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A Look Back at the 2011 NBA Draft – Raptors Draft Jonas Valančiūnas with the 5th Pick

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Cover Photo by Ray Amati/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

How important and valuable was Chris Bosh to the Raptors? In a year where Bargnani had a career season and DeRozan took a quantum leap as a sophomore, the Raptors went 20-62 with an arguably deeper team than the one they had the previous season.

Il Mago was just magnificent, and he was a borderline All-Star; you could even make a case he deserved to be there over Kevin Garnett. The case would fall over rather quickly, but you could make it. He led the team in scoring and usage, so you could imagine where his efficiency was (not bad, but not great). The rebounding was still an issue, but with Brandon Roy breaking down, he could claim that he was as good as  Aldridge, giving us some hope that maybe he was the right pick. I didn’t have any hope, let me be clear; while Bargnani and Aldridge were scoring at about the same clip, Aldridge’s overall game was far superior (sorry, it just doesn’t feel right to only say nice things about Bargnani. Gotta be fair).

DeMar also rose to the occasion, and while Bargnani had primary scoring duties, it felt like DeRozan was more important to the offense. Yea, he got buckets, but he was starting to show some really nice playmaking out of the mid-range; seeds of things to come were planted. I’m a mid-range guy, and I love that sort of basketball since it’s hard to be really good from there, but once you are, the court opens up like an oyster. That’s because it requires a level of shooting, foot work, ball handling, and grit to be able to go into the heart of the defense and make something happen; a game that so few guys can patch together.

A bevy of trades undid some of the shit show of the previous seasons transactions, but it also provided an unnecessary degree of turbulence since every player brought in was of the offensive type who didn’t mesh well with Triano’s system, wasn’t very efficient offensively, and couldn’t defend a bag of chips from being eaten by a toddler.

Triano was in over his head, but he was also handed a bunch of injuries that kept the team from having any sort of cohesion:

  • Bargnani missed a month.
  • Reggie Evans, the league’s third leading rebounder missed two and a half months, but was beastly every minute he was the court.
  • José Calderón missed a month, broken up throughout the season, which normally wouldn’t be an issue, but his backups were Jerryd Bayless, Jarret Jack, and Leandro Barbosa who were not floor generals and the offense would just devolve into varying degrees of manic depending on who was running the show.

On top of the injuries, Triano had no control over Colangelo’s tampering which completely overhauled the roster, and the team lost a bunch of stability with a lineup of hired guns running the show.

If the next 11 years of the Raptors story taught us anything, it’s that continuity should be an organizational imperative from the top on down. We’re, what, 17 years into the Raptors history here, and all we’ve seen is a revolving door of owners, GM’s, coaches, and players that only had some success when the team had some sort of a core that stuck together for a few seasons, got comfortable, and made a run. If Raptors history has one lesson, it’s this: Stability good, instability bad.

**sigh** from a roster perspective, notable moves included:

July 10, 2010

Traded Chris Bosh to the Miami Heat for a 2011 first-round draft pick (Norris Cole was later selected) and a 2011 first-round draft pick (Jonas Valančiūnas was later selected). Toronto also received a trade exception from Miami. This was the same first-round draft pick that Toronto had previously traded to Miami on February 13, 2009.

  • Before you give Colangelo credit for snagging two firsts for a player who was gone anyways, you need to realize that the Heat needed these (and LeBron’s) signings to be sign and trades so they could give Bosh and LeBron bigger year-to-year pay bumps since they needed cap room in the first year of the Big-3 for building out the rest of the roster. But, Sam, Cleveland only got second-round picks for LeBron, Colangelo must have had a hand in that, no? Nope. No, Bosh was the first chip to fall, and they needed to secure him before moving onto LeBron. You could maybe give Colangelo credit for getting the second first-round pick this season, but the Heat really had no choice.

July 14, 2010

Traded Hedo Türkoğlu to the Phoenix Suns for Leandro Barbosa and Dwayne Jones.

  • No idea who Dwayne Jones was, but this was a blessing. Good riddance.

July 26, 2010

Signed Linas Kleiza as a free agent.

  • After a career season in Greece, Colangelo gave him a 4yr/$20m deal hoping he’d be the next Anthony Parker; he wasn’t.

July 28, 2010

Traded cash and a 2015 second-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets for David Andersen. (It was protected and did not convey.)

  • Another second-round pick for a guy who was out of the league at the end of the season; thank Jah it didn’t convey.

August 11, 2010

Traded Marco Belinelli to the New Orleans Hornets for Julian Wright.

  • Why? Who? Wright was out of the league at the end of the season, and Belinelli played another 10 at a high level for a role player. You nauseous yet?

November 20, 2010

Traded David Andersen, Marcus Banks and Jarrett Jack to the New Orleans Hornets for Jerryd Bayless and Peja Stojaković.

  • Peja played two games and…at least we didn’t throw in a pick….

February 22, 2011

Traded a 2011 first-round draft pick (Norris Cole was later selected) to the Chicago Bulls for James Johnson.

  • Johnson was coming off a career year in Chicago, by his standards, and I have nothing witty to say here. He was fine, a nice player off the bench who brings a bit of everything, but WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU TRADE A FIRST ROUND PICK IN THIS YEAR’S DRAFT? WHY, COLANGELO? WHY DID YOU HATE US SO MUCH???????? We will get into why this trade was absolutely devastating for the team long term.

June 21, 2011

Hired Dwane Casey as Head Coach.

  • Bye, Triano. Didn’t know too much about Casey when he was hired, but he came in saying all the right things about the direction the team was headed, and gave us confidence that he knew what needed to be done. While he wasn’t the best X’s and O’s guy, he instilled discipline and a winning attitude onto the team. Similar to DeRozan, Toronto’s first sustained period of winning lay in large part on the shoulders of Casey. He was monstrous for the franchise, and deserves nothing but respect. I was sad to see him go right before the team won the chip, but it was a necessary course of action.

The Draft

2011 NBA Draft via Basketball Reference

In retrospect, Jonas was a top-5/6 pick in this draft, but at the time we had a bit of center-by-committee action going, especially since Amir Johnson got such a large contract, and we just took Ed Davis (who albeit wasn’t that great) in last years draft. This wasn’t our priority. It’s easy to say I wanted Kawhi with this pick, but it’s who I wanted. He played amazing defense on the wing, was athletic and dynamic af, and grabbed every rebound he possibly could; board man gets paid! There were some injury concerns with him, but a Second Team All-American and that frame were all I needed to know. (I have previously, in this series, said how much I love athletic wings, no?)

Adon Moss (AM): Once again, Bryan isn’t the only dumbass participating in the draft. Look at the picks before and after JV:

Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter, Tristan Thompson…JV…JV#2: Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo. And so on and so forth. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

Here’s the thing Toronto’s starting lineup ended up being: José Caddie-eron, DDR, James Johnson, Amir, and Sleepy Bargnani is there somewhere.

So, (A) If you want to draft a centre, go right ahead. Get someone to play right away. Aaron Gray shouldn’t be eating up 17 minutes a game. If we’re gonna go 30 games below .500 anyway, let a rookie get those minutes.

(B) We don’t need a centre. You drafted Ed Davis already. Amir Johnson’s playing. Bargnani is, I dunno, whatever he is. Plugging in a 7’0″ brontosaurus beside any of those three guys is sooooo 2002.

Also, again, DeMar has no help on the perimeter. Find him a partner in crime! They try the following year with Terrence Ross. They shouldn’t have waited.

After all, look at all the guys available when Valanciunas was selected:

  • Brandon Knight – combo up-and-down guard. He plays right away with DeMar.
  • Kemba Walker – horrid backcourt defensively. An absolute terror together offensively.
  • Klay Thompson – redundancy positionally, but jeeeeeesus, Klay’s 3-point shooting beside DeMar’s paint-incising? Yeesh.
  • Kawhi Leonard – I know, no one expected him to be who he became, but still. At least we got him later anyway.
  •  Tobias Harris.
  • Jimmy Butler.

I’m not saying I’m drafting those guys, cause no one had them in mind. I’m just saying, once again, it seemed, to me, that management’s focus was all fucky. Or, their draft intel stunk. Either is unforgivable. Together? Double yeesh.

This draft was chalk full of underrated guys. Again Bryan the Moron had peers. It’s just unforgivable to me to draft a “project” that high in the draft and then store him.

In The Moment

AM: JV is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful man. He embraced Toronto wholeheartedly and has evolved in a way that, honestly, if he hadn’t, mighta sent him down the Roy Hibbert/Greg Monroe extinction route. I loved watching his development (while at the same time gawking at how bad his hands were for so long) and am truly in awe of what he’s accomplished in his career.

He’s also the greatest Bond villain to ever play in the NBA. He deserved a championship ring IMO.

THAT BEING SAID…

JV was ANOTHER horrid draft pick by the Toronto Raptors.

Fuck we doing here, BRYANNNN!???

Sleepy Bargnani’s entering his “apex” (LOL I puked in my mouth typing that); DeMar is proving to be for real. And the team’s third leading scorer is……Leandro Barbosa.

Drafting ANOTHER centre (refer to my Ed Davis draft pick rant please) that we’re storing in Europe for a year is dumb when the team is littered with useless veterans. Drafting ANOTHER centre that we’re storing in Europe for a year is ABSOLUTELY INANE when it’s the fifth GODDAMN pick in the draft.

It really felt like Bryan was trying to prove to Raptors fans that he was smart. Like, I don’t know who the fuck to draft so I’ll take this mysterious European dude and hide him from everyone and tell everyone…Ohhhh you just wait and seeeee…

Ya know what woulda been smart, BRYANNN, drafting anyone, ANYONE, who could walk on the court and play immediately. Oh, and that anyone NOT being a centre.

That`s what I thought of the pick in the fucking moment.

SH: FUUUUUUUUUUUUUU ….. RAAAAAAAAAAAGE…this is really starting to be a problem. The team desperately needed scoring and defense on the wing, especially with what we were seeing from Miami. Yea, big men still had a place in the league, but the Raptors versatility on the wing fell off a cliff after DeRozan, and no one could manufacture a bucket or defend worth a lick.

To make matters worse, Jonas wouldn’t be joining the team for another fucking year since he was still under contract wherever the fuck he was playing. You have a hardon for a center? Why not Nikola Vučević, why not Markieff Morris? Fuck….

What It Meant For The Raptors

AM: One of the most beloved Toronto Raptors all-time. I loved observing his energy, hard work, positivity, and development.

I never thought he could be a part of a championship team. But he was damn near close to good enough. He made himself an excellent NBA player that, in turn, enabled Toronto to snag an aging Marc Gasol…and win it all.

Louis Zatzman: One of my first memories with one of my best friends, Jordan, was watching Valanciunas’ first game in Toronto. We were wowed by his sense of positioning, timing, hands, finishing, rebounding. Everything. Really smart big from day one, and he improved dramatically over time as the league changed. And yes, I’m biased because it’s a nice memory. But gotta respect Valanciunas for his time in Toronto.

SH: In the short term, it literally did nothing to help the team. While a center wasn’t the priority, having an active body on the roster would have helped.

Look, I’m not bashing on Jonas here, while his pump-fake drives at the three point line were irritating af to watch, he built himself up into one of the best centers in the league.

He gave us a seven solid seasons, and he was part of the crew that ushered in the Raptors golden era, and wasmultimately traded for Marc Gasol — who put us over the top for the championship. That’s a great tenure with one franchise.

The real pain and tragedy was the James Johnson trade that cost us Jimmy Butler (who went two picks right after Norris Cole). If Colangelo didn’t make that trade and grabbed Jimmy (again, to remind you, we needed wings and defense and scoring; Jimmy had all of that at Marquette), passing on Kawhi would be forgiven, and this draft would have been a home run. Instead, we got a double that Masai was able to turn into an inside-the-park home run with some ballsy base running.

JV is off the hook

 

 

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