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 dangers of being a treadmill team was clear and present for these Raptors. After reversing most of the damage Babcock inflicted on the team in less than a season on the job, Colangelo’s tinkering and absolute disregard for asset management broke out in full force. He destroyed what once he fixed.
Part of this was because Colangelo was hampered by the cap, which he had a hand in, but Alonzo Mourning was still getting paid by the Raptors up until the 2007-08 season began; thanks, Rob. And while he can’t be faulted for not having any picks in the 2007 draft, he did trade this year’s second-round pick to San Antonio, the 45th pick that became Goran Dragić (which is exactly the type of player BC would have drafted) for a player who would never play in the NBA. The tinkering had costs immediately — not just down the line.
You could even forgive the tinkering if it not for his total lack of appreciation for the cap. BC routinely overpaid almost everyone he signed as a free agent, handing guys to Smitch that he couldn’t use with any degree of confidence, mostly:
- The Raptors need size in the front court? Let’s get the most expensive big man (Rasho) we can find, on a salary that would make him the highest paid Raptors until Bosh’s extension kicks in, and who is neither a good frontcourt mate for Bosh and also is not very good in general.
- Need some offense? Let’s go get a shooter (Kapono) — a really good shooter who doesn’t shoot enough to justify his lack of every other aspect of the game.
I honestly can’t explain the signings of Parker and Garbajosa other than to surmise that he tunnel visioned in onto specific aspects of their game, miraculously and luckily missing the full package that they brought to the table — great for us, but bad as a long term strategy.
There were fairly high expectations for the team coming into the season as the Raptors were expected to be in the top half of the East (this was year one of the Celtics Big 3), but the season started terribly. Injuries were part of the picture, too, as if self-inflicted wounds weren’t enough.
While the Raptors came out .500 over the first month, Garbajosa came down badly on a play, in Boston — Fuck Boston — and snapped his fibula; he was out for the season (he would try to come back in March but wasn’t the same — Colangelo waived him). After a promising rookie season, Bargnani started strong but fell off the map (he would only have one double-digit rebounding game in 78 games played). No chemistry with Bosh, or the rest of the team frankly, and he was sent to the bench in favour of Rasho, and yea, that somewhat worked like a door closing on its own: really….slowly…
TJ Ford got absolutely mugged by Al Horford and missed most of December, parts of January, and just wasn’t the same anymore.
Ford was having a game (26 points 9 assists) which may have led to the reckless block attempt; what a dirty-half-assed attempt at the ball, snapping his head back. TJ Ford already had plenty of back issues in college, but this was bad. To Horford’s credit, he spent time with TJ in the hospital and legitimately looked remorseful. I still can’t forgive him till this day.
Jamario Moon, a FA signing in the summer, was playing well and giving really good energy on the wing, especially defensively. The frustrating thing with Moon was less about him and more about the Raptors system. He would routinely get great looks from the elbow, but he missed more than he hit. Yes, he should be taking those shots in the flow of the offense, but it sucked that it had to be him taking it.
Hovering around .500, Ford returns, and is relegated to a backup in favour of Calderon, who to his credit, incrementally improved his game the last couple years. This situation was a sore one for Ford, who was the incumbent starter and spark plug for the team. Generally when a starter gets injured, misses time, and comes back, they are eased back into the starting role, but Smitch decided otherwise. Yes, Calderon was playing well, but the combination of old man basketball (not pushing the pace) and slap-clap-defense weren’t making the Raptors better.
This situation devolved with two camps in the Forderon battle forming with one side arguing Calderon’s assist-to-turnover ratio (a league leading 5.8:1) against Ford’s tempo and pace. My opinion? Ford, man. Calderon took no risks so he didn’t turn the ball over, but who want’s to play/watch basketball like that?
Bosh was deservedly an All Star, again, but he missed 15 games (with the Raptors going 4-11 in those contests). A quick note on Bosh: dude was a warrior. He would constantly be trotted out with different front-line partners, none of whom made any sense at all beside him, and would just do work. This would have been a 20-win team without him, and when we talk about the greatest Raptors of all time, he doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
The Raptors finished the regular season 6th in the East and drew the Magic in the first round. Had they won more games during Bosh’s absence, they would have probably drawn the Cavs or Wizards in the first round… and had a first round exit anyways since they played both those teams poorly in the regular season.
The first round matchup against the Magic was frustrating, man…so frustrating. Smitch started Bargnani at small forward over Jamario Moon, a position he never played. I can’t explain how horrible it was to watch Bargs dazed and confused out there trying to chase down Rashard Lewis. Horrible.
Jameer Nelson had his way with us; he literally got whatever he wanted when he wanted. The two-man game between Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu was murderous for two reasons:
- They were absolutely unstoppable
- This is where Colangelo fell in love with Turkoglo, and signed him a year later. Kind of like Anthony Parker, but this one didn’t go so well…
The Raptors winning Game 3 was great, but they came out flat in Game 4, and rolled over in Game 5. The treadmill was firing on all cylinders.
From a roster perspective, notable moves included:
July 10, 2007
Signed Jamario Moon as a free agent.
- Great signing. Moon was a bargain at the $430k he was paid this season; might have been the best value in the league. He was frustrating at times, but was happy to be here and played with a lot of effort.
July 11, 2007
Signed Jason Kapono as a free agent.
- Coming off a ho-hum career year in Miami, he got a 5yr/$25m deal. One dimensional and barely provided value with his shooting. Terrible signing.
February 21, 2008
Traded Juan Dixon and cash to the Detroit Pistons for Primož Brezec.
- Great. Thanks.
July 9, 2008
Traded Maceo Baston, T.J. Ford, Roy Hibbert and Rasho Nesterović to the Indiana Pacers for Nathan Jawai and Jermaine O’Neal.
- The trade was made before the draft, but it didn’t consummate until a couple weeks later. Trading for a player who was a shell of himself before his injury was wild in the moment, and horrendous in hindsight. Also cost us TJ Ford and a quality back-up big. Man. Terrible, terrible stuff.
A really solid, top heavy draft that produced seven All Stars and at least eight quality rotation players. There was a lot of variance in who would be available when the Raptors were picking, but there were plenty of available bigs who would become useful players in that range. The Raptors really needed a starting center or high-level shot making on the wing, and while there was some solid wing availability, there were more centers to choose from.
Didn’t matter thought. Days before the draft, the Raptors traded this pick, TJ Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, and parts for Jermaine O’Neal. The deal would close weeks later since TJ Ford was a base-year compensation player and timing was an issue to make the salaries work.
In The Moment
We could only sit and watch in horror as Roy Hibbert was selected knowing that the pick was already traded. Hibbert was a monster at Georgetown, completely owning the paint and was a menace defensively not only on his own man, but on the weak side as well. While he was a bit slow and lumbering, he would have been a good front court fit alongside Bosh and provided elite rim protection for the Raptors; something they never had until Ibaka got here.
It was strange, but Hibbert helped define the league for a tiny stretch before it passed him by. His verticality at the rim was enormous, and he was crucial in the Pacers becoming one of LeBron James’s best foes in the playoffs for a short stretch. Hibbert meant a lot. The Raptors wouldn’t have verticality like that until Kyle Lowry became one of the league’s tiniest rim protectors. Sure would have been nice to have had it in a center!
What It Meant For The Raptors
This was the beginning of the end for Bosh’s time as a Raptor. BC’s wild swings at the plate capped out the payroll and exacerbated an already precarious draft situation that he inherited and made worse by poor drafting and the outright trading of picks for barely floor-raising talent.
Hibbert was a symptom, not a cause (I’ve been saying that a lot!), but the trade meant more bad than good for a lot of reasons. Toronto was trying to dig out of its own grave, but it kept on trading its shovels for more magic beans. Hibbert could have been one such life line. Instead he was traded for another washed former vet, and the Raptors kept on spinning their wheels.