They’ve been mostly excruciating to watch the last couple of years in the post-Chris Bosh era, losing 102 times against just 45 wins as the franchise counted its pennies and opted on a more conservative game plan that emphasized player development and a defence-first mindset.
The Toronto Raptors’ next step toward what the franchise hopes will be a return to respectability, not to mention the playoffs, will come Thursday night when the NBA draft is held.
The Raptors hold the eighth overall pick, not too low and just high enough to attract the interest of some of the lower-seeded teams hoping to move up in a draft loaded with talent.
“So many things are speculated on above us,” Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said Tuesday. “Is someone going to jump into five and acquire the fifth pick to acquire a particular player? Does No. 6 and No. 11 stay put because Portland’s got [both] picks? They’re contemplating something. Charlotte may move out of No. 2.
“All of it, again, is speculation. But I truly think there’s some legs to some of the conversations because we might even be involved in some of those, or at least feeling our way through a few of the scenarios.”
The Raptors also have two second-round selections, No. 37 and No. 56 overall. Those are a lot of young bodies for a team already heavy with fledgling talent, especially if they’re keen to make a playoff run in the 2012-13 season for the first time since 2008.
And don’t forget that last year’s top draft pick, seven-footer Jonas Valanciunas, 21, will also be in a Raptors uniform after honouring the final year of a contract to play in Lithuania.
There is a chance Colangelo could trade his No. 8 pick for a small forward or point guard who is NBA-ready.
“We know eight is certainly in play,” he said, “because there’s a number of teams that have inquired about it.”
The New Orleans Hornets have the No. 1 pick and it is almost a given they will take Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, considered by most to be the type of player to build a franchise around.
After that it’s anybody’s guess where the talent might fall.
The Raptors have a glaring need to upgrade at the small-forward position, but Colangelo insists they’ll take the best player on the board when it comes time to make their selections.
One of the players believed to be on Toronto’s radar at No. 8 is 6-foot-11 forward Perry Jones III of Baylor, one of the most athletic players in the draft. Another is point guard Damian Lillard from Weber State, one of the most prolific scorers in U.S. college basketball this past season.
After two years of rebuilding, Colangelo hints at being pro-active over the summer. He said a No. 8 draft pick is just a start.
“Anybody selected at eight is unlikely to have a huge impact or immediate impact on the team,” he said. “But we would like to again accelerate that process. And that probably comes with either a trade or with a free-agent play at some point. Or two. It’s a combination of the things.”