The Toronto Raptors finally have their point guard, but he didn’t come cheap.
On Friday night, the Raps sent rookie of the year runner-up Charlie Villanueva to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for T.J. Ford and cash.
In his first and only season with Toronto, Villanueva made 36 starts and averaged 13.0 points and 6.4 rebounds. He also set a club rookie record for single game scoring with a 48-point performance.
His initial success immediately endeared him to Toronto fans, especially since the organization was mocked for selecting him with their seventh pick in the 2005 draft.
But when Toronto spent their 2006 first overall pick on 7-foot Italian star Andrea Bargnani, Villanueva became expendable and the need for a point guard grew even more glaring.
“Charlie proved to be one of our more marketable players,” said Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo. “Obviously there was some disappointment in his voice (when told of the trade), but he understood where things are with this team and where we’re trying to go.”
Ford brings something to the Raptors they haven’t had in some time – speed and ball distribution. One of the fastest players in the league, Ford averaged 12.2 points and 6.6 assists in 35.5 minutes. His third NBA season proved he had fully healed from a spinal-cord injury that caused him to miss much of his first and all of his second.
Still, he was the eighth pick in the 2003 draft, four spots behind Chris Bosh, and remains a major talent.
“We really like what we’ve seen from T.J. in the past year,” said Colangelo. “He’s a lightning quick guard, he’s got great playmaking ability and we feel he is the perfect fit for the type of team that we would like to become.”
The Dinos general manager added that Ford’s past health problems aren’t a concern.
“Obviously you do your due diligence, and suffice it to say we were comfortable moving forward on the basis of the information that we had,” he said.
According to Bucks GM Larry Harris, discussions with the Raptors started about Milwaukee’s veteran centre and Toronto native Jamaal Magloire and evolved into the Ford and Villanueva swap.