Even with the NBA season in full swing, it's never too early to start thinking (or fantasizing thanks to the Andrea Bargnani trade) about the 2016 draft.
As alluded to above, the Toronto Raptors will make two selections in the first round thanks to some Masai wizardry. In addition to wherever they finish, the Raptors will receive the Denver Nuggets' or New York Knicks' first-round pick, depending on which team finishes with a better record. There has been some confusion on this, so let's clear that up first and foremost.
To make things easy, let's say New York goes 30-52 and Denver goes 20-62. Toronto is given the less-favourable draft pick, which in this case would be the Knicks'.
The latest mock draft from Chad Ford has the Raptors picking 11th and 25th. Here are some players that could be available in that range.
Cheick Diallo: Freshman, University of Kansas
Ford has Toronto receiving New York's pick and taking Diallo. The 19-year-old forward/centre has been pegged as a bigger version of Kenneth Faried. The Raptors are in need of a starting-calibre power forward to slot in beside Jonas Valanciunas. Diallo may take a couple years to fully develop, but the Jayhawk already possesses a high motor and offers good rim protection.
Ivan Rabb: Freshman, University of California
Another big man, Rabb has been a solid performer for Cal, averaging 12.4 points and 8.2 rebounds in his 25 minutes of action per game. Standing at nearly seven feet tall, the 18-year-old still has to bulk up to deal with NBA-level post players. Scouts say he possesses a nice left baby hook shot but not a lot of other polished offensive weapons.
Damian Jones: Junior, Vanderbilt
Now in his third productive season with Vanderbilt, Jones is another option at centre for the Raptors to add depth behind Valanciunas. Jones' ceiling isn't as high as the names mentioned above, but he's older, has plenty of athleticism and would give Toronto another big body down low.
Grayson Allen: Sophomore, Duke
Ford describes the six-foot-five guard as one of the most polarizing players available in the draft. After failing to earn much floor time in his freshman campaign, the Blue Devil has exploded onto the scene in his second year. Through nine games he's averaging 22 points, five rebounds and three assists while connecting on 46 per cent of his three-point attempts. There are some concerns over his ability to play point guard, which means he could slot in at shooting guard at the NBA level. That can go okay for a pure shooter (see J.J. Redick) or not so well (see Nik Stauskas).
Jonathan Jeanne: 18 years old, France
Jeanne is not playing in the NCAA this season, instead opting to hone his craft in Europe. The big man has serious upside, blessed with a seven-foot-six wingspan. He likely wouldn't see time with the Raptors in 2016-17, but teaming up with Bruno Caboclo in Mississauga, Raptors 905 could be one exciting D-League team.
Malik Newman: Freshman, Mississippi State
Point guard isn't a pressing need for the Raptors, but given the importance of the position and the questions surrounding Kyle Lowry's long-term future with the club, it could make sense to draft one late in the first round. Like Delon Wright, Newman is a sound defender. He hasn't shot the ball at an effective clip early in his NCAA career, but those who have followed him know he is a capable perimeter threat. With the versatility to play either guard position, he could be a valuable commodity.
Of course, these are subject to great change as NBA teams jostle in the standings and college players see their stock rise and fall over the course of the year. However, no matter what happens, it's safe to say Ujiri and the Raptors won the Bargnani trade.
What are your thoughts on this crop of players? Have any other ideas of who Toronto could look to take in the first round?