After being embarrassed last month at the hands of the Washington Wizards, Raptors fans have had ample time for their grief to turn to tepid hope. It’s that time of year, after all - the NBA clock has turned from the playoffs to the 2015 Draft.
That playoff loss, coupled with a defense that cratered after the All-Star break, has put plenty of doubt around certain positions. With the 20th pick, the Raptors can only do so much to alleviate some of these concerns. That’s where a wish list comes in. Given all that we learned over the 2014-15 season, here are the positions that the Raptors should be targeting on June 25 when Adam Silver starts calling names.
Depth at Power Forward
Though it hasn’t been made official, it seems all but certain that Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough are due for pay increases and are likely to walk this summer as unrestricted free agents. Time has worn on Amir, as a once strong defender and utility big man has struggled with mobility and injuries over the past two seasons. Hansbrough, meanwhile, has energy and enforcement that are appreciated, but his impact on the stat sheet leaves something to be desired.
With these two out, Patrick Patterson would slot into the starting role, and the Raptors would be in serious need of some power forward depth and size to offset the smaller Patterson. Luckily, the 2015 Draft should have some big man gems waiting late in the first round. These include Montrezl Harrell, who is expected to bring immediate rebounding and defense, and Kevon Looney, a less proven but promising big on the offensive end.
Defensive Point Guard
Throughout the second half of the season, Kyle Lowry, Lou Williams and (especially) Greivis Vasquez were exposed continuously by opposing team’s point guards. Once the NBA realized that these three players were revolving doors, they created sets to take advantage of it, and the Raptors team defense took a serious hit.
Though point guards are coveted in the NBA Draft, there is some hope that the Raptors can get a less-polished offensive guard with defensive energy. Delon Wright matches that criteria – he’s a player with strong defensive instincts and a 2.1 steals per game average at Utah.
Two-Way Shooting Guard / Small Forward
Crowning the Golden State Warriors as champions was yet another sign that the NBA is quickly becoming a league where two way, position-less players are king. Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, Shaun Livingston, and even Draymond Green (a forward at a guard’s height) are prime examples of playmaking guards who can also lock down on defense.
The Raptors have coveted these players in the past, and once had hopes that Terrence Ross would blossom into a similar type of player. That prayer looks less and less likely to be answered, so perhaps the Raptors would be best to find a position-less athlete who can be molded into a solid NBA player.
Yes, this prototype sounds like Bruno Caboclo. If winning NBA teams can teach us anything, though, it’s that you can never have too many players like this on your roster. The Raptors may be best off getting on this new NBA wave through the draft. While Kentucky’s Trey Lyles would fit this quota, it’s unlikely he’ll fall all the way to 20. Some who might be in that range are Michigan’s Caris LeVert and Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
So what positions do you think the Raptors should be targeting?