The NBA Draft is one of my favourite events on the sporting calendar. I always get excited to scour the mock drafts during the season and watch highlight videos of players on YouTube to make my own assessment.
I normally ramp up my “research” in the weeks before the draft and decide on a crop of players I think the Toronto Raptors will/should pick.
Last year, before the draft lottery, I had my eyes on Scottie Barnes in the 5-8 range of the draft for the Raptors.
After they jumped into the top four at the draft lottery, I wrote this in a blog post: “I was a bit disappointed the Raptors moved up in the draft because it meant they probably wouldn’t draft Barnes.”
Because at the time, there was (allegedly) a consensus top four of Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, and Jalen Suggs. The Raptors would probably end up with Suggs – a point guard they didn’t really need, if the keys were being handed over to Fred VanVleet.
I remember watching videos of Scottie Barnes on YouTube and thinking he would be a great fit with the Raptors. I also remember watching videos of Jalen Suggs and feeling a bit underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, he was good, but Barnes stood out more.
That’s when I started to doubt myself. Because experts made it sound silly that anyone else could break into the top four.
And then the Raptors drafted Scottie Barnes and most of the fanbase was shocked, confused, and a bit mad.
Rule #1: Never doubt Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster, and the Raptors front office. Ever. EVER.
Rule #2: Read Rule #1 again.
Most fans didn’t do “research”, they just heard there was a consensus top four and deduced that the Raptors would get whoever was left.
But they took Barnes – a name people weren’t prepared for. I was thrilled because I knew what he could do. That’s when I felt validated and realized I may actually know what I’m talking about, based off of watching highlights.
It’s not just highlights, though. I’m looking at body language, confidence levels, and how they talk to the media. I’m looking at statistics and how they progressed, year over year and game to game. I do my homework.
No one cares that I do it, but I enjoy it.
Oh yeah, Scottie Barnes went on to be the Rookie of the Year. He’ll be a top ten player in the NBA before you know it, too. Just watch.
So, let’s get to the 2022 NBA Draft.
The Raptors held only one pick – 33rd overall. No problem. This team digs up talent no matter where they are in the draft.
Going into the draft, we really needed a Centre. If we get a shooter – fine. But we have enough 6’9 wings and are running out of places to put them (more on that later), so maybe let’s get a Centre if a good one is available, okay?
About two months before the draft, I came across a name – Christian Koloko.
Koloko is a 7’1 Centre from Douala, Cameroon (the same hometown as Pascal Siakam), who played his college ball at Arizona. He is athletic, energetic, and a menace on the defensive end. He can run the floor, dunk, and then get back on defence and do it all over again.
The Raptors have a “type” when it comes to Centres. Look at our 2019 Championship team. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are the blueprint for what we look for in a big man.
They rebound, defend, block shots, knock down free throws, and shoot the three. The Raptors want their Centres to be an Everything Bagel, basically.
Since they left, the team has been looking to replace them. It feels like they’ve taken the approach of, “If the player is athletic and can play defence, then we’ll teach them how to shoot.” Look no further than Precious Achiuwa, who came over from Miami in the Kyle Lowry trade.
Early in the season, you didn’t want him handling the ball or shooting anything but layups. By the end of the season, he was making multiple three-pointers in each game, and making good decision with the basketball.
It was a dramatic improvement. I can’t wait to see him play next season.
Within a few minutes of watching Koloko’s highlights, I decided right then and there that if he were available at 33, the Raptors were going to take him. There was no doubt in my mind. He was their “type”.
He doesn’t really shoot the ball, but he’ll still be effective in the NBA. That being said, I fully expect the Raptors to work with him and develop his shot. At the very least, they’ll make sure he’s a dependable free throw shooter.
This franchise has one of, if not the best development staff in the league, so he is in good hands.
I’ll be honest, I barely did any research before the draft. It’s very unlike me. I guess I was just too busy to sit down and go through a bunch of possible players who could be available for the Raptors.
But deep down, I knew Koloko was the pick. It was very obvious to me. So, on a subconscious level, maybe I felt like I’d be wasting my time researching other players.
The second round of the draft begins and…
The first two players taken are both Canadian. Andrew Nembhard and Caleb Houstan. The Raptors had only posted a handful (maybe three or four?) of pre-draft workout interviews online. Those two players each had a video posted. Maybe because they were Canadian? I’m not sure.
Nevertheless, I have no doubt they were both on the Raptors’ radar and may have been selected had they fallen to 33. They didn’t.
You know who was still there at 33? Christian Koloko.
And don’t you know it, they drafted him. I knew it two months ago. I’m sure other fans came to the same conclusion, as well.
It’s a very good pick, a very good fit, and I’m excited to see what he can do, starting with Summer League next week.
The moral of the story here is: an NBA team should hire me as a scout because I think I’m pretty intuitive.
Other Draft Thoughts
Bennedict Mathurin might have been my favourite player in the draft. I remember seeing him in the NCAA tournament and he had a huge dunk right in the face of the defender. I saw that and was sold, instantly. He seems to be a very well-rounded player whose game will transfer over to the NBA.
Jaden Ivey really won me over on draft night. If I had done my usual research, I would’ve known more about him ahead of time, but I didn’t. Every time an analyst mentioned him, they mentioned Ja Morant. Watching his highlights, it’s easy to see why.
I love that he went to the Pistons with the fifth pick. I’m happy for their Coach Dwane Casey. It’s been a rough few years, but the storm is starting to subside. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is a backcourt of Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey giving the Raptors fits for the foreseeable future.
I like Chet Holmgren’s confidence and if he’s the real deal, then the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to be a real problem in the next few years. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey are going to be in All-Star Games very soon.
Not to toot my own horn, but Giddey was another one of my picks for the Raptors last year if they were in the 5-8 range. Most mock drafts didn’t have Giddey that high, but I thought he was really good. The Thunder took him 6th overall. Okay, I’m done bragging.
The New York Knicks traded away the 11th pick, for three future first round picks. They used one of those future picks to send to Detroit along with Kemba Walker. And from what I understood, the two future first round picks they kept are heavily protected, so they don’t even know what year they will receive them.
But they don’t care, they just want to clear cap space so they can pay Jalen Brunson ALL THE MONEY in free agency.
Reportedly, they plan on offering him a four-year contract worth around $110 million. Look, I like Jalen Brunson a lot and think he could be a starting point guard in the NBA, easily. I don’t like him on the Knicks. I don’t like how they’re treating him as a big coup, who will be the saviour of the franchise.
Dallas fans are worried about him leaving in free agency because they are still traumatized from Steve Nash leaving for Phoenix and becoming a two-time NBA MVP. I don’t think Brunson has the same upside, though I’d be happy to be wrong.
I just think New York, and their fans, are romanticizing this whole thing a bit too much. We get it, you’re desperate for a point guard, and he just so happens to be the son of your new Assistant Coach.
I don’t know if I’d throw all of that money at him just yet. If you can get him for less, do it. You still have other holes to fill.
There were many rumours floating around that the Portland Trailblazers were offering the 7th overall pick to Toronto for OG Anunoby.
First of all, the Raptors are not going to be swindled in any trade they make. This would have been a swindling. Second, the Raptors are not the type of team to trade away one of their big pieces during the draft.
That is a trade they make when only people like me are on Twitter at 2AM.
There has been talk that Anunoby is unhappy with his role in Toronto and I don’t know if I completely believe that. The Raptors don’t leak any information. Look at the Twitter accounts of the NBA insiders, who spoiled every pick in the draft before it was announced. They didn’t spoil the Raptors’ pick. They didn’t know it.
I think other teams are trying to pry Anunoby free, but it’s not going to work. The Raptors are still in a “hold and grow” position. This is not the summer to make a big move. Next summer is that time.
Anuonby is going to be 25 when next season begins. He is an elite defender, who can guard every position. It wasn’t until this past season that he looked comfortable dribbling through traffic. He took a big leap on the offensive side of his game, but still has so much more room to grow.
You don’t trade players like that.
Trading him now makes no sense. His value is going to be so much higher one year from now. Even then, I don’t know if you trade him. Although, I think someone will have to go eventually.
As far as him being unhappy with his role, if that is true, then I kind of don’t understand it. He averaged 36 minutes per game. If he feels like he has a secondary role behind Barnes, Siakam, and VanVleet, then I don’t know what to say. Those three are superior ball-handlers and the playmakers on the team. Of course they are going to have the ball more.
They also have a more assertive personality than Anunoby, who is a bit more reserved. And that’s fine! OG is great at being OG. I was caught off-guard by the “unhappy with his role” report.
For what it’s worth, Anuonby, Siakam, and Barnes were on the practice floor together in Toronto last week. So, that’s good.
The Raptors signed undrafted free agent, Ron Harper Jr., to a two-way contract. He will fit right in with the team. I’m not sure how no one picked him.
Shaedon Sharpe may end up being the best player in this draft.
I just hope the Sacramento Kings got it right this year with Keegan Murray. I like that they traded for Domantas Sabonis last season, but hated that it cost them Tyrese Haliburton. He’s going to be a star; already is.
I thought Malika Andrews, Kendrick Perkins, and Jay Bilas were a great panel. Andrews should have that hosting role for the next 30 years, as far as I’m concerned. She was brilliant.
The draft felt a lot more lively when it was held at Madison Square Garden. The Brooklyn crowd hasn’t done it for me.
I see the Spurs and Raptors as two of the smartest, and gutsiest, organizations in the league. They will take the player they want, regardless of where the experts rank them.
I mentioned it earlier, but the Thunder are going to be really good, very soon. The Pistons aren’t far behind.
That’s all I have. It was a lot, I know. I may come back with another post about free agency, but we’ll see.
What were your thoughts after the NBA Draft? Are you happy with who your team selected?