Raptors Stay Quiet on Draft Night; Eastern Conference Gets Major Shake-Up

Jim Rogash

The Toronto Raptors dealt their 2013 draft picks prior to last night's event, and elected not to get back in on the action. But that didn't mean their divisional and conference rivals stood pat...

How about our Canadian kids?

Anthony Bennett shocks the world by getting drafted first overall, and then Kelly Olynyk gets drafted in the lottery as well, 13th overall, before being dealt to the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics were one of the biggest stories of the evening in fact as it sounds like they're prepared to go full on in for Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 draft. The club looks to be dealing superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, along with Jason Terry, to the Brooklyn Nets for basically future upside. The C's get three future first-round picks, and potential future salary-cap relief...

...and not much else.

Watching the draft live last night I had to feel for die-hard Celts' fan Bill Simmons, who was helping provide colour commentary for the event, as the news of the deal broke. It's not exactly a giant haul considering the bulk of the picks attained don't figure to be high ones, and there was nary a prospect included for Celtics' fans to hang their hat on. In fact reading through the proposed deal, I felt a bit like I was going back in time to Toronto's dealing of Vince Carter, which saw a very similar type of return on their investment.

In any event, that move, along with a few others could radically change not just Toronto's own Atlantic Division next season, but the Eastern Conference itself.

At face value the Nets appear to take another step closer to compete with the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, while the Celtics now appear lottery-bound. As well, the Atlanta Hawks drafted as if they were looking to cut bait with many of their free-agents, potentially dropping them out of the playoff discussions in 2014 as well.

And finally, the Philadelphia 76ers went all-in on their future, dealing All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in return for Nerlens Noel, and a top-five protected pick in next year's draft. Considering the Sixers didn't make the dance last year even with Holiday, this virtually guarantees them a spot in the high-lottery again next season, potentially with two fairly high picks.

Looking at last year's final Eastern Conference standings then, the only teams that look like locks to return to the playoffs are indeed the Heat and Pacers, followed by the new-look Nets and a healthy Chicago Bulls team.

There are major question marks regarding the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, none of whom I'd argue made major moves last night via the draft that at face value, lock in spots next year.

Which of course potentially means that the Toronto Raptors, who were relatively close to making a run at the playoffs last year at one point, could have an extra few openings.

Of course that's not taking other non-playoff teams into consideration as indeed, a few clubs like the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards will likely take big steps forward next season as well.

I actually thought overall, the Pistons and Wizards actually had two of the best drafts last night, the Pistons' grabbing a solid potential starting two-guard in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and one of the best upside guys in the draft, Tony Mitchell (who they nabbed in the second-round with the 37th pick.) To me, that's the best type of draft for a team, getting what looks like a sure-fire starter with your top pick, and a top upside guy in the second-round, covering both bases.

And the Wiz did likewise grabbing Georgetown's Otto Porter third overall, and an upside guy in Glen Rice Jr. in the second round.

As for the Raptors?

Well decided to sit this draft out.

The pick they dealt in the Kyle Lowry deal ended up being PITT big man Steven Adams, so it's hard to get too upset about this trade. (Not that I was ever upset about it however.) Adams has potential to be a solid big in the league, but I'm hardly excited if I'm a Thunder fan.

And other than a blurb about the Raptors having interest in LA Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe (who they liked in the 2010 draft), it was pure crickets.

Which again, isn't necessarily a bad thing.

After the first 10 or so names were called last night, there wasn't a lot of talent to be excited about (although wow, the draft itself was one of the most intriguing in years in my opinion), and it sounded again like there was a very high price tag attached to acquiring picks. Masai Ujiri likely opted to sit on the sidelines, see what prospects were left when the smoke cleared (we'll be posting a "best undrafted" list later) and snatch up a few for Summer League, and focus on the free agent period beginning in only a matter of days.

One final note. If indeed Ujiri was considering going "tank" and making a run for Andrew Wiggins next year, the path just got a little muddier I'd argue. As mentioned, clubs like the Celtics, Hawks and Sixers (using their own pick next year, not the top-5 protected one acquired from the Pelicans) now may be making similar plays so this may indeed influence what direction Ujiri goes in terms of starting to try and turn this franchise around.

So suffice to say, while last night contained very little Raptors' news, expect some to follow in the days to come.

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