23 Draft Prospects Who Fit the Toronto Raptors Draft Ethos
Over the past eight years, the Toronto Raptors have been the creme de la creme of unearthing draft-day-jackpots.
No front office bats 100 — but the Raptors under president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster have gotten as close as anyone.
Ahead of the 2022 NBA draft, Webster articulated why the club invests so much time and energy into the draft and he answered the question as accurately and honestly as he could:
“It’s the one area of roster building where the potential is unlimited…the draft is the great unknown, because if you can get a really good player in the second round who becomes an All Star, the value there is immeasurable”
— Bobby Webster
So let’s take a balanced look back at how the Raptors draft, their track record, and use this to predict who they might be looking to draft on Thursday.
I’ve broken down the grades into 5 tiers from A to F, and the criteria for each is as objective as hell — career win shares.
I could write a book on everything that’s wrong with this methodology, and why some players may have failed in Toronto despite thriving elsewhere, but let’s feign ignorance and go with career win shares since it’s a significant improvement over how most draft grades are formulated — feelings, biases, narratives, points scored and the dreaded eye test.
• A — picked best player available
• B — picked one of the 2 best players available
• C — picked one of the 3 best players available
• D — picked one of the 4 best players available
• F — didn’t pick one of the 4 best players available
No Selections, but desperately trying to trade up to grab a lottery pick for Giannis using future picks deserves some credit.
(20) Bruno Caboclo — F (15 better players were available)
(37) DeAndre Daniels — F (9 significantly better players available)
* Worth noting, Spencer Dinwiddie, Glenn Robinson III, Jeremi Grant and Nikola Jokic went right after Daniels who has yet to play an NBA game.
(20) Delon Wright — F (5 better players picked over the next 20 picks)
(46) Norman Powell — A (no one better picked after)
(9) Jakob Poetl — C (3 better players picked ahead but get a grade boost for getting one of them at 27)
(27) Pascal Siakam — A (no one better picked after him)
* Worth noting, Jakob and Siakam, the old bench duo buddies we used to call Jak and Skills are two of the top 4 win share getters in this draft. Just so happens that Sabonis & Siakam went behind Poetl, and I’ll add Dejounte Murray in as well.
(23) OG Anunoby — -A (no one better picked after him)
No draft picks
(59) Dewan Hernandez — F (6 undrafted players who were better including Max Strus, Naz Reid, Lu Dort, Dean Wade, Terrance Davis and Tacko Fall)
(29) Malachi Flynn — D (Tillman, Bayne, and Paul Reed all better so far)
(59) Jalen Harris — A (no one better so far)
(4) Scottie Barnes — A (you know the vibes)
(46) Dalano Banton — B (1 player better so far)
(47) David Johnson — B(1 player better so far)
It’s not a perfect record by any stretch, but when you add in diamond in the rough finds like Terence Davis, Justin Champagnie and All Star Fred VanVleet in the undrafted heap, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that has drafted better over the past eight seasons.
So How the F**K Do They Do It?
There’s a clear method to the madness. Even when you consider the reclamation prospects that didn’t quite work out or have yet to fully work out (Oshae Brissett, Malcolm Miller, Patrick McCaw, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Svi Mykhailiuk, Yuta Watanabe, Precious Achiuwa) there’s a type, and they rarely if ever deviate.
· Can guard multiple positions
· Good to Freakish Wingspans (Svi Mykhailuk is the only player who is taller than he is long on the Raptors roster)
· Highly portable players who can plug and play in different schemes and lineups.
· Players who can at least function in a defensive role
· Solid work ethic and trackable growth year-over-year
Oh, and they probably can’t shoot very well from outside the arc. Because if they were elite defensive prospects who could already shoot, they’d be lottery picks. Or so the logic goes.
Most teams assume they can turn scorers and shooters into defenders and time and time again, we find that this is more complicated than it seems. Defense is a skill. Length, hip flexibility and quick twitch athleticism are far harder to teach than shooting.
The Raptors are betting on their ability to turn defenders and athletes into more or less complete basketball players who can also shoot.
Again, it’s not perfect. But it’s a plan. And it’s a plan that has worked more often than it hasn’t. Precious Achiuwa. Scottie Barnes. Pascal Siakam. Norman Powell. OG Anunoby. The pipeline speaks for itself.
It’s easy to forget that Norman Powell took 354 three pointers at UCLA, hitting on just 31.4%. His best shooting season at UCLA was as a freshman when he shot 34.7%.
Flash forward a few short years later, and Norman Powell was a foundational bench sniper for the Toronto Raptors team that won a championship in 2018–2019, shooting 40% from three point range on a high volume of attempts.
The Raptors understand how to fix jump shooting. They’ve yet to figure out how to grow someone’s arms or make them significantly quicker laterally.
With the 33rd Pick The Toronto Raptors Select…
So now that we understand the Toronto Raptors draft philosophy, let’s take a moment to outline thirteen prospects the Toronto Raptors might be looking to draft with the 33rd pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
- Peyton Watson | 6-8, 205 | SF/PF | UCLA Fr.
It’s hard to argue that the Raptors should draft a player who averaged three points per game in college off the bench last season. It’s also hard to find a more quintessential Raptors prospect than Peyton Watson in this draft. The Raptors will have the option to pick up more proven prospects from the undrafted heap, but prospects like Watson very rarely fall this far in the second round. That said, it’s hard to remember the last time a highly-touted freshman like Watson shot this poorly from the field (39% true shooting) and still entered the draft. Does he have a promise? This is an ultimate boom or bust pick. His form needs work, and he really struggled at the rim (35.1%). Passing and athletic potential is very good. Defensive upside is otherworldly. If the Raptors believe in their ability to coach him up, and his ability to work, this is a no-brainer if he slips.
- Caleb Houstan | 6–8. 205 | SG/SF | Michigan Fr.
Houstan is a Canadian kid who was once a projected top five pick in this draft. He was also a high school teammate of Scottie Barnes at Montverde. He also happens to be a 6’8 forward who can shoot the hell out of the basketball. None of this guarantees the Raptors will ignore the questions about his defensive upside, athleticism and creation, but it would make for one hell of a feel-good story. After a very rough start at Michigan, he finished the season strong. But the low points were lower than the high points were high. He has underrated abilities as a passer and a shooter off the bounce.
- Bryce McGowens | 6–6, 180 | SG/SF | Nebraska Fr.
Microwave scorer Bryce McGowens was once considered a high lottery talent who drew comparisons to Jordan Poole and Spencer Dinwiddie. Ten months later, he is one of many freshmen who saw their stock drop significantly after struggling to produce in his first college season. While this selection would be drafting against type for Toronto, he’d be a great and cheap Gary Trent Jr. replacement in the event they feel they need insurance.
- Jaylin Williams | 6-10 235 | PF/C | Arkansas So.
Williams can defend multiple positions, pass, and could play right away for the Raptors in 2022–2023. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Al Horford, and I’m sure the NBA Finals going the way they did has done nothing but boost Jaylin Williams’ stock. He should be gone by pick 33, but expect the Raptors to take a long hard look if he falls.
- Josh Minnot | 6–8, 205 | SF/PF | Memphis Fr.
Minnot is another 6’8 guy with elite defensive upside, plus-length and a shaky jumper. Say it ain’t so. He has elite vertical leap and a hyper-aggressive slashing ability. At times, he reminds me of a bigger Jaylen Brown or Andrew Wiggins. Shaky handle. Gets a lot of his offense in transition. Jumper has issues and even struggled from mid range. Generally, the Raptors prefer guys who’ve flashed some midrange potential, but then again, they just drafted Scottie Barnes fourth last year.
- Patrick Baldwin Jr. | 6–10, 220 | SF/PF | Wisconsin–Milwaukee Fr.
There are a lot of rumours as to why Patrick Baldwin struggled in his first season playing under his dad. But you can’t teach his buttery smooth stroke, his bag of tricks that let him get his shot off, his budding passing skills or his size. At 6’10, he’s still one of the purest shooters and off ball spacers in this draft. Even if his maximum upside is a very poor man’s Rashard Lewis at this point, that’s a pretty great value grab in the second round. Combine results really hurt his stock, but not more than his terrible shooting splits this season.
- John Butler | 7–1, 175 | PF/C | Florida State Fr.
What would happen if you put Kyle Korver’s offensive game in Chet Holmgren’s body? You’d probably get Florida State sniper John Butler. The Raptors are no strangers to drafting Seminoles with 7’3 wingspans after drafting Scottie Barnes last season, but Butler and Barnes are very different. Butler is a 19-year-old catch and shoot spacer. His game may remind you of guys like Jason Kapono. He’s not comfortable off the bounce for now. Just a stand still catch and shoot guy who shot 31–71 from three point range this past year (43.7%). Shooting stroke is pure. Basically a very tall guard with elite role player potential. Extremely quick laterally for his size. Not quite Evan Mobley on the perimeter but close. Good shot-blocking instincts. Could really become a beastly defender and elite 3&D prospect if he adds about 30 pounds.
- Christian Koloko | 7–0, 220 | C/PF | Arizona Jr.
He’s been mocked to the Raptors for a plethora of reasons. He’s from the same city as Pascal Siakam, and he’s a rim-running, shot-blocking big that the Raptors so desperately need. This makes too much sense and that’s probably why it’s not going to happen.
- Yannick Nzosa | 6–11, 210 | C/PF | DR Congo 03′
Nzosa followed up what was a brilliant year overseas in 2020–2021 with a terrible year in 2021–2022. As his effectiveness, touch, and confidence faded, so did his once-top-ten-draft-stock. Like with a lot of African prospects who look a little too good to be true, there’s skepticism over his age. He fits the Raptors well in terms of playstyle, and he’s extremely comfortable guarding out on the perimeter and switching everything. His once promising touch around the basket however is another story. 33 might be out of range for him, but I’d like to see the Raptors take a look at him if he goes undrafted.
- Ryan Rollins | 6–3, 180 | PG/SG | Toledo So.
A 6’3 guard who didn’t play in a super tough division and is better known for his offense than his defense isn’t exactly a guy you’d typically associate with the Raptors. This is especially true after the Raptors have basically drafted four point guards in the past two drafts. But if Rollins is on the board at 33, he should get a long hard look.
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