On Thursday, October 27th, the Toronto Raptors hired Ed Stefanski to be their vice president of basketball operations. Stefanski was unemployed for a total of nine days, as he was let go by the Philadelphia Sixers on October 18th.
Upon hiring Stefanski, Raptors president and GM Bryan Colangelo remarked, “We’re bringing in, arguably, the best available basketball executive to enhance and improve what we’re doing as an organization. We’ve just upped the ante”.
Stefanski’s responsibilities as VP of basketball operations will include involvement with the scouting and drafting of players, two things that he did very well in his time with the New Jersey Nets and Sixers. Hopefully he can bring that expertise to a Raptors team that seems to be headed to the draft lottery again.
Just how much basketball IQ is being added to the Raptors’ front office? Let’s see by looking at the best five moves ever made by Ed Stefanski.
The 2010 version of Allen Iverson was much different from the one that dominated the league, took the Sixers to the NBA Finals and won an MVP award in the 2000-2001 season.
Stefanski gambled by signing him in the first place, but the reason for it was mainly due to starting point guard Louis Williams going down with an injury.
Iverson left the team temporarily two months later after his daughter became ill, but here’s where Stefanski played it right—instead of holding the door open for him to come back, he announced that Iverson was done for the season.
He was not willing to let Iverson become a distraction to the team again and made sure that Iverson’s time with the club was short enough that it didn’t hamper the Sixers’ long-term plan. It was a tactful move and the right one, especially considering what’s been going on with The Answer lately.
Hopefully it hasn’t been too long since we’ve last seen the Raptors that people haven’t forgotten about Reggie Evans.
Ed Stefanski was able to pluck Evans from the Denver Nuggets for next to nothing, sending Steven Hunter and Bobby Jones, who played a combined total of 44 games for the Nuggets.
Evans started 61 games at the power forward position and averaged 7.5 rebounds in the 2007-2008 season, helping the Sixers jump from worst in the league to 15th in team rebounding.
The signings of Elton Brand and Theo Ratcliff in the summer of 2009 made Evans expendable, which is why he was traded to the Raptors. But you have to give kudos to Stefanski for making something out of nothing.
Selected 17th overall, Jrue Holiday was a solid pickup by Stefanski in the 2009 NBA draft.
Holiday averaged 14.0 points, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game last year for the Sixers, starting all 82 regular season games.
Even more impressive is that his offensive production was consistent throughout the entire year, including the playoffs where he averaged 14.2 points, 5.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
With the hope that the Raptors young nucleus of players like DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Jerryd Bayless and Ed Davis have not reached their full potential yet, it will be interesting to see if Stefanski can hit another home run like he did with Holiday and add another important piece in next year's draft.
I’ll admit that including this move is cheating a little bit, since Stefanski was the Nets’ director of scouting at the time of the deal and not the official GM. But the fact remains that this was an incredibly smart deal.
The Nets traded Eddie Griffin (drafted seventh overall) to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Richard Jefferson (drafted 13th overall), Jason Collins (drafted 18th overall) and Brandon Armstrong (drafted 23rd overall).
Jefferson, Collins and Armstrong were all part of the 2002-2003 Nets team that went to the NBA Finals. Jefferson averaged 17.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in seven productive seasons with New Jersey.
Griffin’s story is a tragic one, as he died in a car crash in 2007 months after being released by the Minnesota Timberwolves, both for distractions off the court and a drop-off in performance.
If you are a true Raptors fan, just hearing the name "Vince Carter" makes your neck start to twitch and your face go red. Mentioning the words "Vince Carter trade" is even worse.
Still, it cannot be ignored that this trade was one of the most one-sided deals in history—certainly it's the worst trade ever made by the Raptors.
On the other hand, this trade was the best Stefanski has ever made, stealing Vince Carter from the Raptors in exchange for Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, Alonzo Mourning and two first round draft picks.
Alonzo Mourning never played a game as a Raptor, receiving a $9 million buyout and signing with the Miami Heat months later. The two draft picks turned out to be Joey Graham and Renaldo Balkman, with only Graham making a marginal impact on the team. Eric Williams and Aaron Williams never played more than 40 games in a season for the Raptors, and both left after two years.
The Raptors are a team that could definitely use some good karma right now. Let’s hope that Stefanski is able to make amends for this trade and find the right players to bring the Raptors some long-awaited success.