The Toronto Raptors just won the 2019 NBA championship despite not having a roster built around players selected in the top of NBA drafts.
Masai Ujiri is credited for finding diamonds in the rough and maximizing the assets they had to land players like Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol within the last 365 days. They moved on from former Top 10 picks DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas to create a roster that was able to defeat the Golden State Warriors in just six games.
Toronto had no players on their roster that were selected with the first five picks in any of their respective NBA drafts. To contrast, the Cleveland Cavaliers had four former Top 5 selections when they won the title in 2016. Similarly, when LeBron James won his two titles with the Miami Heat, they had six different former Top 5 picks helping lead their squad.
In fact, none of Toronto’s players were even selected in the lottery – which is the first time that has happened since 1989. For what it’s worth, the San Antonio Spurs had just one lottery pick on their roster (Tim Duncan) when they won the title back in 2014.
Compare that with the Chicago Bulls, who won the title in 1993 with nine (!) lottery picks on their roster. Even the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, a scrappy team that has been occasionally compared to this Toronto group because both had very well-respected veterans, had eight former lottery picks on their roster.
The Raptors had only five first-rounders on their team, which is the lowest total since the Spurs took home the championship trophy in 1999. Leonard (15th overall) as well as OG Anunoby (23rd overall), Kyle Lowry (24th overall), Serge Ibaka (24th overall) and Pascal Siakam (27th overall) were all taken in the second half of the first round.
Other low examples include the Houston Rockets (1994) and Detroit Pistons (1989).
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Mavericks had 13 of the 15 players on their roster picked in the first round. The Los Angeles Lakers (2000) had all but one player on their roster selected in the first 30 picks of the draft.
Perhaps most fascinating is that Toronto just won a championship with six undrafted players on their team. This year, the Raptors had former undrafted free agents Fred VanVleet, Chris Boucher, Jordan Lloyd, Malcolm Miller, Jeremy Lin and Eric Moreland all on their roster.
The last time a team had more than three was the San Antonio Spurs in 2005.
But it’s not uncommon for a team to win it all without a single undrafted player. That’s what the Boston Celtics did in 2008 and what the Los Angeles Lakers did in 2000. The Chicago Bulls also did that in 1996 and 1997.
HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed research to this report