The Toronto Raptors Biggest Mistake in the Past Ten Years

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Mistakes happen. We sleep in a little too late or we forget to do a project. But for us, mistakes are simply, just that – mistakes. For the thirty NBA teams, mistakes cost them, potentially, tens of millions of dollars, a playoff appearance, or even a championship. They have been riddled throughout history. It can be draft picks (Blazers fans know what this is like), it can be free agency (can I get an amen from Knicks fans?), or it can be virtually anything else (in the case of the Kings, EVERYTHING ELSE). Thus, we present the worst mistakes from each NBA team over the past ten years.

The Toronto Raptors Biggest Mistake in the Past Ten Years

The Toronto Raptors were a franchise stuck in mediocrity. Over their twenty year existence, they have been the butt of jokes around the league. From Vince Carter to Chris Bosh, the franchise has been unable to retain its stars, who have (essentially) all left for greener pastures. Can you blame them? The only non-American team in the Association has failed to surround its best players with talent. Toronto has enjoyed unprecedented success in the last three seasons, and is seemingly righting the ship, but it has been a long time coming for fans of Canadian basketball.

In the past ten years, the Raptors have had minor hiccups and unmitigated disasters in terms of trades, contracts given, money withheld, and drafting. So much so that it would be easy to say that the worst mistake Toronto has made in the past ten years was to hire Bryan Colangelo. The list of errors that the ex-GM made is long and diverse, but at Last Word on Sports, we think we can narrow it down to one fateful draft choice in 2006.

Background to the Mistake

The 2006 NBA Draft was notoriously weak. While it was only ten years ago, the players who are recognizable on that list are few and far between. After receiving the first overall pick, Toronto was poised to start its rebuild. Vince Carter had been traded to the New Jersey Nets, but thankfully for Raptors fans, they still had a young stud to build around in Chris Bosh. The young Georgia Tech product was coming off of a career year as the team’s best player.

At only 21 years old, Bosh almost averaged a double-double in the 2005-06 season, racking up 22.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game on route to his first All-Star selection. It seemed that Toronto had a perennial All-Star who could do everything and was young, but he needed help. Sharing the majority of his frontcourt minutes was Charlie Villanueva, but the rookie out of UConn was traded that summer to the Milwaukee Bucks, in exchange for T.J. Ford. An upgrade was needed, and the perfect prospect was sitting there, ready to be snatched up.

LaMarcus Aldridge‘s Dominance

Out of Texas awaited a 6’11″, 240 pound big man with a smooth jump shot and every post move in the book. His footwork was phenomenal and his hustle unquestionable. LaMarcus Aldridge was a First-Team All-Big 12 player in his sophomore year of college. Averaging 15 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.0 BPG, and 1.4 SPG, Aldridge was a statistical monster. He was the consensus first overall pick, pegged to lead whichever team chose him to success. Not only was he offensively dominant, but he also won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2006. He was the total package, the obvious choice, and a perfect potential side-kick to Bosh.

The Mistake

What happened next wasn’t only shocking, it was downright inconceivable. The Raptors and Colangelo passed on Aldridge. The Texas product slipped to second and was graciously selected by the Portland Trail Blazers (via trade). The man who was drafted ahead of a now-perennial All-Star and one of the best players in the past decade? Andrea Bargnani. His name is still mentioned by Toronto fans with a mixture of disgust and amusement.

Standing at 7’0″, the Italian center was 20 years old and drew comparison after comparison to Dirk Nowitzki. Equipped with a smooth jumper, mobility, and ball handling skills, Bargnani had potential to be an offensive superstar. Named the Euro-League rising star in the 2005-06 season, he was a name to watch. He was impressive, and during his time up north, he averaged 15 PPG and 4.8 RPG. Indeed, Bargnani showed flashes of potential every year, except he never cashed in on that potential.

The Initial Results

In the 2005-06 season, Toronto finished second last in in defense. Drafting a scoring forward, who neither played nor cared about defense, sounds like it was counter-intuitive. That’s especially true since the team’s best player was already a scoring forward.

Admittedly, Toronto was not horrible during the 2006-07 season, and its defense did improve, but not thanks to Bargnani. The Raptors would make the playoffs twice in the next four years, exiting in the first round both times. They were stuck in purgatory, with no way of advancing to the next round. Bargnani’s development seemed to stall, and the big Italian became known as notoriously “soft”.

The Ultimate Consequence

In 2007-08, the Raptors went to the playoffs for the second straight year and were looking to take the next step and reach the second round. They didn’t. That season, Bargnani averaged 10.2 PPG and 3.7 RPG. Not horrible, but he had better numbers in his rookie season, and improvement is required for a number one overall pick. Conversely, Aldridge was a monster that season, averaging 18.3 PPG and 7.9 PPG. The disparity is almost painful.

What Could’ve Been

For Raptors fans, the thought of what could have been is depressing — two potential Hall of Fame players (yes, I said it!) playing on the same team. They could both shoot, play inside, protect the paint, and rebound. The image of Toronto running down the court and dumping the ball down low for Bosh, who hits a turnaround jumper, is delightful. The idea that they could have ran the very same play the next time down the court, but with Aldridge instead, is mind-boggling. Double team one, and the other would rain jumpers from the outside. Allow them to isolate one-on-one, and it would be a long night. Opponents would be forced to match-up their best interior defender with one, leaving the other to wreak havoc both inside and out. Play two centers to try and counter against Toronto’s size? Aldridge and Bosh could take them outside and drive right past them. Defensively, they’d be able to switch onto guards with ease and fly in from the weak-side to erase shots.

Instead, Raptors fans are left with wonderful memories of Primo Pasta commercials. Thanks, Colangelo.



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