With the NBA Draft lottery about a month away, Franchise takes a quick look at why this pick could be a huge key for the Toronto Raptors next season...
As of last night, three of the East's lower seeds have been unceremoniously booted from the NBA playoffs.
While the Bulls gave the Cavs the most resistance of the group, I found myself picturing the Toronto Raptors in any of those three situations, and coming up with the same results.
This is why I unfortunately fell on the "cheering for your team to miss the playoffs" side of the fence as the season began to wrap up. With very little financial flexibility this off-season, perhaps a huge hole to fill should Chris Bosh depart, a desperate need for talent, and an inevitable pounding at the hands of the likes of the Cavs, Magic or Celtics, long-term, I didn't see any other choice but to hope Toronto missed the dance.
And right now, that option is looking better and better.
An incredible 77 underclassmen have declared for the upcoming draft, and by May 8th, the final date for said underclassmen to withdraw their names, we'll get a pretty good picture of how many of these 77 will remain in the mix for Toronto come June.
Right now, it seems like most of these players will stay, meaning this draft could be one of the most loaded from top to bottom in years. Part of this mass exodus seems to be because of the concern surrounding the upcoming CBA negotiations and many agents are likely advising their players to "get in while they can."
This probably explains the decisions of folks like Lance Stephenson and Tiny Gallon, talented young prospects who right now look to be on the bubble to be drafted, but who are willing to roll the dice now instead of betting against a potential work stoppage down the line.
Does this mean that the Raptors will get a stud wherever they pick?
Not necessarily, however it does mean that not only is there some solid options early on, but because of the draft's depth, it might not be a bad idea for Colangelo and co. to try and grab a late first round or second round pick in addition to their current lottery selection. Teams like Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, OK City, Minnesota and Washington all have three or more selections and with several of these clubs looking to be cost concious next season, there may be picks to be had.
But for the Raps, it's the lottery pick obviously that's of paramount importance.
Perhaps whoever is drafted at that spot (assuming Toronto doesn't jump into one of the top 3 positions post-lottery) isn't a franchise changer, but in so deep a draft, I'm quite confident the Raptors will be able to grab a nice piece to next year's puzzle.
As of now, without getting into rankings, some of our favourite options from Toronto's draft range include:
-Paul George - SF - Fresno St.
-Ekpe Udoh - PF - Baylor
-Devin Ebanks - SF - West Virginia
-Daniel Orton - PF/C - Kentucky
-Jordan Crawford - SG - Xavier
-Stanley Robinson - PF - UCONN
-Quincey Pondexter - SF - Washington
-Patrick Patterson - PF - Kentucky
-Dominique Jones - G - South Florida
-Xavier Henry - SG - Kansas
We've already got our feelers out on these prospects and over the next few weeks you'll hear from media, scouts and others who regularly follow these players, in order to give you the most comprehensive look possible at draft options for the Raptors.
However outside of a shot at new, cheap talent, there's another very important piece to the "having a lottery pick" puzzle.
Right now, various teams like Charlotte, New York, Cleveland, the LA Lakers, Phoenix and Dallas don't own first-round picks so perhaps the true advantage is that a lottery pick is simply an additional asset that Toronto wouldn't have had had they made the playoffs. Now, should the Dinos look to get creative with their logjam of contracts, perhaps a lottery-pick helps grease the skids.
Put it this way.
A lottery pick = facilitation.
In a year where many clubs will again likely be looking to make major changes to their rosters, a lottery pick could go a long way towards making the contract of say a Jose Calderon, all the more palatable for a potential trade partner.
Would I prefer if the Raptors kept the pick?
Slightly...but it all depends on what trade options might present themself as unlike past seasons, I'm not married to anyone in this draft...
...outside of Evan Turner of course.
And should Toronto land a top 2 spot in the draft and therefore an opportunity to grab the Ohio State swingman, suddenly this off-season looks pretty good doesn't it, Bosh or no Bosh!
And that's my final point about this lottery pick.
By simply having their logo on a combination of ping pong balls next month, Toronto has a shot at perhaps a franchise-altering player, something they wouldn't have had at all after a first-round exodus.
So what if it's less than a one percent chance...