The Toronto Raptors have done a nice job in recent years building a team capable of reaching a top four seed in the Eastern Conference, but only some that’s been because of who they’ve drafted in recent years. Acquisitions like point guard Kyle Lowry, power forward Patrick Patterson and, most recently, swingman DeMarre Carroll all have helped get Toronto’s expectations as high as they are today. It should be another intriguing season for the Raptors as they look to further their success in the postseason after the Washington Wizards swept them out of the playoffs last year. How have the Raptors set themselves up for the future in the past five drafts?
The Chris Bosh trade in 2011 gave the Raptors the fifth overall pick — their highest within the last five years. Toronto selected 19-year old Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas, an unknown at the time, and a selection that was somewhat risky. But Valanciunas has turned into a pretty good player since then, and he signed a four-year, $64-million contract extension in August. Valanciunas has easily been their best pick of the past five drafts, and should continue growing into a key piece for the Raptors moving forward. The Raptors traded away their second-round pick in 2011 for Carlos Delfino in 2009.
The Raptors had two picks entering the 2012 draft, the first at eighth overall and second at pick 37. Toronto looked to add perimeter shooting and physicality, and they walked away from the draft with athletic swingman Terrence Ross and burly power forward Quincy Acy. Ross has shown some potential, but he really underwhelmed last season, and it’s forced Toronto into an interesting dilemma as the team looks to sign him to a potential extension down the line.
Acy averaged a career-high 4.0 points that 2012-13 season, but he was traded to Sacramento in December 2013 in the Rudy Gay-Greivis Vasquez/Patrick Patterson exchange. The Raptors also traded Leandro Barbosa to the Indiana Pacers for an additional second-round pick, which they used on Euro forward Tomislav Zubcic — whose rights now belong to Oklahoma City after trading for Luke Ridnour.
Toronto didn’t own a pick in the 2013 draft, but that’s because it went to Houston in the Lowry trade. Lowry has had his best years for the Raptors, and he looks better than ever after a successful offseason leading up to the 2015-16 season. Toronto also didn’t have a second-round pick due to trading it away in prior years for big man Solomon Alabi — who never made an impact at the NBA level. Lowry certainly makes this draft year worth it despite lacking a selection, and it’s going to be fun watching his game take another step after a successful offseason.
The Raptors ended up with two picks in the 2014 draft, and they made a surprise selection of forward Bruno Caboclo at pick 20 before nabbing forward DeAndre Daniels at 37. The Caboclo selection was an interesting one, with ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla infamously claiming the forward was “two years away from being two years away.” Caboclo has proved to be as raw as many said, and he spent much of last year in the D-League.
Daniels played last season in Australia and played on Toronto’s Summer League squad this summer before a Jones fracture in his right foot abruptly forced him to be sidelined. There’s still hope he can make an impact in the NBA for his career, but it looks like the lone potential impact from this draft will be what Caboclo can do with his high ceiling as he continues to grow into an NBA player.
This past draft, the Raptors hoped to improve on perimeter defense, and they did so by selecting lengthy, 6-4 point guard Delon Wright. Toronto also traded away Greivis Vasquez to take another first-round talent in second-round defensive ace Norman Powell. Powell is built similarly — in mindset and physicality — to Tony Allen, and he played very well in Summer League and preseason. Both selections should help this team immediately, as Wright and Powell are more NBA-ready after using up their eligibility in college. Watch out for these talented rookies off the bench for Toronto this season.
It should be another successful year for the Raptors as they move forward after an unfortunate ending to the end of last season. The talent is there, and with steps from Valanciunas, Ross and Lowry along with the key acquisitions this summer like Carroll and Cory Joseph, fans should expect improvement from this team. While the rest of the East improves, look for Toronto to finish as a playoff team again this year and perhaps even advance in the postseason.