All right, let this sink in: When was the last time you heard any player say before they were even drafted, “I want to play for the Toronto Raptors”?
Never. Ever. In a million years.
Why? Because the Raps have a history of being a weak franchise that rarely keeps its stars and loses games. Also, a lot of players have it in their minds that it’s constantly freezing in Canada and don’t wish to spend their NBA career locked up in an igloo.
And then this happened (even the interviewer is like, “Dude, really?!”):
Thankfully, Andrew Wiggins is from Toronto, so he knows that he wouldn’t be skiing to the Air Canada Centre for every game.
Wiggins’ comments immediately caused the “Tank For Wiggins” campaign to start up again with ferocity, with tons of fans completely on the bandwagon to try and bring the young superstar-in-the-making to his native city for years to come.
So, here’s the big question.
Is it possible to snatch up one of the most impressive young talents basketball has ever seen and pull a red and white jersey over his head, now that he’s made it clear Toronto is his preferred NBA destination?
Certainly, it’s possible. But even with the kid’s comments, it’s very unlikely and that’s why it’s hard to see Ujiri falling head-over-heels in an attempt to bag him.
How come it’s so unlikely?
Well, let’s look at how things stand now.
Several teams purposefully made themselves worse this summer because they are going hard after Wiggins in the upcoming draft.
For example, Philadelphia tossed Andrew Bynum and traded away Jrue Holiday for the number six overall pick in Nerlens Noel, who is currently injured and won’t be ready to suit up until Christmas.
Than you’ve got Boston, who finally traded away the remains of their Big 3 to Brooklyn for Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans (Who?) and Gerald Wallace and his worse-than-brussel-sprouts contract. They’ve still got their All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, but who knows how he’ll look this coming season after going down with a torn ACL last year?
And you’ll always have Charlotte in the mix. Even though they acquired Al Jefferson in the offseason and drafted Cody Zeller with their fourth overall pick, they are still a lottery team in the West. And if you don’t think MJ is going to try and do everything he can to capture Wiggins and ease the “Best NBA Player Ever into Worst Owner Ever” tag that is constantly buzzing over his head, then you’re nuts.
Among all of this is the Raptors. No one knows exactly where they’re at at the moment. Are they a playoff team? Are they a lottery team? The Raps appear to be stuck in limbo, the absolute worst place an NBA team can be. Mediocre teams around the 9th and 10th seeds never make the playoffs and yet hardly ever land a high draft pick.
Truly the NBA badlands.
So, as the season unfolds, Ujiri and Dwane Casey will have to see where their team is at. If the Raptors are on pace to make the playoffs, that is the best possible outcome. Even if the Raps grab the 8th seed, they’ll still have a chance (I’ll get to it in a moment) to get Wiggins. If they don’t make the playoffs, then Ujiri better be ready to move some pieces, even if not chasing Wiggins, to improve the team.
Ujiri has already opened up a lot of room for the future, as the team is currently under the luxury tax after things like the Bargnani-trade went through. Masai is giving himself a lot of options this way; very smart, especially considering no one has any idea how good these Raptors will be until the season begins.
Now, back to Wiggins. Lottery or no lottery, the Raptors will have a slim chance of picking him up, so the best route will obviously be not to tank and try for the 8th seed, because there’s simply no way the Raps will be worse than teams like Philly or Charlotte. If the Raps do make the playoffs, they make fans happy and can still attempt to steal Wiggins in a sign-and-trade deal.
Wiggins’ words about Toronto may or may not have a big effect on where he ends up. I’m going to say they won’t. The Kansas player is saying that he would like to play for the Raptors, but he isn’t saying he won’t play for the team that drafts him. As a young player on draft night, getting picked is a monumental deal in itself, especially when you’re projected as the number one overall choice.
If Wiggins was selected to, say, the Orlando Magic, he likely wouldn’t go straight to management and tell them that he doesn’t want to play there. Instead he would smile, place a blue and black cap on his head and shake Adam Silver’s hand.
Saying that he wishes to play for Toronto sparked the fans by putting it in their heads that this may give the Raptors a better chance to acquire him when it probably won’t. The only way it would help would be if Wiggins did go to the team that drafted him and demand out immediately or so help him he would make their lives living hell.
But that just won’t happen. Not as a young player.
We’ve seen big names want out of their current predicament before: LeBron James in Cleveland, Dwight Howard in Orlando and Los Angeles, Chris Paul in New Orleans, Deron Williams in Utah, Josh Smith in Atlanta, etc.
But how many of those players tried to get traded the first year they were drafted or even over the next couple of years? None. They waited until free agency rolled around.
That being said, if the Raptors make the 8th seed and Ujiri still wants to go hard after Wiggins (which is difficult to see), then he could try to make a deal with whichever team lands him. A potential deal involving Gay/DeRozan and Ross or Lowry and Gay/DeRozan doesn’t seem to be out of the question, among other possibilities.
By the way, here’s why NBA teams are drooling over this kid if you didn’t already know:
So, no, there’s never been another player with such a big name tell the media that he wants to play for the Toronto Raptors before he’s even been drafted. But that doesn’t mean he’s headed to Toronto gift wrapped with a bright red bow on his head.
Like everything else involving the Raps, landing Wiggins will take more than a few choice words; it’ll take a lot of luck.