With the draft arriving in two weeks and the Raptors offseason hitting a bit of lull, we’ve been squarely in draft scouting mode here at Raptors HQ. Harsh and Mitch decided to crank open an email exchange and share some thoughts about what direction they see the Raptors going come late June.
Harsh Dave: So I have to ask you, what's your take on fit vs. best player available? Do you worry about any of that especially considering free agency is around the corner?
Mitch Robson: With the Raps picking out of the 23rd slot, I think you really need to look at the best players available, or even take a chance on a prospect that has slipped out of the late lottery for one reason or another if they still happened to be there. Someone like Semi Ojeleye seems to be a perfect fit as he's got the body and skill set to become the 3-and-D wing that you need in a winning NBA rotation these days. But I'd also have no problem if Masai decided to take a home run swing and select a player like Harry Giles, who was once the top high school prospect in the country before knee injuries and a struggle to get playing time at Duke lowered his stock.
When it comes to the free agency question, doesn't it make you think the timing of the draft should be shuffled? Perhaps a schedule more similar to the NFL, where free agency happens before the draft would be beneficial to the league, so teams can truly see what their needs are after the majority of player movement occurs and in the case of a team like the Raptors, where one player's decision will totally alter their competitive balance for the next few seasons, the draft could become much more of an asset to acquiring players to fit your system then just a total crapshoot.
HD: It's weird, I'm generally a best player available supporter as well, but it's hard to fit that into projections. As an extreme example, Bruno Caboclo might have been the best player available back in 2014 assuming things eventually panned out for him, but what is the likelihood of reaching that outcome? I guess it comes down to the whole boom or bust mentality. To be honest, with Masai's track record of finding cheap talent in free agency, the second round of the draft, and even in undrafted free agency, I'm really hoping he just grabs the guy he thinks has the highest ceiling. This team is need of more top-end talent, they have enough rotational pieces otherwise. I like your Harry Giles shout out a lot. Is there an archetype of a player you're looking for? Personally, I'm enamoured by anyone who can shoot, defend multiple positions, and possibly do a decent job being a ball mover and fit into a fluid offense.
MR: Putting your Grange hat on for Bruno, eh? It would be pretty lovely if Rodney Hood (#23) or Clint Capela (#25) were on this roster right now, but I suppose depending on your viewpoint of the Jazz and Rockets back then, both teams were selecting with need and best available player both in mind.
Always believe in Masai, and Jared Sullinger aside this season, he usually finds the veteran guy that can contribute in the now and fit in with the rotation from day one. With how this past season ended, you're definitely correct on the team needing to take a shot and hopefully luck into some top-end talent, but I'm still so terrified of Giles having the knees of Greg Oden I think I'd be a little shook if I hear Adam Silver announce his name as the team's pick on draft night.
With the description of the type of player you'd want to see selected, care to fire up the trade machine and make a deal for Taurean Prince? I think he would be perfect as a young, not at all washed DeMarre Carroll replacement (with better hair). That being said, Terrance Ferguson might be the player Toronto takes a long look at. He played in Australia last year (shout out/RIP DeAndre Daniels) as a top high school prospect that didn't fit into the one-and-done mould and played a bit role in the Adelaide 36ers run to the top of the ABL. Coming in as a guy that wasn't a heavy usage player in the NCAA, he could be a very interesting player for the Raptors if they intend to slot the draftee right into the rotation, as he's had professional experience in that environment this season.
Otherwise I'd be looking at two bigs if they fell down to the #23 spot in Justin Patton and Jarrett Allen. I watched a fair bit of Creighton hoops this year, and Patton's got a relentless motor as a rim runner who could become a very talented player if he develops a jump shot.
How do you feel about those guys?
HD: I actually do like Terrance Ferguson a lot. Masai's been adamant about needing more shooting on the roster, and given all the uncertainty surrounding free agency and the Raptors potentially losing two of their best shooters in Ibaka and Lowry, it wouldn't be a bad pick. I liked him a lot coming out of high school when he balled out at the Nike Hoop Summit. He's basically a version of Terrence Ross. You can be happy with that at #23.
As far as bigs go, I really don't want the Raptors to take one. I know that things can change in the off-season with trades and free agency to come, but the Raptors are already way too big-heavy in a league that's getting smaller and smaller. Patton and Allen are nice players to be sure (Patton especially given his guard-like skills), but I'm just not that enamoured by them.
Alright let me hit you with this -- give me your top five options that might realistically be available at 23.
MR: If we're going with my fave five at #23, I'd rank them like this:
- Semi Ojeleye — He's got the size to guard bigs at 6'7 and 235 lbs, but can also stay with guys on the wing and contribute efficiently on offence (48% from the floor, 42% from downtown on nearly five attempts a game)
- Terrance Ferguson — We've already covered his upside and these highlights with the Aussy commentators will only sell you more.
- Harry Giles — If he ever regains his explosiveness, the range of skills and footwork could make him a two-way starter in this league for a long time.
- Bam Adebayo — I may be a Big Blue homer, but the guy can rebound and switch onto guards if necessary, and with Patrick Patterson likely out the door it wouldn't be so bad to have another Kentucky big on the roster.
- Jonathan Jeanne — Let's get ourselves a Gobert!
Who would you have on your draft board?
HD: Number 23 is really a weird spot to be, because if we’re looking at the Draft Express board, I’m not really in love with many of the options available. But if we look a little deeper on the board into the 30s range, some interesting options start opening up. Here are my five favourite prospects for the Raptors at #23:
- Derrick White — One of the late risers in the draft, White was lightly recruited coming out of a Colorado high school and ended up going to JUCO before going nuclear in his final year of eligibility at Colorado. He should conceivably be able to play as a secondary ball handler, has good size for the backcourt, and in small line-ups I could see him playing as a 3 as well. He can really shoot, he can make plays, is a crafty scorer and stuffed the stat-sheet with blocks and steals too. He’s going to be really good, even if he’s already 22.
- Wesley Iwundu — Another one of those high IQ players who did a lot of things well at Kansas State. A capable scorer whose shot only came around in his senior year, Iwundu also played the role of primary ball handler who can play either wing spot. With length to play both positions, and the defensive pedigree to make the Big-12 All defensive team, if you believe his shot improvements are for real, Iwundu would be a great high IQ addition to the Raptors.
- Sterling Brown — Most Raptors fans have talked themselves into Semi Ojeleye as their hope, but I remain more enamoured by his teammate, Sterling Brown. Where Semi is a physical specimen of the highest order, Brown is do-it-all player with a far better feel for the game. Another guy who can play 2-3-4, Brown shot 45% from 3, chipped in with 3.0 assists per game, and shows some promising ability to attack off the bounce, spot up for shots and play multiple positions defensively.
- Semi Ojeleye — Semi is still a nice prospect, of course. After falling short of expectations at Duke, he really came into his own after transferring to SMU. In athletic testing at the combine (sprints, vertical leap, agility), he graded out as among the best performers at his size. He’ll likely be a 3/4 in the NBA but it remains to be seen whether he ever improves his feel for the game enough to be more than a 4th option offensively. At this point, he’s pretty much a spot up shooter who has skated by on being physically dominant. Will he ever be a threat off the bounce or as a secondary creator? I’m unsure.
- Jonathan Jeanne — Jeanne lies somewhere on the spectrum between Rudy Gobert and Javale McGee, plus he has a three-point shot. He really fits the mould of a Raptors draft prospect, given how this organization uses the G-League.
Reminder: the NBA Draft is June 22nd.