Was there a more questionable decision Tuesday night than Toronto’s selection of UConn’s Charlie Villanueva with the 7th overall pick? Other than Stephen A. Smith being allowed to make like an uninformed hoops version of Mel Kiper Jr., that is. The Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk on the Raptors’ latest gaffe.
As the ESPN analysts vociferously panned the Raptors’ choice ” “Absolutely shocked!” hollered the usually rah-rah Dick Vitale ” the crowd cheered in agreement. When Villanueva took the podium in New York’s Madison Square Garden for his first interview as a Raptor, Toronto’s fans, saddened via satellite, filled the Air Canada Centre with boos.
“There’s gotta be a trade,” said one distraught fan. “Gotta be,” said another.
But there was no trade brewing behind the scenes, no secret swap to explain the unexpected. A year after defying expectations and selecting the disastrous Rafael Araujo in the No. 8 slot, Raptors general manager Rob Babcock had dropped another out-of-nowhere name.
You’ve heard of out-of-the-box thinking, but this ” going with a frequently maligned 20-year-old few experts figured worthy of the top 10 ” was out-on-a-limb thinking. And, if it doesn’t pan out the way the Raptors are hoping, it could be, for Babcock, out-of-a-job thinking.
Taking Villanueva (above) was unconventional if you’re being generous, inexcusable if you’re not. Not only does he play the same position as the club’s best young player, Chris Bosh, Villanueva has also compiled a checkered record of blasÃ© performances during his two-year stint at the University of Connecticut.
“The average fan isn’t studying the draft and all the players like we do,” said Babcock.
I heard one explanation on the radio earlier today ; the Raptors had Villenuva work out and “fell in love with him”. In that case, invite Charlie to a Viletones reunion gig. If things go ok, you can both visit Tim Horton’s Donuts in the morning. But for the love of god, don’t draft him at number seven!