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A Look Back at the 2013 Draft – Raptors Trade Their Pick for Kyle Lowry

16 mins read
Cover Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

With the 2022 NBA draft 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

Any NBA fan worth their salt has generated at least one mock trade on Trade Machine then posted it to Twitter with some variation of the caption “Who says no?” It’s cutting your teeth as a fan. Leading up to the summer of 2012, Lowry was one of those guys we were all salivating over, and constructing scenarios hoping Colangelo would see and take action on.

The sixth-year guard was finally being utilized effectively and having a career year in Houston, and he fit the profile of the type of hard-nosed, no-nonsense point guard we wanted in Toronto. Calderón’s time here was expiring, and we had a young batch of players who not only needed someone closer to their timeline, but also a PG who attacked and defended more aggressively. It was a key missing piece for the team to make sense.

Blew us away that the Trade Machine fantasy came true.

There were playoff expectations coming into the season with the Lowry trade, JV and his U19 World Championship performance, Terrence Ross being sold as a dynamic, sharp-shooting wing (say what you will about Raptor fans, but we manically go all-in for any player we acquire even after initially hating the move at the time). (Cough, Scottie Barnes, Cough.)

With a full training camp, Casey was able to get everyone onto the same page, but injuries again took their toll. Lowry and JV both missed a bunch of time, while Bargnani missed about two-thirds of the season. While Lowry and JV were still able to play at a high level when they were on the court, Bargnani had more serious issues that would limit him for the rest of his career, cutting it short three seasons later.

The season started really slow, with the Raptors going 4-19 over the first quarter of the season. While Lowry went down three games in, he was on fire for most of that first month until going down again which left him with a nagging injury for the rest of the season. To his credit, he really pulled through and played hard. Calderón on the other hand was looking lost running the show with the second unit, and was even worse filling in for Lowry. While he did improve as the season progressed, it was time to move on from him.

Offensively, the Raptors were much improved, but injuries made finding a defensive identity quite difficult. They caught a break with the schedule easing up, going on a 7-1 winning streak heading into New Years, but more importantly, you could see the team starting to come together. There was a real camaraderie developing on court, and we were hopeful.

Mad respect to Casey for agreeing to do this!

Heading into the trade deadline, the team was on a bit of a losing streak, then BOOM, Calderón and Ed Davis were traded in a three-team deal with Detroit and  Memphis for Rudy Gay.

Gay’s arrival breathed new life into the team for about 10 games with the Raptors going 7-3, but ingesting Gay mid-season coupled with the loss of Calderón as the backup pg (while Calderón was on the decline, he was infinitely better than both Telfair and Lucas III combined), proved to be too big a hurdle for the Raptors to climb and make the playoffs despite a five-game winning streak to close out the season.

Ross came mostly as advertised. Mostly. He provided some spark off the bench, but something was missing — maybe interest, I dunno, he just wasn’t always locked in. The kid could move, and he was athletic AF but unable to properly package the mental side of the game with his immense physical talents. He did win the dunk contest, but I felt no nostalgia when he took off his shirt to display Vince’s jersey. Solid showing though.

My favourite moment of the season was DeMar’s game winner against the Magic for two reasons:

  1. I’m the biggest DeMar stan in the world.
  2. He hit the shot over Glen Fucking Baby Davis; my least favourite player in the history of the league.

Despite the 4-19 start, the Raptors played .500 ball for the rest of the season. While Colangelo’s tenure had run its course, MLSE was growing organizationally, and it recognized the need for an A-lister to manage the Raptors, Leafs, Toronto FC, plus the myriad of other real estate and business concerns.

We (maybe it was just me) didn’t know who Tim Leiweke was, but when he was introduced, you got the sense that MLSE ownership finally got things right at the top. Wow, talk about commanding respect. His first order of business was to hire Masai Ujiri as the executive vice president and general manager of the Raptors on a 5yr/$15m contract away from the Denver Nuggets, and bumping Colangelo up to Present on May 31, 2013. Colangelo would later resign, but he was given the grace of an elegant exit. This is big boy shit, guys.

Masai made a name for himself absolutely dragging the Knicks over the coals with the Carmelo Anthony trade, and with Leiweke, he gave one of the greatest introductory press conferences we ever got in Toronto. (Apologies for the playlist, I couldn’t find a single video for the whole presser, there are 12 parts).

Queue Lucky Man by The Verve

From a roster perspective, notable moves included:

July 11, 2012

Traded Gary Forbes and a 2013 first-round draft pick (Steven Adams was later selected) to the Houston Rockets for Kyle Lowry.

  • Best trade in team history, bar none. Seriously. We’ll cover the significance of the pick later, but this trade was the first domino to fall for the 2019 Championship team. We were all elated at the time, and now, we would have still made it knowing that it cost us Giannis. Lowry was the franchise, the star we were missing forever, and the most important single component that makes Raptors basketball what it is today.

July 14, 2012

Signed Landry Fields as a free agent.

  • The best-laid plans of mice and men. Colangelo handed Landry, one of the best rebounding guards in the league at the time, a 3yr/$21m deal in an effort to sign Steve Nash. The Suns were working a sign-and-trade with the Knicks, and the thinking was that they wanted Fields as part that transaction. Nope. NO. FUCKING NO!!!!! Nash signed with the Lakers, and we were left with a hobbled player who provided minimal value. Also, even if it had worked, Nash and Lowry?

July 16, 2012

Traded James Johnson to the Sacramento Kings for a 2014 second-round draft pick (DeAndre Daniels was later selected).

  • Wow, we got a second rounder. Trade didn’t really make sense at the time tbh since we needed his defense and toughness, but at least we didn’t trade a second rounder to get rid of him.

November 30, 2012

Signed Mickaël Piétrus as a free agent.

  • Piétrus was always a wing I was hoping to target, and we got him a few years too late. He was a shell of himself, and was out of the league by the end of the year.

January 30, 2013

As part of a three-team trade, the Toronto Raptors traded José Calderón, Ed Davis and a 2013 second-round draft pick (Jamaal Franklin was later selected) to the Memphis Grizzlies; the Detroit Pistons traded Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince to the Memphis Grizzlies; the Memphis Grizzlies traded José Calderón to the Detroit Pistons; and the Memphis Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi to the Toronto Raptors.

  • Raptors finally landed an elite wing who could manufacture his own offense, albeit inefficiently. I remember going on Memphis radio to talk to their local guys about this trade, and we went back and forth a bit. After dropping off the segment, I continued to listen and they kind of laughed at us talking about the black hole that was Gay, and my heart sank a bit. I was still happy, but you don’t fully understand another player’s team that you don’t watch religiously. We were on the other side of this when OKC signed Patrick Patterson away from us and everyone was calling it a steal LOL fuck out of here. I did feel bad for José as the trade completely caught him off guard. Forever respect, dude.

February 21, 2013

Traded Hamed Haddadi and a 2014 second-round draft pick (Lamar Patterson was later selected) to the Phoenix Suns for Sebastian Telfair.

  • This was probably only notable to me as Haddadi was the first Iranian player in the NBA, and we got a bit of a Persian Pride thing going. He was a beast for the Iranian national team in the post and crashing boards, but he couldn’t put it together at the NBA level. My whole plan was to talk Farsi him in the locker room when all the other media were ignoring him, take him out for kabob, and become besties, but I never got the chance. I’m not ashamed. Telfair was garbage and was out of the league the following season BUT ANOTHER SECOND ROUND PICK? ARE YOU KIDDING?

The Draft

1st Round of the 2013 NBA Draft via Basketball Reference

Maybe the worst draft of all time? Definitely top three. Anthony Bennet, the first Canadian taken with the first overall pick was a bust (but it netted the Cavs Kevin Love in a trade a year later which led to a ring). This draft produced three All Stars and so few quality role players that it wasn’t worth my time to take the 20 seconds to count how many there actually were.

In The Moment

We had already got our prize in Lowry, neither knew or cared who Steven Adams was, or that Giannis would become the best player in the league…

…but you know who did, though? Masai. He was desperately trying to trade into the draft to snag Giannis, and Jesus fucking Christ if he was able to pull this off, we’d have a dynasty for years. As it stands, you can’t blame the Raptors for the trade. But Masai knew.

So while we always assumed Masai would have drafted Giannis if the pick wasn’t traded, we didn’t know how desperately he was trying to acquire Giannis at the time until two years ago.

What It Meant For The Raptors

The rabbit hole on “would you have traded for Lowry knowing we would have had Giannis for like 15 years?” goes deep. Knowing what we know, do you still make that trade? How very Raptors that the greatest acquisition in franchise history also is tied to the greatest potential loss in franchise history.

On the one hand, that trade propelled us into six straight years of playoffs culminating with a championship and completely flipped the franchises fortunes putting the Raptors on the map.

On the other hand, Giannis also won a ring, and if we don’t make that trade, maybe we don’t trade DeMar, Maybe Masai continues to add players like Siakam, Ibaka, VanVleet, and Gasol to potentially win a ring while having a longer run post championship?

Do you roll the dice like that? I would, with hindsight of course….maybe…

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