The draft is a cruel game. Picking near the top enhances your chances of getting a high end player, but there are no guarantees no matter where the selection is made. Each year we see players unanimously picked at near the top of the draft that burn out, while low end picks go on to have successful rookie years and careers.
Just last year the Rookie of the Year was Malcolm Brogdon, a player picked 36th overall. Even the 60th pick can be valuable as proven by Isaiah Thomas and the many successful undrafted players over the years.
Even draft experts would admit there is a fair amount of luck in the whole process. A player drafted by one team can be a bust, while potentially having found success if they were drafted by another situation.
It doesn’t take much effort when thinking back over Raptors history to find mistakes. For every DeMar DeRozan that has flourished in Toronto, there is a Joey Graham that has failed to make a mark beyond being included in the ludicrously named ‘Young Guns’.
The Draft hasn’t been kind to the Raptors, at least until looking over the last three years. Three years of draft picks that have yielded Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and the undrafted supernova that is Fred VanVleet.
You can’t do much better, especially when only Poeltl was selected above 20. The foundation of the future, and one of the league’s best benches, all made with through late draft picks. Masai and Company have nailed the draft, coming away with six high-level rotation players in a three year period, but that was just part of the vision that has helped to turn this group into a winning unit.
Just four days after Delon and Norm were selected by Toronto in 2015, the Raptors announced that their G-League affiliate would be stationed in Mississauga. This was following two months of negotiations with the league as to where the newly purchased team would be located.
This season we are seeing the results of a three year vision. The Raptors’ organization has simultaneously played its winningest stretch of NBA basketball in the team’s history with placeholders in the rotation, while also investing in the development of its next generation.
OG Anunoby is the only player picked in the last three years who has yet to see a minute of action with the 905, and each player has benefited from the opportunity at increased minutes. Rather than wasting away at the end of an NBA bench, they were allowed the chance to improve their skillset and learn the team’s system for when their number was called.
They had the chance of being in a winning organization around All Star level players, but also got to play heavy minutes at a high level of basketball.
Raptors905 is a stupid name, but their fingerprints are all over the Raptors. If it were not for the 905 one has to question whether Norm would have been in position to save Toronto is two straight playoff seasons. If not for the 905 the Raptors would have been hard-pressed to replace Cory Joseph with Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet, which would also mean no room to have brought in CJ Miles.
The development of the Bench Mob, as they love to call themselves, gives the Raptors a type of cost-controllable versatility that is rare in the NBA, and this growth can be done just an hour’s drive from the ACC.
Many teams have bottomed out in the standings for years to get high level talent that is both young and cheap. Patience, luck, and front office acumen have given the Raptors just that.
Every time the Bench Mob runs an opposing team off the court with defense and energy, a collective thanks should be given to the Raptors905. The core of the Raptors remains DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas, but the vision for this team was largely built in Mississauga.