2006 draft still resonates for today’s Toronto Raptors

May 8 - Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry talks to the media during a season ending availability at the BioSteel Centre, Toronto. The Raptors ended their season, losing in a four game sweep tot the Cleveland Cavaliers. May 8, 2018 Bernard Weil/Toronto Star (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
May 8 - Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry talks to the media during a season ending availability at the BioSteel Centre, Toronto. The Raptors ended their season, losing in a four game sweep tot the Cleveland Cavaliers. May 8, 2018 Bernard Weil/Toronto Star (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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Few NBA drafts have had tails as long as that of 2006, for the Raptors anyway. Many players from that class have been in Toronto, and even when traded, their impact is being felt.

The most important draft day of this century for the Toronto Raptors was June 28, 2006. This point was brought home for me when I scrolled through Hoops Hype’s 2006 “redraft”.

Toronto had never before, or since for that matter, enjoyed the #1 overall draft pick. Grand pooh-bah Bryan Colangelo was torn between Il Mago (Andrea Bargnani) and Texas center LaMarcus Aldridge. He chose Bargs, a decision which looked terrible for several years until the big center turned the corner.

Aldridge is deemed the best pick of this draft, a conclusion I concur with. The second-best 2006 selection has turned out to be none other than our starting point guard, Kyle Lowry. The feisty little fellow was chosen with the #24 pick by Memphis, who moved him on to Houston. Lowry didn’t get along with coach Kevin McHale, so Colangelo swooped in with the best trade in Raptors history. Kyle came north for our first-rounder in 2013 and Gary Forbes.

The third-best player is Paul Millsap, who was a humble #47 selection. Next we find Rajon Rondo, chosen #21 by the Boston Celtics. Are we seeing a pattern here or what? Who was doing the scouting that year,  the Three Blind Mice?

More bad than good

The most egregious flop of this draft was Adam Morrison, picked third and listed at #27 by HH. I think that’s generous.

Former Raptor Rudy Gay is granted the fifth-best ranking.

Let’s skip to the tenth choice, P.J. Tucker. He was chosen at #35 by Colangelo, then waived after 17 games, which led to a number of years of overseas play. P.J. returned briefly to our team in 2016-17, and is now a Houston Rocket. Placing him one spot ahead of Bargnani displays severe recency bias. Andrea enjoyed several excellent seasons for the Raptors, putting up numbers Tucker and most others can only dream of. By the standards of #1 picks, Bargs was a failure. But before he went sour, he was often sweet.

Andrea’s departure from Toronto brought us, among other assets, the New York Knicks’ (lottery!) pick in the 2016 draft. That turned out to be #9, at which spot Masai Ujiri selected Jakob Poeltl.

Another one of those Knicks assets was Steve Novak, a helpful stretch-4 who shows up in sixteenth place. That’s one ahead of Tyrus Thomas, selected at #4. Novak was the first second-round selection, so turned out better than expected. A #31 being better than a #4 provides further proof of how dreadful the scouting was.

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We skip quickly over the rest of the choices, who are all eminently forgettable, save Shelden Williams. He was drafted #5 by Atlanta, and averaged 4.5 points in a 7-year career. He’s ranked twenty-fifth, so he’s my proxy for how dismal a draft class the 2006 one turned out to be. The only one worse, in my view, is the famously bad 2000 crop. It’s too soon to disparage the 2016 draft class, but those guys have certainly underwhelmed so far – so I’ll do it anyway.

Yet remarkably the Raptors have made chicken salad out of the 2006 class’ chicken…remainders. Lowry arrived for virtually nothing. Bargnani’s trade is still paying dividends, as is Rudy Gay’s. We got decent performances out of Novak and Tucker while they were here.

I worry sometimes about losing my objectivity when it comes to the performance of Masai Ujiri as Raptors President. However, when I consider how productive the 2006 class has turned out to be for our team, in large part because of his inspired moves, I take comfort. Of those on the roster when he returned to Toronto from Denver, he moved the right guys (Bargnani, Gay) and kept the right guy (Lowry).