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Bruno is still two years away from being two years away eight years later

Cover Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the 2022 NBA draft approaching on June 23rd, we want to take a look back at the Raptors draft history; giving a bit of an accounting of the state of the Raptors, what we thought of the pick in the moment and in retrospect. Each day we will examine the Raptors significant pick(s) and additions in each draft, and frame it in the context of what was going on during that year. You can find all the pieces in this draft history projecthere.

Luck is the convergence of preparation and timing, but sometimes, luck is just dumb luck. When Masai took over the Raptors, he spoke about the singular goal of bringing a championship to Toronto. There was no rebuild mentioned explicitly, the process. we were messaged. was to continue building. At the time, that felt like he planned to build on the core of DeMar, Lowry, and Gay, but what we know now is that he had multiple contingencies mapped out so when the first domino would fall, he could appropriately pivot one way or another.

The team started the season like they finished the last, about .500 going 6-7 which really was the defining theme of the short lived Gay era: about average. So while we knew there were going to be a bunch of changes coming down the pipe, a brutally decisive five game losing streak pushed trade talks into high gear, and the second move in Masais tenure was shipping off Rudy Gay to Sacramento for a ton of depth, shoring up the rotation, and removing redundancys offensively.

Now, the luck part. At the time a full rebuild wasnt really on our (the fans) radar, but as soon as Gay was traded, rumours of Lowry to the Knicks started to heat up. Ok, so we are doing this

Wojreportedthat the Knicks package consisted of Raymond Felton, Metta World Peace, and a 1st rounder. Not bad, but the Raptors are giving up the best player who still isnt in his prime. The pick will be good cause the Knicks suck, but not inspiring.

Two forces collided at once stopping a complete rebuild:

Dolan, who was burned twice in trades with Masai (Carmelo and Bargnani lol) put an end to trade negotiations

The Raptors started winning in a real and definitive way

With the departure of Gay, and the additions of Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson,  and Greivis Vsquez, the Raptors brought in a group of guys who knew their role and were happy to play said role. All of a sudden, the ball was actually moving around, there were more touches for everyone, and we had a unit that was cohesive and made complete sense.

What the trade did, Casey said, was that it developed a different pecking order. Before, we were an iso team. Rudy Gay is a great one-on-one player. When he left, the move forced the younger players to better define their roles.

Rudy meant lot to the development of this team. But were different now. Terrence Ross and DeMar (DeRozan) are impressive attacking off the pick and roll; DeMars post-up game is terrific, and hes shown he can be a quarterback out of that position. Kyles our energy hub, and his play out of the pick and roll has been huge for us; his three-point shooting (.383, among the league leaders ) has been contagious for our team.

While the scoring spiked, the most important improvement came on the defensive end of the court. While the players werent known for their defensive acumen, the team played with an energy that was just infectious. Part of that was the opportunity they were handed, but the larger part was around the emergence of the DeRozan & Lowry.

Lowry always conducted himself with a chip on his shoulder, but after not getting traded, he had a coming to God moment on multiple fronts: Masai laid out a plan for him to excel; him and DeRozan got on the same page and developed the greatest Bromance in modern history; but most importantly, he took on the challenge to go all in.

Now that the two best players on the team were lovey-dovey and giving a shit, everyone else had to give the same shit. Shit rolls downhill, but so does giving a , and this team gave a .

So after starting 6-13, the Raptors finished the year on a 42-21 run, securing the Atlantic and and heading into a showdown with an aging Nets team in the 1st round.

Truly them. Fuck them all, completely and forever. Fuck I hate the ing Nets and it gives me so much satisfaction that they are a shit show right now.

I dont want to get into the loss other than to say that it was a tough 7 game series that the Raptors should have won. Seriously. After going up 3-2, they completely shit the bed in game 6, and had it not been for fat ing Paul Pierce being in the right place at the right ing time, Lowry hits that runner in the lane and wins it at the buzzer. That might be the most heart breaking playoff loss weve ever had. Fuck the Nets. Fuck them all. Fuckwhy the was Landry fields playing in this game at all? He sat for the previous 3, and was put in cold at the end of the 4th.

Ok, I need to get into it a bit. DeRozan was spectacular, Lowry was spectacular, the Nets were supremely flawed, old, fat af, and vulnerable. Game 6 aside, this came down to Xs and Osthe one thing Casey was limited at. Ok, I cant talk about it, but Im ing stressed now

From a roster perspective, notable moves included:

Traded Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks for Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, a 2014 2nd round draft pick (Xavier Thames was later selected), a 2016 1st round draft pick (Jakob Pöltl was later selected) and a 2017 2nd round draft pick (Jonah Bolden was later selected).

This is grand theft, and gives you insight into why Dolan had PTSD dealing with Masai on the Lowry trade. When Masai calls, dont pick up the phone.

Signed Tyler Hansbrough as a free agent.

Tyler brought a lot of toughness and hustle on the wing. Super flawed player, but as a 3rd/4th option off the bench he was fine.

Traded Quincy Acy, Rudy Gay and Aaron Gray to the Sacramento Kings for Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Greivis Vsquez.

The second most important trade in Raptors history (after Lowry).

Resigned Dwayne Casey to a 3yr/$11.25m deal

Continuity, my friends, a key building block to greatness.

1st Round of the 2014 NBA Draft via Basketball Reference

The complete team transformation, and the first playoff appearance in 6 years took some of the focus away from the draft especially since we were picking 20th. This draft produced five All-Stars and 14 quality role players.

Masai went left and took someone that nobody had on their radar. In the same breath, he was called the Brazilian Kevin Durant and two years away from being two years away. Kid had no chance.

Sam Holako (SAM):Who the ? The problem with having a type is that the blinders go up and you tunnel vision on what you like. This was very much the case. After unsuccessfully trying to trade into the 2013 draft to snag Giannis, he sure as hell wasnt going to be denied Bruno.

Ok, maybe Masai knows something? He turned this team around in less than a year, makes really good decisions, has a plan, blah blah blah.

The interesting thing about the tunnel vision was that we had two 2nd round picks, one of which was burned on DeAndre Daniels when Thanasis Antetokounmpo  was sitting there available. Masai, who plays the long game, could have drafted and stashed him, hoping to lure Giannis over at a later date. I dunno, this is all in retrospect.

The reality is we had a really good team trending upwards, so rolling the dice on a project who could have had massive potential wasnt that big a flex. I wanted Gary Harris (who Chicago snagged with the 19th pick), Rodeny Hood, or Kyle Anderson.

I pulled in Chris Howson-Jan on this one:

Chris Howson-Jan (CHJ):Who?!?!? This pick was instantly lambasted league-wide, but given what the Raptors front office had done in 2013-14, goodwill was extremely high. And since nobody knew anything about the kid, there was nothing bad to say about him.

I dont remember being particularly attached to anyone in this draft: all the conversation was about Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, and the mysterious Dante Exum. Shabazz Napier was a name from his NCAA performances, but of course the Raptors werent really looking for a point guard at the time. So Im going to go ahead and say Nikola Jokic, who I definitely knew existed on the eve of the 2014 draft.

CHJ:Im sure if you put a stopwatch on the draft, you wouldnt hit 60 seconds between when Caboclos name was called and the genesis of two instantly iconic memes: the Brazilian Kevin Durant and two years away from being two years away, both of which will probably persist much longer than Brunos NBA legacy.

While Bruno of course didnt mean much for the franchise, he was strangely a sign of things to come. We now know that Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster badly wanted Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2013 draft, and its easy to see how they saw Gianniss long, rangey, unlimited-upside DNA in Bruno. Of course they were dead wrong, but the propensity to covet that type of player can also be directly linked to players like Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa being on the Raptors almost a decade later.

SAM:At the time it was questionable, in retrospect, it was a huge miss. Like I mentioned earlier, having a type makes decision making difficult as youre anchored on certain attributes. A list of the quality players that went after Bruno:

Thats a long list of guys who could have provided much more value and depth to this team. The entire league missed on Jokić, so that one can be forgiven, but the rest? Its tough

Brunos biggest contribution to the team was Masai trading for Lucas Nogueira a week later, who is one of our all-time favourite players. Ultimately, the Raptors were able to win a ring five years later with zero contribution from this pick, so while it didnt affect the championship fortunes of the Raptors, it has hurt them from an asset perspective the last eight years and going forward.

Cover Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

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