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
Scroll up and look at the picture of Ross again; that’s not the face of a happy person.
We normally aren’t thankful for a lockout-shortened season, but here we are. The 2011-12 season was a condensed one, from training camp to the regular season, and thank Jah for that. On the one hand, the team didn’t have much of a pre-season to get acclimated to a new coach and system, but how much would that have really helped? On the other hand, the team sucked and we were spared 16 games of a piss-poor on-court product.
While this was a depressing season from all respects, there was a foundation being built by Casey that proved to be the building blocks of a championship team seven years later. Casey refocused a few years of offense only around defense and hard work. “Pound the rock” became a mantra, and an actual physical manifestation of the team’s new ethos….he literally dropped a 1,300lb rock inside the front door of the Raptors dressing room:
Casey knew this team was a shit show, but just like a good father, the message of hard work and discipline was delivered with love and repetition:
Every time we walked on the floor we were going to have to have something to get us to think about — how we have to get better, we’ve got to work to get better. It’s from a story about a stonecutter. Every time a stonecutter hits a rock, it may not break. You may have to hit it 100 times, but on that 101st time you hit it, now you crack the rock.
This might have been the worst team we ever had from a roster perspective. Sure, Bargnani, DeRozan, and Calderón played very well, but then, what, James Johnson was our fourth best player? Bayless? Barbosa? Does it matter after things fall off the cliff so quickly after your top three? The best players weren’t that great compared to the top end elsewhere, and the depth was far, far worse.
Bargnani missed more than half the season with injury, which didn’t help his offensive rhythm. While he was still putting up about 20 points a night, that came on high usage with even less efficiency that previous seasons. Par for the course at this point. However, Casey was able to get through to him a bit, and we saw some improved defensive effort from Il Mago. Yea, seriously.
DeMar took a bit of step back from his sophomore year offensively, but with fewer able scorers surrounding him, teams were able to zero in on him defensively. What was awesome though was how he utilized the offseason. What the hell is the Drew League?
We weren’t used to hearing about our players working on their game in the summer. Did DeMar shoot up my favourite Raptors list to near the top when hearing this? Hell yea! How can you not root for someone who takes his craft seriously and is putting in intense effort; even meeting up with Kobe to get pointers and improve his game? That was NOT normal for Raptors back then.
While he started the season slow, he picked things up after the All-Star break on both ends of the floor. We literally didn’t have a professional on the team until DeMar showed up. Forever respect.
This wouldn’t be a quick turnaround. It would require juggling multiple balls, egos, and expectations all the while instilling foundational values that needed to be there for any hope of a bright future. The team needed to take one step back to take steps forward. The Casey hiring was maybe the best move Colangelo made as GM; at the least, it was the most important. Loved Casey.
From a roster perspective, notable moves included:
December 9, 2011
Signed Jamaal Magloire as a free agent.
- Magloire was past his prime; whatever, we needed a body to throw out there a few minutes a game and being a hometown boy, this came with some fanfare.
December 14, 2011
Signed Gary Forbes as a free agent.
- Another ho-hum signing, but Forbes would be part of the Lowry trade the next season.
March 15, 2012
Traded Leandro Barbosa to the Indiana Pacers for cash and a 2012 second-round draft pick (Tomislav Zubčić was later selected).
- Another Euro who wouldn’t play in the NBA.
After multiple seasons of frantic trades, it seemed like Colangelo had his leash tightened; not sure if it was for the best, but we were definitely fiending from the lack of action.
Six All Stars, a handful of NBA champions; but not a lot of useful role players. The Raptors didn’t have the luxury of picking for position, since we needed every position filled with NBA level talent.
Bradley Beal and Harrison Barnes were early favourites, but Beal’s stock was shooting up leading up to the draft, so we were hoping for Barnes. Barnes was falling a bit further than we expected, and the hope that he would drop another spot to us at eight. This was the first year we did a draft party, and…:
NOPE! Ok, Andre Drummond or Austin Rivers it is, right? We like them, right? This was the first draft party we threw, and we caught some footage:
WHO THE FUCK IS TERRENCE ROSS?
Adon Moss (AM): It’s really too bad Twitter hadn’t taken off by 2012. The Raptors realllllly coulda used an exposé revealing Bryan Colangelo for the petty, insecure, arrogant dumbass he was and fast forwarded his pathetic scuttle down the fire escape and outta Toronto. Sadly, 2012 was still a time when the powers-that-be could hide behind their shiny veneer of smiles and THICC, starch, collars obfuscating their vapid, silver-spooned education ignorance. The Raps didn’t even get Daddy’s help. WTF.
And no wonder we love Masai like he’s the Patriarch of our Fandom orphanage. We spent 15 sickening years alone, neglected, and abused by a group of witless nincompoops. Masai’s yet to come. One more year of dumbassery to go. Colla-Poppa really had a thing for sleepy boys. Drafts Dopey Bargnani, sign and trades for Hedonistic Hedo, signs gentle Landry Fields, and, finally, drafts narcoleptic Terrence Ross. (I’m sure there’s a couple of sleepy boys out there I’m missing).
In The Moment
I mean, Drummond and Rivers were just sitting there looking us in the face. The center spot was probably our most suspect, especially since JV hadn’t shown up yet and who knows what kind of player he will be (although at this point we were very optimistic for JV since he was killing in Europe and international play), but a kid with pedigree and who could do a bit of everything on the wing would also be nice…fuck no, guys, fuck no.
Ross was sold as an athletic, sharpshooter who was defensive minded (lol).
AM: In theory — which is a major accomplishment for a franchise who really lacked the intellect to think in the realm where critical, analytical thinking is the norm — Terrence Ross made sense. Super duper athlete, deep shooter, self-creator, slasher. It’s everything DDR needed from a wing partner. Someone to alleviate paint pressure during double teams and someone to shoulder the load when needed (he averaged 25 points per game in the NIT tourney).
But if you take a look at his draft profile, one sneaky little line stands out: “despite his confidence, can seemingly get lost in the flow of the game at times.” WOW. That single sentence melts the marrow of my bones with its accuracy. Nothing could more perfectly define who TRoss was [is] as a player. My goodness could he get buckets (we all remember his 51-point outburst with 10 bombs). Yes, it was quite the anomaly — his next highest was 27 — but reaching the 50+ point club is rare, elite company, generally speaking. All the same, it was empty buckets. Because as swiftly as TRoss would appear he would fade away into the ether of irrelevance — like one of those vague fan faces you see in the stadiums of early 2000s video games. A fly on the wall the same colour as the wall. Complete disappearance.
His attention span was zero. His court awareness and understanding of timing, spacing, and movement zero. His hustle, grit, and intensity negative zero. His dependability zero. TRoss, as lovely a character as he was, was a zero. He is a lovable character. He just really didn’t, seemingly, care. Maybe he was never capable or it just wasn’t in his DNA. Which is then shame on Toronto for not sussing that out. Clearly, the evidence was there. Though, college dudes quite often don’t give a shit until the NBA. So, maybe Duane and Bryan thought they could take all that talent and athleticism and coax the intensity part out of him. NOPEEEEE.
The order of operations here is crucial. Toronto doesn’t have Kyle Lowry yet. That happens weeks later. We have to assume talks were already happening. Kyle’s po-ed in Houston. Toronto’s hunting for a point guard (I think Damon hexed the city prior to his departure because we never realllllly had a great once since (sorry Alvin and TJ and Chris Childs and Skip-to-my-Lou lol). Jose Caddie-ron is on his way out. So, if Kyle’s on the radar and/or a quazi-deal is in place, then point guards in the draft aren’t the ideal. And, looking at the draft, no wonder. This draft was stinky generally, but especially when it came to point guards. The Raps soooo badly needed perimeter help. Baddd bad bad. James Johnson and Alan Anderson and Leandro Barbosa and Jerryd fucking Bayless weren’t cutting it. This will be a running theme for the next several years.
Toronto — though at this point every team — baddddly needed a wing guy. Even more than a guard, especially with Lowry on the way. Someone to dig deep and battle with the Carmelos and LeBrons and Durants and so on. That was easier said then done. The best and most touted wing was Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, who wasn’t available anyway. (Poor guy had a very unlucky career; I think in another era with another team he has a chance.) He and Harrison Barnes were the grabs. Toronto just missed on Barnes. After that there was nobody. Jae Crowder and Draymond Green turned out, but no one anticipated them. All that was left was Terrence.
I recall lovvvving Perry Jones. He was long and athletic and fit that positionless style that was imminently becoming popular. After that. I had no feel for this draft. Neither did Bryan. If we had switched positions, he could be ranting about my incompetence, too.
What It Meant For The Raptors
Ross had a 51 point game, a Raptors loss to the Clippers, but otherwise he was uninspiring. He was a sweet shooter who could jump out of the gym, and he just never added more than that. His biggest contribution to the league was in Orlando where he Tweeted this jewel after the Magic cleared the house in the offseason last season:
— Terrence Ross (@TerrenceRoss) March 25, 2021
You know that the real tragedy of this draft was? We lit two second rounds picks on fire, one on someone who would never play in the NBA, but most egregiously, the other one was Quincy Fucking Acy, selected two spots before Khris Middleton.
Khris Middleton would have been Viagra for Casey. If you could create a prototype of the type of player Dwayne Casey would want to coach, Khris Middleton would be the mold.
Over the last two drafts, the Raptors could have selected Kawhi, Jimmy Butler, Andre Drummond, and Khris Middleton, but instead we got JV, James Johnson, Terrence Ross, and Quincy Fucking Acy (no disrespect to Quincy, I literally don’t remember a thing about him, but fuck). And look — that’s normal. Teams usually don’t take the absolute best player available when selecting in the draft, but doing it even once over this time period would have changed the franchise. This is depressing…bring on next season already…
Completely spaced on Masai Ujiri trading Ross for Serge Ibaka who was integral to the 2019 Championship team. Thanks, John for the reminder in the comments.