, is hip-deep in cash. Time to spend some, guys. Backstop the big team with a minor league one, and show us you’re serious about the commitment to a championship.