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A Look Back at the 2006 NBA Draft – Raptors Draft Andrea Bargnani with the 1st Pick

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Cover Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via 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

Have you been broken and defeated so harshly and thoroughly by someone that when your white knight came along your first reaction was immense joy and happiness, but as soon as they moved in for a tender embrace to tell you everything will be ok you violently flinch, curl up in fetal position, rock and murmur in an attempt to soothe yourself? This was where we were heading into the draft.

So my apologies to you guys, the Babcock years were so dark that I had to push those memories down so deep as to not have them turn into a series of heart attacks. Talking about the 2005 draft yesterday, and reaching deep into that contaminated well, forced everything out all at once, and I bled the 2005 draft into the 2005-06 season where I would have covered the transition of Babcock to Colangelo here today.

While I was reviewing the piece, it felt appropriate to leave it as is because the rise and fall of Babcock was the end of the Raptors’ second epoch, and it felt appropriate to mesh together those timelines for a few reasons:

  1. I was saving you guys (but mostly me) from three straight days of acid reflux.
  2. We could start the reign of Colangelo with a happier, more positive tone.
  3. I had already written the piece, was sweaty and had nausea, and couldn’t stomach having to pump out another vitriol-laden Babcock hit piece for today.

So everything about the Carter trade applied to the lead up to the 2006 draft, not 2005, my bad.

Colangelo (and his father, probably more his father) assembled those seven-seconds-or-less Suns team with the plan to recreate that same system up in Toronto.

For his part, he spent the second half(ish) of the season on the circuit saying all the right things, giving us some hope for change. He was well-spoken, intelligent, charming, well dressed; a complete 180 from the vibe Babcock gave off.

I did forget to mention the greatest thing about the 2004-05 season, which was the time Vince Carter body slammed Sam Mitchell into a table. I’ll let Jalen Rose narrate:

RIP Grantland.

Sam Mitchell clapped back though:

Morris Peterson was lying on the training table. He got hurt in practice – like, slightly pulled his hamstring. I went down to the training room, where all the players were after practice getting treatment. I was talking to Mo, Vince came up behind me and put me in a bear hug, and I stumbled and fell on one of the training tables.

He starts laughing and saying, ‘Coach, I got you, I got you.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, Vince, you got me.’ And the players started laughing, and that was it.

Consider the source. You know what blows my mind? And I don’t attack people because I try to take the high road, but consider where it’s coming from. Where in this person’s history are the things that he said true? You are talking about a person who played at a university whose record has been expunged. And for what? Lying and cheating. Right?

You spent your entire career in the NBA making a lot of money, but you never quite lived up to your potential as a player. Now you’re on TV and you get to say these things. First of all, we need to stop believing that everybody on TV is credible and (that) everybody you hear in the media is credible.

Ouch lol.

For the record, there is no world that Vince Carter could take Sam Mitchell in a fight; the Vegas odds would be like 1 to 100 on that.

From a roster perspective, notable moves included:

August 3, 2005

Signed José Calderón as a free agent.

It took José two seasons to find his rhythm, but he evolved into an incredibly solid point guard in the NBA. I was always on the Ford side of that argument, but José was solid. A breath of fresh air for Toronto in that respect, and he did it for a long time. He’s currently making a great living as an organic pig farmer. Respect.

October 4, 2005

Traded Rafer Alston to the Houston Rockets for Mike James.

Mike James never saw a shot he didn’t like. By every metric, the 2005-06 season was his best. He took a lot of touches away from everyone, and it was irritating, but he played hard. Pretty sure he didn’t miss a single three that season.

January 31, 2006

Traded Aaron Williams to the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets for a 2006 second-round draft pick (Edin Bavčić was later selected) and a 2009 second-round draft pick (Jack McClinton was later selected).

Whatever.

February 3, 2006

Traded Jalen Rose and a 2006 first-round draft pick (Renaldo Balkman was later selected) to the New York Knicks for Antonio Davis.

This was an Embry move to clear some cap space (Jalen was owed $16 million on next seasons contract) and Davis was expiring. Raptors also sent cash. Thank Jah for the Knicks.

June 8, 2006

Traded Rafael Araújo to the Utah Jazz for Kris Humphries and Robert Whaley.

It didn’t really matter but it was amazing not to see Hoffa’s fucking face on TV. At least it ended the Hoffa nightmare: sad and quiet, the way it was supposed to be.

June 21, 2006

Traded Matt Bonner, Eric Williams and a 2009 second-round draft pick (Jack McClinton was later selected) to the San Antonio Spurs for Rasho Nesterović.

Rasho was a serviceable big. He was fine, meh. I did have a drink with him once randomly at Alley Catz; nice dude.

The Draft

PickPlayerDrafted ByCollege Team
1Andrea BargnaniTORWho The Fuck Cares
2LaMarcus AldridgeCHITexas
3Adam MorrisonCHAGonzaga
4Tyrus ThomasPORLSU
5Shelden WilliamsATLDuke
6Brandon RoyMINWashington
7Randy FoyePORVillanova
8Rudy GayHOUUConn
9Patrick O'BryantGSWBradley
16Mouhamed SeneSEANo Idea

This was a crazy draft, with multiple guys who were in the top 10 getting traded to teams who also drafted some guy in the top 10. Before Bryan Colangelo became the GM of the Raptors, most mock drafts had some combination of LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Adam Morrison going top-3 in some order. As soon as BC became GM, Bargnani shot up to number one; can you say everyone knew his type?

Bargnani was an interesting prospect: a sevener-footer who had 3-point range. He was Italian, and that was close enough to Germany to liken him to Dirk and call it a day. Throw in that he scored ridiculously on the Caliper Personality Profile, an what’s not to love?

They said his upside and potential were off the charts,” Colangelo says from the tunnel of the Air Canada Centre as Bargnani drains a three against the Cavaliers. They said, ‘Out of all the athletes we’ve profiled, we’ve never seen anything like this.’

The test showed that Bargnani is virtually oblivious to what others think of him. And his tremendous ability to block out such potentially negative pressures enables him to focus completely on the task at hand. So the expectations and anxieties that come with being the No.1 pick, or the only Italian-born player in the league, or even taking a game-winning shot, don’t even register with him.

I mean, yea, he blocked absolutely everything out. It wasn’t that he was especially built, it was that he just didn’t give AF.

I pulled in Louis Zatzman and Adon Moss to help out with this on:

Who would you have drafted in the moment:

Louis Zatzman (LZ): Andrea Bargnani, Sadly.

Adon Moss (AM): LaMarcus Aldridge is a borderline Hall of Famer. He’s right there. He’s RIGHT FUCKING THERE. He and Bosh woulda been so fucking fun to watch together.

Instead, Colangelo, like so many other sheepy GMs falls for the whole “every white guy coming out of continental Europe must be the next Dirk Nowitzki” thing and drafts the sleepiest basketball player in NBA history.

And when you think about it, what fit? Sleepy B operated in iso mid-range, like Bosh. He was not a paint protector. Neither was Bosh, not yet. He couldn’t guard traditional bigs. Nor Bosh. Really he was a total redundancy. SO TELL ME AGAIN WHYYYY NOT LAMARCUS!?

I knew nothing about Bargnani, but I do so vividly recall SCREAMING for Brandon Roy. God, was he a sweet scoop of bread pudding on the basketball court. And, truly, four healthy years of Roy was better than seven with Sleepy B.

Rudy Gay stood out to me at the time too. Gee, how about an athletic freak, wing creator? Nahhh we good. We got Joey Graham. All set on that front.

Sam Holako (SH): I really wanted LaMarcus Aldridge, and while he was a power forward, he was big, sturdy and a machine, but I know at the last minute I would have drafted Rudy Gay because I’m a sucker for the athletic dynamic wings. Either would have been infinitely better.

In The Moment

LZ: I hesitate to even think this, let alone write it, but I loved the choice of Andrea Bargnani in the moment. I was Il Mago pilled. I was a fairly casual fan at the time, and I was of the mind that skill potential was the only thing worth drafting for. Swing for home runs! And those Bargnani reverse layups in his highlight reels hit a little different, ya know?

I guess I was expecting what everyone else was — something like what Dirk Nowitzki ended up becoming. People forget how truly talented Bargnani was in Europe before coming to the NBA. Self creator, scoring from anywhere, range, touch: he had it all. Not just efficient shooting and scoring, but blocks and steals — the dude was a legitimately incredible prospect (except rebounds and, you know, passing).

And it’s not like Bargnani was a reach. He was frequently mocked as the top pick heading into the draft. The dude oozed potential. How were we supposed to know he also oozed a total lack of interest in winning, improving, battling, chemistry, or anything else involved in being a good basketball player?

The craziest part, for me, is that I didn’t stop believing in Bargnani for a long, long time. Sure, the season averaging 20, that was great. Everyone believed in his potential then. (Well, not even close to everyone, but you couldn’t be blamed for it.) But I believed in him right up until 2012 when it was so clear what he was, and I just didn’t comprehend it. I learned a lot from Il Mago. I learned that potential doesn’t really exist, not in the way we all consider it. I learned that development isn’t a given. I learned that skill on its own isn’t enough for anything, and neither is size. I also learned to change my goddamn mind after being proven wrong over and over and over and over and over. It’s good to admit you’re wrong. Thanks Bargs for teaching me so much.

AM: My memory around this time is not so great with the whole binge drinking thing being in full effect.

SH: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me four first-round picks…look, I was disappointed a bit. Aldridge would have been a perfect compliment with Bosh, and so would have Gay (for different reasons), but BC had built a real nice team in Phoenix of freakish athletes who could run and spread the floor. I knew nothing of Il Mago (YouTube wasn’t a thing yet) so all we could do was trust in the process.

What It Meant For The Raptors

LZ: It meant so many things, much like Bargnani himself. Rich in meaning, poor in performance. The Bargnani teams were so mediocre for so long, and some had some real talent on them. Chris Bosh, as previously established, became a beast pretty quickly in Toronto. Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker, TJ Ford: The Raptors won 47 games in Barg’s rookie year! But man oh man it went downhill fast, and so much of that was because of Bargnani himself. He may have been the worst defender in the history of the NBA. I mean that. Given the minutes he played, the role he had, and his complete inability to do anything productive on that end, it’s kind of hard to equal. (This is also backed up statistically, by the way, as he has one of the 25 lowest defensive win shares in NBA history among players with 15000 minutes played.)

The Bosh teams were never, ever going to win anything with Bargnani on the team. He was that bad. He stole touches from significantly more capable players and did nothing with them, not able to create for teammates or score efficiently on his own. He defended about as well as the imaginary chair from Yi Jianlian’s workout.

The Raptors traded him in 2013-14, and that season launched their postseason streak that ended in Tampa. Sure, Kyle Lowry had a lot to do with that, but so too did losing Il Mago. He was a goddamn albatross. The Raptors wasted a lot of good players for years and years simply by saddling them with this Bargnani.

AM: Masai rumpelstiltskinned seven years of Sleepy B into Jakob Poetl which rumpelstiltskinned into Kawhi Leonard which transformed into an NBA Championship.

Grazie, amigo.

SH: This is a tough one. Adding any of Aldridge, Gay, or Roy would not have won the Raptors a championship during the Bosh era. LeBron was on the come up, the Big 3 in Boston won the ring two years after this pick. The Lakers still had two more in them, and after Bosh left for Miami, forget about it. So in the short term, the Raptors would have been much better, won more games, then flamed out in the playoffs. That would have been better, but the Raptors were pretty good during, if not also frustrating.

In the long term, would Aldridge or Gay have stuck around after Bosh left, and if they did, would it have mattered? We saw what both of them were as a number-one(ish) option in Portland and Memphis.

Overall, did Bargnani frustrate the fuck out of us? Yea. I hated him. Hated his face. Hated his approach to playing. It’s really fucking hard to get behind someone who doesn’t give a fuck. One of the happiest days of my Raptors life was when we were able to magically trade him for a first-round pick; thank Jah for those Knicks, man. Thank Jah. (Also, that fleecing meant the Knicks balked at trying to trade for Kyle Lowry, fearing another coup. Thank Jah again.)

If we never drafted him, we would have never got this gem:

or this one:

Unsurprisingly, he didn’t give a fuck in either of these commercials either….asshole…

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