The 2000-2001 season, just as the franchise's brief history, can best be described as a roller coaster. However, even though the ride came to a disappointing conclusion, Raptor fans were left entertained and craving the start to next season. The season began on a down note when Tracy McGrady mislead the organization and signed in Orlando, leaving a huge hole in the franchise's future plans. The team threw money at a number of young stars hoping to land one. Unfortunately, each free agent decided against signing with the Raptors and the organization was left to pursue plan C. That plan was to acquire Mark Jackson, a veteran point guard. The type of play maker whom the team had been lacking since Damon Stoudamire was traded. When the season got underway, there were two common schools of thought on the team's roster. Some people believed that the team was headed towards a possible division victory. With a lack of dominant teams in the Eastern Conference, combined with the number of veterans surrounding franchise player Vince Carter, the team could realistically grab the number two seed. The other school of thought was that the Raptors had suddenly become a very old team and that finishing in the lottery was not out of the realm of possibilities. After a very mediocre start, it appeared the latter school of thought was correct. The leadership that Carter needed was there from the veterans but the team's lack athleticism and defense was crippling him. General Manager Glen Grunwald went to work at mid season and pulled of a series of trades which instantly made the Raptors an improved team. Suddenly the old, slow team that struggled to play defense had been transformed into a team that got up and down the court with ease and played strong defensively. The team performed very well in the latter half of the season and finished the season with the fifth playoff seed. Early in the playoffs, it appeared as if the Raptors were headed toward a similar fate against the Knicks as they had faced in the previous year. The well coached Knicks shut down Vince Carter, and the team as expected, struggled. However, Carter caught fire in games four and five and led the Raptors to their first playoff series win in franchise history. The next series may end up being the remembered as the most exciting of the entire 2001 playoffs. The series went seven games and ended when Vince Carter missed a game winning shot at the buzzer. All things considered, this was an excellent season for the Raptors. The question now becomes, will the Raptors take another step forward next season, or will they take a step backwards because of potential player losses to free agency? The franchise's future hinges upon the success of this off season. Which fork in the road the franchise takes will impact the years to follow.
|Antonio Davis||6'9"||230||Age: 33||Acquired: Trade 1999||'02 Salary: N/A||Status: Free agent|
You can sum up Antonio Davis in one word, "warrior". Despite being only 6'9", Davis has played center the majority of his career. Giving up several inches and pounds to the opponent would cause most NBA players complain. Davis has expressed a desire to move to his natural power forward position but he has always been willing to sacrifice his body and stats for the betterment of the team. He has learned how to push the opponent out of scoring position to lessen the height advantage. He has recently developed a consistent mid range jumper to pull the opposing center away from the basket. If his man comes out of the paint to contest his shot, Davis uses his quickness and explosiveness to the basket for dunks. This past season Davis set career highs in many statistical categories and was named to his first all-star game. Davis will opt out of his contract this summer to become a free agent and many teams will be interested in his services. It is crucial for the Raptors' future success to be able to re-sign Davis.
|Eric Montross||8'0"||270||Age: 30||Acquired: Trade 2001||'02 Salary: 2,500,000||Status: Signed for 4 years|
When Eric Montross was selected in the lottery by the Boston Celtics, expectations were placed upon him. When he failed to deliver, he was traded. Unfortunately for Montross that has been the story of his career. He has become a journeyman center who has disappointed fans and coaching staffs with his lack of production everywhere he has been. One can not be surprised then when many Raptors fans viewed Montross as simply a throw in for cap purposes in a mid season trade. However, for the first time in his career, it appears he has found his niche and a home in Toronto. His role for the Raptors is to provide a big body in the paint. The Raptors are an undersized team which makes Montross' 7'0" 270 lbs frame very valuable. His presence allowed Davis to have a much needed rest and sometimes the opportunity to move to his natural position for limited minutes. Montross showed a willingness to bang with the big men in the trenches and provided solid rebounding on a per minute basis. With Davis' future with the team in limbo, he could be asked to play are larger role next season.
|Mamadou N'Diaye||7'0"||255||Age: 26||Acquired: Trade 2001 '02||Salary: 800,000||Status: Signed 2 years + 2 team opts|
N'Diaye is project center who saw little playing time this year. He was included in the trade with Denver at the Raptors' request. The Raptors front office sees a good upside for the big man. N'Diaye is very raw on offense but he's athletic for a seven footer and has good rebounding and shot blocking abilities. He projects as a solid back up defensive minded center. N'Diaye's greatest hurdle in his development could be a lack of playing time. The Raptors are a deep team and it is unlikely that N'Diaye will crack the 12 man roster next season. Mamadou needs to show strongly in summer league play and training camp in order to avoid being placed on injured reserve with a mystery ailment.
Center Overview: Whether Davis returns to the Raptors or not, a huge hole will likely open up in the middle. If Davis re-signs with the Raptors, one his demands will likely be to play a majority of his minutes at the four spot. If Davis does leave, the center position becomes an immediate weak spot because Davis won't be on the roster if the new center fails to deliver. Montross has shown that he can be a decent back up and provide some rebounding but if he's the starting center, then the team is in a lot of trouble. N'Diaye is no where near being ready to play major minutes. The Raptors could be forced to play a power forward at the five spot even though there is no one the present roster who could provide production from there. The answer to the problem could be Zeljko Rebraca, considered the top big man in Europe. The Raptors acquired his rights in a trade a few seasons ago. For the first time in his career, Rebraca has expressed an interest in playing in the NBA. The 29 year old center from Yugoslavia is said to be a good athlete who can provide some points and block shots. If the Raptors are unable to convince Rebraca to come overseas, the team may have to seriously look at drafting the best center available because free agency won't be an option.
|Charles Oakley||6'9"||245||Age: 38||Acquired: Trade 1998||'02 Salary: 6,500,000||Status: Signed for 1 year|
If you had to name a player other than Vince Carter who was directly responsible for the franchise's improvement, the first name out of the mouths of Raptors fans would be Charles Oakley. When Oakley was acquired just prior to the 1998 draft, he was expected to bring leadership to a very young and inexperienced team. For the first few years in Toronto he was very effective. He taught the young players how to be professionals and what it takes to win. The downside to Oakley is that he has a tendency to speak his mind, which often gets him into trouble. Prior to this season the organization and the city simply dismissed it as "Oak being Oak". However, based on his antics this season, that excuse will no longer cut it. Oakley was suspended on two occasions this past season relating to off court physical altercations with opponents over gambling debts and a woman. During the latter half of the season and into the playoffs, Oakley made a number of controversial statements regarding such things as clearing customs at the airport, Lenny Wilkens, and Vince Carter's play. By the season's end he had become a distraction. Oakley may have accomplished his goal and will likely be dealt to another team in the off season.
|Keon Clark||6'11"||221||Age: 26||Acquired: Trade 2001||'02 Salary: 2,000,000||Status: signed 1 year + team opt|
For the past year or so the Raptors organization had been pursuing Keon Clark via the trade route. At mid season, the team finally landed their man. Clark is a super athletic power forward with an enormous wing span. Clark gets up and down the floor gracefully for easy baskets. His leaping and long arms make him a dangerous shot blocker and rebounder. Although Clark has plenty of raw talent, he needs to improve his offensive basketball skills. Clark can take the ball hard to the goal for a dunk but he needs to develop post moves. Keon is also very thin and needs to hit the weights hard in the off season. Clark will likely play a much larger role this season with the very likely departure of Oakley. He is a big part of the Raptors championship building plans. It is now up to him to decide how big of a part he will be.
|Jerome Williams||6'9"||209 lbs||Age: 28||Acquired: Trade 2001||'02 Salary: N/A||Status: Free agent|
Jerome Williams is another player the Raptors had long coveted. Williams is a raw basketball player but he brings much needed intangibles. Williams is instant energy off the bench and rebounds at an amazing rate on a per minute basis. He plays hard every second of the game, especially on defense, and is willing to sacrifice his body for the team goal. These attributes have made "The Junk Yard Dog" a fan favorite. JYD appears to be leaning towards re-signing with the team. However, he was vocal about his inconsistent playing time under Lenny Wilkens. A lot of that had to with the number of front court players who needed minutes. That problem should likely be alleviated with the trading of Oakley.
|Michael Stewart||6'10"||230||Age: 26||Acquired: Free Agent 1998||'02 Salary: 3,800,000||Status: Signed for 4 years|
Michael Stewart, once considered the team's power forward of the future, is now viewed by fans as a poster boy for what can go wrong by offering long term contracts to unproven players. Stewart made a name for himself as an undrafted rookie who was impressive as a starting defensive center for Sacramento. Stewart's services were sought by many teams but he chose to sign a one year contract with Toronto. After a disappointing first season with the Raptors, GM Glen Grunwald signed "Yogi" to a multi year contract. It is believed that Grunwald did not want to break a wink wink deal he had with Stewart and his agent because he did not want to reverse some of the credibility the franchise had built up after a jump in the standings. Due to this contract, which is relatively small considering this year's mid level exception, Stewart still takes a lot of criticism. Yogi has a good body, athleticism and natural shot blocking instincts but he suffers from low confidence. Perhaps the pressure of his contract his getting to him and is affecting his play. The fact that many in the organization have given up on him does not help the matter. What Stewart needs is a change of scenery but unless his contract is needed in a trade for cap purposes, Stewart will likely finish out his contract over the next few seasons as an end of the bench or on injured reserve with the Raptors.
Power Forward Overview: The Raptors strength at power forward in 2002 will largely depend on the team's success in the free agent market. If Antonio Davis returns then it is very likely he will be the team's starting power forward. His return would solidify the position. Even if Davis does not return and the team is able to re-sign Jerome Williams, then a tandem of JYD and Keon Clark is a decent combination at power forward. If a free agent disaster occurs, the Raptors may be forced to keep Charles Oakley, something they are rumored to be not very excited about. The free agent class is weak in quality power forwards and young, big men are difficult to acquire in trades. If the Raptors believe they will have difficulty retaining their front court free agents, the team may look to the draft for help.
|Morris Peterson||6'7"||218||Age: 24||Acquired: Drafted 2000||'02 Salary: 1,000,000||Status: Signed 2 years + 2 team opts|
When Toronto selected Morris Peterson twenty first overall in the 2000 draft, many people who follow the draft closely considered it a steal. Peterson did not disappoint those experts as well as Raptors fans. Peterson began the year as a back up to then small forward Corliss Williamson but quickly took the starting spot away from him. Peterson's ability to run the court and hit the long range shots did wonders for the team. The team played a more exciting, up tempo brand of basketball which allowed Carter to operate more freely, thus making them more dangerous. Peterson, like most rookies, struggled with consistency but he played well enough to earn a spot on the all rookie first team. Raptors fans are desperately searching for a player who can be the second scoring option to Vince Carter. Given a few more years to adjust to the NBA, Peterson might very well be that player.
|Tracy Murray||6'7"||228||Age: 30||Acquired: Trade 2001||'02 Salary: 3,400,000||Status: Signed for 2 years|
When the Raptors reacquired Tracy Murray in a mid season trade, there was no one happier than Murray himself. Murray was one of the original Raptors and enjoyed the best season of his career in Toronto. Murray, unlike many former Raptors, returned with a warm welcome from the fans because he was vocal about how much he enjoyed the city of Toronto and that he would have stayed had the NBA not put such harsh cap restrictions on the franchise during its infancy. Tracy did not see much action with the Raptors this past season but should see his role increase in the coming season. What Murray does so well is shoot the ball which makes him very valuable, especially with the new rule changes. Although Murray is not as good as a shooter as Dell Curry, Murray is more athletic and has the ability to play more than one position. His presence on the roster might make Curry expendable this off season or at least offers insurance in case of injury.
Small Forward Overview: The strength of the small forward position for the Raptors depends largely on how rapidly Morris Peterson improves. If Peterson can establish himself as a consistent double digit scorer then the position needs no immediate upgrade. If Peterson struggles from the dreaded "sophomore curse", then the team will need to acquire a proven starter to maintain its position in the standings. Tracy Murray is a fine back up for the position but should not be counted on as anything more than a spot starter. One option the team has is moving Carter to small forward if things go wrong. The organization would prefer Carter play strictly at shooting guard because of the physical pounding he has taken in the front court. However, during the playoffs, coach Lenny Wilkens did not hesitate to move Carter to the position he started his NBA career at, in an attempt to increase the team's scoring output. In the draft the Raptors may look to drafting a swing man because of the team's long term need for a sixth man type who can provide rest for Carter and Peterson.
|Vince Carter||6'7"||225||Age: 24||Acquired: Drafted 1998||'02 Salary: 3,100,000||Status: Signed 1 year + team opt|
Simply put, Vince Carter is the franchise. His play on most nights is often the determining factor of the Raptors' success or failure on a given night. His future with the Raptors will ultimately decide the fate of the franchise. Currently, Carter is amongst the top ten players in the league and hands down its most exciting player. Carter's game has come a long way during his brief career in Toronto. In college, he was known as an incredible athlete who needed work on his basketball skills. Credit Carter and the organization for working hard to identify weaknesses and improve on them quickly. Carter has developed a very good long range stroke and has improved greatly on his ability to shoot off the dribble. Vince has become a quality passer and ball handler. Even his defense, which many have questioned in the past, improved over the course of this past season. Now what Carter needs to do is to improve the mental aspects of his game. Although experience will play a large role in this, Carter must start playing like a veteran. He needs to toughen up when he's knocked to the floor and reduce his complaining to the referees regarding non calls. Many questioned Carter's commitment to winning during the playoffs when he attended his college graduation on the same day as game seven against the 76ers. Carter must work hard over the course of the remainder of his career to shed the label of a player who is not totally dedicated to winning. Ultimately, his career playoff success will determine how he will be perceived by the majority.
|Dell Curry||6'5"||205||Age: 37||Acquired: Free Agent 1999||'02 Salary: 2,100,000||Status: Signed for 1 year|
To paraphrase a NBA scouting report regarding Dell Curry's NBA skill; Curry could roll out of bed Christmas morning, walk outside in snow, pick up a basketball and drain a three point shot. That basically describes Curry's role. Spot up for three pointers and knock them down. Curry has never been blessed with good athleticism which makes him a defensive liability and a one dimensional offensive player. However, because Dell has such great shooting form and the quickest release in the game, he more than compensates for his short comings. Whenever coach Lenny Wilkens needs offensive production, Curry is the man to call upon.
Shooting Guard Overview: As long as Carter is wearing a Raptors uniform then this position will need no upgrade. Carter plays close to 40 minutes every night with a large percentage of that playing time at two guard. Therefore, Carter's back up, Dell Curry, sees only 8-12 minutes of action on a given night. Curry has one year left on his contract and it is likely he will retire after this coming season concludes. The Raptors have Curry's replacement shooter on the roster in Tracy Murray for when Dell calls it quits. As was mentioned in the small forward overview, the Raptors could use an athletic swing man who can back up Carter and Peterson in the future.
|Alvin Williams||6'5"||185||Age: 27||Acquired: Trade 1998||'02 Salary: N/A||Status: Free agent|
When Alvin Williams was acquired in the Damon Stoudamire trade from Portland a few seasons ago, many felt that he would become the team's point guard of the future. However, early in his Raptors career, he struggled with his confidence. A lot of that had to do with the way then coach Butch Carter handled him. When Alvin made a mistake, he benched him. With his confidence at an all time low, the Raptors dealt him in the '99-'00 season to Boston for Danny Fortson. Fortunately for the Raptors, the Celtics panicked and voided the trade after harsh media criticism. With a new coach in place this year, Alvin was given a fresh start. He did not disappoint and flourished under the direction of coach Wilkens. His strong play, especially in the fourth quarter, allowed the Raptors to deal then starter Mark Jackson, to hand Williams the starting spot. Williams has great size for a point guard and has the versatility to slide over to the two guard. Williams takes care of the ball exceptionally well as evident by his 4:1 assist to turnover ratio. Alvin is the team's premier perimeter defender and draws the assignment of the opponent's top back court player. Williams is a free agent this summer and will draw interest from around the league. However, many insiders feel that Williams will re-sign with the Raptors because of what Wilkens did for his career.
|Chris Childs||6'3"||195||Age: 34||Acquired: Trade 2001||'02 Salary: 5,200,000||Status: Signed for 1 year|
Chris Childs was acquired in a mid season trade to be a solid back up point guard for the Raptors. Childs took a lot of criticism in New York for his play but proved to be a decent player for the Raptors. He provided solid play making, timely three point shooting and quality defense to the position. The real knock on Childs was he has a tendency to turn the ball over and complain to the referees to the point where he was hit with technical fouls. Childs enters the final year of his contract this season and will likely be replaced at that time with a younger player. For this season however, he should continue to be a solid reserve.
Point Guard Overview: The one two punch of Williams and Childs is a solid combination. Both players have a lot in common. They both have nice size and provide good perimeter defense. They can create for their teammates and provide offense when called upon. They play well together, so well in fact that Wilkens often played them together in the back court for periods of time. Since Wilkens uses this combination often, GM Glen Grunwald has stated the Raptors may target a third point to provide rest when both players tire at the same time. Overall, this is a very solid position for the Raptors assuming Alvin Williams re-signs with the team.
Coaching and Management Overview:
In his first season with the Raptors, Lenny Wilkens did a job that received mixed reviews. Wilkens has probably been the most criticized coach in the franchise's brief history. Most of that can be explained by the increasing knowledge and awareness of the average Raptors fan. Also, by comparison to coaches in U.S. cities, Wilkens has a pretty easy time of it. Wilkens receives criticism mostly because of his player's coach approach. He tends to trust his players to a fault which sometimes allows a seven point run to become an eleven point run. Wilkens also drew criticism because of his rotations. A number of fans felt that he misused fan favorites Jerome Williams and Keon Clark in the latter stages of the year. Despite these negatives, Wilkens did a fine job transforming Alvin Williams into a starting NBA point guard. Many people had given up on Williams but Wilkens' patience and confidence building approach dramatically improved Alvin's play. Overall, Wilkens brought credibility and stability to the franchise which far out weighs any mistakes he may have made coaching this past season.
It is common thought in Toronto that the Raptors most valued asset is not Vince Carter but rather GM
Glen Grunwald. In the middle of the '97-'98 season, Grunwald inherited a team in ruins. After a lengthy ownership battle, then team president Isiah Thomas and coach Darrell Walker quit on the team. Those two departures caused many of the players to demand a trade. At the time, Toronto's reputation had fallen to an all time low, causing one particular player to refuse to report to the team after being acquired in a trade. Grunwald made numerous trades over the course of the next year and almost single handily turned the franchise around. Through shrewd trades and drafting, the Raptors improved under Grunwald from the 16 win team he inherited, to a team that has made back to back playoff berths after only a couple of years on the job. Grunwald's biggest challenge now is convincing players that playing in Canada is not a bad thing. Grunwald himself has become a Canadian citizen. He and the organization have worked hard at providing information to the U.S. media to quash the myths of playing in Canada. Grunwald believes with more hard work he can make Toronto the place to play in the minds of players. With his record of success, he just may accomplish that goal.
In their brief history, the Toronto Raptors have done a very strong job in the draft. Here is a look at the draft history of the team and how it turned out.
1995 - Damon Stoudamire
To the crowd's surprise on draft day, the Raptors selected Damon Stoudamire seventh overall. The fans in attendance booed the choice because they wanted then NCAA tournament hero, Ed O'Bannon. In hindsight the Raptors made the correct choice and received a player, unlike many in his draft class, who is still playing. Stoudamire provided two and a half strong years in Toronto before being dealt to Portland. Although his role has been reduced with the Blazers, he is still a quality point guard. What made this draft even more special is that the Raptors acquired three starters, one directly in Alvin Williams, and two indirectly in Antonio Davis and Morris Peterson, via the Stoudamire trade. Any time a team can get three starters on a playoff team for a draft pick, then team must be given high grades.
1996 - Marcus Camby
This draft was probably the worst in the franchise's life span. Team president Isiah Thomas was blinded by a near seven footer with excellent athleticism and mobility, despite there being more offensively polished players available. The scouting report on Camby at the time was that he lacked strength, offensive skills and toughness. Thomas passed on higher rated prospects such as Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Ray Allen to select this versatile player. Camby has gone onto a solid career in New York but is not considered a top five player from his draft class, something one would expect from the number two overall draft pick. In return for Camby the Raptors received Charles Oakley. Oakley during his time in Toronto has brought a number of intangibles to the team but it's still hard to ignore not getting an all star in this draft.
1997 - Tracy McGrady
Although McGrady may be the most hated man in the minds of Raptors fans, this was a great pick for the organization. The team took a gamble on the high school kid and it paid off. It is not often a team can get a top ten player in the league and the second best player in his class with the ninth pick overall. McGrady turned his back on the city and said some unforgivable things but there is no denying that he was a major steal in the 1997 draft.
1998 - Vince Carter
Technically the Raptors drafted Antawn Jamison in this draft, but it is Carter who they desired and ended up with. The Raptors had rated Carter the second best player in the draft and would have taken him fourth overall but a cash deal from the Warriors changed things. Golden State was fearful that the Raptors were going to draft Jamison, the player they coveted, and then trade him to a team down in the lottery. The Raptors used this fear to receive a hefty sum of cash to take Jamison and then trade him to Golden State for Vince Carter. Carter has become the franchise and easily the best player from his draft class. How often does a team select two top ten players in the league in back to back years without the aid of a top three pick?
1999 - Aleksander Radojevic
In the 1999 draft the Raptors held the fifth and twelfth in the draft. The Raptors on draft day dealt the fifth pick to the Pacers for Antonio Davis. Davis for the past few seasons has been an extremely valuable member of the team. In that draft, the Raptors selected Jonathan Bender for Indiana. Glen Grunwald said after the trade that had the Raptors kept the pick, they would have selected Bender any ways. With the twelfth pick, the Raptors selected project center Aleksander Radojevic. In the sparse minutes he played in a Raptor uniform, he did show plenty of upside. He is a 7'3" center with nice finesse skills who just needs time and a team's patience. However, Radojevic suffered two back injuries which kept him out for almost the entire two seasons he has been in the league. In a mid season trade to acquire Keon Clark, the team dealt Aleks to Denver. His NBA future largely depends on if his back ever heals properly and the patience of the Nuggets. One can not fault the Raptors for this pick because Radojevic, although he was a project, filled a need in the middle that many teams lack.
2000 - Morris Peterson
This was another steal for the Raptors' front office. Despite being a valuable member of the NCAA champion Spartans and having NBA size and skills, many teams passed on Peterson in the draft. The Raptors were shocked when he was still available. Since Peterson had been expected to be drafted a number of picks earlier, Morris hadn't even worked out for Toronto. The old philosophy, don't draft on need, draft the best player available, proved to be the correct way to select. Despite this strong pick, many draft experts felt Toronto made a mistake by not drafting a point guard. When this past season concluded those experts had to be eating their words. Peterson was named to the all rookie first team and the player they felt the team should have selected barely got off the bench.
If the organization is successful this off season then the team doesn't really have a need that can be addressed through the draft. The Raptors needs are intangibles, something only roster stability and experience can bring. Under this scenario, the team could simply draft the best player available because he won't be seeing the court much. However, let's assume a scenario somewhere in the middle of total free agent failure and free agent success.
- Size - Toronto lacks a true center. They would prefer to add a pivot who can provide offense but those types of big men are rare and will not be available when the Raptors select. The best the team will likely do is a defensive minded center who can rebound and block shots. The team has to be careful that if they select a center, he has to be able to run the floor with the rest of the team. Considering the big men in this draft, that shouldn't be a problem. If the team doesn't find a center they like, they may turn their attention to a power forward. There are plenty of big forwards who can put the ball in the basket in this draft. With the likely trading of Oakley in the off season, the team may shift its draft focus to replacing him.
- An eight man rotation swing man - This is not a glaring need because Murray and Curry are on the roster and each handle their respective positions well. However, this will likely be Curry's final season and the team must soon look to acquiring a replacement. Ideally the Raptors could use an athletic wing player who can play both shooting guard and small forward. This player could provide relief to Carter and Peterson without the team falling apart with one of them not on the floor. There are candidates in this draft who can fill this role. The team could use a sixth man type and this draft could very well bring them that player.
- A third point guard - As was previously mentioned, Lenny Wilkens likes to put both Alvin Williams and Chris Childs in the back court together for stretches of games. The problem with this is that when both player tire at the same time, the Raptors lack another player who can run the point. Toronto experienced this problem in the playoffs when they started both players and had to ask Dell Curry or Vince Carter to run the point while Williams and Childs took a breather. GM Glen Grunwald has publicly stated the team would like to add a third point guard but did not state whether that would be through the draft.
The Raptors Draft Selection
With the seventeenth pick in the 2001 draft, the Toronto Raptors select,
Radmanovic, forward, Yugoslavia. This pick is simply the best player available philosophy. The Raptors must enter this draft optimistic that they will be successful in the off season in retaining their own free agents. If a team picks a certain player only because they feel they might a lose a player at that position through free agency, they will likely miss out on a better player. Radmanovic at this spot in the draft is too talented to pass on despite the obvious need for a center. Radmanovic, like most Europeans, can put the ball in the basket. For now he could provide offense off the bench, perhaps in a sixth man role. The Raptors could use such a player for the long term. He gives the team versatility by being able to play two and perhaps three positions. His shooting skills are said to be strong after an impressive work out in front of many scouts in Chicago. Radmanovic is said to be a better athlete than a lot of previous European players who have come to the NBA. Since he is not lacking in athletic ability he will be able to play in the Raptors system and despite not being a good defender, at least has the potential to be decent. Another factor, though small, is still noteworthy. The Raptors have had a difficult time re-signing American born players. As ridiculous as this sounds, some American players have been vocal that they don't want to play in a "foreign country". Since players from overseas do not have that choice if they want to play in the NBA, then sensible decision making factors such as winning and how the franchise treated them, then become important reasons when free agency arrives. Radmanovic would be a welcomed addition to the team. His presence on the roster would force Peterson to work even harder to maintain his starting spot. If the point in time comes where it is economically impossible to keep both, trades from team strengths can always be made to help fill weaknesses.
Jamaal Tinsley: Tinsley came a close second when making the above selection. Tinsley is the best point guard available in this draft and it would be difficult for the Raptors to pass on him. There were two reasons why he was passed over. First, and most importantly, Radmanovic has a better upside. Tinsley projects as a solid play making point guard but won't be able to go beyond that point in his development unless he develops a consistent outside shot. Secondly, the Raptors don't need a true point guard at the moment. If he were drafted, it would be difficult to find him playing time because he can only play one position. The Raptors will need a point guard in the following season because Childs will likely be let go when his contract expires. However, for now it would be more beneficial for the team to acquire a veteran combo guard who can fill in at the point for limited minutes while still being able to provide offense from the off guard.
Troy Murphy: Murphy is a player who many draft forecasters have penciled in for the Raptors to take. The problem with Murphy is that he isn't a good fit for the Raptors. The Raptors, after a mid season make over, have focused on athleticism and defense. Murphy has neither. Murphy is best suited in a half court style system where he can make the mid range jumper. One of the few things that make him an attractive pick for the Raptors is that he can fill Oakley's role in the offense. Oakley stands stationary at the foul line extended and shoots wide open jumpers. Murphy has the stroke to be effective in that offense. However, is that the offense of choice or did Oakley's presence force the team to run those plays? With Oakley likely traded, Wilkens may prefer a more classic offensive set with his post players closer to the basket.
Jason Collins: If Collins had been healthy for his entire college career, there is a strong possibility that he could have been the pick here. However, Collins has a knee that has the concern of many teams. Collins' knee has reportedly checked out okay in physicals but it has to still remain a concern in the back of team's minds. Collins has the offense skill and the big body the Raptors need in the middle. He can get down on the low block and use some effective post moves to score. He can step out and hit the mid range jumper. The only concern about Collins other than the knee is his explosiveness inside. Collins is not a leaper and may eat a lot of shots early in his career. He'll need time to adjust and use his width to shield off defenders. However, barring injuries he should have a solid NBA career.
Omar Cook: Cook is a player with plenty of potential but he should have remained in school for another year. Cook is a very gifted passer who can make role players scorers by creating easy shots for them. He plays the game at an up tempo pace but still plays in control. Cook is also a strong on ball defender. These are excellent attributes in a NBA point guard. However, the weakness in Cook's game is shooting. He struggles to hit jump shots with range which will cause defenders to back off him. This is a correctable problem but it will take time and hard work. Since the Raptors would draft Cook to have him sit and learn for a year, he might be a player worth a lot of consideration.
Alvin Jones: Jones has the big body and defensive skills that the Raptors could use in the middle. Jones is a strong defender who can block shots with the best of them and rebound the ball. The fact that he has a 36 inch vertical leap for a man of his size makes him attractive. He is athletic enough to play in the Raptors system and would provide a last line of defense, allowing the guards to gamble. The knock on Jones is his lack of offense. His footwork is poor and he has never shot a high percentage despite playing against smaller players in college. However, Jones will be drafted as a defensive player and any offense he develops will be considered a bonus. This lack of offense will likely keep him out of the top 20 selections though.
Who the Team Will Likely Select
Depending on whose opinion you read, you'll likely get one of two schools of thought on what type player the Raptors will draft. American draft experts expect the team to go big. They point out the Raptors weaknesses up front, especially with the possible departures of Antonio Davis and Charles Oakley . After gathering a number of opinions from these gurus, the team appears to have their eyes on
Loren Woods and
Haywood. In one of the most wide open drafts in recent memory, one team could influence the draft by taking a player higher than expected. According to the experts, the Raptors are hoping that the teams above them go for athletic wing players, causing a potential lottery big man to fall to them. Since this is unlikely to happen with big men deprived teams such as Seattle and Orlando drafting ahead of them, the team may turn their attention to a lesser center or a talented power forward who is victim to the numbers game. If the team goes for a center then Jason Collins and Alvin Jones will likely be the candidates. The team would really be desperate for a pivot if they took either at number 17, considering the talent which may still be on the board. Potential power forwards who could be on the board are Michael Bradley, Troy Murphy, Zach Randolph and Steven Hunter. Bradley and Murphy are similar in that they are offensive minded players who will struggle defensively. With the Raptors recent shift to athleticism and defense, the team would have to weigh these player's weaknesses against their strengths. If the team is comfortable that they can hide the defensive short comings, especially with the new zone defense rules, the team may select either if available. Randolph is a player who is rumored to be slipping because of his physique. Randolph has always had the look of an out of shape player but he is agile on his feet and has plenty of upside. The Raptors have worked him out and he would be a steal if still on the draft board when the team picks. One player the team may have their eyes on is
Steven Hunter. A few weeks before Hunter's coming out party at the Chicago pre-draft camp, he worked out for the Raptors. The Raptors do not have a second round pick, so obviously their scouts saw something in him to give him a work out. According to recent work out schedules, Hunter is due back in Toronto two days before the draft for a second work out. The Toronto media has a different view on the Raptors' draft plans. They believe the team will go for a point guard in the draft. Their reasoning is Glen Grunwald's comments at the team's final press conference where he was asked what the team's needs are going into next season. Grunwald indicated his desire for a third point guard. When the media jumped to conclusions that he meant the team would fill this need in the draft, Grunwald quickly noted that it was very possible the team would address that need by signing a journeyman point guard for a low salary. The local media seems to have dismissed his latter comments. Their speculation has been fueled because the second player the team worked out was point guard Omar Cook. There is also a chance that both sides could be wrong. The Raptors front office has always said they will take the best player available regardless of team needs. The team has proven that they stick to that theory and might very well surprise a lot of people by taking a shooting guard or small forward.
The Off Season
Off seasons are never fun in Toronto and this one may be the most crucial. The franchise has five players that it must sign to new contracts. The most important of those being Vince Carter. Carter has a window of opportunity this summer to sign a long term extension with the team. Thus far, Carter has not publicly indicated whether he will or not. Sources close to the team say that Carter is waiting to see what transpires this off season since he technically doesn't have to sign an extension until the day before the season starts. However, what Vince needs to understand is that free agents, including his own teammates, need to know what his plans are with this team. Players will not commit to this team long term without the assurances that Carter will be in a Raptors uniform for many years. One player who will definitely be interested in Carter's fate is Antonio Davis. According to reports, Davis' second choice appears to be Toronto. This is provided that the money is there and team's future looks promising. Davis' first choice is rumored to be a sign and trade. Davis has been very clear while playing for the Raptors that winning is far and way his most important basketball related goal. If Davis can get to a contender now via a sign and trade, he would likely jump at that opportunity. If Davis is traded then the team will likely get something of value because the Raptors hold all the cards. Davis can not get to a team of choice and that team can't sign Davis without the Raptors' help. Therefore, the Raptors can leverage some quality players from that team. However, re-signing Davis is the team's preference. The Raptors also need to re-sign Alvin Williams and Jerome Williams. It looks likely that Alvin will re-sign with the team. The team has set aside the money to re-sign all of their free agents so he'll likely get his market value. Jerome Williams may leave but he'll likely come back provided the price and minutes are right. JYD became an instant fan favorite and has spoken highly of the city. According to the beat writers who follow the team, Jerome's key concern is playing time. That problem will likely be addressed in off season transactions. The final player the team would like to get under contract is Keon Clark. Clark is under the same contract terms as Vince Carter. The team would like to get Clark's signature on an extension before the deadline. Another key move this off season will be the likely departure of Oakley. The team and city is simply tired of his antics. Don't expect the team to get much in return for a player with rapidly declining skills. This will likely be spun as addition by substraction with insignificant players coming to Toronto in the trade. In other moves, the team will likely make a pitch for the services of European big man Zeljko Rebraca. The Raptors have held his rights for a few years now and for the first time Rebraca has expressed an interest in playing in the NBA. The team may also look at signing a third point guard as was discussed earlier. The free agent market is weak so if the Raptors are unsuccessful with their own free agents, look for them to explore the trade route by using their created cap space to their advantage. What lies ahead for the Raptors this off season is a mystery. However, Raptors fans can rest assured that Glen Grunwald will not likely disappoint.