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Three Lessons For the Jets About Getting to The Finals, Courtesy of the Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are in the NBA finals! What can the Jets learn from them?

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

I know this is a hockey blog, but, as huge fan, I urge you all to jump on the bandwagon and support the only major Canadian professional sports franchise in the championship finals of their sport, the Toronto Raptors!

The Raptors president Masai Ujiri has done a masterful job of taking a team that was stuck in the lane of perennial playoff participant to the competing for an NBA title. The Raptors, like the Jets, are viewed as a secondary, “small” (despite the GTA’s huge population) market. For that reason, the Raptors traditionally have suffered some of the same issues that face the Jets when it comes to retaining and attracting free agents.

Yet, they are on the verge of an NBA championship. So, what lessons can the Jets take from the Raptors ascension to building a championship caliber team?

Lesson 1: Doing the same thing and expecting the same result is the definition of insanity

Between 2013-14 the Raptors made the playoffs each year where they lost in the first round twice, the semifinals twice, and the conference finals once. There were some legitimate reasons (Lebron James), but ultimately, the team as constructed was just not good enough to get over the hump. That led to Masai Ujiri’s make some difficult decisions including trading one of the most popular Raptors ever (Demar Derozan), firing a coach of the year winner (Dwane Casey) and trading some high upside young talent for playoff tested veterans. It was a huge gamble.

How does this apply to Jets?

The last five Jets seasons have included two seasons where they did not qualify for the playoffs, two first round losses, and one trip to the conference finals. That’s not exactly crushing it as a franchise. It’s not time to hit the panic button, but, it is time for the Jets brass to take stock. Let’s say the Jets this coming season are knocked out of the playoffs first round, or heaven forbid, miss the playoffs. That’s just not good enough. Kevin Cheveldayoff would need to really think about channeling his inner Masai Ujiri and make some significant changes.

Lesson 2: Don’t fall in love with your own talent

I do believe in continuity in a franchise, being loyal to players, and treating players well. But, ultimately players are assets, and assets should be treated as such. If you have an opportunity to upgrade your assets, you do it. The Raptors had a good core centered around two virtually inseparable best buddies DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. They led a successful run for the team, but, never got to the finals. The Raptors also assembled a core of young talent, some of whom had significant flaws. Jonas Valanciunus was regarded as one of the best young big men in the NBA. But he couldn’t shoot threes, and couldn’t defend well enough to stay on the floor in the playoffs. Masai broke up the bro-fest, and traded Valanciunus for a less upside, but more playoff savvy veteran player, Marc Gasol.

How does this apply to Jets?

The Jets too are led by bosom buddies Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, and have a collection of impressive young, but flawed talent (hello Patrik Laine). I’m not suggesting Chevy use up his data plan trying to move any of those players specifically. However, I am suggesting that you need to consider all options if you truly want to make it to the finals. And, sometimes you have to swing big. Valanciunus and young talent for Gasol on paper was a lopsided trade for Memphis. But, it made sense for a playoff run. The equivalent would be the Jets trading young assets for Jonathan Toews. Again, I’m not suggesting this trade specifically as I get the risks, upside, salary cap considerations, etc. But, Jonathan Toews would have helped the Jets playoff run this past season more than any of the young talent on our team did. And certainly more than Kevin Hayes did.

Lesson 3: Your best new coach might be right under your nose

The Raptors Nick Nurse is a first year head coach who is in the NBA finals. He was also an assistant with the Raptors since 2013. He replaced a popular, successful coach, who some reported that the players had “tuned out”. Nurse was reportedly well regarded with players as a motivator and strategist, which has been proven correct.

How does this apply to Jets?

Paul Maurice will eventually be replaced by another coach. That’s life as a professional coach. When he is replaced, rather than recycle some coach from the NHL old boys club whose glory days were when Smash Mouth was topping the music charts, perhaps the strategy should be to look within the organization. Further, perhaps a team’s strategy for coaching should always be development from within. Grooming assistant coaches and/or your minor league coaches makes sense. They know the culture and the players, but can tweak things with fresh ideas. When Maurice is fired, I sincerely hope that the Jets at least consider Pasqual Vincent along with other outside candidates, and steer clear of the old guard types like Ken Hitchcock, Jacques Martin, and Marc Crawford.

Enjoy supporting Canada’s basketball team! And as always, your points and counter-points are always welcome in the comments section.