Photo Credit: CBS Sports
With the 2021 NBA Draft Lottery less than two weeks away, excitement and intrigue are growing around the league as fanbases impatiently wait to find out their team’s upcoming draft position. Few cities are engulfed in anticipation like Toronto is at the moment, as the Raptors have the seventh-best odds at the top pick after missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
While picking this high in the draft has been a rare occurrence in the past decade – the team’s last lottery pick was Jakob Pöltl with the ninth-overall selection in 2016 – the Raptors will see this draft as an opportunity to add some top-tier talent to an established core group.
Despite recent success, including a championship in 2019, Toronto is no stranger to picking high in the draft, with several memorable – and less memorable – lottery selections in their 26-year history. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and dive into how the Raptors have fared in the lottery over the years.
1995-2000: Serious Star Power
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While the Raptors flat-out sucked for their first few years in the league, they did well in the draft, picking in the lottery six times in six years.
With the first draft pick in franchise history, the Raptors selected Damon Stoudamire with the seventh-overall pick in the 1995 draft. The undersized guard out of Arizona went on to have a memorable rookie season, leading the team in scoring with 19 points-per-game in 40.9 minutes a night. “Mighty Mouse” continued his fine form in his sophomore season, posting a career-high 20.2 points-per-game. But after only two and a half seasons in Toronto, Stoudamire was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in a package deal that included Gary Trent Sr.
In the 1996 Draft, Toronto selected big-man Marcus Camby with the second-overall pick. Camby took the league by storm, averaging a career-high 14.8 points, while regularly dominating the paint with 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest, earning him a spot on the All-Rookie First Team. After a solid second season, in which he led the league in blocks with 3.7 per game, Camby was traded to the New York Knicks for Charles Oakley.
Nothing defines this early era in Raptors history better than the selections of two future Hall of Famers – and, oddly, a pair of cousins – that would go on to NBA superstardom. Tracy McGrady, taken ninth-overall in 1997, and Vince Carter, acquired from Golden State as the fifth-overall pick in 1998, brought Toronto to the forefront of the league with their exhilarating athleticism and swagger.
In two seasons playing alongside one another, Carter and McGrady scored a combined total of 4,691 points. The star duo also led the Raptors to the franchise’s first winning season and playoff berth with a 45-37 record in the 1999-2000 season.
Unfortunately, the fun only lasted two seasons, as McGrady joined the Orlando Magic in free-agency, reportedly due to the fact the he disliked playing in a secondary role behind Carter. While T-Mac’s time in the North was short, the memories and highlights of the high-flying, thrilling basketball that the two produced together will live on forever.
2000-2006: You Win Some, You Lose Some
As Vince continued his ascension and dragged the Raptors to relevancy in the Eastern Conference, the franchise settled for a few years of picking outside of the lottery amidst its first successful run in history. But as VC’s time in Toronto dwindled, so did the team’s run of good play, finding themselves in the game of chance that is the NBA Draft Lottery once again after a bad 2002-2003 season.
With the fourth pick in the 2003 Draft, the Raptors selected highly-touted big-man Chris Bosh out of Georgia Tech. After a solid rookie season as a 19 year-old, the 6-foot-11 Texas native put together a series of impressive years, averaging over 20 points-per-game for five consecutive seasons. Not only did Bosh grow into the franchise player that Toronto needed after an ugly breakup with Carter, but he represented the future of the NBA big-man with his offensive versatility and ability to stretch the floor. Sadly, an exit in free-agency was looming and eventually materialized when Bosh joined Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in Miami, breaking many hearts in Toronto in the process.
But for every Chris Bosh-type success story, there are usually a couple duds mixed in. In 2004, Toronto selected Brazilian center Rafael Araújo with the eighth pick in the draft. In only two seasons with the Raptors, Araújo averaged 2.9 points and three rebounds in 12 minutes-per-game. He was out of the league by the end of his third year, after an unsuccessful stint in Utah.
In the following draft, the Raptors selected power forward Charlie Villanueva with the seventh overall pick. The UConn product burst onto the NBA scene with an impressive rookie season, averaging 13 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 81 games. Villanueva seemed destined to becoming a star in Toronto, but Raptors’ management had other ideas; he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in the summer of 2006 for T.J. Ford.
In 2006, the Raptors finally got their shot at the first overall pick, which they used to draft Italian seven-footer Andrea Bargnani. The native of Rome proved to be a gifted scorer in his tenure with Toronto, emerging as one of the league’s most efficient outside shooters for a big-man. In seven seasons with the Raptors, Bargnani averaged 15.2 points-per-game, shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from three-point range. Bargnani’s weaknesses came on the defensive end and in the paint, where he failed to assert himself despite his imposing size, averaging 4.8 rebounds-per-game in his time in Toronto.
2006-2016: Franchise-Altering Fortune
Photo Credit: Rene Johnston/Toronto Star
Toronto picked in the lottery every year between 2009 and 2012, selecting some of the franchise’s most important players in that span.
In 2009, DeMar DeRozan of USC was picked ninth overall by Toronto. DeRozan went on to become the second-coming of Vince Carter, leaping and dunking his way into the hearts of fans across Canada. In nine seasons in Toronto, DeRozan averaged 19.7 points-per-game in 675 appearances, shooting 44.8 percent from the field and dunking 357 times.
The Raptors’ next lottery pick was center Ed Davis at 13th overall in 2010. Davis was a solid contributor for Toronto in the two and a half seasons he was here, averaging 7.7 points and 6.8 rebounds, as well as a total of 168 blocks coming off the bench. He was involved in the three-team trade that landed Rudy Gay in Toronto in 2013.
Picking fifth in 2011, the Raptors selected Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas. JV quickly cemented his role as Toronto’s starting center, finishing around the rim with his soft touch and using his 6-foot-11 frame to crash the glass. In 470 games with the Raptors, Valanciunas averaged 11.8 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting an efficient 55.9 percent from the field.
Washington guard Terrence Ross was Toronto’s lottery pick in 2012, taken eighth overall. The 6-foot-6 wing carved out a role off the bench, coming in as a three-and-D player who could get hot at a moment’s notice. In five seasons with Toronto, Ross averaged 9.5 points-per-game and shot 37.6 percent from beyond the arc. And who can forget when he went off for 51 points against the Clippers in 2014?
Toronto was awarded the ninth overall pick in 2016 after acquiring it via trade, which they used to draft Austrian center Jakob Pöltl. The 7-foot-1 Utah alum provided size off the bench, grabbing 558 boards and swatting 120 shots in two seasons with the Raptors.
Each of these players have one thing in common: despite being picked in the last decade or so, none of them are on the current roster. Nor were they on the squad that won the NBA Championship in 2019, although they did each play an integral role in achieving that title.
In February of 2017, Ross was traded to the Orlando Magic for Serge Ibaka. In July 2019, the Raptors shocked the NBA when they traded DeRozan and Pöltl to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. And in February of 2019, Valanciunas was dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies for veteran center Marc Gasol, putting the finishing touches on what would become the franchise’s first championship squad.
Toronto has historically done quite well with their high picks, developing superstars and flipping prospects for more established players. While their record hasn’t been perfect, the Raptors have flourished as one of the top destinations for young talent, as they hope to add a future star to the team with a top pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.