NBA TV Canada recently aired its behind the scenes look at the 2011 NBA Draft from a Raptors perspective, with an interesting view into the Raptors’ “war room” on draft night.
You can see all four parts of the special in their full format below, but I’ve also linked to the best parts specifically.
I’ll go over some of the points of the feature that I personally found interesting.
I realize that at least one person will either comment on or at least think to themselves that I’m basically analyzing what guys like Bryan Colangelo are saying on camera, and that most of this could be edited or made up to make the Raptors’ position seem more promising.
I’ve taken that into account, but for the sake of this post, I’m reviewing the feature itself, not setting out to prove how much of it is true or not.
- A good sign for Raptors fans is that Bryan Colangelo says he had some enticing trade offers for the fifth overall pick, including some deals that included “star” players, but ultimately decided to keep the pick. The Colangelo of old, the one that seemed allergic to the word “rebuild,” might not have been able to pass those trades up. The Colangelo running this team right now, who is finally building through the draft and taking a patient approach, seems to be committed.
- Jonas Valanciunas looks to have a great personality and a unique likeability to him, but at the end of the day, he’s still a barely legal young man venturing to a new continent to start his career. It was nice to see the human element of this story, as Valanciunas talks about how nervous he is, and then later, looks nearly mortified when Colangelo tells him he will be in front of the media soon.
- An interesting tidbit from inside the team’s war room comes when Colangelo sounds to be hinting that if his guy (who we can assume means Valanciunas) is not available anymore at No. 5, then he will consider moving the pick. None of us can say for sure that’s what Colangelo is discussing here (for all we know he’s on the phone with a guilty pleasure fast-food chain that he’ll only consider if he can’t draft Valanciunas and needs to eat away his disappointment), but it’s really not that hard to speculate.
- I remember the reaction at Real Sports Bar and Grill (at the Season Seat Holder Draft Party) when Tristan Thompson went to the Cavs with the fourth pick. It was easily the loudest the party got all night, as Canadian ball fans were pretty pumped to see one of their own, especially a G.T.A. guy, selected in the top-five. The funny thing is that a lot of Raptors fans were thinking “great, now we have our pick of Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight,” while in the Raptors’ war room, the celebration was on over the realization that Valanciunas was all but signed, sealed and delivered.
Sidenote – The surprised looks and reaction inside the war room just goes to show you both how out of left field the selection of Thompson at No. 4 was, and perhaps how unlikely the chances seemed to Colangelo and co. that they could actually land Valanciunas. As a Torontonian and Canadian, I’m excited for Thompson and hope he has a long and successful NBA career (which I think he is more than capable of), but if Valanciunas fulfills his sky-high potential, the Cavs will be kicking themselves for years.
Also, gotta love the Colangelo fist-pump.
- For all of you stats geeks out there (who should totally be checking out Blake Kennedy’s work for RaptorBlog this season), Colangelo says the advanced stats strongly support Valanciunas. This is yet another sign that the Raptors are fully embracing the importance of advanced statistics and analytics in assembling their core, as they very well should be.
- As most of us are already aware, the selection of Jonas Valanciunas garnered plenty of praise from around the league, not just from those involved with the Raptors.
- Interesting to see the players surprise Colangelo and his men in the war room, with pretty pleased looks on their faces. It’s a good sign that some of the young players, notably DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis, want to be around the process of building this team (as long as they don’t end up with the perception that they’re running things) and that they all seem pleased with the pick. Remember, while the selection of Valanciunas might have come as a surprise to you and I, it looks like Colangelo and the front office had him targeted from the beginning, which means there is a good chance they had already sold their future building blocks on the big Lithuanian.
- The last really interesting tidbit from the feature is that it looks like Colangelo was trying to acquire another pick at some point that night, and even more intriguing is that it sounds like he wanted Canadian Cory Joseph, who the Spurs eventually picked 29th.
The main point that stood out to me from the “Behind the Draft” documentary is that Colangelo truly sees Jonas Valanciunas as a franchise-type centre, and a championship calibre centre. Colangelo mentions how hard it is to find true centres and how having one could be the difference between winning a title and not winning one.
I wholeheartedly agree with these points. Everyone has their own vision and preference for how they would build a basketball team. I don’t necessarily think you need an All Star centre in order to compete for and win a championship, but I do believe that unless you have a once in a generation player at another position, you absolutely need a true centre with above average defensive ability to win in the playoffs.
I don’t care which players on the board could have provided instant gratification for fans or would have provided some added depth this season. In my opinion, when you have a chance to draft a potential franchise centre with the upside Valanciunas has, you don’t think twice about it. Given that I wasn’t that high on Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams, and I’m still not, I could easily see Valanciunas looked at as the best player of this draft class in just a few years.
If Valanciunas continues to look like a prodigy in Europe, I will be very interested to see how the Raptors slowly build up and market his anticipated move to Toronto over the next year.
The “Behind the Draft” special ends with the picture fading to black and the words “The future is coming” appearing on screen.
Last note before the season starts, I know I sound like a broken record to most of you, but for any new readers who like what they’ve seen from RaptorBlog lately, don’t forget to ‘like’ our RaptorBlog facebook page. It’s the best way to keep up to date with everything Raptors-related and everything posted on RaptorBlog. In addition, follow me on twitter, along with RaptorBlog founder and editor Scott Carefoot, and new RaptorBlog contributor Blake Kennedy.