It might not seem like it in light of last night's shellacking at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Raptors remain in a very promising position for future in terms of assets, flexibility and talent. As far as assets go, one of the gems in the treasure chest became a little more usable last night as the Raptors were awarded the 9th overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft.
Raptors become the 2nd team in the last 25 years to make the Conference Finals and own a top-10 draft pick (2003 Pistons picked Darko 2nd)— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) May 18, 2016
The 2016 Raptors offseason promises to be a whirlwind of activity, with the pending free agents, the cap hike, and four first rounders in two years opening up the possibility of trades. Sitting at 56 wins this year, the Raptors have accumulated talent to not necessarily feel the need to nurture another young piece for the long run. In talking to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress (full piece here), Masai Ujiri left the door open on what he plans to do with the pick:
Q: How will the draft pick impact the upcoming free agency this summer?
Ujiri: It's a huge asset for us in many ways. Whether we're bringing in a young player or doing anything with the pick is a huge asset for us and we're happy to have it.
If the Raptors were to keep the pick, there are definitely some glaring holes on the roster that will only become more pronounced once free agency hits. Currently, the Raptors are slated to have Luis Scola, James Johnson and Jason Thompson hitting free agency, with Bismack Biyombo and DeMar DeRozan joining them if they decline their player options as expected.
Barring any transactions, going into free agency and without taking into account drafted players, here's the Raptors' depth chart:
PG: Lowry - Joseph - Wright
SG: Ross - Powell
SF: Carroll - Bruno
C: Valanciunas - Bebe
It's difficult to project what the Raptors intend to do in free agency, but this is the roster Masai Ujiri will have at his disposal come draft night. The holes look very apparent on this roster. Obviously some of these issues will be addressed in free agency. But a top-10 pick in the draft offers the opportunity to build cheap depth in areas of need or alternatively, stash a project in Europe or continue the D-League project in Mississauga.
The threat of losing Scola, Thompson, Johnson and Biyombo makes a big the most obvious place to look. If DeRozan moves on, the Raptors would be taking a step back if they didn't fill that void in free agency. They could just slide everyone up one spot in the depth chart and have a new rookie slide into the Norman Powell role for next year. Point guard is the only position that looks relatively settled.
We'll give you some more in-depth draft coverage once the playoff run is over and done with, but here's a quick preview of what's available:
Skal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky, born March 1996
7'0, 216 lbs
Labissiere oozes potential. He was widely considered a top-2 pick going into the college season, but struggled mightily to adapt to the increased level of competition. This wasn't even a case of him playing on a Kentucky team that was loaded with talent. Playing on one of the weaker, smaller Widlcats teams in recent memory, he just wasn't able to carve out a consistent role for himself. He only averaged 16 minutes a game, tallying 6 points and 3 rebounds per contest.
But I can't look past the potential, sorry. The Raptors have a good team, and I'd be fine with them going high-risk, high-reward with this pick. Labissiere is tailor made to be a modern NBA big man. He blocks shots (1.6 per game), and can really shoot the ball from midrange. If that range extends out to the three? You have a promising prospect. Keep in mind he's 7-feet tall with a 7'3 wingspan. The Raptors can stash him in Mississauga for a year and let him develop at his own pace. That's why that D-League team exists.
Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington, born July 1997
6'10, 233 lbs
If the lack of productivity from Skal is enough to scare you, I present to you another prospect of the same ilk in Marquese Chriss. Chriss doesn't quite have the upside, ceiling, and physical tools of Skal, but he makes up for that with legitimate productivity. He's also one of the youngest guys in the draft, which speaks to how impressive he was. Chriss averaged 14 points per game in 24 minutes, shot 57% from the field, 35% from 3, and registered 1.6 blocks per game. In short, he's the perfect fit on paper next to Valanciunas.
As with Skal, Chriss struggles on the glass (5.4 per game), and the returns on his defensive tape are mixed. He's a great athlete, he'll block a ton of shots, but he's not convincing anyone as a great team or one on one defender. With his first step and relative youth, you'd hope that there's room to grow on that end of the floor, but you're still taking on a long-term project here too.
Deyonta Davis, PF/C, Michigan State, born December 1996
6'11, 237 lbs
If you're going to lose Bismack Biyombo, Deyonta Davis is the ideal replacement long term. Davis essentially played an energy big, low usage role for the Spartans, but was impressive as hell in that time. In 19 minutes a game, he put up 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest. He also shot 60% from the field. Davis moves like water and isn't built like most teenage prospects. He's a big, strong dude already.
What I like about Davis is that while his offensive game is restricted to being a beast on the offensive glass and finding opportunities with his energy, he's defensively ready to contribute now. Those blocks he put up aren't empty stats like you see in some cases. He was routinely tasked with dealing with smaller players and put the focus on his mobility. For a 18/19 year old to be the fulcrum of a Tom Izzo defence for 19 minutes a game is a serious notch in Davis' belt. He's young, but he's damn good.
Timothe Luwawu, SG/SF, France, born May 1995
6'7, 205 lbs
Luwawu rounds out my four favourite prospects in terms of fit and need for the Raptors. I'll admit I don't know a whole lot about Luwawu, but his productivity in the French league is undeniable. He averaged 15 points per game, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2 steals in 31 minutes. The 37% shooting from 3 stands out as well. Luwawu's relatively unheralded, having only been in the spotlight for the past year or so. By all accounts, his defence is his most impressive attribute as he's athletically overwhelming for non-bigs overseas.
With that skill-set, if I had to guess, a 3 and D type wing should be in the 50th-ish percentile of projections for him. He only shot 40% from the field so there's cause for concern about his scoring instincts, but assuming he's given limited responsibility to start his career, those problems should be mitigated.
That's it for now, I'll scout some more guys for the site at some point and report back. For now, check out DraftExpress' updated 2016 mock. Who did I miss? Who interests you more?