Raptors luck out at draft

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

The Raptors actually won something of significance last night.

While it may not be the best year to win the NBA draft lottery -- there is nothing close to a Michael Jordan-clone available and no consensus on the best player -- the Raptors defied the odds to earn top spot last night, claiming the No. 1 pick for the first time in the franchise's mostly sad history.

Ten years after the NBA's expansion agreement robbed the Raptors of victory in the lottery and forced them to accept the second pick, first-year president/general manager Bryan Colangelo received the grand prize last night in Secaucus, N.J., despite having the fifth-best odds (8.8%) of winning.

Many will say the Raptors won the draft lottery at the worst possible time -- with high schoolers now out of the picture and highly regarded big man Greg Oden a year away from being eligible.

But a No. 1 pick is a No. 1 pick and the F-word -- flexibility -- will be uttered time and again by Colangelo leading up to the June 28 draft in New York.

"You have to deal with the circumstances and take it in stride," said Colangelo, who smiled broadly and clapped his hands when it was revealed the Chicago Bulls had earned the second pick, giving the Raptors the No. 1 spot in their fourth year in the lottery.

"We're looking to get better and there is a lot of room for growth. We look at it as a very positive step for the organization. We'll do what we can to make the most of the opportunity. To have the most opportunity we can possibly have, I feel a lot better than having zero opportunity."

Now, the door is open for the Raptors to select one of about a half-dozen top prospects or listen to offers. Don't be surprised if the Milwaukee Bucks dangle Toronto-born centre Jamaal Magloire, who wasn't a great fit with that squad.

"Not only do we have the No. 1 pick, but we have some cap flexibility (from the Jalen Rose trade) and that gives you some real combined power," Colangelo said. "I feel the combination is a very worthwhile package. We're playing with an absolute full deck in terms of options out there."

In recent days, the Raptors have been linked to draft prospect Andrea Bargnani of Benetton Treviso in Italy and Colangelo listed him as one of six or seven potential top picks. With the Raptors close to hiring Benetton GM Maurizio Gherardini as their assistant GM, there had been speculation Bargnani would send signals he might return to Europe next year in hopes of landing with Toronto, but now the Raptors can grab the versatile 6-foot-11 forward if they so desire.

"I don't know if there is a surefire piece that's going to come in and get us where we want to go (immediately), but long term we'll be acquiring a player via the draft that is going to help us get there," Colangelo said.

In the wake of the Raptors' victory, agents of top players will be lining up to schedule workouts in Toronto.

"There was a lot of jockeying going on in terms of scheduling of draft workouts," Colangelo said. "Now that we know what the draft order is going to be, it's going to be a little easier to get firm commitments."


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