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Champs and chumps

Optimism for some, despair for others as draft nears

Posted: Monday June 26, 2006 2:11PM; Updated: Tuesday June 27, 2006 3:50PM
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If Bryan Colangelo plays the No. 1 pick right, the Raptors could move quickly from laughingstock to playoff contender.
If Bryan Colangelo plays the No. 1 pick right, the Raptors could move quickly from laughingstock to playoff contender.
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images
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The NBA draft -- with new caps for the participants, a podium for the commish and those snazzy mustard suits -- is Wednesday. Regardless of what goes down trade- or selection-wise over the next few days, some teams are destined to do well, and some not so well. Below are some potential examples.

Champs

Toronto Raptors

What a difference a year makes. During last year's draft, pundits were falling over themselves to ridicule then Raptors GM Rob Babcock for selecting Connecticut forward Charlie Villanueva with the seventh overall pick. It wasn't only Villanueva's seeming indifference toward consistent output, but also that he appeared to play the same position as eventual Raptors All-Star Chris Bosh. It was a low point for a franchise that had already made a lottery pick out of Rafael Araujo, traded Vince Carter away for pennies on the dollar and thrown millions at petulant point man Rafer Alston.

As it turned out, Babcock turned Alston into 20-point scorer Mike James later that summer, and Bosh and Villanueva turned out to be quite adaptable. Though Babcock was let go midway through last season, new GM Bryan Colangelo looks ready to pull the Raptors out of the lottery for the duration of his term. Toronto will soon be flush with cap space (interim GM Wayne Embry dumped Jalen Rose on New York for an expiring contract last February), it already has a franchise player in Bosh, who wants to stay in Ontario, and it has the first pick in Wednesday's draft.

With his spot in the catbird seat, Colangelo has been rumored to be mulling an offer sent his way by Michael Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats -- one that would see the Raps take Brevin Knight, dump Alvin Williams (and the $13.6 million left on his contract) and swap the first pick for the third. The deal would bolster Toronto's already enviable cap position while probably allowing it to draft Italian prospect Andrea Bargnani, whom the Raptors have been rumored to be lusting after for more than a month now. Whether the Raptors keep the pick or not, Colangelo's team has gone from one of the drearier outfits in the league to potentially being one of the NBA's model teams.

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