Photo Credit: Andrew Wallace/Toronto Star
With the Milwaukee Bucks crowned as Champions, the NBA world will quickly turn their attention towards the NBA Draft, scheduled for Thursday of next week.
The Toronto Raptors have their highest selection in a draft since selecting Andrea Bargnani 15 years ago with their first pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. The Raptors will be looking to add another impact player to their team if they do keep the pick and choose a prospect with their fourth overall selection.
With over five general managers holding the position and well over 20 draft picks to dive into, there is a lot to examine from head-scratching picks like Rafael Araújo and Bruno Cabocolo to franchise hero’s like Chris Bosh and DeMar DeRozan.
Based on the success brought to the team and the impact the selections had, we ranked past Raptors executives on their draft success during their tenure with Toronto:
5. Rob Babcock (04-06)
Babcock lasted only 19 months as general manager of the Raptors and made some puzzling decisions in his time. With multiple blown top ten draft picks and the trading of Vince Carter, Babcock’s time was less then memorable in Toronto.
In the 2004 NBA Draft, Babcock selected Rafael Araujo out of BYU with the eighth overall selection. Selected far higher then what most draft analysts projected him at, Araujo turned out to be a huge bust. In his two years with the team, he averaged only 2.8 rebounds per game and nearly 3 points per game, while only surviving three years in the league.
The Sixers selected future NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodola with the ninth selection that draft, adding insult to injury.
The following year, Babcock raised eyebrows by selecting Charlie Villanueva. While Villanueva had a productive career, the pick was heavily criticized for two reasons. Villanueva was also slated to be selected much later in the draft and Babcock used a seventh pick on another power forward with a young Chris Bosh entering his prime. ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith was harsh on the decision, saying he had “no idea what Babcock was doing.”
If you include the Vince Carter trade, which many have called the worst trade in team history, Babcock’s time leading the front office was troublesome at best.
4. Isiah Thomas (95-97)
Hall of fame point guard and the Raptors inaugural general manager, Isiah Thomas made a few important picks in the early years of the franchise.
Thomas selected Damon Stoudamire with the seventh overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. Stoudamire was the team’s first draft selection and went on to win Rookie of the Year that season. Marcus Camby was selected with the second pick in 1996, while Tracy McGrady was picked out of high-school in 1997.
Nevertheless, the team struggled with it’s new beginnings, playing in the Sky Dome. In addition, Camby was selected over the likes of Ray Allen, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant.
Thomas did pick a defining piece of Raptors history with Stoudamire ,who averaged 19.6 points and 8.8 assists in his three seasons with the team. Both Camby and McGrady went on to have ultra successful careers but didn’t spend enough time with Toronto to help the team achieve their first playoff berth. For that reason, Isiah Thomas is placed at fourth on this list.
3. Glen Grunwald (98-04)
Grunwald will be heralded far more for his negotiation ability rather than his draft ability. Over six years with the franchise, Grunwald was a trailblazer, revitalizing the team and leading them to their first playoff appearances, making key trades throughout the process.
Grunwald made one of the biggest moves in franchise history, trading the fourth-overall pick (Antawn Jameison) in the 1998 draft to the Warriors in exchange for fifth-overall pick and eventual Raptor icon, Vince Carter. The following year, Grunwald made a deal to acquire Antonio Davis for his top-five selection in the 99′ draft.
Davis played six seasons, the next three for Toronto, making the playoffs each year and averaging nearly 13 points per game along with over 9 rebounds per contest.
In addition to those trades, Grunwald made another franchise-altering move by selecting future Hall of Famer Chris Bosh with the fourth-overall pick in 2003. Bosh blossomed into a dominant NBA player and with the help of Carter, brought the Raptors to success and relevance as they began to gain recognition around the league.
In 2000, Grunwald also found a solid player, selecting Morris Peterson out of Michigan State with what was his true first kept draft pick with Toronto.
2. Bryan Colangelo (06-13)
Colangelo’s time with the Raptors will always be viewed as so-so. While the moves he made through trades and his free-agency decisions may be questioning, it’s hard to knock Colangelo on his draft selections.
Colangelo selected Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross with his first-round selections in his seven years as GM. All four of the players made a lasting impact with the team, playing in five or more seasons with Toronto.
Each player averaged a double-digit point total during their time with Toronto, while having each played in multiple post-seasons with the Raptors. DeRozan, Valanciunas and Ross a part of several playoff runs, including the 2016 team that fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Conference Finals.
While Colangelo may have missed on Ed Davis with the 13th selection in 2010, his draft record displays a few core players to the Raptors seven-year playoff run that ended this past year.
1. Masai Ujiri (13-16)
Ujiri has been a standard of excellence since joining the Raptors in 2013 and his draft choices are a big reason why. While still holding the role of President of Basketball Operations, Ujiri struck gold on most of his prospects as general manager. Outside of his first year and the shocking selection of Bruno Caboclo.
While the bold selection of Caboclo didn’t work out for the Raptors, Ujiri made up for it in nearly all of the following drafts. He then went on to select Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby in the following years, while also trading for Norman Powell on draft night in 2015.
Wright and Poeltl are enjoying successful careers elsewhere, as is Powell, after several productive years with the Raptors. Whereas Siakam and Anunoby have been major hits for Ujiri in the later parts of the first round and seem like cornerstones of the franchise for the time being.
Ujiri has made some impressive moves from the start with trading Rudy Gay and then, of course, acquiring Kawhi Leonard in a trade that involved the last top ten selection in Poeltl. His time with the Raptors has been nothing short of remarkable, as fans continue to anxiously wait for Masai to re-sign.
What also must be of note however, is how spectacular the Raptors developmental program and entire staff has been. A staff led by current General Manager Bobby Webster, who selected Malachi Flynn last year and of course, Masai Ujiri who has overseen the entire program.