During the Toronto Raptors' 23 seasons, there have been many draft picks both good and bad. We decided to take a look at the best 15 draft picks of all-time.
The Toronto Raptors first joined the NBA as an expansion team prior to the 1995-96 NBA season. The expansion, which also included the Vancouver Grizzlies, was part of a concerted effort by the NBA to expand the league beyond the United States, starting with their neighbors to the North.
Since that time Vancouver packed up their bags and shipped off to Memphis, while Toronto remains the only team left North of the border.
During the Raptors' short 23 years as a professional franchise, they have experienced mild to little success. The team has a winning percentage of just under 46 percent and has made the playoffs in 10 of 24 seasons with no NBA or Eastern Conference Championships to date.
However, the franchise has experience more success of late. Over the past three seasons, the Raptors have won an average of 55.3 games, including a franchise record 59 wins last season.
Of the 15 players listed, four have been drafted over the past three seasons. The correlation between the franchise's recent drafting success and improving record is certainly no coincidence.
Since becoming an NBA franchise in 1995, the Raptors have made 37 selections in the NBA Draft. Of those picks there has certainly been some to forget, Andrea Bargnani, Rafael Araujo, and Michael Bradley are just a couple of examples. However, there have also been a handful of examples who excelled, either with the Raptors or elsewhere around the league.
We decided to recognize those examples with a list of the best Toronto Raptors draft picks in team history.
Highly criticized at the time of his selection Charlie Villanueva was viewed as a "reach" by many draft analysts. ESPN Analyst, Stephen A. Smith was particularly critical of the seventh overall pick, claiming "That pick makes no sense whatsoever ... when you think about the fact this team got hoodwinked when they traded away Vince Carter virtually for nothing."
Villanueva proved many critics wrong, averaging 13 points and 6.4 rebounds in his rookie season while being named to the All-NBA Rookie first team. During his rookie season, Villanueva also set the Raptors' rookie record for points and rebounds in a game, tallying 48 and 18 in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The game clearly made an impression on the Bucks, as the next offseason Milwaukee traded starting point guard T.J. Ford in order to acquire Villanueva.
Vilanueva had three solid seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, including a particularly impressive 2008-09 season in which he averaged 16 points and seven rebounds. His 2008-09 season was impressive enough to earn him a five-year $40 million dollar deal with the Detroit Pistons, a deal the Pistons would ultimately regret. However, despite his massive contract, Villanueva did manage to have a solid 11-year career, nothing to sneeze at with the seventh overall selection.
Taken 35th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft, not much was expected of P.J. Tucker, and during his first NBA stint he did not meet even those low expectations. Playing in just 17 games his rookie season, Tucker found himself out of the league after one year.
From 2007-2012 Tucker bounced around multiple International leagues, playing everywhere from Israel to Germany. After five years overseas refining his game, Tucker was offered a contract with the Phoenix Suns. Tucker signed and made an immediate impact, starting in 45 games his first season back stateside.
After four-and-a-half seasons with the Suns, Tucker was traded back to the Raptors as part of a trade deadline deal to sure up the team's wing rotation, particularly on the defensive end, prior to the playoffs.
After playing for Toronto for one-and-a-half seasons, Tucker went to join the league's best contender to the Golden State Warriors: the Houston Rockets. It was there Tucker had perhaps his best season to-date, providing the Rockets with a precious mix of defensive tenacity and three-point shooting.
Finishing last season as a starter on one of the best teams in the NBA, Tucker's game is aging like a fine wine.
Once viewed as the Raptors' small forward of the future, Terrence Ross didn't quite pan out as the Raptors had hoped after his first couple of seasons in the league. That doesn't mean that Ross was a disappointment with the eighth overall pick, but instead that after a couple good seasons, the bar was set too high.
In Ross's second season with the Raptors, he started in 62 games, shot nearly 40 percent from three, and was a tenacious defender. Unfortunately for both Ross and the Raptors, he never developed from that point on.
The next season Ross' numbers were down across the board in both raw numbers and efficiency. This helped lead to the team signing DeMarre Carroll, a move that clearly signaled a lack of confidence. The next season he only started in a handful of games while his numbers plateaued. Now in the league four years, Ross was no better than his sophomore season.
The following season, Ross was traded to the Orlando Magic for Serge Ibaka. Since being traded to Orlando, Ross has put up adequate numbers in a dysfunctional situation. At 26 years old, Ross is now entering his prime. With only one year remaining on his contract, Ross may be in a better basketball situation soon. Perhaps then he can develop into the player everyone saw flashes of during his time in Toronto?
Drafted with the ninth pick just one season after taking his former teammate Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl would be a starter on several NBA teams. Unfortunately for Poeltl, he is stuck behind Jonas Valanciunas, a player you might just hear more about later on this list.
Averaging less than 16 minutes per game so far in his career, Poeltl's impact has only been limited by his time on the court. With a glut of big-men such as Jonas Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam also on the roster, earning consistent minutes is a difficult proposition for any second-year player.
When examining Poeltl's statistics per 36 minutes, his impact becomes much more clear. Per 36 minutes Poeltl is averaging 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, including 3.9 offensive rebounds and has a net rating of +7.6. Impressive numbers for any center, let alone one as young as Poeltl.
Poeltl has an impressive offensive skill-set that is developing every game. He has great hands, is a skilled finisher around the basket and has shown flashes of an exceptional interior passing game. A smart player with room to grow, don't be surprised if Poeltl ends up higher on this list in due time.
Like most late first-round selections, Delon Wright made very little impact as a rookie. Appearing in just 27 games, averaging under four points in those 27 games, Wright showed flashes while producing very little.
Yet, that lack of production never discouraged Wright as he continued to make progress, improving his game each season he's been in the NBA. Of all Wright's improvements his 3-point shot is the biggest standout. Over his three-year career, Wright has increased his made three-pointers from five to 10 to 56. At 36 percent last season, he has also shown the ability to be efficient from beyond the arc.
At 6-foot-5 with a point guard skill-set, Wright has the flexibility needed in the modern NBA. With Fred VanVleet having a breakout season last year, Wright slid over to the shooting guard position without a problem, showing the type versatility every team covets.
Entering the league after a rare four-year college career, Wright will be in the midst of his prime as he enters restricted free-agency next season. The market for Wright is still unknown, although with Lowry and perhaps VanVleet still on the books, retaining Wright may be a difficult proposition for Toronto.
Regardless of if the Raptors are able to retain him next season, Wright has already proved more than worthwhile of the 20th overall selection.
Picked in the late first round out of New Mexico State, in his first season with the Raptors, Pascal Siakam appeared to be a bouncy, high-energy forward with little else to offer.
During his rookie season, Siakam bounced between the NBA and the then G-League, averaging just four points per game in his time with the big-leagues. (He did start 38 games prior to Ibaka's arrival, but that was a result of a lack of competition more than anything else.)
Between his first and second season in the NBA, Siakam made a huge leap in development. He came back his second season with a completely new skill-set, at times directing the offense as a point forward.
In his second season, Siakam's game resembled a poor man's Draymond Green or Al Horford. He displayed an ability to switch on to small defenders defensively, while working as a secondary playmaker on the offensive end, at times initiating the offense.
Just a 22 percent shooter from three last season (although improved from 14 percent the year before), Siakam's ceiling may ultimately rely on his ability to develop a 3-point shot. Although if his shooting improves anything like the rest of his game, he'll end up just fine.
Taken with the fifth selection in the 2011 NBA Draft, Jonas Valanciunas has been highly productive since being drafted by the Raptors. When you consider the following three selections were Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo and Brandon Knight, the selection becomes even better.
Coming into the league a relatively accomplished EuroLeague player, Jonas Valanciunas produced right away. He averaged nine points and six rebounds, starting in 57 games as a rookie. Since that time he has been a consistent force in the Raptors organization, starting in every game he was fully healthy.
When selecting in the top-five, you are hoping to get a franchise cornerstone, and that is exactly what Valanciunas has been. With a league that is modernizing and forcing players like Valanciunas off the floor, rather than stubbornly sticking with his old style, JV evolved.
Last season, for the first time in his career, he added a 3-point game. Next season, he will likely shoot more. Perhaps his footwork and perimeter skills will never be good enough to make him a true fit in the modern-NBA, but he certainly is trying.
Currently, on a more than $15 million dollar contract, JV is likely overpaid for someone of his skill-set. Yet, as the unquestionable third best player on a 59-win team, it's hard to argue JV was anything less than a home run of a draft selection.
Ranked No. 8 on this list despite only playing one season, OG Anunoby's ranking is based mostly on potential at this time.
The 23rd pick out of Indiana University, Toronto was only able to select Anunoby due to a torn ACL and fear he could miss his entire rookie season. Fortunately for the Raptors, those fears never came to fruition, as OG was ready to play game one.
Earning a spot as a starter on a 59-win team by his 13th game, it's fair to say Anunoby outperformed even the wildest expectations of him last season. OG proved to be an efficient, albeit low-volume scorer, while also competing as one of the team's best defenders.
After an excellent regular season by the rookie small forward, Anunoby only improved his play during the postseason. Anunoby averaged eight points on an insane 68.3 effective field goal percentage, while defending the opposing team's top option on a consistent basis. Anunoby was surprisingly effective guarding Washington Wizards star point guard John Wall. While he certainly did not stop LeBron James in the Cleveland Cavaliers series, he performed the most admirably of any Raptor.
For Anunoby to earn this ranking, he will need to continue to work and develop his overall game. But if he continues on his current trajectory, we may look back in a couple years and consider this ranking entirely too low.
You will be hard pressed to find a bigger fan favorite than Morris Peterson. Drafted with the 21st pick out of Michigan State, Peterson retired as the Raptors' all-time leader in games played and 3-pointers made. (Those records have since been broken by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, respectively).
Playing with the Raptors from 2000-2007, Peterson averaged just 12 points per game, but made an impact in other ways. A great defender and 3-point specialist, Peterson would have fit in perfectly in today's NBA.
Despite playing for the team for seven seasons, Peterson has one moment that sticks out above everything else. During the 2006-07 season, in a game critical for playoff seeding, Peterson hit perhaps the biggest shot in Raptors' history.
The win helped the Raptors earn the No. 3 overall seed, the best in team history at that time.
After leaving the Raptors, Peterson went on to play three seasons for the New Orleans Hornets and one for the Oklahoma City Thunder, neither of which compare to his career with the Raptors.
The franchise's first-ever selection with the seventh overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, Damon Stoudamire made a huge impact in his two-and-a-half seasons with Toronto.
The player nicknamed "Mighty Mouse" averaged 19.6 points and 8.8 assists his first season, winning NBA Rookie of the Year over an impressive draft class that included Jerry Stackhouse and Kevin Garnett. For an expansion franchise that experienced little to no success early-on, Stoudamire was the lone bright spot.
He continued to produce while in Toronto and eventually was moved in a trade deadline deal that sent him to the Portland Trail Blazers, along with Walt Williams, for Kenny Anderson, Alvin Williams and two future first-round picks.
Stoudamire's numbers dipped slightly while playing for the Trail Blazers, a trade-off he was happy to make while playing for one of the best teams in the Western Conference at the time.
At the end of his career, Stoudamire played 13 seasons in the league, averaging more than 13 points and six assists over that span.
Marcus Camby had an illustrious 17-year playing career. Unfortunately for the Raptors, only two of those seasons came playing in Toronto. Although his time playing for the Raptors was short, the second overall pick from Massachusetts made an impact both with the Raptors and around the league.
Camby made his presence felt right away, averaging 14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks his rookie season. The next season, he went on to lead the league in blocks, averaging an absurd 3.7 blocks per game.
Despite a successful first two seasons in the NBA, the Raptors elected to trade Camby after his sophomore campaign for New York Knicks veteran big man Charles Oakley. The move was seen as a win-now decision, made to help please then star player, Vince Carter.
Initially, Camby struggled to find his role with the Knicks. In his first season with New York, Camby averaged just 20 minutes and seven points per game during the strike-shortened regular season. Things changed during the playoffs when Ewing went down with an season-ending Achilles injury.
In the final four games of the Eastern Conference Finals, Camby averaged more than 18 points and 11 rebounds per game, helping the Knicks make the NBA Finals for just the second time in more than 25 years.
Camby played for the Knicks for another four seasons, prior to being traded to the Denver Nuggets. He played there for his longest tenure, six seasons, before bouncing around the league for a total of six stops.
Over the course of his career, Camby accomplished a great deal. A four-time All-Defensive selection, a four-time block champion and a Defensive Player of the Year are just a few of his greatest accolades.
Despite recent postseason challenges, DeMar DeRozan remains one of, if not the, most important Raptor(s) in franchise history. Drafted ninth overall out of USC, DeRozan ranks top five in franchise history in games played (1st), points (1st), assists (3rd), rebounds (5th) and steals (2nd). Over the course of his career, he has averaged 20 points, four rebounds, and three assists per game, while continuing to be the first or second best player on the team since his sophomore season.
Despite accomplishing all of this in his first nine seasons in the league, DeRozan is just now hitting his peak. At 28 years old, DeRozan is coming off an All-NBA season in which he helped lead the team to the best record in franchise history.
With DeRozan at the helm, the Toronto Raptors have experienced their first sustained success as a franchise. Over the past five seasons, the Raptors have a winning percentage of 64.1 percent; prior to DeMar's arrival, Toronto's best five-year span produced a winning percentage of just 47.9.
Moving forward, it's not clear what DeRozan's role with the franchise will be. For the first time in his career there has been some speculation that it may be time to part ways with the accomplished shooting guard.
Despite these rumblings, it's very unlikely DeMar is dealt this offseason, or anytime soon. Even if DeRozan is traded, he has accomplished more in his nine seasons in Toronto than any Raptor in franchise history.
Drafted fourth overall in one of the most loaded draft classes of all time, Chris Bosh will likely be remembered more for his accomplishments in a Miami Heat uniform than a Raptors jersey.
However, if you look at his numbers and overall impact, his career with the Raptors might be more impressive.
Bosh made an immediate impact in his first season. The 19 year-old rookie averaged 11.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game playing out of position, as the team's starting center for most of the season.
Midway through Bosh's sophomore campaign, small forward Vince Carter was traded. Making Bosh, at just 20 years old the face of the franchise. Initially the team struggled.
The team went 27-55 in its first full season without Carter, earning the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. However, with the first overall pick the Raptors failed to draft Bosh adequate help, selecting Andrea Bargnani over the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and others.
Despite his lack of help, Bosh helped will the Toronto Raptors to the No. 3 seed during the 2006-2007 NBA season. With the likes of Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, and Bargnani all ranking top five in minutes played, the Toronto Raptors finished with a record of 47-35, placing them first in the Atlantic Division. Despite their regular season success, the team's lack of quality players caught up to them in the playoffs as they lost in the first round to the Vince Carter led New Jersey Nets.
After a couple of more frustrating seasons with the team, Chris Bosh left Toronto to team up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami. It was in Miami that Bosh became an NBA champion and cemented his place as a hall of famer. Still, Bosh's time in a Raptors uniform should never be forgotten, as he carried a franchise on his back for years.
Tracy McGrady's placement on this list is difficult for any Raptors fan to stomach, but anytime a hall of famer is selected ninth overall, the pick itself was certainly special.
McGrady only played three seasons with Toronto. During those three seasons McGrady showed flashes of greatness and steady improvement, increasing his scoring averages from seven to nine to 14 points per game each season. The young Raptors with both McGrady and Carter would be NBA League Pass darlings in today's era. The fact their run was short is not only a loss for Raptors fans ,but a loss for the entire NBA.
As soon as he hit the free agent market, McGrady made his intentions clear; he would not be resigning with the Raptors. T-Mac instead decided to leave for his hometown Orlando Magic in a sign-and-trade that netted the Raptors a future (2005) first-round pick.
It was in Orlando where McGrady would break out. McGrady's points per game exploded to 26.8 in his first season with the Orlando Magic, as he transformed from a promising talent to an All-NBA player.
Despite his individual success in Orlando, the team as a whole struggled, and after four seasons of mediocre play, McGrady was traded to the Houston Rockets. In Houston, McGrady was paired alongside Yao Ming to form a very talented, but injury-prone team. McGrady dealing with back spasms, Ming with foot ailments, Houston never appeared to reach its full potential.
After both his and Yao's injuries worsened, McGrady bounced around the league a while longer before ultimately retiring in 2013.
Unfortunately for Raptors fans, McGrady accomplished his greatest achievements in opposing uniforms. However, that doesn't stop McGrady from earning the second best pick in team history.
Alas, the No. 1 pick in Raptors history wasn't "technically" picked by the Raptors. Although Vince Carter was drafted 5th by the Golden State Warriors, for all intents and purposes he was the Raptors selection.
Immediately after being taken by the Warriors, Carter was traded for then No. 4 overall pick Antawn Jamison. In order to circumvent particular NBA trade rules, the Warriors essentially picked Vince "for" the Raptors.
During his time in Toronto, Carter helped put the Raptors on the map. Carter helped lead the franchise to its first playoff appearance during the 1999-2000 NBA season and helped them win their first playoff series the following year.
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During his tenure with the Raptors, Carter averaged an insane 23 points per game, made multiple All-Star appearances and provided the fans with the most historic dunk contest of all-time.
Carter's departure from Toronto was ugly. A public dispute with Richard Petite, to pair alongside poorly conveyed comments after his exit, made some fans question his effort during the latter part of his tenure.
But time heals all wounds, and despite a messy break-up with the franchise, Carter is now once again beloved by the Raptors faithful.
After his departure, Carter went on to have a very nice career for several other teams, a career he is looking to continue for a 21st season next year.
Counting his time both with Toronto and around the rest of the league, Carter's impact has been undeniable, which makes him the best pick in Raptors history.