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A Look Back at the Raptors' Draft History

The Toronto Raptors have, for the most part, done well in the draft. The 1990s, with Isiah Thomas in charge, produced some of the best players in franchise history.
Photo by Reuters

It's been 20 years since the Toronto Raptors used their first pick in franchise history to select undersized point guard Damon Stoudamire seventh overall out of Arizona.

Good picks followed Stoudamire, but the 1990s were, for the most part, a depressing time for Raptors fans. As an expansion team, tough times were to be expected, but thanks to Isiah Thomas (part owner and the first general manager in franchise history), those last-place teams were entertaining. The same can't be said for all his predecessors.


READ MORE: How to Make the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto Very Canadian

Here's a look back at some of the good, bad, and ugly from the last two decades:

Isiah's Raptors

Stoudamire, the original face of the franchise, won the 1995-96 NBA Rookie of the Year award and still features prominently on the team's all-time leaderboards. He made a 21-win Raptor team in its inaugural season worth watching, and averaged 19.6 points and 8.8 assists during his tenure up north. Stoudamire was shipped to Portland during his third season with the Raptors, but Mighty Mouse made his mark in Toronto and enjoyed his best seasons playing out of the SkyDome.

Toronto followed up the Stoudamire pick by selecting Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady and Antawn Jamison—who was traded for Vince Carter on draft day—as first rounders in each of the next three years. Among players Toronto has drafted, only Chris Bosh, whom the Raptors selected fourth overall in the loaded 2003 draft, has more career win shares than Stoudamire, Camby, McGrady and Jamison.

The Raptors had the makings of a strong core after selecting Camby with the No. 2 pick in the 1996 draft, one spot behind Allen Iverson. Toronto's future at point and center appeared set, but Camby's stint was also brief, lasting two seasons—the second of which he averaged an NBA-best 3.7 blocks per game—before he was traded to the New York Knicks. Incidentally, Camby was traded years later from the Knicks to the Raptors, whom he asked to be bought out by, when Toronto parted ways with Andrea Bargnani (more on him later) in 2013.


After Stoudamire and Camby, Thomas left his final mark on the franchise by nabbing McGrady out of high school with the ninth pick in a horrible 1997 draft. McGrady formed an ultra-athletic, high-flying tandem with his cousin Carter a year later. But in typical Toronto fashion, McGrady didn't stay, teasing the Raptors fan base as a teenager and bolting after his age-20 season to sign a lucrative deal with the Orlando Magic. He blossomed into a superstar after leaving Carter and the Raptors behind, averaging 26.8 points per game during his first season in Orlando before capturing a pair of scoring titles. It could have been something special.

The VC Years

The city and country became Carter's after he was acquired by Glen Grunwald in a 1998 draft-day deal with the Golden State Warriors. He went on to become the best and most important player in franchise history, helping cement basketball in the hockey-crazy Toronto market and morphing into the most popular athlete in Canada—no easy task when competing with the Maple Leafs, who were actually good back then, for attention.

Carter's tenure ended poorly after he forced his way out of town, but not before VC re-upped with the team in 2001, becoming the first legitimate star in the franchise's history to show a long-term commitment to the team. Carter's divorce from the Raptors still leaves a sour taste in the mouths of many—the relationship ended badly—but he put the organization on the map, and it appears fans are finally starting to forgive Air Canada.


Toronto had two picks in the first round of the 1999 draft and flipped the No. 5 overall selection, Jonathan Bender, to the Indiana Pacers, in a deal that landed the team Antonio Davis, who was a key member of the 2000–01 squad—the only Raptors team to make it out of the first round. The Raptors also nabbed colossal bust Aleksandar Radojevic seven picks later at No. 12. Radojevic played three games with the Raptors, 15 during his NBA career and is among the worst picks in franchise history.

The new millennium marked the beginning of the Morris Peterson era, AKA Mo Pete, who wore the Raptors uniform for seven seasons and remains the franchise's all-time leader in games played. The Raptors did well getting Peterson at No. 21 overall, and he gave them a lot more than what they got out of their next first rounder, Michael Bradley.

Toronto didn't get much out of the 2002 draft, either, turning Kareem Rush and Tracy Murray into Lindsey Hunter and Chris Jefferies, but did hit a home run with Bosh in 2003. Bosh was a beast with the Raptors and is ahead of or runner-up to Carter on the franchise's all-time leaderboard in nearly every meaningful offensive category. He was a star off the court, too.

The Babcock Picks

Toronto had a number of less successful drafts after the Bosh year, starting with what is widely considered to be the worst pick in the team's history by the organization's worst general manager. Rob Babcock, who got 15 cents on the dollar for Carter in the infamous deal with the New Jersey Nets, took Rafael Araujo No. 8 in the 2004 draft. This year's Finals MVP Andre Iguodala went ninth and was one of several better players that got snatched after Araujo was taken off the board. Araujo didn't play an NBA game past 2007.

Those were dark times and Babcock didn't do much better the following draft when Toronto, which had two of the first 16 picks, used them on Charlie Villanueva (No. 7) and Joey Graham (No. 16). It was a lousy draft, to be sure, but there were better players to be had. At least Villanueva, who was traded after one season, cemented himself in Raptors trivialand. He holds the franchise record for most points by a rookie in a single game with 48, which he dropped during the 2005-06 season for a 27-win Raptors team. Only Carter and Terrence Ross, both of whom notched 51, have scored more.


No. 1 Disappointment

That brings us to Bargnani, potentially the most polarizing player in team history. Bryan Colangelo, the new GM at the time, took the big Italian No. 1 overall in a horrific draft class that witnessed LaMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas and Shelden Williams round out the top five. Yes, it was ugly (no disrespect to Aldridge, whom Bosh reportedly wanted the team to take). There was good talent found later in the draft like Rajon Rondo, but the no-shot point guard wasn't on any team's radar as a top-five pick.

Bargnani had a promising rookie campaign, dropped a career-high 41 points against the Knicks in 2010, turned in a 13-game stretch during the 2011-12 season that had some pushing for his All-Star candidacy, and starred in some legendary Primo Pasta commercials.

The Raptors have had worse picks, but as a No. 1 overall selection, who came with so much hype, promise, and money (five-year, $50 million extension), Bargnani was a disappointment and is resented by a majority of the fan base.

The team had no pick in 2007 and turned its 2008 pick, Roy Hibbert, along with T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic into Jermaine O'Neal, who was later traded for Shawn Marion. O'Neal, Marion, Chauncey Billups, Rudy Gay and Hakeem Olajuwon—how's that for a starting five of players who played no more than one full season with the team?

Moving Forward

Things got better again when Toronto nabbed DeMar DeRozan with the ninth pick in the 2009 draft. He re-upped on what now appears to be a team-friendly deal and has made an All-Star team, while also winning gold with the United States at the Fiba World Basketball Championship. He has his warts and may be borderline All-Star material at best, but this was one of Colangelo's good decisions in a tenure that seemed to go back and forth between good moves and bad moves. He botched some, but has also left his imprint on this team.

The Raptors followed with Ed Davis in 2010 at No. 13 overall, a rebounding machine who has carved out a solid career as a backup, and later turned him into Gay in a deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. Gay, of course, was turned into a collection of Sacramento Kings players who provided Toronto with key depth and obliterated its tanking strategy.

Toronto got Jonas Valanciunas and Ross in the next two drafts—potentially two future parts or two trading chips—before landing Bruno Caboclo at No. 20 in 2014, the same spot it picks again this season. Whether Caboclo amounts to anything on the court is secondary, provided these moments with Drake continue to happen:

Bruno doesn't look comfortable. In fact, he looks scared. —Screengrab via @Ballislife

Toronto has had its busts, but so has every team in the NBA. Getting the franchise's first and only No. 1 overall pick in a weak 2006 draft didn't help the team, either, and, in hindsight, neither did its selection of Bargnani. What's plagued Toronto more than weak drafts is the ability to retain players and attract free agents. Picking at No. 20 overall again this season is unlikely to produce a star, but the Raptors are at a point where getting outside help through trades or on the open market is how this team is going to take the next step.

There's a good chance fans won't know much about the player the Raptors take 20th, just like last season when seemingly everyone was left stunned when the team grabbed Caboclo, leading an analyst to famously describe him as being two years away from being two years away. It's not easy finding a gem in the latter portions of the first round, but Peterson is proof that strong rotation players can still be acquired.