After retiring in ’94, Isiah Thomas became a part-owner and Executive Vice President for the expansion Toronto Raptors. Thomas’ GM career with the Raptors (and particularly Knicks) isn’t considered to be a model of team management, but that’s mostly due to his trading and free agency decisions. Zeke was sneaky good at drafting players. During his time in Toronto, the Raptors drafted Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, and high schooler Tracy McGrady. If Zeke had his way, T-Mac wouldn’t be the first high schooler the Raptors drafted.
With the 7th pick in the 1995 Draft, the Raptors selected Damon Stoudamire. The Wildcats point guard earned Rookie of the Year in ‘95/’96, but his off-court problems prevented him from having a better NBA career. Two spots ahead of him, the Wolves selected the guy Thomas hoped to draft to Toronto, Kevin Garnett.
Garnett was the first player drafted out of high school to the pros since 1975, and while no-one doubted his talent, there were a lot of concerns about his maturity. The transition to the pros is hard enough for college kids, let alone a kid from high school. Going on the road with an NBA team involves a lot of things that are illegal for people under 21, and not recommended for athletes of all ages. So Thomas planned to enroll KG in college and have him only play home games.
“He would not have traveled with us. We would have enrolled him in college to help him get a firmer foundation as a person. We would have taken our time in how much we’d expose him to.”Isiah Thomas
Knowing all the stories of young NBA players getting too much money too fast, Thomas’s intention had merit. Taking their time in developing a high-school kid makes a lot of sense. But, it’s hard to imagine KG being cool with such a plan. He didn’t skip college to play 41 games in Toronto and, in the end, attend college and classes. Yet another example of Zeke spotting talent, and having a wrong idea of how to manage it.