The NBA’s European Team

Posted on January 14, 2007 by


Last September I noted the following quote from Richard Peddie [President and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Ltd., which owns both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors]:

“I’m a great believer in continuous learning. I do it mostly through reading. I devote at least an hour a day to reading, although some days it’s more. I read Fortune, Forbes, Business Week and the dailies. But I go beyond the business section and read the whole paper. All of it is ripe with ideas. I also get a clipping service for basketball stories. I keep current on everything from sports marketing to player moves.”

“I’m really trying to read different books to get more perspective. I joke that I’ve read all the leadership books. The last one was the The Wages of Wins: Taking Measure of the Many Myths in Modern Sport, which I’m getting my hockey and basketball general managers to read.

From this quote it appears that Bryan Colangelo, general manager of the Toronto Raptors, has read The Wages of Wins.

If we look at what Colangelo has done in Toronto, it’s not immediately apparent that he was tremendously influenced by what his employer asked him to read. Rather, it seems like he is doing his best to construct a team that might appeal to a population more enamored with Europe than the United States. In the past year the Raptors have added several players of European origin – including Andrea Bargnani, Jorge Garbajosa, and Rasho Nesterovic. Even Anthony Parker, who is from the United States, spent many years playing in Europe.

One wonders if Canadians – disenchanted with the United States in recent years — plan on pulling a Bugs Bunny move and cut Canada off from the United States, ship the nation across the Atlantic, and then attach it to Europe (is the Bugs Bunny reference too obscure?). If this happens, the team Colangelo is assembling will fit right in.

Actually, relying on players born outside the United States has worked very well for the San Antonio Spurs, who have Tim Duncan, Manu Ginoboli, and Tony Parker. Of course these international players do something Toronto’s international players do not, i.e. produce wins.

When we look at this team after 37 games – which you can see HERE – we can see where the wins on this team are coming from. And despite the international flavor of this team, it’s the Americans who are producing what few wins this team has this season. The top players are Chris Bosh, T.J. Ford, and Morris Peterson. Bosh has improved over last year, and is coming closer to producing as much as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the two more celebrated members of his draft class.

Once we get past Bosh, Ford, and Peterson, though, this team gets virtually nothing from the other players averaging twenty or more minutes of playing time each game. Bargnani – the first player taken in the 2006 draft – has been quite disappointing. Thus far he is threatening Adam Morrison for the title of least productive rookie in 2006-07. So far Morrison is still the front-runner, but Bargnani remains a threat to win that crown.

Although this team is below average, it occupies the worst division in the history of professional sports (I wonder if that is true). Consequently Toronto might make the playoffs and thus lose out on a lottery pick that could actually improve this team in 2007-08. And that would be a problem. Despite the talents of Bosh and Ford, this team still needs quite a bit (another productive big man, depth everywhere but especially in the backcourt) to become a true contender in the NBA.

– DJ