Basketball, Sports

Raptors Best Draft Picks as of 2015

Earlier this season (2014-15), a click-bait article was published on TSN about the “best” Raptors draft picks of all time, given that this was their 20th season and all. They were, according to the author:

  1. Bosh
  2. Mighty Mouse
  3. Mo Pete
  4. DeRozan
  5. T Mac

No explanation was given for why Mo Pete is considered to be better than DeRozan or T Mac beyond the fact that he played way more games for the Raps. (Does that make him better?) There was also no explanation as to why Mighty Mouse was considered better than T Mac, beyond that the Raptors failed to retain T Mac.

That really doesn’t make sense. So we’re going to try this again.

Thanks to Adam Henebury for helping with the order.

What makes a “best” draft pick? Well, I would argue that it’s all about the knowledge the drafting organization had at the time. However, this post is for posterity, and about the players, not about about the organization (this post, anyway) so it’s more about:

  • Is the player going to the Hall of Fame?
  • If not, where does the player stand historically both in the league and, to a lesser extent, in the franchise (if applicable)?
  • Finally, how did the player perform compared to the other players in the draft?

Whether or not that player was retained by the organization seems kind of irrelevant to me, unless we are talking about the organization’s decisions, not the players’ legacies.

The Raptors have drafted 33 players since they were formed 20 years ago. Of those players,

  • 7 have never played in the NBA (2 were just drafted this summer, though);
  • 2 have played less than 10 NBA games as of April 30, 2015 (though 1 of those is Caboclo);
  • 2 more have played 20 NBA games or less as of today;
  • 2 more have played less than 100 NBA games;
  • A further 3 have played less than 200 NBA games (though one, Quincy Acy played a career high minutes for the Knicks during the 2014-15 season);
  • Finally, both Terrence Ross and JV have yet to play in 250 NBA games as of the date of publishing and it seems kind of unfair to decide how their careers have panned out given their respective ages.

That leaves us with 15 players who have played 250 games or more in the NBA (i.e 3 seasons minimum). Those players are:

  • Bargs
  • Jonathan Bender
  • Bosh
  • Camby
  • Ed Davis
  • DeRozan
  • Joey Graham
  • Hibbert
  • Jamison
  • T Mac
  • Mo Pete
  • Kareem Rush
  • Mighty Mouse
  • P.J. Tucker
  • Charlie V

We should eliminate Terrence Ross from the conversation because he’s too young. (Though he has played more than Jonas, he was drafted a year later.) So that leaves us with 15 players, let’s rank them!

Note: I have used a totally unscientific method of determining how good these guys were. You have been warned.

15. Jonathan Bender, SF, drafted 5th overall, 1999

Drafted immediately after Lamar Odom and drafted immediately ahead of Wally Szczerbiak, Rip Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry. That list doesn’t include the other NBA stars who were drafted later.

  • 1,453P, 582R, 170A in 3,847 minutes over 262 games
  • Per 36: 13.6P, 5.4R, 1.6A, 0.4S, 1.6P.
  • .514 True Shooting %age
  • 10.9 PER

In his draft year Bender is:

  • 26th in games played
  • 27th in minutes played
  • 25th in points
  • 29th in boards
  • 28th in assists
  • 21st in FG% (of players having played at least 200 games)
  • 12th in 3P% (ditto)
  • 12th in FT% (ditto)
  • 26th in MPG (ditto)
  • 23rd in PPG (ditto)
  • 29th in RPG (ditto)
  • 28th in APG (ditto)
  • 28th in Win Shares
  • 26th in WS per 48 (ditto)

There’s no clearer “bust” on this list than Bender. Yes, his career was cut short by knee injuries, but even when he played he wasn’t even close to as good as the players drafted around.

How did he get away? A month after he was drafted, he was traded straight up for Antiono Davis. So, talk about a win.

14. Kareem Rush, SG/PG, drafted 20th overall, 2002

Rush was drafted a few spots ahead of Tayshaun Prince and John Salmons but this was a pretty weak draft.

  • 2,213P, 353A, 150S, 572R, 74B in 5,956 minutes over 346 games; 1.7 WS, -3.2 VORP
  • Per 36: 13.4P, 2.1A, .9S, 3.5R, .4B
  • .482 TS %
  • 9.2 PER

In his draft year Rush is:

  • 23rd in games played
  • 23rd in minutes played
  • 23rd in points
  • 25th in boards
  • 22nd in assists
  • 29th in FG% (min 100 games)
  • 7th in 3P% (ditto)
  • 24th in FT% (ditto)
  • 28th in MPG
  • 24th in PPG
  • 37th in RPG
  • 26th in APG
  • 28th in Win Shares
  • 39th in WS Per 48

So Rush mostly almost lived up to his draft position. So he wasn’t a bust. Also, his draft kind of sucked. The best players from it were

  1. Amar’e (9th),
  2. Yao (1st),
  3. Boozer (34th!!!) and
  4. Caron Butler (10th).

So the Raps did good to just get a guy who played relatively close to his draft position. He didn’t have much of a career though.


How did he get away? The day of the draft, he was traded with Tracy Murray and a 2003 2nd rounder to the Lakers for Lindsey Hunter, Chris Jeffries and a 2003 2nd rounder. Meh.

13. Joey Graham, SF, drafted 16th overall, 2005

Graham was drafted immediately behind Antoine Wright and, to the eternal chagrin of Raptors fans, immediately ahead of Danny Granger, as well as Gerald Green; he was also drafted ahead of Nate Robinson (21st), Jarret Jack (22nd), David Lee (30th) and some other NBA players.

  • 2,239P, 1,058R, 207A, 134S, 43B in 6,117 minutes over 377 games; 7.8 WS; -2.8 VORP
  • Per 36: 13.2P, 6.2R, 1.2A, .8S, .3B
  • .551 TS %
  • 11 PER

In his draft year Graham is:

  • 30th in games played
  • 31st in minutes played
  • 30th in points
  • 31st in boards
  • 34th in assists
  • 12th in FG% (min 100 games)
  • 28th in 3P% (ditto)
  • 12th in FT% (ditto)
  • 34th in MPG
  • 32nd in PPG
  • 29th in RPG
  • 43rd in APG
  • 31st in WS
  • 42nd in WS per 48

If it’s possible to have a bust outside the lottery, I guess Graham was a bust. A second round player drafted ahead of a former all-star – though one who is currently struggling to stay in the league – in the middle of the first round stings a lot.

How did he get away? He was allowed to walk as a free agent, which was a very sensible thing for the Raptors to do.

12. P. J. Tucker, SF/SG, drafted 35th overall, 2006

Drafted in the second round, which is a total crap shoot.

  • 2,009P, 1,404R, 375A in 6,866 minutes over 255 games, 14 WS, 5.4 VORP
  • Per 36: 10.5P, 7.4R, 2A, 1.5S, 0.3B.
  • .536 True Shooting %age
  • 12.5 PER

In his draft year, Tucker is:

  • 26th in games played
  • 16th in minutes played
  • 18th in points
  • 12th in boards
  • 17th in assists
  • 17th in FG% (of players to play at least 100 games)
  • 6th in 3P FG% (ditto)
  • 16th in FT% (ditto)
  • 9th in MPG
  • 10th in PPG
  • 4th in RPG (ahead of Bargs!)
  • 16th in APG (better than Bargs!)
  • 15th in Win Shares
  • 13th in Win Shares Per 48 (way higher than Bargs!)

It’s safe to say that Tucker stands as the Best 2nd Round Pick in Raptors History, easily beating out his competition – he has played more NBA games than most of the rest of them combined.

But it’s fair to ask ‘how do we rank that?’, as Tucker left the NBA for years and has only amassed these numbers since his return. He absolutely exceeded expectations, but only after he played in Europe and Israel. Is this a better outcome than a player drafted in the first round playing to their draft position???

How did he get away? He was waived in March 2007.

11. Charlie Villanueva, PF, drafted 7th overall, 2005

Drafted immediately behind Martell Webster, immediately ahead of Channing Frye and a few sports ahead of Andrew Bynum. Also drafted ahead of the same people as Graham.

  • 6,489P, 2,096R, 334B, 525A, 311S in 12,913 minutes over 594 games; 22.4 WS; 1 VORP
  • Per 36: 18.1P, 8R, .9B, 1.5A, .9S
  • .523 TS%
  • 16.2 PER

In his draft year, Charlie V is:

  • 13th in games played
  • 18th in minutes
  • 11th in points
  • 12th in boards
  • 21st in assists
  • 25th in FG% (min 100 games)
  • 18th in 3P% (ditto)
  • 26th in FT% (ditto)
  • 22nd in MPG
  • 12th in PPG
  • 11th in RPG
  • 33rd in APG
  • 19th in WS
  • 23rd in WS (min 100 games)

Not as obviously a pseudo-bust as Graham, but still fairly unsuccessful relative to the other players in his draft.

The good news is that, beyond Channing Frye, nobody else immediately below Charlie V’s draft spot amounted to much (now that Bynum is out of the league). So it’s hard to criticize the pick too much.

How did he get away? Traded straight up for TJ Ford in June 2006.

10. Ed Davis, PF/C, drafted 13th overall, 2010

Drafted a few spots below Paul George, immediately ahead of Patrick Patterson and Larry Sanders and a few spots ahead of Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley.

  • 2,552P, 2,220R, 356B, 284A, 183S in 7,563 minutes over 354 games; 22.1 WS; 5.7 VORP
  • Per 36: 12.1P, 10.6R, 1.7B, 1.4A, .9S
  • .568 TS%
  • 16.9 PER

In his draft year, Davis is

  •  7th in games played
  • 13th in minutes played
  • 14th in points
  • 4th in boards
  • 17th in assists
  • 2nd in FG% (min 100 games)
  • 23rd in 3P% (ditto)
  • 27th in FT% (ditto)
  • 17th in MPG
  • 16th in PPG
  • 5th in RPG
  • 23rd in APG
  • 7th in WS
  • 6th in WS per 48

So far Davis is having a pretty good career relative to his draft position. His skill set is slowly becoming outmoded in the current NBA – though that could change – but Zach Lowe thinks he is a more than serviceable NBA player.

Who knows, maybe a better team will eventually use him well. Still sort of sad we got rid of him.

How did he get away? Traded with Jose Calderon and a 2013 2nd round pick to the Grizzlies while the Pistons traded Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince to the Grizzlies; in return the Grizzlies traded Calderon to the Pistons and Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi to the Raptors. All on January 30, 2013.

I know we had to move Jose, but I still don’t really like this.

9. Andrea Bargnani, PF/C, drafted 1st overall, 2006

Drafted immediately ahead of LMAD, Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams and Brandon Roy. Also ahead of Gay (8th), JJ Redick (10th), Rondo (21st), Lowry (24th), Paul Millsap (47th) and, of course, PJ Tucker.

  • 7,569P, 2,444R, 461B, 635A, 203S in 15,172 minutes over 504 games; 18.7 WS; .1 VORP
  • Per 36: 18P, 5.8R, 1.1B, 1.5A, .5S
  • .532 TS%
  • 14.5 PER

In his draft year, Bargnani is:

  • 9th in games played
  • 7th in minutes played
  • 4th in points
  • 5th in boards (behind Rondo!!!)
  • 14th in assists
  • 20th in FG% (min 100 games)
  • 7th 3P% (ditto)
  • 5th in FT% (ditto)
  • 5th in MPG
  • 4th in PPG
  • 6th in RPG
  • 19th in APG
  • 11th in WS
  • 32nd in WS per 48 (27th if we cut it off at 100 games)

Of all the 7 footers to play 500 games or more in the NBA (62 of them), Bargs is somehow 53rd in RPG. That is incredible. And says everything you need to know about him.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering why I don’t think he was a bust. Why I could
suggest that only Bender and, perhaps, Graham, were busts. Well, for a
couple of reasons.

  • Despite are hatred of Bargs, he still managed to be a top 5 player in his draft year in terms of many categories and I don’t think you can call that a bust – the draft sucked donkey balls;
  • Look at who came immediately after him: LMAD was the only other player still in the league among the top 6 until Tyrus Thomas made a come back this season;
  • In hindsight LMAD was the right choice and Roy would have been an
    excellent choice too, despite his injury problems – if only because he was still way better than the 3 players between him and LMAD;
  • I think, relatively speaking, Morrison is a worse pick, as was Thomas
    – maybe not Williams given where he went – as Bargs would have been a pretty solid pick at 3 or 4 and you shouldn’t be able to say that about
    busts;
  • Also, lots of people thought he was the next Dirk at the time – though far from everyone.

So yeah, Bargs sucks. Good riddance. So glad the Knicks are the Knicks.
But I really think his status as bust has been exaggerated.

How did he get away? (Or, rather, how did we get free of him?) Traded to the Knicks for Marcus Camby (bought out), Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson (waived), a 2014 2nd rounder, a 2016 1st rounder and a 2017 2nd rounder in one of the greatest transactions in recent franchise history, on July 10, 2013.

That was a happy, happy day.

8. Morris Peterson, SF/SG, drafted 21st overall, 2000

Drafted immediately after Speedy Claxton and two spots ahead of DeShawn Stevenson.

  • 7,628P, 2,483R, 1,090A, 639S, 136B in 19,366 minutes over 711 games; 35.7 WS; 9.7 VORP
  • Per 36: 14.2P, 4.6R, 2A, 1.2S, .3B
  • .529 TS%
  • 13.3 PER

In his draft year, Mo Pete is:

  • 9th in games played
  • 8th in minutes played
  • 8th in points
  • 10th in boards
  • 12th in assists
  • 23rd in FG% (min 100 games)
  • 5th in 3P% (ditto)
  • 11th in FT% (ditto)
  • 6th in MPG
  • 7th in PPG
  • 19th in RPG
  • 18th in APG
  • 6th in Win Shares
  • 12th in WS per 48 (min 100 games)

Mo Pete is the all-time leader in games played for the franchise and he’s certainly beloved, but in no way does that make him the third best draft pick in Raptors history. What a claim like that says is that it matters whether or not (or when) the player is traded, which has nothing to do with the player, most of the time. So I find that kind of reasoning confusing – in addition to being wrong.

Sure he did extremely well compared to his draft position, but it was a terrible draft; the best players were Michael Redd, Hedo Turkoglu, Mike Miller and Kenyon Martin. It was probably the worst draft in history. So it’s amazing the Raps got an NBA player, let alone one who eventually played over 700 games. But that doesn’t make Mo Pete the third greatest draft pick in Raptors history. It just means he did way better than he should of (as did the team), all other things being equal.

How did he get away? Allowed to walk as a free agent.

7. Roy Hibbert, C, drafted 17th overall, 2008

Drafted immediately after Marreese Speights, immediately ahead of Javale McGee and JJ Hickson, and a few spots ahead of Ryan Anderson. Also drafted ahead of Serge Ibaka, George Hill, Nikola Pekovic, Omer Asik and Goran Dragic.

  • 5,909P, 3,623R, 990B, 769A, 201S in 13,829 minutes over 533 games; 31.9 WS; 8.6 VORP
  • Per 36: 15.4P, 9.4R, 2.6B, 2A, .5S
  • .511 TS%
  • 16.2 PER
  • 2 All Star Game appearances
  • 1 All Defensive 2nd Team

In his draft year, Hibbert is:

  • 2nd in games played
  • 8th in minutes played
  • 8th in points
  • 4th in boards
  • 13th in assists
  • 17th in FG% (min 100 games)
  • 25th in 3P% (min 100 games)
  • 24th in FT% (ditto)
  • 16th in MPG
  • 15th in PPG
  • 9th in RPG
  • 17th in APG
  • 10th in WS
  • 18th in WS per 48

Not too long ago, Hibbert might have placed above DeRozan on this list. How things have changed. He was still an excellent choice in his spot as Ibaka was drated 7 places below him and it seems unreasonable to me to think the Raps would have dreamed of taking him that high.

It’s a shame the Raps traded him away immediately, in a trade that will live in infamy:

  • To the Pacers: Maceo Baston, TJ Ford, Hibbert and Rasho
  • To the Raps: Nathan “The Australian Shaq” Jawai and Jermaine O’Neal

How did he get away? See the above disaster, about two weeks after the draft.

6. DeMar DeRozan, SG, drafted 9th overall, 2009

DeRozan was drafted immediately behind Jordan Hill (YES!!!), immediately ahead of Brandon Jennings, and a few spots ahead of Gerald Henderson and Tyler Hansbrough.

  • 7,606P, 1,056A, 411S, 1,689R, 129B in 14,851 minutes over 443 games; 25.5 WS; 1.2 VORP
  • Per 36: 18.4P, 2.6A, 1S, 4.1R, .3B
  • .524 TS%
  • 15.3 PER
  • 1 All Star Game appearance

In his draft year, DeRozan is:

  • 2nd in games played
  • 1st in minutes played
  • 4th in points
  • 9th in boards
  • 11th in assists
  • 20th in FG% (minimum 100 games)
  • 35th in 3P% (ditto)
  • 11th in FT% (minimum 100 games)
  • 4th in MPG
  • 4th in PPG
  • 14th in RPG
  • 15th in APG
  • 9th in WS
  • 26th in WS per 48

It’s hard to know where DeRozan will end up on this overall list until he plays a lot more games but so far he appears to have been a really, really good choice at the 9th spot. He still struggles with his efficiency and he lacks an outside shot, but otherwise I think Raptors fans have to remain happy with the choice that was made (for once!); it’s not DeRozan’s fault that the Raps have failed to acquire a bigger star.

So really his spot on this list is TBD.

See the Top 5

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