Raptors passing on Nikola Jokic during 2014 Draft still stings

DENVER, CO - MARCH 6: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets is defended by O.G. Anunoby #3 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - MARCH 6: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets is defended by O.G. Anunoby #3 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets are two franchises trending in two different directions right now. While Toronto looks to reboot its roster and try to compete with a new head coach, Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets have made the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. 

Jokic remains one of the more improbable success stories in the NBA. Before he was nearly averaging a triple-double and breaking records once held by Wilt Chamberlain, Jokic was picked 41st overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. Famously, Jokic was picked so late that ESPN was in a commercial break and showing an ad for Taco Bell.

Jokic is fast becoming the greatest second-round pick in NBA history, making teams curse the day they passed on acquiring him. Even the Nuggets themselves passed on him, swinging a trade for Nikola Jokic rather than picking him higher. The Raptors number among those teams, with the player they chose instead of Jokic still stinging this franchise to this day.

Ratner than taking Jokic, or even a solid starter in this league like Jerami Grant or Spencer Dinwiddie, the Raptors decided to use the No. 37 pick on the 2014 draft on UConn wing DeAndre Daniels. He ended up playing as many games in the NBA as you and I have.


The Toronto Raptors almost drafted Nikola Jokic.

After getting drafted, Daniels spent the 2014-15 season in Australia. Following his return to Toronto, a combination of foot injuries, the team’s depth, and his own performance prevented him from ever playing one minute for Toronto. He spent a few more seasons playing in Europe and Australia.

Jokic, meanwhile, won the MVP twice in consecutive seasons and has helped the Nuggets reach new heights in his third campaign. It goes without saying that having Jokic would have been a godsend for the Raptors in the last few seasons due to his unique style.

Imagine Jokic, Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and Pascal Siakam all sharing the floor for heavy minutes in 2019. Would the trade for Marc Gasol even have happened? Adding Jokic onto that team makes for one of the more interesting “what-if” situations across the annals of Raptors history.

It’s hard to beat up executives for missing on second-round picks, so Masai Ujiri doesn’t deserve any scorn for this selection. Even Denver had no idea he would be one-third this good when they made the pick. Still, in hindsight, the Raptors probably should have done things differently.

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