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 last three years of Grunwald’s reign were an exercise in incompetence of head-scratching moves (and non-moves) that progressively got worse. By the time Babcock came around, we couldn’t remember what happiness was, and when we nose dived off the grand canyon, he dragged us with him. Like I said before, Babcock was a symptom of a poor ownership group.
The stark contrast between Colangelo and Babcock was jarring, through a series of smart free agent signings, a bit of tinkering (Colangelo’s tinkering would become a major problem in a few years), and a roster-construction philosophy that made sense, the Raptors saw a 20-game turnaround and a trip back to the playoffs. He wrapped up his first full season as GM as the Executive of the Year. An absolute masterclass in vision and philosophy.
The Raptors sleep-walked into the season, and by what can only be described by a world-class scheduling troll job, played the Nets to start the year. Vince hung 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists in a cakewalk (in a Game I drove to New Jersey to watch and boo from the behind the Nets bench) win. Fuck. They would go on to lose 9 of their next 11, and we all thought “here we go again!”
Bargnani came out of the gates like a heavy rock when dropped in water. It took him 10 games to find his rhythm, but you know what, he was not bad once he did. While he wasn’t setting the league on fire, there were signs of why he was worthy of a top pick; he just needed some time to put it together. (After some time, yea, this kid could score, but it was of the high-usage low-efficiency kind (other than his 3-point shooting, which was his one saving grace).
His contributions in all the other facets of the game were incidental. What do you mean by “incidental,” Sam? What I mean is that every rebound he got only happened because the ball bounced his way; he didn’t have to box out and fight for them. Every block he got was because he just happened to be there; he didn’t have to anticipate on the help side. He would look down and see the ball — the source of his steals. Passing the ball wasn’t even on his radar. The hope was that he would become a 20-point scorer and spread the floor for Bosh to operate while playing passable low-post defense; an expectation he would live up to for the most part. Worthy of the first overall pick when guys like Aldridge, Gay, and Roy? No, but worthy of going top five or six in that draft. Yeah. Bad draft.
What we had was a team that made sense. Colangelo flipped Charlie V into TJ Ford, then used his cap space to bring in two Euro ringers in Anthony Parker (one of my all-time favourite Raptors and a generally awesome dude) on the wing. Like those early 2000s teams that got to the playoffs for the first time, the Raptors trotted out a deep(ish) team made up of savvy veteran leadership, and some young talent.
After starting the year 2-12, the Raptors traded wins and losses until closing out the final two months of the season on a 28 -14 run, securing a playoff birth against…the goddamn Nets.
That series was a grind, and while the Raptors had home court, the Nets had Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Vince Carter all of who were absolute kryptonite for the Raptors. Throw in some fucking annoying Mikki Moore, and a failed Calderon lob pass, and the series was over in six. Sad.
A bit about Calderon, I really hated him. TJ Ford was this fast, dynamic point guard who moved the ball around, went kamikaze on the break, and had mad hops, and Calderon was not. While it was nice to have pretty good point guard play for most of a game (we weren’t accustomed to that at all at the time), Calderon left a lot to be desired. It all culminated in game 6 of the playoffs, where the Raptors were up by 1 with like 15 seconds to play. Jefferson finishes, rather easily at the rim, Nets up by 1 — Raptors time out. Out of the time out, the ball ends up with Calderon, and Bosh has Moore on his hip and no-one between him and the rim.
All Jose had to do was lob him the ball, and Bosh would do the rest. Again, we were in New Jersey for this game (it was cheaper to drive to Jersey, get front row seats, and stay the night in a hotel than it was to get tickets to a Raptors home back then too) and it all happened in slow motion. A comically low lob, a Richard Jefferson steal, game over. Bang bang bang. Vince gave us a “fuck you” smirk on his way to the tunnel, and we ran to the hotel after the game hoping not to get mugged.
When Masai Ujiri said “Fuck Brooklyn!” back in 2014 right before the Raptors were going to play the Nets in the playoffs, there was more to it than just wanting to rile up the troops heading into the series. Way back in 2006, when Wince Carter bitched his way out of the Raptors, he ended up on the Nets and immediately began playing like an All Star. He turned that knife slowly and deliberately, and you know what? It fucking hurt. A year later, Masai’s first as Assistant GM, it was the Nets and Vince who knocked us out of the playoffs. That was a Freudian slip that festered for seven years in Masai’s heart, and my friends: you can’t help but respect it.
I’d be remised not to mention the only remaining remnant of the Vince Carter trade on this team was Joey Graham, who for all his God-given talents, didn’t have the talent of giving AF, not even a little bit and far worse than Il Mago. While he scored in double digits 17 times (the Raptors were 5-12 in those games) they all came with major minutes that didn’t correlate to winning basketball.
From a roster perspective, notable moves included:
June 30, 2006
Traded Charlie Villanueva and cash to the Milwaukee Bucks for T.J. Ford.
- While Charlie had a great rookie campaign, finishing second to Chris Paul for ROY, and being selected to the All-Rookie First Team, he wasn’t a good fit beside Bosh. The Raptors got their starting PG in Ford (Ford was, and will always be, better than Calderon) so call this a huge win for the Raptors.
July 13, 2006
Signed Anthony Parker as a free agent.
- Anthony Parker was coming off an MVP season for Maccabi Tel Aviv. A year earlier, the Raptors played Maccabi Tel Aviv and were the first NBA team ever to lose to a non-NBA team in an exhibition. When I tell you how dark the Babcock days were, I’m not lying. In that game, Parker torched the Raptors for 24 points, hitting the game winning shot with 0.8 seconds left on the clock. Colangelo was in love and signed him to a deal as soon as his contract with MTA expired. You ever watch a guy play against the Raptors and think “I wish he played for us?” That was the Anthony Parker signing. And you know what? It turned out great!
July 24, 2006
Signed Jorge Garbajosa as a free agent.
- The second solid FA signing for BC. The Garbage Man, as he was known for doing all the dirty stuff winning teams need, but so few players won’t do, was an instant hit for the team with his hard work and high IQ. He took Rookie of the Month in December and was selected to the All-Rookie First Team along with Il Mago. His career was cut short when he suffered a horrible injury to his fibula, and that was a wrap on his NBA career. He was great before that terrible luck, though.
June 15, 2007
Traded a 2009 second-round draft pick (Jonas Jerebko was later selected) and a 2011 second-round draft pick (Kyle Singler was later selected) to the Detroit Pistons for Carlos Delfino.
- Delfino was a nice back-up shooting guard who smashed half the girls in the city in the year he played in Tdot.
June 28, 2007
Traded a 2008 second-round draft pick (Goran Dragić was later selected) to the San Antonio Spurs for Georgios Printezis.
- Colangelo had no use for second-round picks and routinely pissed them away. This time for a guy who never played a single NBA game but whose rights were traded seven times around the NBA.
This was the Oden/Durant draft. I really loved Oden and Joakim Noah (2x NCAA champion and from an elite linneage of professional athletes — I hold a lot of stock in those attributes), and while Durant’s offense was undeniable, his frame left a lot to be desired. I would have screwed this draft up big time given the chance.
The Raptors had previously traded this pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers back in the 2002 trade they made with the Cavs for Lammond Murray, and they traded their second-round pick back in 1997 to the Blazers for John Wallace, so we had no pick.
The Cavs traded the pick to the Bobcats and took Jared Dudley out of Boston College. Dudley has been nothing but a professional for his entire career. A solid role player, leader, and vet presence in his later years. Exactly the type of the guy you want on your team. Who’s to say if the Raptors would have taken him, but it would have been a good fit.
Fun fact, a chubby Marc Gasol was drafted 48th in the second round by the Grizzlies out of high school in this draft.
What It Meant For The Raptors
Jared Dudley and Wilson Chandler went 22 and 23 in that draft, and we sure as hell could have used another solid wing to match up with the likes of the Nets if/when we got them again in the playoffs. Would they have moved the needle? Probably not very much; both of those guys would have raised the floor but not the ceiling. Still, having some dependable depth is always a good thing, and solid wings have always been at a premium. This was also one less asset BC could have recklessly traded in the coming years.
In some ways, 2007 was the comeuppance for years of mismanagement and callous disregard for draft assets and players alike in Toronto. (Well, one comeuppance: losing, I guess, was a more visible one.) The Raptors tried to build a winner out of vets for years, and they failed. Losing all your draft picks was just the karmic punishment for that. More to come on that in future years.