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
A little back story about me. The 2004-05 Raptors were so bad, and the Raptors coverage at the time was so garbage (it consisted of Doug Smith and a couple of guys who were just mouth pieces for the franchise — the absolute crap that they produced were puffy and had no substance, just like the team at the time) that it inspired me to start writing about them. I registered RaptorsTalk.com on April 4, 2004, and started working out all the trauma inflicted from the past few seasons.
What we saw on the court was not being reflected in what the media was telling us. There was no passion, no analysis, no opinion; key moments in games would be glossed over, some player and coach quotes, and boom. Not only were we getting a crap product on the court, we were be fed crap content. There were some forums that existed at the time, but no one was writing about the trauma we were put through.
It was so therapeutic, between rage-induced hit pieces and pleas for mercy, to be able to produce game analysis that broke things down. Trade suggestions to improve the roster. Had no understanding of the CAP and how things actually worked, but it was better than anything the beat produced.
Frankly, I’m surprised I wasn’t visited by the RCMP for the threats I published.
In his season ending presser, O’Neil said what everyone in the city was thinking:
“There needs to be drastic measures taken to move in the direction of focusing this team on winning basketball games…Players need to be left alone, players need to be concentrating on basketball and winning and doing the right thing night in and night out and I feel badly for our players. I’m not going to get into who is what and all that because that doesn’t do any good. But I’ll tell you right now, the focus is not on winning here all the way through the organization all the time… As a coach, I think we did everything we could to make the locker room a place of sanctity (adding that during the season he had banned many people from getting access to the locker-room area). Outside of that, you can’t control what guys do off the court. I don’t get into their personal lives.”
O’Neill was in the dark about his future with the team, Peddie immediately clapped back:
“I’ve talked to him [O’Neill], Jack’s talked to him a couple times, Larry has talked to him at length about his status with the team.”
Even going so far as to say that O’Neill admitted to him that even if he lasted until a new GM is put in place, the new GM would likely fire him.
“I don’t see any GM coming into this situation not wanting their own coach. I use Jerry West as an example. He goes into Memphis and he cleans that thing out and starts fresh, starts new. That’s what a new GM is going to have to do here.”
He was fired a day later; good bye and good riddance, but don’t feel bad for him. He was a POS person and coach (read more here about his USC stint).
The team was in shambles. A reason the Raptors didn’t keep Rafer Alston after his brightish stint a year and a half ago was apparently Vince Carter fucking hated him. What was one of the first things that Babcock did after drafting Hoffa? He signed Rafer Alston as a free agent.
This went deeper. When Babcock came in as GM, he took a real old-school, hard-line approach with Vince. Not giving his star any air, and treating him something akin to how black players were treated pre-80s by owners and management (from a “you work for me, mother fucker and will fall in line” perspective). The relationship was bad from the drop, and it got worse because had he actually taken the time to sit down with Vince and get on the same page, he would have probably come to realize Rafer Alston was not wanted, and avoided straining the relationship further. NOPE!
The season started with 9 straight losses, going 3-17…thanks, guys. Trash.
The bigger story was around WTF was going on with Vince? While he was out there physically running up and down the court, he wasn’t there in spirit. Half assed. No effort. Is he injured? Is Sam Mitchell not using him correctly? He thinks he should be used coming off the bench?
What in the actual fuck is going on here?
It really quickly became clear that Vince didn’t want to be in Toronto and was doing every possible thing he could to get traded from the team. Flaming management and ownership every time a mic was put in his face.
There was even a well-substantiated rumour that he told the Sonics bench what the next play the team was going to run before it happened. It got dark out there.
Vince was traded for pennies on the dollar (more on this later) and Babcock was fired a month later. In less than eight months, Babcock inflicted so much damage to the team it forced the owners to start taking this shit seriously or risk losing the franchise like Vancouver did.
I did feel bad for Rob Babcock at his press conference after he was fired. The Raptors did turn things around a bit, winning more games than they lost. He talked about his sons…fucking Stockholm Syndrome in full force there. Still hated the guy, but never like seeing someone lose a job. I mean, with exceptions, obviously, as covered throughout this series. So fuck him still — RIP.
Wayne Embry was brought in as the interim GM and immediately starting cleaning up shop in an effort to make the vacant GM role an appealing one for the next guy. Bryan Colangelo, after his dad sold the Suns to Sarver, was hired, and god damn was he a breath of fresh air.
Gone were the bargain rack Marks Work Warehouse suits and blue collar mentality that Babcock brought, and in was this flashy, clearly privileged bespoke-custom-tailored-suit-wearing-stylish-oozing Bryan Colangelo talking about excellence. To say it was a relief is an understatement. It was actually more of a relief than when Masai was hired from all the abuse we took in such a short period of time.
From a roster perspective, notable moves included:
July 14, 2004
Signed Rafer Alston as a free agent.
- While we needed a point guard, and while Rafer was a good one at this point, this was an early domino falling in Vince getting himself out.
December 17, 2004
Traded Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets for Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, a 2005 first-round draft pick (Joey Graham was later selected) and a 2006 first-round draft pick (Renaldo Balkman was later selected).
- In the moment, this was offensive. In hindsight, it’s the worst trade for a superstar in league history. Trading a young star in his prime for old players is not how you rebuild a team. The two first rounders were nice, but they were always going to be later lottery picks as the Nets had a good team and probably wouldn’t be lottery picks (plus drafting Hoffa last year didn’t inspire confidence). To compound the problem, Alonzo signed with the Nets to play with Jason Kidd and refused to report to the Raptors, much less play for them. A staring contest ensued between Alonzo and Babcock that saw Babcock absolutely crumble and buy out the entirety of Mourning’s remaining contract to release him. He fucking paid out everything remaining owed to Mourning and let him go. Let that sink in. Player doesn’t want to play for you so you choose to pay him out fully and let him go. A real GM would have been like “ok, man, here’s half and fuck off, or sit out and not get paid.” We’ve seen that all the time. Better yet, how about YOU FUCKING TRADE HIM FOR SOMETHING. ANYTHING AT ALL!
February 11, 2005
Waived Alonzo Mourning.
- You’d think after two months you would just keep sitting him, no? FUCK.
[table id=57 /]
An ok draft overall with five All Stars, and a bunch of role players. Chris Paul should have been the first overall pick in the moment for sure, but size was still something the league was obsessed with. How Deron Williams went ahead of him is still a mystery; CP3 couldn’t have had a better coach than Sloan as a rookie.
The Raptors needed help at small forward, center, but more specifically, they needed defenders. While they could put up points (fourth in the league in scoring), they were 29th in defense.
So with that in mind, Babcock came out of left field again and took a scoring power forward who looked disinterested and didn’t seem to be serious. Yea, he could score, but not efficiently or effectively, and he sure as hell couldn’t defend.
With their second swing at the plate in the first round, they snag Joey Graham from Oklahoma State. Who? Literally who? Ok…
In The Moment
Raptors got Babcock’d again — getting Babcock’d is worse than getting cockblocked since getting cockblocked you actually have a chance at getting some, then someone comes in and runs some interference; Babcocking completely takes you out of the game before the game even begins.
Like I said, we needed defenders at the wing and a center who could take some of the load off of Bosh and Rose (who was on the decline and would later give up 81 points to Kobe that same season).
To compound the problem, Danny Granger (the guy I wanted) was there at seven. I was much higher on him than most scouts at the time since he always seemed to be misused as a low post player for most of his tenure in college. His shooting consistently improved, meaning he put in the work, and he was versatile and strong.
NO! CAN’T HAVE HIM! Sure, taking a poor man’s Bosh here was completely on-brand for Babcock. In fairness, Charlie V had a solid rookie season and was selected to the All-Rookie 1st Team (Granger was selected to the 2nd Team).
We get to the 16th pick, and Granger is still on the board! Amazing! Grab him! NOPE! CAN’T HAVE HIM YOU FUCKING IDIOT! Ladies and gentleman, Joey Graham, a poor man’s version of Danny Granger. Well, a very, very poor man’s version.
I would be remiss to mention that there were some concerns Granger’s health at the time, but he played 78 games as a rookie….sooooo…what are we talking about?
What It Meant For The Raptors
Another blown draft. Another lost year. Great pageviews over at Raptors Talk from all my vitriol, but that was more for me (it was either write and publish my thoughts or jump off my balcony; I was fairly invested in the team, you could say.
So, you wanted a big man? Bynum had plenty of hype coming out of high school. You wanted a SF/PF? Danny Granger. Nope, none, neither.
The Raptors could have had a potential core of Bosh, Iggy, Bynum, and Granger to build around in a matter of a year. And it wasn’t like these were reaches in the draft, random dudes who ended up being great; they were expected to go around about where the Raptors were picking. They would not have been surprising picks. And maybe in this dream world, Iggy would have taken some pressure off VC and provided a glimpse of hope and changed some perception for Vince, but instead we had Bosh, Hoffa, Villanueva, and Graham. Let that sink in.
I don’t have to go into anything else; fucking sick of this shit.
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