The Toronto Raptors are in a curious spot. While the Celtics and Wizards continue to grow in their pursuit of the Cleveland Cavaliers atop the Eastern Conference, it seems the Raptors have plateaued. And this tunnel has no clear light on the other side. Thus, it becomes especially difficult to predict what team president Masai Ujiri may do on draft night.
So, let’s talk about the Raptors’ options come June 22nd.
The Raptors may trade their 23rd overall pick in this year’s draft, as talent tends to dwindle later in the draft. However, picks outside the top 20 aren’t usually worth much, unless packaged with additional assets. The Raptors may package DeMarre Carroll, Jonas Valanciunas and/or their 2017 pick to move up in the draft. This option makes sense if they decide to build for the future. Alternatively, they could use this package to trade for a significant additional piece. If they believe they can compete with the Cavaliers (assuming LeBron stays in Cleveland), this may be warranted. Granted, this relies on the Raptors being able to re-sign Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka to long-term contracts, which is far from guaranteed.
More realistically, Masai may decide to upgrade through the draft. When you’re picking in the mid-20s, I believe the best course of action is to swing for the fences. Yes, if you’ve read my previous articles, I’m not the biggest fan of Bruno Caboclo, the Toronto Raptors’ 2014 first-round pick and unofficial mascot. However, I admire the idea of picking a lanky, athletic prospect with room for growth, especially because the Raptors should be building for the future. This year’s draft class is especially interesting due to the presence of Harry Giles, the oft-injured but incredibly long and talented big man from Duke. With Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker likely to move on from the team this offseason, picking a big man is logical, as the Raptors are still looking for their backup PF/C moving forward. Having options is always a good thing, in case Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakim don’t work out.
Another option is to draft for replacement. If Kyle Lowry walks, the Raptors need to figure out who will be the point guard of the future. Spoiler alert: it’s not Cory Joseph. So, the Raptors may take a chance on a taller, lesser-known point guard in the draft, such as P.J. Dozier. The Raptors don’t have a stellar defender with length at the point guard position, and Dozier, if he can figure out his perimeter jumper, would be a great fit.
What Masai Ujiri chooses to do on draft night will be a key indication of what he intends to do with the franchise moving forward. He must be careful drafting with replacement in mind, though, because that lowers the trade stock of the player he intends to trade on the current roster. Opposing general managers will know that he may be desperate to trade him, and thus, offer less for him. Regardless of what Masai opts to do on draft night, I’m excited to see it all go down. Here’s to hoping we avoid another Rafael Araujo—I’ve been disappointed on draft night enough already.