The Toronto Raptors have made five picks since Masai Ujiri was hired in 2013, some having more success than others. How does each pick grade out individually?
It’s hard to believe, but Masai Ujiri has now been with the Raptors for more than five years. Originally hired in May 2013, Ujiri has been at the helm, as General Manager or Team President, for six offseasons.
During that time he has transformed the team from a perennial loser to one of the best organizations in the NBA. Prior to Ujiri’s arrival the team had five consecutive seasons below .500, since he has arrived they have a winning percentage of 64.1-percent.
The franchise’s recent success can be attributed to a combination of Ujiri’s signings (Cory Joseph), trades (Andrea Bargnani), but perhaps most of all, his draft selections.
As general manager/team president Ujiri has made five first-round draft selections, most of which have been in the 20s. Due to the team’s recent success, Toronto has had only one draft pick in the lottery over the past five years. That pick was acquired in the Andrea Bargnani heist.
When grading any draft pick it’s important to grade on a curve. Each selection needs to be judged compared to the average return from a pick in a similar slot. For example: The 24th pick obviously cannot expect the same return as the 8th pick.
Finding the expected value of a pick is hard. There isn’t a general consensus on which players are successful in the NBA, so how can we reasonably use those players to grade draft selections?
Still, there has been extensive work by people smarter than me into the expected value of each draft slot. According to a study completed by 82games.com “Late first round (21-30) only 6% of picks become stars, and less than half even make it to role player caliber stats.”
Considering these statistics, the odds were certainly against Ujiri. Less than half of the players selected in 20s are even role players. How can we reasonably expect Ujiri to muster much with the slate he was given?
Ujiri certainly made lemonade with some of the lemon picks he received. Let’s take a look at every first-round selection over the past five years and asses each with a proper grade.