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A Look Back at the 2001 Draft – Raptors Draft Michael Bradley with the 17th Pick

11 mins read
Cover Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

With the 2022 NBA approaching on June 23rd, we want to take a look back at the Raptors draft history; giving a bit of an accounting of the state of the Raptors, what we thought of the pick in the moment and in retrospect. Each day we will examine the Raptors significant pick(s) and additions in each draft, and frame it in the context of what was going on during that year. You can find all the pieces in this draft history project here

The State of The Raptors Heading Into The Draft

The first blemish of the Grunwald era was the absolute mishandling of Tracy McGrady. After McGrady essentially shouted his displeasure during the season, Grunwald stood firm and signalled he was confident the young star would stay in Toronto. While he wasn’t the Hall of Famer at the time, he clearly had star potential, and the thought of having two dynamic scoring wings on the the same timeline had us all both dreaming of a decade of excellence (like the C**tics rn with Tatum and Brown) and filled with intense anxiety it would all fall apart.

There were rumours that Philly was offering Larry Hughes for McGrady (unconfirmed), but no, he’s coming back. Nope! First chance McGrady got, he signed a contract with the Magic and bounced.

At least Grunwald got a 2005 first-round pick for him that was turned into Jerome Williams (JYD!) later in the season.

Lenny Wilkens was brought in to right the wrongs Butch Carter inflicted on the team, and for the most part did a solid job of continuing the player development and stewardship that Butch was so good at.

Vince Carter put up the best year of his career in only his third season in the league by every conceivable metric: raw totals, advanced, adjusted shooting; he was absolutely balling. I’d also argue Antonio Davis also put up his best season from an impact perspective (he had other seasons where the stats were better from category to category). Both were rewarded with All-Star selections, Vince as a starter.

MoPete had a solid rookie campaign, coming off the bench to start the season and providing energy, defense, and 3point shooting. By mid-way point, he had played himself into a starting role, and was rewarded with an All-Rookie First Team selection.

The addition of Mark Jackson, who was flipped for Chris Childs, coupled with Alvin Williams picking things up solidified the point (which was our weakest position since Stoudamire got traded) and gave the Raptors a solid rotation with a nice mix of toughness, skill, ability, grit, youth, and veteran leadership. Up until recently, this was my favourite team of all time (the championship team obviously being my all-time fave).

There were fairly high expectations heading into this season from the drop, with the gamblers projecting a record of 48-34 (they finished 47-35 basically meeting expectations).

In the playoffs, Raptors got the Knicks in the first round, and won in fve, on the road, in MSG. I remember being at a house party with my buddy, Rod. He were watching the game on mute the whole night, yelling, hugging each other, almost in tears. The rest of the party goers were puzzled, but we knew…WE KNEW! ….

WE IZ LEGIT NOW!

From a roster perspective, notable moves included:

August 3, 2000

Traded Tracy McGrady to the Orlando Magic for a 2005 first-round draft pick (Fran Vázquez was later selected).
– Covered this ad nauseam. It hurt, still.

August 11, 2000

Signed Mark Jackson as a free agent.
– Solid get. Steadied the offense, and finished 4th in assists in the league. Old man who didn’t last the season, and was out of the league a couple seasons later, but returned a 1st rounder.

September 30, 2000

Traded Doug Christie to the Sacramento Kings for Corliss Williamson.
– Another casualty of the Raptors drama (like McGrady). At the time, Corliss was fine, I guess, but with the loss of McGrady, the Raptors needed a two-way wing, not another big. He didn’t last the season.

January 12, 2001

Traded Garth Joseph, Aleksandar Radojević, Kevin Willis and a 2001 second-round draft pick (Ousmane Cisse was later selected) to the Denver Nuggets for Keon Clark, Tracy Murray and Mamadou N’Diaye.
– Keon Clark set a Raptors regular season record with 12 blocks in a game. Could have been a monster, but his demons got the better of him. Tracy Murray was an attempt at replacing Christie, but he didn’t do anything on the defensive end.

February 22, 2001

Traded Tyrone Corbin, Kornél Dávid, Corliss Williamson and a 2005 first-round draft pick (Fran Vázquez was later selected) to the Detroit Pistons for Eric Montross and Jerome Williams.

Traded Muggsy Bogues and Mark Jackson to the New York Knicks for Chris Childs and a 2002 first-round draft pick (Kareem Rush was later selected).
– When Jerome Williams learned he was traded to the Raptors from the Pistons, he got into his pick up truck and drove across the 401 that same day. He did all the dirty work, didn’t need the ball, and was a pleasure to have on the Raptors. An all-time fan favourite. Bogues and Jackson were just done, so getting Childs and a first was pretty solid if uninspiring.

…a lot of action.

The Draft

A good draft that produced eight All Stars, a couple Hall of Famers, and a bunch of capable role players. It was also the draft of high school kids, with three of the first four picks (Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry, and Tyson Chandler) jumping straight from high school.

Michael Bradley was….forgettable. Literally. I totally forgot about him until I started writing this piece. Started his college in Kentucky, ended in Villanova, and was…unremarkable. I only know that cause I needed to write something about him and Googled it.

I was hoping for Zach Randolph at the time, another Michigan State product who came out after his freshman season. Was a big Michigan State fan growing up, and saw a lot of their games. Didn’t think he would become the double-double beast he did, but thought he had potential. Brendan Haywood would have even been a better selection.

In The Moment

Huh? Bruh? It wasn’t a great pick in the moment. A middling college player who didn’t inspire. Another Grunwald miss. I have nothing else to say.

What It Meant For The Raptors

With an aging front court, the Raptors rightfully identified the need for some new blood but somehow decided Bradley was the answer. He had a couple nice moments in the pick-and-roll with Cater, but literally only a couple. Meanwhile, Zach Randolph lands in Portland, which had a stacked front court (Rasheed Wallace, Dale Davis, Jared Dudley), and played limited minutes but was productive in those minutes. The moment Rasheed got traded out of Portland, he went ham.

This was the first Raptors miss in a draft, we consoled ourselves by saying it was a mid-first rounder, which at the time didn’t pan out nearly as well as they do now, but it was a tough one.

At the time, there was a creeping feeling that the Raptors were starting to stagnate a bit. While the first few seasons saw solid organizational growth, we were also assaulted with multiple coaching changes, two GM’s, lost two young stars (Stoudamire and McGrady) and a very good young player (Christie) to drama.

While this can’t be attributed to the Bradley pick, he was a symptom of this turn on the hill, where the momentum was stalling, slowly, and while the wheels weren’t falling off just yet there was a bit of an over cast drifting in that didn’t quite feel like death, but it did feel like something was knocking at the door.

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