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Draft Thoughts

Where am I?

How is this supposed to make me feel? Optimistic?

It seems like I should feel something about the events that took place last night, but I am numb. It might be the mild hangover, it might be the dreary weather outside. Whatever it is, I sit here and wonder:

What is it that I witnessed last night?

I won’t sit here and grade the draft. People that grade the drafts now are simply guessing. When it really comes down to it, I didn’t attend workouts, interviews, or travel to Europe to scout. I watched NCAA games. I read everything there was to read and I made my own assumptions about what the Raptors would do, and likely who they would take.

I was wrong.

I didn’t think the draft would shape up this way. But whether I was wrong or right is irrelevant. It is whether the Raptors brass was right or wrong that really matters.

So, was it a good draft for the Raptors? I'll be honest. I think we probably could have done better, but I don’t think this year it is an entire loss like some have suggested. When we had two opportunities to pick between Green and Granger and chose neither I was in disbelief. I am still in disbelief the morning after. Maybe not so much for Green (rumour has it he may not be totally together grey matter wise) but I was pretty sure Granger was going to be a solid addition. He liked TO, wanted to come here and would have filled a need. But we passed on him twice and Indiana gladly picked him up.

Before I get to my feelings on the 7th pick let me address the 16th. Joey Graham could be a really nice complimentary player. He likes to play defense and is an athlete like Andre Iguodala. In fact, he is an even better athlete, comes from a strong NCAA program with a great coach in Eddie Sutton and can shoot the ball. I have a feeling that, during summer league and the exhibition season, there will be a few highlights of him soaring through the air and cramming it. That is something we have not seen here in Toronto since Vince in 1999. He is hard-nosed, a Sam Mitchell type of player. He wants to play team ball, play D and win games. It’s good to see that Babcock and Mitchell likely both agreed on this pick. Graham is a character guy with good solid game. If he plays like he is capable then Mitchell will love him. He will get good minutes and the franchise may have its best swingman in years. Is Graham a star? Probably not. The regular fan probably looked at the mocks around the Internet and did not really take note of this guy. I think fans will come around to Graham.

In fact before I get to 7, let me address 41. Roko. No one here in Toronto, not us, not the local media, no one except the Raptors brass likely has a good grasp of what we have here. I do know this, though. He was expected to go in the mid teens. We grabbed him in the SECOND round. When we did, I was very pleased. We might have found our point guard for the next ten years. We may have our version of Gilbert Arenas, Manu Ginobili, or Michael Redd.

There is hope here. He is a pass-first point guard. We need someone who can take care of the ball and distribute. We need a floor general who will listen to Mitchell and run the offence smoothly. Roko could be that guy. He’s tall and, provided he puts weight on without losing quickness, the team may have gotten away an absolute steal. I would have been happy with him at 16. This is good value. Everyone loves value.

I can’t really talk about Slokar. Here's what we said about him during his workout. Something tells me the city of Toronto may never know.

That brings me to 7. Villanueva. The guys on ESPN were all over this pick even before he put on our nation's red.

“Same position as Bosh” they said.

“Where is this guy going to play?” they said.

“Where is this team going?” they said.

All reasonable questions, and after last year, maybe there is reason to doubt. But let’s consider some things that were not discussed last night while Jay Bilas ranted and raved.

(Just for historical purposes, Bilas also slammed the Hawks last year for taking that years supposed “biggest bust” in Josh Smith. Last time I checked, he won the 2004 dunk contest, has serious potential and may be the brightest spot on that Atlanta team. And I'm including Marvin in that discussion.)

Villanueva can play three spots and that includes the four. He can rebound, score and has pretty good hands. He also has shown he can pass reasonably well. Last time I checked, our frontcourt was pretty raw and still needed an influx of talent.

But I keep going back to the fact that Villanueva’s heart gets questioned all the time. Is this a Sam Mitchell player? Were Babcock and Mitchell on the same page here? Villanueva is a better player than Hoffa and actually has the potential to be a 15 and 10 guy. Supposedly, he has been working out with the same trainer as Ben Gordon last year and that can’t be a bad thing. At least, he realized people questioned his heart and has been working out to change that perception. Too bad the same thing can’t be said about Chris Taft.

So maybe this could work out. Sure, I have some doubts. I don’t WANT to completely write-off Hoffa, but this pick, along with sure development from Pape Sow, may be too much pressure for the Brazilian to take. We all know the fans and media are against him. Maybe it will push him to develop more, which can’t be a bad thing. Or even if it doesn’t, maybe Babcock is making up for his mistakes. I would rather see that than the alternative.

So again: How am I supposed to feel?

When I look at the draft from last night, I don’t think anyone has Lebron/Wade/Duncan written on them. There will be some good players. Some will be great. Others will be just another name on a long list of first round busts. I don’t think we have the latter. I think we have three guys that can contribute and play the way Mitchell wants. That is an upgrade over some of the guys we have now. I don’t think the franchise made any huge blunders. That’s makes me feel good. I think we may have been able to do better. That makes me unhappy.

Babcock is trying to change the culture, to create a team that plays the right way, I think this is a step towards that. I think that, despite what everyone says, we are better. I am just not sure how much better. It seems like the team is on the same page, and that, for this franchise, is a step in the right direction.

I look at the team now and think we have some talent to build around. The Suns proved that you can win by playing an unorthodox style. I think we are experimenting like they did, but in a different direction.

This is going to be a big team. A 6’6” PG in Roko, a 6’7” SG in Graham, a 6’11” SF in Villanueva, a 6’11” PF in Bosh and a 6’10” C in Pape Sow could be very interesting.

At least it will be interesting to see if it works.

And if it doesn’t?

At least we are not the Knicks.

- Dave Randell

For instant reactions to all the picks made, check out our Draft Day diary.