Bryan Colangelo is taking a lot of slack from the Raptors fan base for selecting 7-foot Lithuanian centre Jonas Valanciunas with the 5th overall selection the 2011 NBA Draft. Frankly, most of the arguments I have heard as to why the pick might have been subpar are well, subpar. I applaud the pick of Valanciunas at the number five spot and think Colangelo did well to think of the next 4-5 years of the Raptors franchise and not just make a pick that would have appeased the masses.
I hear Brandon Knight’s name a lot as a guy we just had to take and while I see some definite strong points to his offensive arsenal I really do not see the playmaking point guard the Raptors desperately need. Seven other teams had the opportunity to take him and they all passed and his draft stock dropped like a rock on draft night leading me to believe that the people who get paid to know things we never will know something we don’t.
For Bryan Colangelo this draft was a no-win situation so I think he made the best of it for the franchise’s future. He was chastised for not taking a player who could instantly step in and make an impact but last I checked this draft was relatively weak outside the top two in terms of NBA-ready talent and Lebron James wasn’t available at the Raptors pick. A lot of analysts have said that Valanciunas could be the best player of the draft when all is said and done.
Point guard is one of the hardest positions to come into and make a huge impact in your rookie season. This is the floor general, the quarter back, the leader and face of the team in some respects if you lack a point forward. If we look at last year’s NBA draft and first overall selection PG John Wall was very highly touted and thought to be an instant impact at the NBA level.
Wall, while solid was not overwhelmingly successful as was expected of him as he averaged a respectable 16 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 turnovers. He shot a reasonable but unspectacular 40% from the field and 29% from 3-point land.
Raptors point guard Jerryd Bayless as a starter (in 14 games) averaged 18 points, 7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 3 turnovers. Bayless shot 46% from the field and 33% from 3-point land. Are Raptors fans saying that Bayless was an “impact” player? He essentially posted identical numbers to John Wall albeit in a smaller sample size as a starter but I think you see my point.
I think the Raptors are still in good hands and no I am not drinking the Bryan Colangelo kool-aid but I like the moves he has made recently. Dwayne Casey was the best candidate for head coach on paper and we got him. Chris Bosh could have walked to Miami for nothing but BC was able to get our own first rounder back in the sign and trade and he took the highest rated C and European in the draft at #5 overall.
All of the reports on Valanciunas that I have read are very positive and it sounds like he has a high motor, very strong rebounding instincts (some say best in the NBA draft), solid work ethic and some toughness. If you take a longer view of this selection you can’t deny that this is probably what is best for the team going forward.
The Raptors are going nowhere next season and the upcoming NBA draft in 2012 is supposed to be one of the best drafts in recent years so one more year in the lottery wouldn’t hurt anyone. It sure beats trading for Stephen Jackson, blowing our money on Samuel Dalembert and bringing back Allen Iverson as most short sighted fans sometimes suggest. Believe in the rebuild and believe that the man who deftly scooped Demar DeRozan and Ed Davis still knows what he is doing.
I know it’s not cool to say these days but I still believe in Bryan Colangelo and I am still excited about the direction of the Raptors.