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Roko in Spain is A-OK with me

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Harken back to June 28. NBA Draft Night. Selection 41 and the Raptors select point guard Roko Ukic. The pick is hailed by many as the selection that saved the Raptors draft night.

Weeks later, when Ukic signs a four-year deal with TAU Ceremica of the Spanish League, these same fans are ripping Rob Babcock for the selection.

Who to believe?

Well, you should remember what your parents used to tell you: Always trust your first instinct.

Here's why:

1. Point guards take a while to get acclimated to the NBA.

Do people really think that Ukic was going to come over and be a major contributor in his first season? Not likely. It typically takes point guards a few years to make that jump. Maybe Ukic would have surprised everyone and been an integral member of the Raptors rotation in 2005-06. That scenario is no certainty. Why not allow someone else to spend the money and time to develop his game over the next year or two before bringing him over when he’s ready?

2. The Raptors Roster Situation

The Raps have ten guys returning from last season and drafted two players who will be on the roster this season in Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham. Add unrestricted free agents Matt Bonner and Pape Sow and you’ve got a numbers issue.

Prior to the draft, most of the talk centred around this particular issue. Babcock even came out and said that he was looking for a player or two that he could draft and send abroad for a few years. There was no argument at that time. How come it is such a big issue now?

3. “Why does this stuff just happen to the Raptors?”

Well, sweetheart, it’s not just your local starting five that faces these issues. Do you think Sacramento fans were happy when the team drafted Peja Stojakovic 14th overall in 1996, knowing that they weren’t going to see him for three years? Not really. I think that situation worked out well for them, though. Same goes with other second rounders like Manu Ginobili (drafted in 1999, NBA in 2003), Marko Jaric (drafted in 2000, NBA in 2003) and Darius Songaila (drafted in 2002, NBA in 2004).

The Raptors management has been ripped by many (including this writer) for missing the boat of European players for the longest time. Now, when we make a concerted effort to improve our European scouting and make an astute pick, these same people rip Babcock for allowing him to go to Europe instead of praising the excellent selection. Rome wasn’t built in a day, folks.

Ukic may or may not turn out to be a good selection for the Raptors. However, it is extremely short sighted to blast Babcock for the pick without understanding the complete situation. This isn’t NBA Live. You can’t manage a franchise through ten seasons in a matter of hours.

I may be one of the few people who has faith in Babcock and what he is trying to do with this team. I am also man enough to admit when I’m wrong.

Hopefully, those blasting Babcock now will be man enough to admit that they were wrong when Roko is leading the Raptors to the playoffs two or three years from now.

- Jeff Chapman