Systematic Solutions for Toronto Raptors – Part 2

Previously we looked at Toronto Raptors not as a team, but as an organization and identified the root cause of the Raptors’ perpetuating mediocrity: “Shifting the Burden.” Let’s continue from where we left off…

A rising tide lifts all boats.

J.F. Kennedy

Although it is a big one, shifting the burden is not the only demon the Raptors are dealing with. The organization has a secondary systematic problem. It’s called the “Escalation archetype.” According to William Braun, the Escalation archetype occurs when one party’s actions are perceived by another party to be a threat, and the second party responds in a similar manner, further increasing the threat. Since the two parties’ actions are self-reinforcing and self-motivating, mutually threatening actions grow exponentially over time. The best-known example of the Escalation archetype was the nuclear arm race between the US and the USSR during the Cold War. Every time the US built a nuclear warhead, the USSR built two, which forced the US to built more. If it gets out of control the Escalation archetype could lead to doomsday. But as long as it is kept under control, this systematic behaviour could provide very positive results.

By Steve Lipofsky [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Steve Lipofsky [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
Escalation is not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, we can use escalation to increase healthy competition, thus promote progress. William Braun adds that the behavior of escalation is relatively simple and predictable. The actions (and reactions) of each party are similar in nature, though they become increasingly competitive as time goes by. In simpler terms, at the heart of a healthy rivalry lies the Escalation archetype. The best known business example of healthy escalation is the Coke-Pepsi case. Instead of trying to annihilate each other, these two companies constantly raised the bar and ended up dominating the global market. How does this relate to the Raptors?

Over time, the Escalation archetype results in progress.
Over time, the Escalation archetype results in progress.

When we look at the story of Toronto Raptors, we realize that there is no antagonist. There is no villain. During its two decades of existence, the Raptors never had a bona fide rival. Especially right now, there is no team forcing the Raptors to raise its bar, and that’s a systematic problem. When it comes to rivalries, we can talk about three types: First, there are historic rivalries that lead to greatness like the Lakers vs. the Celtics. For instance, when the Celtics assembled its Big Three, it was the Escalation archetype that forced the Lakers to trade for Pau Gasol. Unfortunately, the Raptors never had a historic rival. Second, there are geographic rivalries like Texas rivalries. Back in the day when the Grizzlies were located in Vancouver, the Raptors used to have a Canadian rival. Sadly, that rivalry ended prematurely when the franchise moved to Memphis, and the Raptors became the Canada’s team by default, not by merit. Finally, there are in-city rivalries. The best example is the City of Boston: Every franchise fight for the attention and support of Bostonians. Whenever the Red Sox or the Bruins up their game, the Celtics feel the pressure to catch up. These are all healthy effects of escalation. Any organization that operates in a competitive market needs to tap into the Escalation archetype to be successful.

Clearly, the Raptors are in need of an instigator. Who could that be? Since no NBA franchise is planning to move back to Canada, it can’t be another national NBA team. The Raptors will stay comfortably as the Canada’s team. Could the Raptors find a geographical rival? Especially during the Garnett era, the Raptors fans had a beef with the Celtics. But I doubt that Bostonians ever perceived the Raptors as a legitimate rival. Moreover, you can’t just pick a rival. The storyline needs to develop organically, over time. Alas, I don’t see any geographical rivalry emerging any time soon, which leaves us with only one option: In-city rivalry…

In an ideal world, the Raptors would have to fight for the attention and love of Torontonians. They should feel some pain when they are mediocre. The success of other Toronto-based franchises must raise the bar for the Raptors. Is there a Toronto-based rival? The obvious instigator could be the Maple Leafs. Should these two decide to go on an arms race, both of them could rise above mediocrity. But here is the problem: Both franchises belong to the same group: MLSE. While owning major franchises creates corporate synergy for MLSE, it kills a potential in-city rivalry, which could lift all boats. That’s a major systematic problem that the Raptors have to deal with. They need to find an instigator that would keep them up on their toes all the time, but there’s nobody that fits the bill…

Our next article will look at another system archetype that contributes to Toronto Raptors’ lack of success: Eroding Goals…

What do you think? Is it beneficial for the Raptors to have an arch-rival? Or is it absolute nonsense? Either way fire up your comments!


11 Comments Add yours

  1. David G says:

    Oh Jesus, somebody just finished a Management 101 book.

    “When we look at the story of Toronto Raptors, we realize that there is no antagonist. There is no villain. During its two decades of existence, the Raptors never had a bona fide rival. Especially right now, there is no team forcing the Raptors to raise its bar, and that’s a systematic problem. ”

    If you think think not having a rival is a “systematic problem”, then you’re out to lunch. I do appreciate that you want to take a unique look at the Raps, but let’s not overcomplicate things.

    There’s one thing that makes or breaks most NBA teams and that’s the draft. The qualifier of ‘most’ is added because of super-rich teams willing to live under repeater penalties of the luxury tax.

    1. Soydanbay says:

      Thank you David for taking your time to read and comment on this article.

      I would not want to devalue the importance of drafting right or having the ability to go over the luxury tax. But to me, they are parts of the puzzle. While we have differing ideas on this topic, I genuinely value your feedback.


      1. David G says:

        You can thank Raptors Republic for the visit, the article is linked there.

  2. Mike D says:

    In answer to your concluding question, I would say this is absolute nonsense.

  3. ShowMeTheData says:

    What is needed is a consistant rival – as of this moment, you can look to current play-off rivals: From one 2013-14 prediction list:
    #4-Detroit #6-New York #7-Atlanta #8-Cleveland #9-Toronto #10-Milwaukee #11-Washington

    New York – While there were heated and tough match-ups with the Knicks at the last half of 2012-13, NY tends to ignore anything that isn’t NY, Boston, or LA
    But if we can occasionally smack them, when they really need a win, there might be a buzz for a time. But they are so locked into the big signings, it’s like you are facing a new team every year.

    Atlanta – A place with a good team but little personality. I almost forgot them. Nothing here

    Cleveland – This is a natural regional rivalry. But in recent years, with LeBron, any chance of that was thrown out the window. The Raptors were consistently bad and not worthy of a rivalry. NBA is much more erratic than other team sports in that a super-star can make and break a team (and a rivalry)

    With Cleveland having done some solid re-building (Kyrie et al) and Toronto having stocked up to be in the same quality class, this could start some rivalry story-lines.

    Milwaukee – So far I’ve seen Toronto and Milwaukee as the Desparation Twins. All negative and I don’t see Milwaukee mattering.

    Washington – Another re-building at nearly the same quality as the Raptors with a likely consistent line-up for the near future. If the Raptors are consistent temselves, the stories could start.

    Detroit – Exactly where on the roller-coaster can we catch these guys? Again, consistency creates rivalries

    For an NBA rivalry to be created from the competition, BOTH teams must be CONSISTENTLY good (not great) and CONSISTENTLY at the same level.

    And stories have to be created – dirty battles, personal dislikes, and thwarting of the “enemy.” Personalities make the best stories and bring things to life. The Bargs’ story was negative and dominant over the last 5 years. And the possible big stories(Turkuglu, O’Neal, the Bosh-fail) have also been negative(some extreme flops.)

    There are many ups-and-downs. Toronto has to search and fi

    1. Soydanbay says:

      Excellent analysis. Thanks for sharing.

      I always thought the best potential rival for the City of Toronto is the City of Chicago: Two similar cities, two financial powerhouses, more or less the same size and proximity…

      But as you mentioned, there needs to be a story. You cannot manufacture or engineer a story. It needs to occur naturally. You cannot pick a rival. Rivalry needs to develop organically. Also, the rivalry needs to have an element that is bigger than sports.


  4. ShowMeTheData says:

    Oops have to finish my last thought:

    There are many ups-and-downs. Toronto has to search and find a CONSISTENT level of good play and good results. BC never tried for that; Usiri has a calmer and more consistent attitude – defintely an upgrade.

  5. Ohio Okhai says:

    hmmm, well we moved from the toronto raptors don’t having any NBA instigator to another team within the geographical setting of the raptors, only to find out that the leafs are also owned by the owners of the raptors. To get a instigator we (probably) have to move outside sports. May be entertainment. I stronly think the instigator should be some one who is as rich as the owner of the raptors but dislikes him (kind of).

    Find someone who can intimate the owner to get him challenged.

    1. Soydanbay says:

      It is a great idea Ohio. I like how you expanded the conversation.

      But, as far as I know, and I might be completely wrong, there is no other local ownership group or a grassroots organization that demonstrated public interest in the Raptors.

      On the other hand, the potential interest of a non-Toronto based ownership would be alarming in the city. Instead of kick starting the Escalation archetype, it could possibly start blamestorming and defensive behaviour. That’d be my first reaction to your idea.

  6. Ohio Okhai says:

    well, I will be damned. The question now is how can it be reversed (Instead of kick starting the Escalation archetype, it could possibly start blamestorming and defensive behaviour.) The man MUST have a soft spot! Something about him or others must or can be able to make him go that way. It might be from the NBA HQ maybe?

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