Despite achieving decent levels of success under his father with the Phoenix Suns, Bryan Colangelo's reign as President and General Manager of the Toronto Raptors has painted him in a pretty negative light. Currently, the Raptors are in a very good place, and some have argued that Colangelo laid the groundwork for Masai Ujiri in a similar fashion to what Sam Hinkie has done for his successor. To get to the bottom of all that, I reached out to Daniel Reynolds of SBNation's RaptorsHQ to find out what the Toronto faithful think of the Sixers newest general manager.
1) With Bryan Colangelo almost three years removed from being Toronto's GM and President, and the team now seeing some success, how do you feel now about his time running the team? Should he be getting more of the credit Masai Ujiri has received?
Daniel Reynolds: Looking back on Colangelo's reign in Toronto is funny because it feels like every decision he made can be argued as entirely correct or disastrously incorrect depending on your mood. Case in point, BC would be quick to identify what the Raptors needed at any given time, and then make moves to fill those holes. That's great. But then those moves would only sometimes work out, so he'd then have to shuffle the roster to make it whole again. And so on. On the one hand, it takes guts as a GM to correct your mistakes quickly, but on the other hand: hey, maybe stop making so many mistakes!
Colangelo is now (quietly) lauded for assembling the key building blocks of the current Raptors (DeRozan, Lowry, Valanciunas, Ross), which is fair. But typical of ol' BC, he couldn't get out of his own way. I think it's telling that for Toronto to unlock their true potential they had to get out from under two iconic Colangelo players: Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay. How can you assess a GM who has the eye to trust in the potential of a Jonas Valanciunas while also marrying himself to years and years of Bargnani? Like I said: It's funny.
2) What was his best move/most cringeworthy move?
DR: Colangelo's most cringeworthy move was actually trading for Jermaine O'Neal, or the man with the knees of a 90-year-old, back in 2008. It's true the Raptors needed a centre at the time, but they traded away Roy Hibbert to essentially get the older, more broken down version of the same player. Sure, Hibbert's career peak was pretty brief, but O'Neal only ended up playing 41 games for Toronto before getting traded again. And the chain reaction this all set off legitimately destroyed the franchise for a good five years. Colangelo turned Hibbert into O'Neal, then O'Neal into Shawn Marion, and then Marion into Hedo Turkoglu (which is a strong runner-up for most cringeworthy move). In the process he traded the team's first round pick, which he would then reacquire by, wait for it, trading Chris Bosh. The Raptors used that pick on Valanciunas, which provides a happy ending to this story. But good lord, what a journey.
3) Colangelo had some hits (DeRozan, Valanciunas) and some misses (Bargnani). What do you think of him as an evaluator of draft talent?
DR: I'm one of those guys who argues the Bargnani pick as defensible at the time (the contract extension BC gave him, much less so). So I think it's fair to say Colangelo is a steady evaluator of talent. None of his draft picks are too egregious in the way of other bad Raptors' draft picks. Picking Terrence Ross over Andre Drummond may not have been the smartest move in the long run, but at least Ross has value and is still in the league. We're talking about a franchise that spent a few years drafting guys like Michael Bradley and Rafael Araujo. Still, I suppose this is damning Colangelo with faint praise.
4) Philadelphia built up a very strong analytics program under Sam Hinkie. Would you expect Bryan to embrace that?
DR: I can't see Colangelo just throwing all of that out. Not that I know what he's thinking about day-to-day, but he doesn't strike me as a guy who would turn away from assets or advantages his organization already has in place. Will Colangelo's decisions be as firmly guided by the tenets of analytics a la Hinkie? Probably not, given his father's way of doing things. But I doubt he just ignores it as some "nerd" fad.
5) The Sixers have a ton of draft picks and cap space. Should fans feel confident in Bryan Colangelo's ability to lead this team towards the promised land given all the assets they have?
DR: It can't get any worse, can it? In all seriousness, the thing to watch with Colangelo is his timing. With the Raptors, there was always this sense of urgency in his moves, like had to race to get the team from Point A to Point B (with Point B being, I assume, a second round playoff exit rather than a first). Ultimately, this was not smart. So, if Colangelo cannonballs into this Sixers job by immediately trading one of Noel-Embiid-Okafor, and then signing someone like Harrison Barnes to a max contract, the timing question will be answered fast. If he's given just a little leeway to think things through, fans can at least be confident he can get this Sixers team from a Point A to a Point B (which in this case would mean getting respected as an actual NBA team again). I realize this sounds like more faint praise. So, uh, good luck Philly!