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
Ahhh, this is the darkness and depression I’ve become accustomed to as a Raptors fan. While my insides are tied up in knots, the comfort it brings (in a sick and twisted way) feels like home.
After an absolute failure in the playoffs, the Raptors limp into the season ready for action. Bargnani spent the summer bulking up and working on his post game. Jermaine O’Neal was ready to prove to his detractors that he wasn’t past his prime, and his injury woes were behind him. Calderón was handed a 5yr/$45m contract and the reigns as the floor general…
Did you know Calderón made $85m in career earnings? Is it just me or does that sound like a lot? Wherever you land on that question, he owes Colangelo a debt of gratitude and maybe a job on his pig farm since BC is no longer employable in the NBA.
O’Neal wasn’t bad, and had a bit of chemistry with Bosh in the front court, his problem was that he was well past his prime, and the injuries he sustained over the entirety of his career really affected his consistency from game to game. He would drop a 20 point 10 rebound game one night, then a 13point 1 rebound or 6 point 8 rebound game two days later.
Bargnani rebounded from a disappointing sophomore campaign and improved across the board. Same with Calderón. Bosh was consistently awesome, but all this turmoil couldn’t be good for him, right? Who would want to play here? The seeds for his departure, in hindsight, were pretty well sowed at this point.
Needless to say, the team opened the season 8-7… but is Bargnani playing small forward again? WTF is going on, Smitch? We got our answer; they drop a 13-point loss to the Lakers in LA, and then a 40-point loss to the Nuggets in Denver — Sam Mitchell was out, and Jay Triano was in.
Triano was a disaster. Not only was he not a good coach, but he was also an enabler for Colangelo’s reckless team management. His first priority was to get the team running on the break, and how do you do that when you have a Jermaine O’Neal on the floor? That was rhetorical, you don’t…BOOOM another trade.
A salary dump for Shawn Marion that would cost us another first-round pick. Soooo when it was all said and done, we traded TJ Ford and a first for seven months of O’Neal and four months of Shawn Marion. Neither of whom were close to their peaks. Great. Thanks.
So yea, the Raptors got better on the break, and the offense improved, but it came at great cost to the defense. They were eliminated from the playoffs in March. Triano took over an 8-9 team and finished the year 25-40 🤮. Bosh had to watch the Raptors enter the same cycle they had for every other previous star in Toronto, and wait for his opportunity to bounce.
From a roster perspective, notable moves included:
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.
- Not inspiring in the moment, horrendous in retrospect. Covered this, so won’t add anymore other than fuck this trade.
January 1, 2009
Traded Hassan Adams to the Los Angeles Clippers for cash and a 2015 second-round draft pick. (pick was protected and did not convey)
- Not notable, but when Colangelo did acquire a draft pick, it didn’t convey lol FML.
February 13, 2009
Traded Jamario Moon, Jermaine O’Neal, a 2010 second-round draft pick (Da’Sean Butler was later selected) and a 2011 first-round draft pick (Jonas Valančiūnas was later selected) to the Miami Heat for Marcus Banks, Shawn Marion, and cash. Miami also received a trade exception from Toronto.
- AND A SECOND-ROUND PICK!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’M LOSING IT!!!! We’ll get to the Valančiūnas pick another day.
February 19, 2009
Traded a 2014 second-round draft pick to the Boston Celtics for Patrick O’Bryant. (top-55 protected, did not convey)
- ANOTHER PICK! Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu RAGE! By the grace of Jah it didn’t convey, but Jesus Christ, dude.
June 9, 2009
Traded Jason Kapono to the Philadelphia 76ers for Reggie Evans.
- Evans added some toughness in the front court, and threw some elbows in the paint, both of which were sorely lacking. Again, by the grace of Jah we got out from under that Kapono deal.
We owe David Khan and the Knicks a debt of gratitude for this draft. In an alternate world, Khan grabs Steph, the Knicks grab Flynn or Hill, and we end up the either Flynn or Hill. I’m fully convinced.
DeMar was nice at USC, but the NCAA tournament is where he really put himself on the map and made a impact averaging almost 20 points a game in the post season.
What stood out the most at the time was his insane athleticism. I spoke to Chris Denker, a scout at the time, and this is what he told me about DeMar:
A lot has been made of DeRozan’s superior athleticism but if you look at those infamous ‘combine stats’ you’ll see that he has one great mark when compared to the small forwards: his max vertical leap (with steps = 38.5″ the same as Chase Budinger). However, because he has short arms he falls to 9th of 11 small forwards in jump reach — nearly 5 inches below James Johnson or Damion James. Worse yet, the only player he beat in the footwork and speed tests was 6′11 Austin Daye. And if he had been compared to the shooting guards, DeRozan would have been dead last in both categories out of 16 guys. His 11.88 agility score would have been .3 of a second slower than 15 other shooting guards and 1.4 seconds slower than the fastest SG. Short arms and slow feet; who will he be guarding? Just some food for thought.
The same guy liked Sam Young a lot, who fell to the early second round. In fairness, I spoke to Denker a lot in the late 00s and early 10s, and he got much more right than wrong. I was rooting for DeMar or Brandon Jennings (who had a ton of hype and played with DeMar at some point previously).
This was one of the first drafts that we nailed at Raptors Republic. PHD Steve called DeMar at 9, and flashed a smug smirk the rest of the summer. He also nailed the Jermaine O’Neal trade that didn’t quite work out for us.
In The Moment
Again, thank God for the Wolves and Knicks, cause we took the best or second best remaining player in this draft depending on how you rate Jrue Holiday (who was not on anyone’s radar at the time).
Being a battered Raptors fan over the years, the last few especially, we were quietly optimistic, but no one was calling it a win other than us since we nailed the pick days before draft; thanks, Steve!
What It Meant For The Raptors
DeMar meant everything to the Raptors. Everything. For the record, DeMar is not only my all-time favourite Raptor, he’s also one of my top-three all-time favourite NBA players. For all his flaws, he takes basketball seriously, constantly using the offseason as an opportunity to work on his game, doesn’t complain, comes to work and puts in maximum effort. You literally can’t ask for anything more. His improvement over his career has been dramatic.
While he wasn’t setting the league on fire as a rookie, his athleticism translated to the NBA, and his potential was clear as day. What he did do was plug the gap on the wing, and he provided a nice outlet for Calderón to hit on the break where he gave us nice highlight reel finishes at the rim.
More importantly, though, I talked about the need having a mix of young players and vets during organizational turbulence when succession becomes an issue. The moment that the Bosh “trade” happened was the moment the weight of the world was thrown onto DeMar’s shoulders. Unlike so many of the previous Raptors teams when they lost their stars, DeRozan was ready:
Don't worry, I got us…
— DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) June 29, 2010
To his credit, he kept his word. Four All-Star appearances as a Raptor (and another last year in Chicago). His game consistently improved year after year. When his contract came up for negotiation, he didn’t look anywhere else and re-signed with us. How many stars wanted to be in Toronto? Was he the first?
Was he a bad defender? Yea, but he carried so much of the offensive and leadership burden that he got unfairly maligned. Many stars in this league, who have been in similar situations, were given passes, but not DeMar. Not in Toronto.
His playoff record against LeBron? Not great, but who the fuck was he playing with? Defenses would rightfully zero in on him, and what would he do? Shoot and miss contested shots? Yea, sure, but he would also swing the ball to the likes of fucking Patrick fucking Patterson, who was fucking wide the fuck open in the fucking corner, and he would fucking clank a brick off the fucking front of the rim; routinely and without shame. How the fuck is that DeMar’s fault?
How is JV missing a bunny put back in the first game against the Cavs at the buzzer for the win DeMar’s fault after he posts 22 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 block with good efficiency? If he hits that shot, the entire complexion of that series changes. That Cavs team was vulnerable, and the Raptors were on the come-up. TELL ME! HOW? I WILL FIGHT YOU TO THE DEATH.
Ok, I’m good…my bad…but we got five straight years of amazing basketball in the latter half of the 2010s, with some exciting playoff appearances with DeMar as the focal point of the team. Not bad for a ninth pick who has shorter than average arms. He wasn’t perfect. But he was ours.
The morning of the Kawhi trade, I woke up to my phone exploding with notifications, and I thought someone important to me had passed; no, DeMar was traded for Kawhi. Wow. WOW!
I’ve never been so conflicted in my entire life. My all-time favourite Raptor got traded for a top, what, 5-7 player in the league? Kawhi did everything DeMar could, but he was a superior shooter, and more importantly, the best defender in the league.
First thought was “fuck, for a guy who probably doesn’t want to be here and will leave at the end of the year when his contract expires?” Second thought was “fuck, this is a lost season, how are we going to get through the distraction of Kawhi?” Third thought “fuck, if we can get through the distraction of Kawhi’s pussy footing, and a rookie head coach, we have a pretty damn good team,” Roller coaster, and none of that without DeMar.
What more can you say about someone who was part of a franchise-altering turn around? Who put in 100 percent effort when other stars around the league didn’t? That got you to the playoffs five straight years in a row? And when the time came, was traded for the guy who delivered a championship?
When it’s all said and done, his jersey deserves to be retired and hoisted into the rafters at Scotia Arena.