As he expected, Bryan Colangelo pretty much had the pick of the litter when it came to players he expected to be around when the Raptors' first-round selection came up at last night's NBA draft.
And, as he did with the same pick seven years ago when he selected Amare Stoudemire for Phoenix, Colangelo used the No. 9 pick to go for raw athleticism when he selected USC shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.
The DeRozan pick, pegged early by prognosticators as the Raptors' first choice, was one of the few the draft boards actually had right from the beginning.
As expected the Clippers stuck to their guns and made Blake Griffin out of Oklahoma the first overall pick. After that it got interesting.
The Memphis Grizzlies passed on the Gretzky-like passing skills of Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio for size, taking instead 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet, the tallest player in the draft and the first ever NBAer from Tanzania.
The Oklahoma Thunder then dropped the first real bombshell of the night, also passing on Rubio for shooting guard James Harden out of Arizona State.
Rubio didn't wind up being taken until the fifth pick with Sacramento opting for Tyreke Evans, the Memphis point guard at No. 4 and Rubio falling to Minnesota at five.
Colangelo identified five players earlier this week that he believed would be around when it came time for the Raptors to make their first pick. Of the five, only Jonny Flynn, the lightning quick point guard from Syracuse, had been snapped up, going sixth overall to Minnesota.
Having already addressed the Raptors deficiency in toughness with the acquisition of Reggie Evans via a trade, Colangelo addressed his club's other glaring weakness getting a guy who can create his own shot and has no qualms about going through people to get to the rim.
Raptors head coach Jay Triano revealed the pick actually was made five weeks ago when Colangelo and Triano were in Oakland for one of those group workouts.
They watched DeRozan in an hour and 45 minute session that included a one-on-one work as well as various drills. At it's conclusion, Colangelo asked Triano what he thought.
"I just told him: 'I think this is our guy.' And he told me: 'I'm glad you said that because that's exactly how I feel.' And from that point on, he was at the top of our list." Triano said.
Colangelo considers DeRozan a little more polished than Stoudamire was on his draft night seven years ago.
Colangelo continually used the phrase "a chance to be special" as he described the newest Raptor. He then got everyone's attention when he compared that special talent to the kind of special talent that used to fill the Air Canada Centre on a nightly basis.
"He's got the physical tools reminiscent of the player people say he kind of reminds them of, and that's Vince Carter," Colangelo said. "He's got that kind of raw, physical talent that hopefully he can hone and can be brought together."
That will be up to Triano and his staff and the Raptors head coach said he is looking forward to that challenge.
TOP 10 PICKS OF 2009 DRAFT
1. L.A. Clippers, Blake Griffin, forward, Oklahoma
2. Memphis, Hasheem Thabeet, centre, Connecticut
3. Oklahoma, City James Harden, guard, Arizona State
4. Sacramento, Tyreke Evans, guard, Memphis
5. Minnesota (from Washington), Ricky Rubio, guard, Spain.
6. Minnesota, Jonny Flynn, guard, Syracuse
7. Golden State, Stephen Curry, guard, Davidson
8. New York, Jordan Hill, forward Arizona
9. Toronto, DeMar DeRozan, guard, USC
10. Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings, guard, Italy
DEROZAN BY THE NUMBERS
- Position: Shooting guard
- School: USC
- Age/Height/Weight: 19, 6-foot-7, 220 pounds
- Last season: Won PAC-10 tournament MVP honours. As a freshman, he averaged 13.9 points per game but came on late in the year averaging 19.1 over the Trojans final seven contests on their way to a PAC-10 title. Long-range shooting is the big project. He shot just 16.7% from beyond the arc.
- First-year salary: 2.3 million US.
- Personal: One of the driving forces behind DeRozan declaring himself eligible for the draft after just one year at USC was the fact that his mother suffers from Lupus and he wants to help his father take care of her.
- Notable: One of three draft-eligible players -- Jordan Hill and Hasheem Thabeet being the others -- who insisted on individual workouts with teams prior to the draft as opposed to group workouts the majority of the potential draftees took part in.