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NBA Draft Watch: The top ten prospects for the Toronto Raptors

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We’re just one week away from the 2020 NBA Draft, which means it’s time to get serious about who the Raptors could (or should) select with the 29th pick in the first round.

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

We’re getting closer and closer to November 18th, the day of the 2020 NBA Draft. Who will the Raptors take with their first round pick at 29th? We’re still trying to make our best guesses.

To help inform those guesses, all we can do is gather whatever info the Raptors put out there. For example: Nick Nurse recently appeared on ESPN’s Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin show to promote his book. Still, he also said that for Toronto, “keeping most of our core is the first key.” Nurse also mentioned that “I think we’ve got the point guards and bigs figured out, and that you can never have too many wing players, and that’s probably where I’d like to see us bolster the lineup a little bit with some depth.” Hmmm, I wonder if this applies to the upcoming draft as well.

Meanwhile, the Raptors’ Director of Global Scouting & International Affairs Patrick Engelbrecht provided some updates on Toronto’s draft process last week. He sounded really confident that they will find new talent in this upcoming draft. There’s an emphasis on “talent” with the Raptors planning to be aggressive in adding talent to the team’s core.

Nurse might not be that involved in the draft process, as he admitted in his book. But Engelbrecht noted that Toronto gives deep consideration to players who could potentially thrive in Nurse’s system and the Raptors’ team environment as it stands now. From the sounds of it, it’ll come down to organizational fit first, and then talent as a determining factor.

We also shouldn’t be too surprised if the Raptors draft someone a little off our radar. They have done this in the past — like when the fanbase overreacted to Pascal Siakam’s draft selection with calls for Deyonta Davis. Engelbrecht said that while there are prospects the Raptors like at the 29th spot that other teams also covet, there are also prospects where they see more value than other squads.

Mock Draft Updates

Right after we published last week’s Draft Watch, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor updated his mock draft. He now has the Raptors taking Theo Maledon. Based on his mock, Maledon slid to the Raptors because players like Malachi Flynn and Zeke Nnaji could be going higher.

Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman also updated his mock draft, with the Raptors potentially selecting Tyler Bey. Matt Babcock, who runs the BabcockHoops site, has an interesting take with the Raptors picking Vernon Carey Jr.; he’s an intriguing prospect with talent. If he pans out, he could be a future rotation big for the Raptors.

Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo’s big board has Desmond Bane sitting as 29th best prospect. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie hasn’t updated his board as of yet. Still, John Hollinger came out with his own yesterday, and apparently, this is based on the chatter that he’s hearing. He’s got the Raptors picking Zeke Nnaji, but also intimated that other point guards could go at the 29th spot.

Lastly, we have ESPN, the artists formerly known as DraftExpress released their own mock draft update today, with the Raptors picking up Tyrell Terry. Interestingly, they have Malachi Flynn, Cassius Winston, Nico Mannion, and Theo Maledon before Terry.

Here are my takes on the top ten players in the mix for Toronto.

Top Targets for the Raptors’ 29th Pick

Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford

Tyrell Terry is one of this year’s draft prospects who continues to trend up, thanks to his recent physical development. The majority of the mock drafts right now have him going mid-first round. That’s a big jump from his initial projection as an early second-round pick a couple of months ago. If Terry falls to the Raptors at 29th, he’ll provide a potential building block as a future starting point guard at best, or at least a capable backup.

Pros: Perimeter shooting, Basketball IQ, craftiness, compete-level

Cons: Physique, defense

Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL Lyon

Theo Maledon was once not even a consideration in the late first-round range. However, the momentum from NBA Combine and various workouts have the other prospects leap-frogging him on various draft sites. There’s also the shortened turnaround time for next season, which may force playoff teams to look for immediate help. Maledon is a point guard project, but he could be a quality starting point guard in the right system. His defense and size will earn him a close look as a third-string point guard, similar to what Delon Wright was in his rookie year.

Pros: Size, playmaking, defensive potential

Cons: Athleticism, scoring, possible long-term project

Desmond Bane, SG, TCU

Again, playoff teams could be looking for prospects who can provide impact right away, and seniors like Desmond Bane could be a hot commodity late in the first round. Bane’s future employer would expect him to be a solid bench piece, especially if his perimeter shooting and defensive ability pan out. If the Raptors select him, he gives them a chance to “double-dip.” Bane can help them compete next season, as he is equally NBA-ready. On the flip side, the organization might see him as a diamond-in-the-rough. He fits the older, overlooked prospect archetype the organization doesn’t put a ceiling on.

Pros: NBA-ready, perimeter shooting, strength, defensive effort

Cons: Undersized, subpar first step and resultant handles

Isaiah Joe, SG, Arkansas

Isaiah Joe would give the Raptors size and length at the SG position. He has the potential to be a multi-positional defender, and he’s one of the best perimeter shooters in this year’s draft class. To add to this latter note: Joe is a volume shooter (10.6 3PA) with <25% of his overall attempts coming from inside the arc. His draft stock went down due to a subpar season stats-wise. Still, he played on an overachieving team that asked him to do a lot (which won’t be the case in Toronto). He’ll need to refine his game in other areas, but there are modern NBA skills on which to build.

Pros: Volume three-point shooter, range, ability to create separation

Cons: Shot selection, strength, shaky handles

Leandro Bolmaro, SG, FC Barcelona

Can Leandro Bolmaro be a legit point guard at the NBA level? If he can, and his team fixes his shot, his talent could be comparable to that at the top of the lottery. If not, he’s basically a wing who can facilitate. Bolmaro could become position-less, but in a bad way — especially if he can’t shoot or play off the ball. He may be a good fit beside Fred VanVleet, but not so great alongside Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. Much like Maledon, Bolmaro would be a project for the first year or so. However, if the Raptors see the upside and think they can unlock his potential, well, that changes things.

Pros: Defensive versatility, playmaking, high energy, draft-and-stash pick

Cons: Perimeter shooting, natural position, passes can get out of control

Malachi Flynn, PG, San Diego State

As I discussed previously, Malachi Flynn can be a solid option at the backup point guard position for the Raptors. But his draft stock appears to be moving up as well. His game fits well in Toronto, as he seems to be more mature than his age suggests. He has a high compete level and walks on the floor with a certain level of confidence. All of these attributes draw obvious comparison to Fred VanVleet.

Pros: Pick-and-roll wizard, perimeter shooting, in-between game, defense, basketball IQ

Cons: Size, athleticism, finishing around the rim

Tyler Bey, SF, Colorado

Some draft evaluators are not high on Tyler Bey’s defense, and they might be right. He’s probably undersized to defend bigs down low on a full-time basis. Still, the Raptors are a strong defensive team and can hide modest individual weaknesses on that front if needed. Bey’s attributes — his motor, agility, activity, length, and IQ — all play as music to Toronto’s ears. He’ll need to work on his shooting — but that’s something the Raptors have shown they can improve in almost any maturing player.

Pros: Defensive versatility, above the rim finisher, 3+D potential

Cons: Shooting/shooting form, handle, playmaking

Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington

Isaiah Stewart’s freshman year profile had him boxed in as an undersized energy big. From what we’ve seen so far, he’s got decent post moves and can out-work and out-muscle multiple opponents in the paint. Stewart has done interviews, and he claims that he can do way more than what we’ve seen in Washington. In all, his stint with the Huskies should be looked at through a different lens. He spent two-thirds of his freshman year playing with no spacing and very little help outside of Jaden McDaniels. (Heck, McDaniels was the only one capable of making a decent entry pass to Stewart in the post.) There could be more here with Stewart.

Pros: Strength, energy, motor, compete level

Cons: Undersized, perimeter shooting

Xavier Tillman, C, Michigan State

Should the Raptors go big at the 29th pick, Xavier Tillman is my best big available at this spot. He tracks as slightly ahead of Isaiah Stewart, mainly because he could slot right into the Raptors’ rotation if Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol leaves. Toronto was also one of the first teams to interview him, so there’s definite interest. Tillman also had his workout posted, where he showed off his perimeter shot. If the Raptors can’t bring back Marc Gasol, he could be a decent replacement. If Gasol is back, he would be a great understudy.

Pros: Basketball IQ, defense, passing, strength

Cons: Undersized, perimeter shooting, slow-footed

Jaden McDaniels, SF, Washington

Jaden McDaniels has the most potential on this list, and rightfully so, as he was seen as a lottery talent. No matter how bad his freshman season went, his ceiling in most mocks is still in the mid-first round. Teams could be scared off by McDaniels’ rough freshman run, but not in this corner — and the Raptors shouldn’t be either if he’s still on the board at this point.

Pros: Versatility, projected three-level scorer, defense, 3-and-D potential, size, and length

Cons: Inconsistency, confidence, strength, handles, shot selection

Painful Omissions: Zeke Nnaji, Cassius Winston

*******

And that’s it. That’s where things stand in my review of the Raptors as they head into the 2020 NBA Draft on November 18th. We’ll try to check back in one more time before the day and see where we are then with Toronto.