The Toronto Raptors were founded, with the Vancouver Grizzlies, in 1995 as part of the NBA expanding into Canada. The team added some nice pieces that are still mentioned in Raptors history right from the start. And as the seasons go on, the stars keep forming. From Stoudamire and Camby, to Vince Carter to Chris Bosh, and now in the hands of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors have established NBA basketball in the North. Through the draft, and mainly the first round, the Raptors have been able to find their foundation pieces through the past two decades.
Not all has been great however as it took the Raptors a while to gain interest and success in Canada. In their first four seasons the team would go a combined 90-206 with zero playoff appearances. The Raptors have only made eight playoffs in their twenty-one year history, with the furthest run coming as recently as last year. There have been three four-year runs of finishing under .500. The Raptors have selected a player in the top 10 of the NBA Draft 13 times. And some of those picks just never panned out how they were planned. Although the Raptors were able to add star talent multiple times in the draft, they failed to ever get the finishing piece to help that superstar succeed, and carry the team up north to the next level.
The team is enjoying a nice stint of success currently, carried by All-Star back court DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. During this article, we will count down the 8 best and 7 worst first-round draft picks that have gotten the Raptors history to where it is today.
15 Best - Marcus Camby
Camby was drafted with the number two overall pick in the 1996 draft, one year after the Toronto Raptors franchise was founded. Camby only played two seasons in Toronto, but played an integral part in gaining the franchise popularity and helping the team establish character. Camby entered the NBA after winning National College Player of the Year at UMass where his jersey is now retired. He started 38 games in his rookie season, putting averaging 14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks en route to NBA All-Rookie First Team honors. His second season he would lead the league in blocks averaging 3.7 per game. That would be his first of four times leading the NBA in the category and only time with Toronto.
Camby moved on to New York after his sophomore season in a trade that brought Charles Oakley to Toronto. Camby would go on to play with six teams in his career, and added a Defensive Play of the Year award to his credit in 2007.
14 Worst - Ed Davis
An NCAA Champion with the University of North Carolina, Ed Davis was selected 13th overall by the Raptors in the 2010 draft. The selection came just months off the heels of All-Star Chris Bosh leaving town to join the Miami Heat following two consecutive non-playoff seasons. Davis was drafted to attempt to the fill the void left by the former franchise player, but he spent the first part of his rookie year in the D-League. Following his return to the roster, he started seventeen games averaging 7.7 points for his rookie campaign.
His second year brought more inconsistent play, starting just nine games while averaging 6.3 points per game. During his third season in which he was averaging a career high 9.7 points, Davis was traded and his Raptors career was over. Davis was packaged in a trade that brought Rudy Gay to the Raptors. Gay didn't even play a full season with the team before being shipped out himself.
13 Best - Jonas Valanciunas
The Raptors' current center was drafted 5th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Valanciunas would make his debut during the 2012-13 season after finishing up his career overseas. The Lithuanian is paired with the All-Star guard play of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and is helping bring to Toronto the most consistent basketball in team history. In 2015-2016, the Raptors made their first Eastern Conference Final before dropping the series to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 6 games.
During that season, Valanciunas averaged career highs with 12.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 1.3 BPG. It looks like he is trending in the direction of upping those highs, and the Raptors hope to get another chance at the ECF. At just age 24, Valanciunas has time to make his mark even bigger on the Toronto Raptors franchise, and prove the 5th pick in the 2011 draft belongs on the 8 greatest draft picks in team history.
12 Worst - Michael Bradley
Bradley appeared in 93 games with 11 starts in his first two seasons with the Raptors, before being waived in March of the 2003-04 season. Bradley was taken by the Raptors with the 17th pick in the 2001 draft. After playing just 4.5 minutes per game his rookie season, it looked like Bradley was making some impact increasing his minutes up to 19.6 MPG his second season. But after being constantly sidelined by injury the next year, the Raptors waived Bradley. His impact on the franchise was minimal, during a time where the team was building around franchise great Vince Carter.
Bradley would go on to play with four more NBA teams before leaving the NBA in 2006. He put up career averages of 2.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. Bradley continued playing professionally overseas until 2010, and is currently pursuing a career in coaching.
11 Best - Tracy McGrady
T-Mac could probably also be mentioned as one of the biggest "What ifs" in franchise history. McGrady played just three years with the Toronto Raptors before becoming one of the most dominant scorers in the NBA with the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets. Drafted with the number 9 pick in 1997, McGrady may not have hit his prime with the team, but he was part of bringing the game to a whole new popularity level in Toronto and all of Canada. McGrady averaged 15.3 PPG and 6.3 RPG in 31 minutes per during the 1999-2000 campaign. The efforts helped the Raptors reach their first playoff in franchise history. Also in that season, McGrady joined Carter in the NBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest. The contest took Carter and the Raptors popularity to new heights.
McGrady was traded by the team following the 99-00 season for a pick that turned out to be a player by the name of Fran Vazquez. It would have been nice to see the Raptors make the duo of McGrady and Carter work, but nonetheless, T-Mac helped put the Raptors on the NBA map.
10 Worst - Joey Graham
Graham was chosen with the 16th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, one of the picks acquired from the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Raptors' legend Vince Carter. Graham was brought to play next to the new franchise leader, Chris Bosh. But after starting just the first five games, he was replaced by Morris Peterson for the rest of the season. During his rookie year, he averaged 6.7 points and 3.1 rebounds. Graham set career highs in 2008-09 with 7.7 PPG and 3.7 RPG in 19.8 minutes. It was not enough for the Raptors, as he walked and signed with the Denver Nuggets that season.
Graham lands on this list because it was a time the team needed to begin building around Bosh, and they used a first round draft pick, which was acquired by trading their previous franchise player. Graham never lived up to the hype on either side.
9 Best - Morris Peterson
After winning a NCAA Championship with Michigan State in 2000, the Raptors grabbed Mo-Pete with the 21st pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. Peterson spent seven productive seasons in Toronto, lasting from the Vince Carter era into the Chris Bosh days. Peterson appeared in 19 career playoff games with the franchise. During his Raptors career, he averaged 12 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 three point field goals made per game. In 2005-2006, he put up career highs of 16.8 points and 4.6 rebounds.
He is still top 10 in many of the franchise's major categories, including second all-time in games played, and fifth in points with 6,498. Peterson is the perfect example of what teams are looking for in the ladder parts of the first round to pair with the franchise centerpiece. He grew up with Vince Carter during the 2001 playoff run, and ushered in Chris Bosh with a playoff appearance in 2007.
8 Worst - Charlie Villanueva
Villanueva actually enjoyed a lengthy NBA career, last playing in 2016 with the Dallas Mavericks. The reason he lands on the wrong side of this list is due to being traded just one year after being drafted number 7 overall in 2005. Does that mean Toronto got back something of value in return? Not quite. After his rookie campaign in which he averaged 13 points and 6.4 rebounds, Villanueva was traded for point guard TJ Ford. Since Villanueva played the same position as Chris Bosh, the Raptors decided to use the All-Rookie in a trade to bring a solid point guard to town.
The problem was the Raptors made this trade after Ford had already missed a whole season with a back injury, and during the 2007-08 season would again suffer a severe injury. Ford would never take back the starting role from Jose Calderon and was traded within two years. What started as a seventh overall pick in the draft didn't turn out to be the franchise changer that could have been expected.
7 Best - Damon Stoudamire
Stoudamire was the franchise's first ever draft pick. "Mighty Mouse" was taken with the number 7 pick in the 1995 draft. During that year, he started all 70 games he appeared in posting noteworthy rookie per games of 19 points, 9.3 assists, while pouring in a then rookie record 133 three point field goals made. The effort earned him the NBA Rookie of the Year. He followed up his rookie season starting in 81 games of 81 appearances, increasing his scoring average to 20.2 per game. After 49 games in his third season, the team decided to trade Stoudamire in a package deal that brought Kenny Anderson and Alvin Williams to the Raptors.
Williams would go on to be the point guard that helped Vince Carter and the Raptors in their run to the 2001 Eastern Conference Semi Final. Stoudamire's spot on this list is more for the way he pioneered the franchise. The first ever draft pick, and the team's best player for two plus years. Stoudamire went on to play in the league until 2008, mostly with the Portland Trail Blazers.
6 Worst - Aleksandar Radojevic
The Raptors used the number 12 overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft to take a player that played a grand total of 152 NBA minutes throughout his career. The 7 foot 3 inch center, started off with a disappointing rookie season, seeing action in just three games and scoring seven points in twenty four minutes. Going into the 2000-01 season, Radojevic felt things would improve, but between inconsistent play and nagging injuries, he saw no time on the floor before finally being traded to the Denver Nuggets.
The Raptors received a package deal which included Keon Clark. Clark provided a decent season and half with the team before leaving to sign with the Sacramento Kings. In all, the Raptors used a lottery pick in 1999 for a season and half worth of Keon Clark, when they could have added players such as Corey Maggette, Ron Artest, Andrei Kirilenko, or Manu Ginobili, all of whom were drafted after Aleksandar Radojevic.
5 Best - Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh was added to Vince Carter's Toronto Raptors after being selected with the 4th pick in the historic 2003 NBA Draft. It looked like the team finally had a duo of stars. It never was the case, as just over a season later, Carter was traded away to the New Jersey Nets. Bosh became the new super star of Toronto. In seven years with the team, he averaged 20.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG, and 2 BPG. He represented the team in five straight NBA All-Star Games from 2005-2010, and added an All-NBA honor in 2007.
Bosh and the Raptors made two playoff appearances during his tenure, including a Atlantic Division Championship during the 2006-2007 season. The team, however, failed to ever reach the second round of the playoffs under Bosh's leadership. In 2010, the Raptors and Heat completed a sign-and-trade which sent Bosh to Miami, where he was able to add two NBA Championships to his credit.
4 Worst - Rafael Araujo
Araujo was drafted a year after Chris Bosh with hopes of building something special in the low-post. Instead, Araujo turned out to be one of the worst centers drafted since 2000. After being selected with the 8th overall pick in the 2004 draft, Araujo played just two seasons in Toronto, never besting more than 3.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, .1 BPG, or 12.5 MPG. In his sophomore season, he shot 36.7 percent from the field–a dismal number for a big man. He was traded after two seasons in Toronto and floundered out of the NBA after just one more season elsewhere.
Bosh could have been paired up with a few different players that were drafted after Rafael Araujo in the 2004 NBA Draft. Those players include:
Andre Iguodala - NBA All-Star and NBA Finals MVP
Al Jefferson - All-NBA
Jameer Nelson- NBA All-Star
J.R. Smith - NBA Champion
Tony Allen - NBA Champion
Trevor Ariza - NBA Champion
3 Best - Antawn Jamison (Vince Carter)
Jamison may have never suited up for Toronto, but his selection in the 1998 NBA Draft turned into Raptor great Vince Carter. Jamison was taken with the 4th overall pick and part of a draft night trade, Jamison was sent to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Vince Carter (the 5th pick) and cash. The rest is Toronto Raptors history. Carter is still the franchise leader in points per game with 23.4, and is top 10 in almost every major statistical category.
More than stats, Carter brought the spotlight to the NBA and the Toronto Raptors in Canada. The Vancouver Grizzlies would go on to move out of Canada in 2001, right when Carter and the Raptors were finishing up their best playoff run in, at that time, team history. Although the team would end up losing in seven games to Allen Iverson and the 76ers, Carter averaged 30.4 points throughout the Eastern Conference Semi Final. Carter would also grab the spot light a few months prior, when he put on what some still call the greatest performance in NBA Dunk Contest history.
2 Worst - Andrea Bargnani
Bargnani was the number 1 overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. The future was supposed to be bright as Bargnani and Bosh paired together. In his first two seasons, the pair helped lead the Raptors to two straight playoff appearances. Unfortunately they were bounced in the first round of both, and would not make it back to the playoffs again until after Bargnani's departure from the team. His numbers aren't bad, a All-Rookie First Teamer, he went on to post career highs of 21.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. But the consistency was never there, and at 7 foot tall, the presence was never felt inside the paint. Bargnani's play, or lack thereof, led the Raptors to their biggest playoff drought in team history lasting five seasons.
When looking at the numbers it seems unfair to criticize Bargnani fully, but being the number one overall pick does come with expectation. Taken after the Italian born Bargnani were All-Stars: LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry, and Paul Millsap. Bargnani is currently out of the NBA and playing professionally for a team in Spain.
1 Best - DeMar DeRozan
Is it too soon to put DeRozan at the top of the all time Raptors' greats? Nope. The USC standout was taken with the 9th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. He is already the franchise leader in: Games, Minutes Played, Field Goals, and Points. After two first round exits, DeRozan helped lead the Raptors to their first ever Eastern Conference Final in 2016. In 2016-2017, the Raptors seemed poised to make the playoffs for the fourth straight year, which would cap the first time the franchise has ever done that. DeRozan is a three-time NBA All-Star and United States Men's Basketball Olympic Gold Medal winner.
What has helped DeRozan standout and take grasp of the number one spot isn't only because of his career highs of 27.9 PPG and 5.4 RPG. But the fact that the eight year Raptors veteran has decided to stay with the franchise, signing a 5 year 139 million dollar contract during the 2016 off-season. DeRozan hopes to bring new accolades to the franchise, by reaching it's first NBA Final run with backcourt mate Kyle Lowry.