The Toronto Raptors were stuck in the middle of the pack throughout most of the 2000s and 2010s before finally breaking through to the Eastern Conference Finals last season for the first time in their 21-year history. It took a combination of good drafting and smart signings for Toronto to finally break through and win 56 games en route to the second seed in the East.
The Raptors have struggled with their draft picks over the last decade-plus, but they should have a strong core moving forward as long as swingman Terrence Ross continues to develop. With the future looking bright, let’s look back at Toronto’s top draft picks since 2000.
Honorable mention: Terrence Ross (Rd 1, pick 8 in 2012), Charlie Villanueva (Rd 1, pick 7 in 2005), Ed Davis (Rd 1, pick 13 in 2010), Joey Graham (Rd 1, pick 16 in 2006), Quincy Acy (Rd 2, pick 37 in 2012), P.J. Tucker (Rd 2, pick 35 in 2006)
5. Andrea Bargnani (Rd 1, pick 1 in 2006)
Career stats: 14.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.9 bpg (35.4 3p%)
Bargnani might be looked at as a bust by most, but he had a pretty productive career during his seven years in Toronto, averaging 15.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks on 36.1 percent from three. While LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and even J.J. Redick seem worthy of being drafted in front of Bargnani in hindsight, it’s not like he was terrible throughout his career — just that he consistently struggled to live up to No. 1 pick expectations.
Bargnani’s combination of size, fluidity and shooting ability gave plenty of intrigue as a possible Dirk Nowitzki clone. But Bargnani lacked the some ball skills and the knockdown shooting ability of the future Hall of Famer, so it’s hard to blame the Raptors for that. In the end, Bargnani did earn All-Rookie First Team honors during his inaugural season and carved out a 10-year NBA career.
4. Morris Peterson (Rd 1, pick 21 in 2000)
Career stats: 10.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, (37.3 3p%)
Peterson made a name for himself with his shooting ability, defensive prowess and clutch play during his time in Toronto. The southpaw spent seven seasons with the Raptors, averaging 12.0 points and 3.8 rebounds on 37.1 percent from deep. Peterson’s ability to stay on the court was well-known; the Michigan State product leads the NBA in longest streak of consecutive games played, appearing in 371 straight early in his career.
The 2000 draft class was historically bad. Seriously, Jamal Crawford might be the best player from that class, with a close second going to Hedo Turkoglu. The fact that the Raptors were able to select a productive player at 21st overall made this pick a good one.
3. Jonas Valanciunas (Rd 1, pick 5 in 2011)
Career stats: 13.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 0.8 bpg, (52.0 fg%)
It’s taken Valanciunas some time to get comfortable with the NBA, and it finally looks like things are coming together in his sixth season on the Raptors, evidenced by a career-high 32 points in their 2016 season opener. Valanciunas’ talent was never the question, but his defensive intensity seemed to lack at times, which hurt his ability to get on the floor in crunch time:
However, Valanciunas is a big part of Toronto’s future, so the Raptors were smart to sign him to a four-year, $64 million dollar extension in August 2015. His ability to improve defensively will go a long way to determining his upside, and at just 24 years old he has a bit of developing to do still. With so many quality young big men in the league today, Toronto’s lucky to have one of its own under contract for years to come.
2. DeMar DeRozan (Rd 1, pick 9 in 2009)
Career stats: 18.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.6 apg
DeRozan has turned into a steal for the Raptors as the ninth overall pick in 2009, taken behind the likes of Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn and Jordan Hill. DeRozan has a bit of an unorthodox game for a two-time NBA All-Star, but he makes up for his lack of long-range shooting by being an elite athlete and mid-range threat. DeRozan has a bag of tricks that also help him get to the line at a solid rate, where he tacks on points at the charity stripe:
DeRozan signed a five-year, $139 million contract this past summer to team with Kyle Lowry and Valanciunas to form a solid core for the Raptors moving forward. While his inability to shoot (28.3 percent from three) might never be solved, DeRozan has still become an impressive scorer and will be a team centerpiece going forward.
1. Chris Bosh (Rd 1, pick 4 in 2004)
Career stats: 19.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 bpg
Bosh should’ve been somewhat obvious at this spot given his success with the Raptors and Heat, and being an 11-time All-Star makes it clear. He spent seven seasons with Toronto, averaging 20.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while being the centerpiece of everything they did offensively. But when general manager Bryan Colangelo offered Bosh an extension in the summer of 2009, Bosh declined, opting to become a free agent in 2010. Bosh went to the Miami Heat with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, winning two titles as the important third piece to their championship roster:
Bosh’s career is sadly now on hold while he tries to find a way to play with his blood-clotting issues. Despite the way his career has unfolded in recent months, Bosh will still be a Hall of Famer.