And so the Ed Davis era begins.
It hardly has the same ring as the Vince Carter era or the Chris Bosh era or even the Andrea Bargnani era, but the Toronto Raptors couldn't have expected more with the No. 13 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night.
"Everyone was expecting him to go a lot higher," said a delighted Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano. "We were surprised. We didn't have him on our radar because we didn't think he fit into the five players we thought would be available at 13. We kept crossing our fingers and as he kept sliding we kept hoping he'd slide one more and one more."
Davis, a 6-foot-9, 215-pound forward from the University of North Carolina, was judged by Toronto the best player available on a night that most view as the opening volley in an off-season that could reshape the NBA landscape; that he's a big man heading into an off-season when four members of their frontcourt from last season are free agents is a bonus.
He doesn't yet have a passport, but his favourite player is Chris Bosh, a fellow left-hander who came into the NBA needing to add some bulk.
He'll be joined in training camp by another big man, 7-foot-1 Florida State sophomore Solomon Alabi who the Raptors acquired for cash and a future second-round pick after the Dallas Mavericks chose him with the 50th overall pick. Alabi, a native of Nigeria, was discovered by Raptors assistant general manager Massai Ujiri as a teenager.
The top of the draft unfolded as expected with University of Kentucky star John Wall chosen first overall by the Washington Wizards. Wall is a 6-foot-4 speedster considered the most likely player to develop into an NBA star.
Two of the Raptors' Atlantic Division rivals accelerated their rebuilding programs. The Philadelphia 76ers settled on versatile Ohio State swingman Evan Turner as the No. 2 pick, and the New Jersey Nets, looking at a makeover thanks to buckets of cap space to use on free agents, selected Derrick Favours at No. 3.
Canadian national team member Andy Rautins also heard his name called on draft night as he was taken 38th overall by the New York Knicks, their up-tempo style thought to be a good fit for the deep-shooting 6-foot-5 Syracuse University star. The son of national team coach Leo Rautins, a first-round pick in 1983 and the nephew of George Rautins, taken 158th overall by the Buffalo Braves in 1975, Andy Rautins was the first Canadian taken in the NBA draft since Denham Brown was taken 40th by the Seattle Supersonics in 2006.
The Raptors will be looking at Davis, who missed the last half of his sophomore season to a broken wrist, to be a contributor on a team that president Bryan Colangelo acknowledged will likely be changing significantly in the coming weeks or months, beginning in earnest when the clock strikes midnight on July 1 to start the NBA's free-agency period. Bosh may be Davis's favourite player, but there's no guarantee they'll be teammates.
Davis, 21, should be NBA-ready in spirit if not in body as Davis's father, Terry Davis, played 10 seasons in the NBA as an undrafted free agent.
"He taught me a lot about the business and what it means to be professional and be a man," said Ed Davis, who said apart from the cold winters he's heard only good things about Toronto.
Colangelo said he's approaching the off-season prepared for a future with or without Bosh, but Bosh himself seemed to suggest while hosting a radio show on ESPN Thursday morning that he's well down a road that seems unlikely to end in Toronto.
In discussing his pending free agency, Bosh said he would consider re-signing with Toronto - it can offer him roughly $30-million (U.S.) more than any other team - but allowing instead he's looking forward to exploring what will be a considerable array of options, with one catch: His immediate future will probably hinge on what fellow free agent LeBron James does.
"Am I waiting on LeBron? Pretty much," Bosh said. "I think everyone has to. I have to as well. He's a great player and I would be crazy to think that all the teams that are considering him, they would talk to somebody else first," Bosh said. "I think everybody is going to be going at him first.
"They'll probably call him at 12:01; hopefully they'll call me at 12:02."
An NBA official said the picture was being clouded by teams trying to shed payroll in advance of a shrinking salary cap, making financial considerations an even bigger factor in potential deals than usual. Financial pressures are thought to be behind all-star guard Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets being available, adding another elite young talent to the market along with Bosh, James, Dwyane Wade and others.
The Raptors were warily eyeing teams like the Miami Heat, who shed additional salary commitments by trading Daequon Cook and the No. 18 pick to Oklahoma City on Wednesday to provide them room under the salary cap to sign not only Wade but Bosh, who share the same agent.
"Everyone thinks that was done for Chris," said one team executive. And while Bosh has always been willing to work with the Raptors on a sign-and-trade arrangement, where Bosh would get more money and the Raptors some assets in return, there is little on Miami's roster the Raptors are interested in. "Miami would be the worst team for us," the executive said.
Similarly, the Chicago Bulls, who reportedly have an agreement to trade Kirk Hinrich and the No. 17 pick to Washington in a move designed to add two maximum contracts to a roster that already includes Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose, could make a strong play for Bosh. The Bulls have more assets the Raptors might be interested in.
While the NBA draft always includes a lot of behind-the-scenes intrigue, Thursday's version was especially so. The Raptors' hierarchy gathered in their draft headquarters at the Air Canada Centre early Thursday morning and Colangelo didn't emerge until just before midnight.
"There were more [trade scenarios]than you can count," said Triano. "I'd have to say there were eight or nine or 10 opportunities to try to trade picks, purchase more picks, it's been extremely active up there."
With so many question marks in their front court, Colangelo said it was a relief that there was some quality size available.
"I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm confident Chris is coming back," said Colangelo. "That's why this is the right piece."
By the time the day started, the Raptors had narrowed their list of preferred selections to two, with big men like Ekpe Udoh of Baylor and Patrick Patterson of Kentucky thought to be their preferred candidates. But Udoh moved up to sixth and Davis - who the Raptors never had a chance to work out in Toronto - was surprisingly available at No. 13, so the Raptors pounced on him.
Davis averaged 13.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in 23 games for North Carolina last season and was the third fastest player to 100 blocked shots for his career at UNC, trailing Rasheed Wallace and Sam Perkins.
Alabi, 22, averaged 11.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots a game.
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