The Raptors Will Draft…Somebody

The dust has settled after the NBA draft lottery, and your Toronto Raptors will pick 9th. When you look past the consensus top-3 (Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, Hasheem Thabeet), it’s a fairly weak draft class, but the team will have options. A variety of wing players should be available, which is nice, considering the team was severely lacking at that spot in 2008-09.

From Jack Armstrong’s TSN blog:

“The biggest need when you look beyond the toughness, grit and defensive personality, is the team needs an upgrade at the wing spots at the two and three positions. They have to get people that can first defend at those positions and guys that can break down people off the bounce at the back end of the shot clock and get their own offence. In short they need guys that can make plays. If you look at the NBA playoffs right now you’ll notice who are the difference makers on a consistent basis. It’s wing players that predominantly have the ball in their hands. That’s how the game is being played and that’s how the game is being called right now.”

He’s right, of course, and it was the reason Toronto often fell short in close games. Take a look at the elite NBA teams: Cleveland (Lebron James), Boston (Paul Pierce), Los Angeles (Kobe Bryant), Orlando (Hedo Turkoglu), Denver (Carmelo Anthony), Miami (Dwyane Wade) and Portland (Brandon Roy) all have a go-to swingman for the end of games. Toronto fans often direct their anger at Chris Bosh, but big men shouldn’t be taking the final shot in a close game. Even Shaq deferred to Kobe during the championship years, just as Dwight Howard defers to Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis when Orlando needs a clutch basket these days.

But back to the Raptors. The Star’s Doug Smith, who writes a great blog, says team management has already begun scouting:

“Well, they’re actually spread out all over the continent. Bryan took off after the lottery to go see workouts in California or somewhere, Jay (Triano) met up with Jim Kelly in Vegas and he may head to L.A. as well; Masai Ujuri and Marc Eversely are traversing the United States seeing workouts conducted by agents and teams.”

Still, there has been little to nothing said about specific players the team is targeting. Yesterday, Smith wrote:

“There’s a logical list of five or six forwards and shooting guards who’ll be attractive and possibly available – DeMar DeRozan, Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Gerald Henderson, Earl Clark, James Johnson – but, for now, no one is leading the pack.

The Raptors haven’t as much as spoken privately to any of them – that process will begin in Chicago at the combine next week – and they haven’t conducted a workout for any of them.”

The list is indeed logical, although certain players make far more sense than others. Stephen Curry, for example, will be a deadly shooter, and will create for teammates. Does that make him a logical pick for the Raptors? Definitely not. Drafting a small 2-guard to play alongside Jose Calderon (Who really can’t guard anyone) makes no sense. Like Armstrong wrote above, the team needs toughness, and somebody to guard the swingman position. Evans or Henderson make far more sense, while DeRozan is the most athletic.

And considering the uncertainty facing the roster (Anthony Parker, Shawn Marion, Chris Bosh), the team desperately needs to get this pick right. Or at least draft someone that will contribute next season.

ESPN’s Chad Ford has Toronto taking Evans in his initial mock draft. SI’s Ian Thomsen has them selecting point guard Brandon Jennings, who played in Europe this past season. That pick would suggest the Raptors have fallen out of love with Roko Ukic, who was hot and cold last season.

The draft is 35 days away. There will be plenty more time for speculation.

-DL

Smith is here and here.

Thomsen is here.

Ford is here.

Armstrong is here.

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