Andrea numero uno

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Andrea Bargnani is known as The Magician.

But whether the big Italian will one day be able to pull a championship out of his hat remains to be seen.

One thing is certain, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo was not blowing smoke when he spoke glowingly of Bargnani in recent weeks. The Raptors selected the 7-foot-1 forward with the first overall pick in last night's trade-filled NBA draft, the first time a European has gone No. 1.

"At the end of the day, it came down that we felt that Andrea was really the best pick for the future of this organization," Colangelo said. "It's not about today. It's about today and tomorrow and we think that Andrea is not only going to help us in the short run, but we think he's going to grow into a terrific star in this league."

Bargnani said being drafted by the Raptors was the "perfect" scenario, given the fact that the club is rebuilding, the team has a new assistant GM from Italy -- his former Benetton Treviso boss Maurizio Gherardini -- and Toronto's large Italian population.

"It feels like I am dreaming," Bargnani said. "I want to become a very good player, playing in the best league in the world. I'm aware that people have not seen me play, so I have a lot to prove," he added. "I play in front of the basket first ... I have to improve a lot in the low post."

A native of Rome, Bargnani has been compared to Dirk Nowitzki, a 7-footer with an exceptional perimeter game. He is also a tremendous shot-blocker, but does need to gain some strength and work on his low-post game.

He recently led Benetton to Italy's Lega A championship, averaging 12.0 points and 5.6 rebounds. He also led the Lega A in blocks with 63.

Texas power forward LaMarcus Aldridge was selected second by Chicago, but then traded to Portland for Tyrus Thomas, who was selected fourth. There was speculation that the Raptors would take Aldridge, given that he is a friend and workout mate of the Raptors star Chris Bosh.

"I've had a chance to speak to Chris on numerous occasions over the last month and I think ... he's very comfortable with the pick that was made today," the GM said.

The Raptors took Texas forward P.J. Tucker with their second pick (35th), passing on Toronto's Denham Brown, who went 40th to Seattle. They also traded away their third pick (56th).

Colangelo said that he considered trading for another first-round pick, but the price was too high.

Bargnani has actually played in Toronto. As an 18-year-old member of Benetton, he scored 13 points with five rebounds in a pre-season game at the Air Canada Centre on Oct. 20, 2003, an 86-83 Treviso loss.

The Raps have suddenly become a team with a lot of depth in the frontcourt, with Bargnani joining Chris Bosh, Charlie Villanueva and Rasho Nesterovic. Colangelo will now concentrate on signing a veteran point guard this summer.

"There are two or three scenarios we're looking at that will address that need," Colangelo said, adding that a guard may be had via free agency or a trade. "We have targeted those individuals. (But) there's no Steve Nash out there."


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