TORONTO,ON–If you are wondering how this current Raptors team came to be, what players could be in Raptors’ jerseys, and which talent the Raps brass have traded away, you have come to the right place. NPH will break down the first round selections the Raptors made throughout the passed decade; consequently, explaining why this team is in the shape it’s in.
2000– Raptors draft Morris Peterson with the 21st overall selection. “Mo-Pete” quickly became a fan favourite for the passion he showed on the court combined with his innate ability to hit circus shots so unbelievably consistently. Peterson was a very serviceable member of the team until his departure after the 2006-2007 season. One fault that plagued Peterson throughout his tenure in Toronto was his inability to drive to the basket. Often times, he was a one-dimensional offensive player, settling for the jump shot instead of cutting to the basket and looking for the foul. Peterson’s best year included: 16.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in the 2005-2006 season. Looking back, this was a strong selection, especially considering how late in the draft Peterson was taken.
2001– Raptors select power forward Michael Bradley 17th overall from Villanova. Looking for a big body at the 4-spot, Raptors took the 6-foot-10 Bradley, and unfortunately, he never made any impact with the Raptors or with any other team in the NBA. In Bradley’s first season with the Raps, he averaged 1.2 points and 0.9 rebounds a game. In his second season, he improved with 5 points and 6 boards a game, but Bradley was let go in 2004 after constant injuries. Bradley became a journeyman in the NBA, before applying his trade in Europe. Considering the Raptors were looking for a power forward, they missed out on Zack Randolph, (currently averaging 20 points and 13 rebounds in Memphis,) who was selected 19th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. Other notable players that were taken after Bradley included: Brandon Haywood, Gerald Wallace, Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas and Mehmut Okur.
2002– In a draft day trade, the raptors selected Kareem Rush 20th overall. Packaged with Tracy Murray, they were traded to the Lakers for the 27th overall selection, Chris Jeffries, and Lindsey Hunters. Hunter only played 29 games in Toronto before being traded to Detroit for Michael Curry. Chris Jeffries career only lasted 72 games. Needless to say he did not make any impact in Toronto, and neither did Lindsey Hunter or Michael Curry. Notable players selected after the Raptors 20th pick included: Tayshaun Prince, John Salmons and Carlos Boozer.
2003– Do we really need to talk about 2003? We all know what happened. In a legendary draft class, Raptors took Chris Bosh 4th overall and the rest is history.
2004– In perhaps the biggest draft bust, the raptors selected Rafael “Hoffa” Araujo with the 8th overall pick. Hoffa was a disaster in Toronto and an absolutely horrible selection by then GM, Rob Babcock. The young Brazilian from BYU never averaged more than 4 points and 4 rebounds in his 3-year NBA career. The mess caused by drafting Araujo was only made worse by Philadelphia selecting Andre Igoudala with the very next selection in the draft. Other notable players selected after Hoffa included: Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, Jameer Nelson, Kevin Martin, Anderson Varajao and Trevor Ariza.
2005-The Raptors had two selections in the first round with the 7th and 16th picks. In a very surprising move, Charlie Villanueva was picked at 7, while Joey Graham, who figured to go earlier, was selected at 16. Villanueva responded to critics with solid play in his rookie season that included 13 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He also tallied 12 double-doubles and set a rookie record for points with 48, and rebounds with 18. Charlie was traded to Milwaukee the next season for T.J. Ford in order to shore up the point guard position. Joey Graham never amounted to much as a Raptor, despite his freakish size and undeniable athleticism. He always seemed fearful of driving to the basket and too often settled for jump shots. Despite showing some signs of potential, Graham was not able to harness it and now plays a reserve role with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Raptors sure missed out, one pick after Joey Graham; the Indiana Pacers selected Danny Granger (currently averaging 21 points and 5 boards) who plays the same position as Joey Graham. Another notable player selected after the Raptors picks was David Lee.
2006– The ping-pong balls finally bounced the right way and the Raptors were awarded the number one overall draft pick. Unfortunately, there was no consensus number one pick that year. There was a glut of talent that probably could have gone first overall in 2006, but the Raptors went with the potential of Andrea Bargnani. Still with the team, Andrea is not the bust some might say he is. Averaging around 21 points and 5 boards so far this year is not shabby, although people had much higher expectations. Other players who were considered possible first overall picks in 2006 were: Lamarcus Aldridge, Tyrus Thomas and Sheldon Williams. Considering those four, only Lamarcus Aldridge has produced in the NBA, (19 points, 8.6 boards this year.) I would say Bargnani was not a bad pick in what was a very weak pool of players.
2007– The Raptors had no first round selection this year.
2008– The Raptors and GM Bryan Colangelo hoped to kill two birds with one stone in a trade that included their 17th overall selection. Amongst point guard controversies, and the constant search for a big man to play with Bosh, the raptors selected Roy Hibbert and packaged with TJ Ford, acquired Jermaine O’Neal from the Indiana Pacers. The oft-injured O’Neal only mustered 41 games with the Raptors before being traded to Miami for Shaun Marion and Marcus Banks. Hibbert, a centre like O’Neal, is playing well for Indiana and still developing, currently averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds this season.
2009– The Raptors select Demar Derozan with the 9th overall pick. Demar has shown unbelievable athleticism and has proved that he can be a starter in this league. He is still nowhere near his peak, but is still looking like the most complete shooting guard the Raptors have had since Vince Carter. Good selection by the Raptors, but it still remains to be seen if this high-flyer can concentrate his athleticism and experience and become a viable scoring threat.
Now I know that hindsight is 20-20 and no one knows how players will develop and adjust to the NBA, but there seems to be a series of scouting problems made by the Raptors throughout the past decade. It is debatable, but after all is said and done, only 4 of the 10 selections between 2000-2009 have given the Raptors any productive contribution. Someone needs to be held accountable for the poor decisions that seem to occur consistently on draft day. GM Bryan Colangelo, responsible for the picks from 2006 moving forward, might have his head on the chopping block if his decisions continue to fail.
Photo Courtesy: NBA.com