The Raptors entered the 2015 draft with the 20th pick and rumours swirling and not much else.
Then, about midway through the first round, Greivis Vasquez was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for the Clippers' 2017 draft pick and the 46th pick in the draft this year.
This trade is interesting for a few reasons. The Raptors now have two extra first round draft picks. In next year's draft they now have their own first rounder as well as either the Knicks or Nuggets first round pick (whichever is worse, as the Nuggets get to pick which one they get). That pick could be very valuable, depending on how the Knicks and Nuggets approach this off-season.
In the 2017 draft, the Raptors have their own first and second round draft picks, as well as the Clippers' first round draft pick. The Clippers pick is lottery protected, but there's little chance the Clippers end up out of the playoffs anytime soon (so we can also expect the pick to be in the 20+ range).
The other reason this deal is exciting is that the Raptors take back no salary for Vasquez. The Bucks absorbed his contract into their cap space directly. This creates a Trade Exception (commonly and confusingly shortened to TPE) for the Raptors in the amount of $6.5 million. This allows them to absorb a salary of up to $6.5 million in a trade without having to match salary going back, up until June 26th of next year.
Perhaps more importantly, if the Raptors renounce that TPE, it translates directly into cap room. That means that if they let all their free agents walk this summer they are now lined up to have $22.4 million in cap room (assuming the projected $67.1 million cap holds after the moratorium). That's enough for a supermax deal (maximum salary for 10+ year veterans) so they can make a competitive bid on any free agent on the market this summer. Or split that amount into a restricted free agent max bid ($15.8 million) and have about $7.1 million left over to chase another contributor (maybe a Cory Joseph) or facilitate a trade that has more salary coming in than going out.
Now, onto the draft picks themselves.
With the 20th overall pick, the Toronto Raptors select: Delon Wright from the University of Utah.
This pick was a tantalizing one for many fans. As the draft went on, lots of players on the Raptors' presumed draft board were still sitting there approaching 20. Kevon Looney, Montrezl Harrell, Justin Anderson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Tyus Jones - they were all still there. Even Jerian Grant only went off the board at 19.
But the biggest shocker was that not only was practically the entire presumptive draft board still there, but someone slipped too. Bobby Portis, ranked at 17th by Draft Express, 13th by NBADraft.net, 17th by SI, and 15th by Basketball-Insiders, was there at 20 too.
So Raptors fans got excited. I got excited. When a guy slips like that, it tempts you to throw out your draft board and grab him. And even if they didn't do that, everyone fans wanted was still there to be taken.
And then Masai saw this, said "Wasn't the Bruno pick last year enough of a hint?", and proceeded to take Delon Wright, a point guard who just finished up his senior year at Utah.
My initial reaction was disappointment - I'd done my draft preparation posts and although I remembered having him on the list, he hadn't stood out. Mostly because I had skewed my picks mostly to freshmen and sophomores, guys with high upside if also potential busts.
But looking back at my posts, I don't know why I didn't have him higher, in spite of his age (23) as a senior.
Wright is an athletic guard, not an insane athlete but quick and strong. He above all else is a great defender - both on the ball and off. He is great at anticipating the play and providing timely help - whether that be by jumping passing lanes or blocking shots on unsuspecting slashers. His 6'8" wingspan, very nice for a PG, helps here as well.
He's also a heady player offensively, with a good number of assists for a college PG and a low turnover rate. He excels running the pick and roll, using his 6'5" height to his full advantage, finding the roller or kicking to shooters when he can't get to the rim. His ball handling and decisiveness could use a little work, but such is life with draftees. His shooting is not great, but it's decent, with him posting about 35 percent from 3 this past year. He's much better on catch and shoot jumpers than off the dribble, which is a drawback for the pick and roll, but he might find himself off the ball a lot anyway depending on the backup SG situation.
Throw in the fact that analytics models love him (9th best in the draft in this article compiling many formulas), and his defence-first-pass-first attitude, and this pick looks really good. It's also good to note that he was actually a bit of a young senior - he just turned 23 in April, not earlier in the year like many others.
There are those who will say this was a need pick after trading Vasquez, but I suspect (and Dwane Casey and Masai both said this in their post-draft interviews) that he was top of their list all along. Although fans expected more swing-for-the-fences long term picks like Bruno, I can understand the decision to take a guy you can be pretty sure will contribute (and right away, too). Consider this: with Bruno and Bebe still very much in the development phase, potentially bringing DeAndre Daniels over who will need seasoning, and with four first round draft picks over the next two years, maybe having more guys to develop (and share the three available slots on the new D-League team) might not have been the best strategy.
With the 46th overall pick, the Toronto Raptors select: Norman Powell from UCLA.
Yeah, yeah, it was the Bucks picking him, but that's only because draft night trades of draft picks aren't allowed to happen until after the pick is made. I like the sound of the above better.
This pick was the one the Raptors got for Vasquez, as their original 2nd round pick was traded to Atlanta in the Bebe/Lou deal.
Again, some names slipped down to this position - including some that I had listed as possibilities for the 20th pick (if outside possibilities). Christian Wood was there, Dakari Johnson, JP Tokoto, Cliff Alexander, and of course Norman Powell. I'd had Powell as a dark horse candidate at 20, who, just like Wright, I passed over quickly due to my youth bias. But with a mid second rounder? This is a good pick.
Powell is a 22 year old shooting guard. He was a senior, but like Wright a young one - except even more extreme. He just turned 22 this spring. So that's very nice, to get a guy with four years experience in college and probably a little more room for improvement still. He's a little short for the 2 position at 6'4" (though not overly short) but more than makes up for it with his very good 6'11" wingspan and 41" max vertical. He's a tremendous athlete, able to get up to the rim with little effort and no preparation (reminiscent of Terrence Ross in that way). But he's much stronger than Ross, very solidly built, and has a quick first step.
Powell looks like another defence pick, even if his defence was a little spotty in college. He certainly has all the tools, and uses them well man-to-man, but tends to gamble and give up easy baskets when he misses. Casey is actually a good coach for him in this regard, as Kyle Lowry has cut way back on his gambling ways under Casey. He also seemed to develop that gambling tendency only recently with a heavier offensive workload - in previous years when he was a secondary option offensively he performed much better, so that's a good sign for his role as primarily a defensive player at the next level.
Offensively Powell is mostly a slasher, driving in straight lines and bulling past his man with his strength. Draws free throws and can hit from the line at a decent rate (75%), which is a positive sign for his jumper, which currently needs a lot of work (though there are signs of a potentially workable 3-pointer, with a 3PT% of just over 30 percent). Poor offence initiator, not much of a passer either. More of a defensive specialist at this time, but he might be able to develop a 3-and-D game if he can knock down the corner 3, and he has an explosive drive and great finishing through contact at the rim as a counter to players who close out too fast.
An interesting pick to say the least, and very good value in the middle of the second round.
What do you guys think of the Raptors' draft night?