At the NBA Draft Lottery in June, the Toronto Raptors were most likely to end up with the 8th pick in the Draft. But then! Their number was drawn and they moved up to the 4th pick.
It was very exciting. I jumped off the couch.
Let’s be honest, they deserved the reward of a high draft pick this year after having to relocate to Tampa Bay and, essentially, play every game on the road. It was a tough year.
The Raptors haven’t found themselves this high up the draft board, as of late.
This is their third Top 10 pick since 2010.
This is their seventh Top 5 pick in franchise history.
This is the third time in the last 10 years they have a pick higher than 20.
I’m excited, not just because the Raptors are probably getting a really good player, but I also don’t have to wait two hours before they’re on the clock.
This is what the Raptors roster currently looks like:
Point Guard: Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn
Shooting Guard: Gary Trent Jr., Rodney Hood, Paul Watson
Small Forward: OG Anunoby, DeAndre’ Bembry
Power Forward: Pascal Siakam, Yuta Watanabe
Centre: Chris Boucher, Freddie Gillespie
Kyle Lowry (PG) and Khem Birch (C) are free agents who may, or may not, come back.
Based on the Raptors current roster construction, they really need a Centre. Badly.
If there was ever a draft to have a Top 4 pick, it’s this one. Every mock draft has the same four players going 1 thru 4, albeit in a different order.
Therefore, it’s easy to conclude that the Raptors will just take whoever is left after the first three teams make their selections. Unless they don’t. More on that later.
Here are the consensus Top 4 picks, in no specific order.
Cade Cunningham (PG, Oklahoma State) – He’s expected to go 1st overall to the Detroit Pistons.
Jalen Green (SG, G League Ignite) – He decided to skip college and go straight to the NBA G League. He will probably go off the board at #2 or #3.
Evan Mobley (C, USC) – In a perfect world, the Raptors would take Mobley in a heartbeat. However, he will probably be off the board by the time the Raptors make their selection. If he isn’t, something weird happened.
Jalen Suggs (PG, Gonzaga) – Out of these four players, he seems most likely to still be there at #4.
Other options for the Raptors include:
Scottie Barnes (SF/PF, Florida St.) – Before the Draft Lottery, this was one of the players I really liked for the Raptors. He’s very good defensively and has the same basketball movements as OG Anunoby, but with superior ball-handling skills. I was a bit disappointed the Raptors moved up in the draft because it meant they probably wouldn’t draft Barnes.
Jonathan Kuminga (Small Forward, G League Ignite) – His shooting numbers weren’t very good, though he was just 18-years-old playing in the G League. He should develop into a really good player in a few years.
The Raptors aren’t going to be told who to select just because “the consensus” says so. That being said, drafting Barnes ahead of any of the Top 4 may be a case of overthinking it, or wanting to zag just for the sake of zagging.
A post-draft question that needs to be answered is: What are they going to do with Kyle Lowry? Is he coming back? Is he signing somewhere else? Are the Raptors going to facilitate a sign-and-trade and get some assets back?
The Raptors will tell you it’s not an issue, but I’m already thinking ahead to where everyone plays if certain players are drafted and Lowry returns/leaves.
Let’s play some hypotheticals.
If the Raptors select Jalen Green and Lowry returns, Lowry and VanVleet are going to be the starting backcourt. Green would be pushed to the bench. That’s fine for a rookie. My question is: If he’s going to be as good as people say he is, how many years do you really want him coming off the bench?
So, how many years do you sign Lowry for?
If the Raptors select Jalen Green and Lowry doesn’t return, you could either start Green or Gary Trent Jr. at Shooting Guard. And this presents another issue – for me, at least.
I’m a big fan of Trent Jr. and think if he’s in the starting lineup, he can turn into an All-Star. I don’t want him coming off the bench, even though that might be most helpful to the team. I am selfish and want him to be a starter.
If the Raptors select Evan Mobley, all would be well. They could bring Lowry back and be very competitive next year. They could let Lowry go, start VanVleet and Trent Jr. in the back court, and still be very good.
Drafting Mobley fills the biggest hole on the roster and doesn’t overcrowd the guard position.
Unfortunately, Mobley won’t drop to 4th unless something wacky happens, or teams trade into the Top 3 to not take him, for some reason.
And now for the most likely Raptors draft pick.
If the Raptors select Jalen Suggs and Lowry returns, Suggs can be a student at the School of Lowry, with Professor VanVleet. Maybe they bring Lowry back on a one-year deal, which gives them the option to trade him at the deadline, or do a sign-and-trade next offseason.
I don’t know if Lowry would go for another one year deal. At this stage in his career, getting term is probably very important to him. So, if we bring him back for two or three years, what does that mean for Suggs’ development.
Don’t forget, they also have Malachi Flynn who looked really good at times last year. Suggs would be the better prospect, but I’m not throwing Flynn to the curb.
If the Raptors select Jalen Suggs and Lowry doesn’t return, it opens the door to a Suggs-VanVleet starting backcourt, which would be good.
Again, selfishly, I want Trent Jr. in there, but if he’s willing to accept a bench role where he plays starters minutes, that would be helpful. Not sure how that affects his upcoming contract negotiations.
Lowry, VanVleet, Flynn, and Suggs all remind me of each other. They are very smart players who make their teammates better. They control the pace on offence and are tough defensively. The Raptors definitely have a type when it comes to Point Guards.
Basically, I just want everyone to have enough playing time so they can reach their full potential.
If Suggs is the pick, I can see the Raptors starting him in a bench role and having him earn a a spot in the starting five based on merit. Which is fine. But then you probably send Trent Jr. to the bench (assuming Lowry is gone), unless they go small and start Suggs, VanVleet, Trent Jr., Anunoby, and Siakam.
They can’t do that all season. Maybe to end games. But not to start them. Right?
I’m working myself into a panic over here and I have no affiliation with the team. I do not make roster decisions. I am not the coach. Why do I care so much?
At the end of the day, too many good players is better than not enough.
I’m sure Head Coach Nick Nurse will find somewhere to play everyone, no matter who’s on the team.
Well, this has been fun. I think.
Oh no, what if the Raptors trade down in the draft? My head is about to explode.
The Oklahoma City Thunder seem to be offering Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA) a lot in trade offers. I don’t really understand what they’re doing. I know they want a Top 3 pick, but SGA is…like…really good and is only going to get better?
I’m sure the Raptors have talked to OKC at least once about acquiring SGA. He is Canadian, after all. And he’s a tremendous player. I also remember there being a rumour three years ago that the Raptors tried to trade up in the draft so they could pick him, but they were unable to do so.
As it stands now, I’m 85% certain that Jalen Suggs will be a member of the Toronto Raptors by the end of the night.
I’m also 50% sure I could be wrong, and 100% certain that I’ve overthought this more than I should have.
I’ve talked myself into a tizzy here, but I love it.
Drafts are a lot of fun. Enjoy tonight.