Being a fan of the Toronto Raptors can be a frustrating experience. The team is located in one of the biggest markets in the NBA with some of the highest ticket prices and their owners, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, make nothing but money off this franchise. But they’re CHEAP and thru a succession of owners they’ve always been cheap and one can’t help but wonder if this is affecting their search for a head coach.
To put things in perspective, in February 2018 Forbes updated their financial information about the franchise. The current owners, media giants Bell Canada and Rogers, have seen the value of the Raptors increase by $1 billion since they purchased it in 2012. The team has annual revenues of $250 million and operating profits over $50 million. This team can afford to spend a lot more money on management, coaches, and players than they do currently.
However, you’d never know it from how the team behaves every single summer.
At the end of every disappointing season and ahead of every hopeful reboot, the Raptors GM will insist that he has the full support of ownership to spend above the NBA’s Luxury Tax threshold and every summer that same GM will go thru amazing gyrations to stay below the Tax line.
Last summer president Masai Ujiri managed to dump the salaries of DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph on other teams and let P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson walk in free agency to make sure he could stay out of the Tax by filling in the back end of his roster with minimum salary players. While the young guys they kept performed at a high level during the regular season, potential playoff success was sacrificed on the alter of profits (and player development.)
Knowing this team’s history, it’s very hard not to wonder if head coach Dwane Casey was released after setting a franchise record for wins in the regular season using a roster that had eight players with two years or less of NBA experience because he was looking for a reasonable extension to his contract.
One is also left to wonder if Mike Budenholzer, the new head coach in Milwaukee, a team with less than half the Raptors gate receipts, is there instead of Toronto over money?
The Raptors ended the 2017-18 season as a first place team, but they head into the off season in the same position as last summer and the concern in Toronto should be, will Ujiri spend his time looking for ways to dump players’ salary to stay under the Luxury Tax threshold again as Toronto The Cheap or look for moves to retain their position with opponents like the Celtics and 76ers expected to be significantly better next season?
Ujiri’s willingness to spend on coaching could be a big indicator of this team’s direction. Hiring a cheaper rookie head coach may not be the sign Raptors fans want to see.