Tonight is the NBA Draft, the night where every team gets giddy over who it will pick from the college ranks. The draft provides a glimmer of hope for every franchise. A day where every team, from the best to the worst, eagerly awaits who will be its new young talent. Perhaps he becomes the player who turns a struggling franchise around or is the key piece that propels a team to a championship. The Toronto Raptors are one of the teams hoping to add that extra piece to improve the team. Due to the trade of Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors hold the New York Knicks ninth overall pick along with their own at 27. These two first round picks could be useful, either in a trade or in picking a key player to add to their rotation. Here is a Toronto Raptors draft preview.
Toronto Raptors Draft Preview
Masai Ujiri has been very open about what he hopes to add in the off-season. The Raptors general manager has stated more than once that he is looking for a centre/power forward that can defend, rebound and stretch the floor. He has also mentioned adding depth at the small forward position. Look for Toronto to also have a close eye on any player that brings elite three-point shooting to the squad. Assuming Toronto keep both of their picks they would be presented with a number of options.
This draft does not have a lot of depth in potential stars. It does, however, have a lot of players who could be solid role players throughout their career. Obviously, Toronto would love to grab a superstar with the ninth overall pick. But they are lucky to have two All-Stars in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry already on their roster. Their biggest weakness is in the front court. If they are to retain their lottery pick, they will look to select an NBA ready power forward or center. Domantas Sabonis, Marquese Chriss, Jakob Poeltl, Deyonta Davis and Henry Ellenson have all been players rumoured to be on the Raptors radar.
The most likely player of these big men to be selected at number nine is Domantas Sabonis, a sophomore from Gonzaga. Sabonis is the son of Hall of Fame Lithuanian big man Arvytas Sabonis and would be an immediate impact player. Statistically, he was one of the best rebounders in all of college basketball last season, collecting 28.2 percent of all available rebounds. At 6’11″, 240 lbs, he is capable of guarding both centers and power forwards. Showing incredible quickness for a man his size, Sabonis is deadly as either an on-ball defender or in the rotation. He has solid low post footwork and mechanics on a jumpshot that point to him one day being a floor spacer. Sabonis would be a player who could fill the gaping hole at power forward for years to come.
Due to the need to re-sign DeMar DeRozan, there might not be enough money to keep fan favourite Bismack Biyombo. This would create a need for a back-up center. Ideally, the Raptors would choose Vanderbilt 7-footer Damian Jones with the 27th selection, a player who shows uncanny footspeed, considering his chiseled 245lbs body. Jones, like Sabonis, is a player who would be a valuable asset on the defensive end of the floor. He sets hard screens, has a soft touch around the rim, and is a prolific rebounder; look for Ujiri to select Jones with the 27th overall pick.
All of these scenarios mean nothing if Toronto decides to trade one or both of its picks tonight. Because of the caliber of player that the Raptors have been inviting to their pre-draft workouts, it is looking like they will try to trade their ninth pick. For whom? That is the million dollar question. The most likely candidate would be a starting caliber power forward. A few names such as Serge Ibaka, Gorgui Dieng, and Maurice Harkless have all been thrown around. Ultimately, this is all simply speculation and very few people have insight into what Masai Ujiri will do. But you never know; perhaps an unknown like Bruno Caboclo will once again be picked by the savvy general manager.