The 2018 NBA Draft is this Thursday, and as expected: the rumour mill is really starting to whirr now. We’re here to report that the Raptors are apparently getting involved as well, with the latest chatter suggesting the team is interested in selecting Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (who’s Canadian by the way) — assuming, of course, they could find a way into the draft.
Here’s the initial rumour from the New York Times’ Marc Stein:
Draft scuttle: Hearing Toronto is exploring all of its trade options in hopes of assembling a deal to acquire a draft pick high enough to select Kentucky's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 18, 2018
If that’s the shot, this combo tweet from Stein and Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribute is the chaser:
To piggyback on Marc, I've heard from several places Kyle Lowry is very available https://t.co/zknVAk6WlP— Tony Jones (@tribjazz) June 18, 2018
And finally, just to temper your wild excitement for a second, here’s TSN’s Josh Lewenberg, who actually spend a lot of time around the Raptors, throwing cold water on the whole thing.
Not to rule it out completely, but I'd be very surprised if the Raptors moved into the lottery. Both publicly and privately, management has indicated they have no intention of taking a step back in the short-term. A top-10 pick wouldn't come cheap. Can't see it.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) June 18, 2018
So what’s to make of this? First, let’s settle on what Gilgeous-Alexander (who’s Canadian by the way) would bring to the Raptors.
Gilgeous-Alexander is 19, 6’6”, and 180 pounds, so we’re talking about a long point guard in the existing Delon Wright-esque mould, which should be familiar to Toronto by now. In his one season with Kentucky, Shai played in 37 games, started in 24, and averaged 33.7 minutes. In the process, he put up a line of 14.4 points. 5.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 0.5 blocks. Meanwhile, he shot 48.5 percent from the field and 40 percent from three (albeit on just 1.5 attempts per game).
According to NBA Draft dot net, his NBA comparisons are Ron Harper and Dejounte Murray, neither of whom scream All-Star point guard, but definitely were/are solid NBA pros. So far, Shai has shown solid defensive chops, both in getting steals and his strong positional fundamentals. And while he’ll need to work on his offense (which rookie doesn’t?), the requisite play-making ability for the modern NBA is there.
Our guy Mitch Robson, HQ’s official college basketball expert had this to say:
I love him. He’s essentially Canadian Delon Wright to put it super simply. He became Kentucky’s starting point and best player mid-season. He won’t overwhelm with athleticism, but he’s super long arms and an instinctive defender, with a great change of pace game to get to the rim and a real high IQ/play-making ability.
On many of the mock drafts floating around out there, Shai is in that 10-12 range. ESPN currently has him at no. 11 (saying he is “easy to slot in alongside virtually any type of player”, CBS Sports has him going at no. 12, and the Ringer slid him out of the top dozen to 16.
If Toronto was looking to make a deal, they’d have to call Charlotte at 11, the Clippers at 12 (or 13!), the Nuggets at 14, the Wizards at 15, or the Suns at 16. To make a deal work, it sounds like the Raptors would have to be willing to part with an impact player (e.g. DeMar DeRozan), and also take on some bad to mediocre salary.
If I had to pick a team or two that seemed likely to make a deal, the Clippers or Suns sound be high on the list. Los Angeles is likely looking to get competitive fast, and has a few pieces it could move (e.g. Tobias Harris) along with one of their extra draft picks. We know coach Doc Rivers doesn’t necessarily like the whole player development thing, so I imagine there’s some pressure internally already to try and get an established player.
Meanwhile a team like the Suns already has a cornucopia of young players, and they’re about to add the number one pick in this year’s draft. It stands to reason they wouldn’t be opposed to offloading one of their theoretical players to bring in some known quantity, veteran talent (though they don’t exactly have a ton of salary to dump, just expiring contracts).
But setting all of that aside, where would Gilgeous-Alexander — who, as I mentioned, is Canadian by the way — even fit on the Raptors? He’s a point guard, or at least a play-maker (and another slightly built one at that). In short, Shai doesn’t really fill a position of need for Toronto. Though, if the Raps were looking to turn Wright into a trade chip, or maybe trade Kyle Lowry (as suggested by Jones in that second tweet), bringing in a younger version of those two makes sense.
Of course, as Lewenberg reminds: the Raptors are looking to stay competitive, and since the asking price for any of these lottery or top-15 or so picks will likely be high, Toronto may not have the assets to get involved at all. Not unless they really do want to start chucking out the whole team.
What do you guys think? Is some sort of draft deal possible for the Raptors?