Historically the draft has been a roller coaster ride for the Toronto Raptors. They’ve done well at times with Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Marcus Camby, Damon Stoudamire…but for every good pick, there seems to be twice as many busts, misses and trades.
Toronto traded Marcus Camby before he was a defensive stalwart and lost Tracy McGrady in Free Agency as he was emerging. If McGrady stays with Vince Carter the Raptors franchise would be different to this day. But instead, McGrady left.
Then a litany of draft busts followed; Michael Bradley, Aleksandar Radojević, Chris Jeffries and Rafael Araújo. Ouch.
The best Raptors draft pick from the four drafts between the Vince Carter and Chris Bosh picks? Morris Peterson. Ouch.
The two years following the Chris Bosh pick Toronto drafted Rafael Araújo, Charlie Villanueva, and Joey Graham. Ouch.
They landed the first pick in the 2006 draft, and the NBA changed the draft rules. 2006 draft the Raptors then lost out on Greg Oden and Kevin Durant (while Al Hortford and Joakim Noah stayed in school). So they drafted Andrea Bargnani. Ouch.
In 2007 and 2008 didn’t draft for themselves, and traded away their picks. Ouch.
Despite all these draft failures, Demar Derozan, and Ed Davis look like very good picks.
But could this year’s pick, Jonas Valanciunas be the good draft fortune that propels the Raptors to eventual contender status? I think so.
Good teams not only have to be managed well and draft well, they need good fortune, and breaks. Especially in the draft.
Look at the Chicago Bulls. They got Noah 9th in 2007, landed Taj Gibson 26th in 2009, Omar Asik 36th in 2008 (through a trade), and Derek Rose 1st in 2008 after jumping 8 teams in the lottery. Almost overnight, they went from terrible to elite.
Look at Toronto and Oklahoma City (then the Seattle Sonics). During the middle 00’s they were bad. Toronto bottomed out in 2006, and Seattle in 2007.
With the top pick in the 2006 Toronto drafted Andrea Bargnani a good, but flawed and non-franchise changing player. The following year, with the 2nd pick Seattle landed Kevin Durant, a top 5 player in the league, and a franchise changing player who’s not 23 until September.
After these two drafts Toronto slowly fell apart with mediocre season after season which finally lead to a 22 win season. Meanwhile Oklahoma City struggled, but accumulated assets and slowly built through the draft. last year they made the playoffs, and this year the conference finals. Oklahoma City Thunder turned their 2008-2009 drafts into Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and James Harden. Great management, but also good fortune.
San Antonio went from playoff team to lottery team in a year because of a season long injury to David Robinson. The Spurs reward, a top pick, Tim Duncan and 4 championships. A year later the top pick was Michael Olowokandi. Great management, but also good fortune.
The Lakers drafted Kobe Bryant 13th in 1996, signed Shaq and won 3 championships (2 more without Shaq). The four players taken before Kobe; Samaki Walker, Erick Dampier, Todd Fuller, and Vitaly Potapenko. Great management, but also good fortune.
Paul Pierce was the 10th pick for Boston. The four players taken before Paul Pierce; Robert Traylor, Jason Williams, Larry Hughes, and Dirk Nowitzki (okay that one was pretty good).
Rajon Rondo was drafted 21st, Ray Allen was acquired and Kevin Garnett as well leading to a championship and two finals appearances. The four players taken before Rajon Rondo; Shawne Williams, Olesksiy Pecherov, Quincy Douby, and Renaldo Balkman. Great management, but also good fortune.
Tony Parker was drafted 28th overall, and Manu Ginobli was drafted 57th overall. Thanks to this restocking San Antonio won 3 more championships with Duncan after David Robinson retired. Great management, but also good fortune.
I believe Jonas Valanciunas could be that type of franchise changer for the Raptors.
I know by my own definition it seems the 5th pick in the draft hardly seems like good fortune. But consider that he’s perhaps the best center prospect since Andrew Bogut, and better than any center prospect of the next few years. Yet Toronto drafted him 5th in a weak draft. A draft supposedly filled with role players.
That’s even after the Raptors dropped two spots in the lottery, after Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, and Harrison Barnes returned to college. Despite all this, the Raptors landed a potential franchise center. That is great fortune. Much needed in Raptor land.
Do I think he is going to be Tim Duncan, or Kobe Bryant? I don;t think so, but why can;t he have a similar impact.
18 and 19 year-old centers don’t have the hands and the defensive instincts Jonas does. They don’t rebound like him (near the top per36 in rebounds at 18 in Euroleague) , shoot well from the free throw line (78% in Lithuanian league, and 88% in Euroleague) and have great touch around the basket.
Could this really be the type of fortune that changes the Toronto Raptors Fortune? Let’s hope so.
***all draft information is courtesy of Basket Ball Reference, unless indicated otherwise.