The 2020 NBA Draft did not disappoint, as the flurry of trades and the overall unpredictability were as advertised. Amidst all the action, the Toronto Raptors selected San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn in the first round and Jalen Harris in the second round. Many experts had the Flynn pick on the board for Toronto, but, as is usual, the 59th spot was a bit of a random guess. Anyway, those are the two new Raptors.
Raptors GM Bobby Webster said that Flynn was high on their board and that they might have traded out if he’d been gone by the time for the 29th pick. Flynn, and some of the top picks on this corner (Tyrell Terry, Jaden McDaniels, Theo Maledon) started to become a possibility when teams began reaching, like the New York Knicks with their pick of Immanuel Quickley 25th or the Celtics’ bizarre selection of Payton Pritchard right after.
As it turns out, I’ve profiled Flynn previously because he seemed like an obvious Toronto target. He’s also someone whose available game tapes I got really into because, as Bobby Webster said, he checks a lot of boxes for the Raptors. Harris is the opposite, as I only remember seeing one collegiate game of his recently — which came against Flynn’s team. I have since watched more highlights and a couple of games, and the draft experts are pretty much right with what they are saying.
Pre-Draft Physical Composition Comparison
|Player||Height w/o Shoes||Wingspan||Weight||BF%|
|Player||Height w/o Shoes||Wingspan||Weight||BF%|
|Jalen Harris||6'2.75"||6'7"||193.4 lbs||4.40%|
|Norman Powell||6'3"||6'10.75"||215.4 lbs||6.40%|
|Grayson Allen||6'3"||6'7.25"||198 lbs||5.55%|
|CJ McCollum||6'2.25"||6'6.25"||197 lbs||8.60%|
|Gary Harris||6'2.5"||6'6.75"||204.8 lbs||4.55%|
|Dion Waiters||6'2.5"||6'7.25"||221 lbs||8.50%|
To add here: Harris was basically Nevada’s entire offense, with everything going through him whether as the scorer or playmaker. That means opposing teams were game-planning to stop him on a nightly basis. Not bad for someone who was not a starter in his previous stop at Louisiana Tech. On the other end, Harris’ defense is similar to what you will see from a high-usage collegiate star — there’s an obvious let down there, perhaps to conserve energy on the other end. Still, seeing him compete harder on defense when games were on the line is a good sign that he’s not lazy defensively. And obviously in Toronto, he won’t be the be all and end all of the team’s offense — that energy will have to go somewhere.
Meanwhile for the Raptors, Harris’ addition stirs the rumour pot a bit, as there’s an obvious overlap with Norman Powell, Terence Davis, and Matt Thomas in terms of projected role on the team. However, Harris is a much better ball handler/playmaker than, yes, all three of those players, and he’s projected to be a better perimeter shooter than Davis and Powell. (Mr. 99% Matt Thomas is safe in that regard.)
To keep on that wave, let’s look at what the experts had to say about the Raptors’ draft night — and what they think of Flynn and Harris in Toronto.
Vecenie: “... It’s no stunner that the Raptors went for him.”
Hollinger: “...While I rated Devon Dotson and Theo Maledon a bit higher in the backcourt, I have a hard time arguing with Toronto adding another high IQ, high feel player.”I would have picked...
Vecenie: Tre Jones or Flynn / Hollinger: Flynn
Vecenie: “... He’s a high-level shot-maker who just needs to keep improving from 3 and start caring at even a reasonable level defensively.”
Hollinger: “... Harris to me is the type of guy who averages 20 a game in the G-League but never really finds a niche at the pro level.”I would have picked...
Vecenie: Dotson / Hollinger: Dotson
The feedback from teams on Flynn has been overwhelmingly positive over the last couple months—almost everyone was impressed in interviews—and he’s a tough, consistent performer with no real holes in his skill set. His size and advanced age are viewed as his only real drawbacks, and we saw Toronto win a title in 2019 deploying a pair of guards who match that criteria neatly. His feel and playmaking ability are stellar, and if Flynn follows in their footsteps, this could be another steal for the Raptors.
An ideal fit for a Toronto squad looking to bolster its backcourt. Flynn’s size makes him a bit of a risk, but the All-America guard benefited greatly from the virtual combine process in reminding scouts of his abilities that helped the Aztecs stage a historic 2019-20 season. Flynn’s underrated status could make him the Fred VanVleet of this draft class.
Starting two point guards together in the backcourt for much of the season, the Raptors were in the market for depth at the position in either the draft or free agency. Flynn was one of the best point guards in the college game, winning both player of the year and defensive player of the year honors for San Diego State, which spent much of the season ranked in the top 5.
Flynn’s polish, understanding of the game and perimeter shooting ability should allow him to compete for immediate playing time for the Raptors
Flynn isn’t the biggest or fastest guard, but he’s so tough and skilled and should be a perfect fit for the Raptors. In his first year with San Diego State after transferring from Washington State, Flynn emerged as one of the best players in America and helped lead the Aztecs to a 30-2 season. He has great instincts in the pick-and-roll as both a passer and scorer, flashed pull-up shooting ability, and is a smart and active defender. The Raptors helped turn Fred VanVleet from a great college player to a very good pro, and Flynn could very well follow the same path.
This pick made a lot of sense when many thought Fred VanVleet would leave Toronto. I love Flynn. He’s polished and smart and a proven winner, and he’s particularly great in pick-and-roll offense. Grade: B+
The Raptors got one of the most productive scorers — averaging 21.7 points per game — in college basketball with the penultimate pick of the 2020 NBA Draft. Not a bad get. His size and scoring ability from all three levels stood out in college, and he could give Toronto yet another potential bench weapon. Grade: B+
Never bet against Masai Ujiri in the draft. There’s always an experienced college point guard who has exceeded expectations toward the end of the first round, and Flynn checks every one of those boxes. He’s a well-rounded player with no holes in his game and the ability to contribute right away on both ends of the floor. The comparisons to Fred VanVleet might be a stretch, but they are also inevitable.
Malachi Flynn seemed like the kind of prospect executives often fool themselves into undervaluing. He’s 22 years old and limited athletically, which isn’t exactly a needle-moving combo in an exercise largely built around long-term projections.
But that overlooks a critical detail: The dude can hoop. The Toronto Raptors recognized as much and gained a player with coats of NBA polish and defensive competitiveness.
“Flynn isn’t an exciting athlete, but we’ve seen too many point guards excel without flashy tools or bounce, and he has the advanced ball skills, deep shooting range, IQ and pesky defense to overcome his physical limitations,” Wasserman wrote.
File this tidbit under “Things That Make You Go Hmmm.” Wasserman likened Flynn to Raptors free-agent guard Fred VanVleet. Make of that what you will.
Jalen Harris was a bucket during his lone season at Nevada. Considering the low draft cost, the Toronto Raptors would gladly settle for the 6’5” guard just providing occasional buckets north of the border, and he could be up to the challenge.
“He’s the type of player you can feed the ball to and ask to generate offense out of nothing,” Wasserman wrote. “He’ll have a chance to carve out a career for his ability to get his own shot from all over the floor off ball screens and isolations.”
Saying that, there aren’t many role players who just bring isolation offense to the hardwood, so Harris needs to make sure his athleticism can deliver some other on-court contributions, too.
In the pick-and-roll, Flynn has shown that he is equally deadly as a distributor or pull-up shooter. He also really puts in the effort defensively.
Flynn won’t be able to avoid the Fred VanVleet comparisons, but that’s not a bad thing. Really good value.
Analysis: It’s hard to believe Flynn fell into the Raptors lap, but here we are. Toronto ends up with what could be assumed to be their dream scenario heading into the night, adding an upperclassman guard ready to fill in behind Kyle Lowry right away.
Doubling as the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Flynn brings the exact type of hard-working player we’ve seen succeed with the Raptors in the past. He is a reliable decision-maker and has an attitude to the defensive end, perfectly suited for a team looking for a piece to help them win now.
A great selection by Toronto.
Flynn was a player who really improved his stock this past college season. Not an overly athletic guard, Flynn is still an incredibly smart floor general and can run his own offense. Crafty and eager to attack, Flynn finished the season averaging 17.6 points, 5.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game. A strong shooter and a willing defender, Flynn should have no trouble carving out a spot for himself on the Raptors bench.
Well, Fred Van Vleet might be out the door but the Raptors get an ideal replacement in Flynn, who does a lot of the same things and brings it on both ends.
Overall, it feels like the Raptors have made good with two late-round picks. As discussed yesterday, there are still massive needs on the roster in the frontcourt, but the succession planning for the squad in general is coming together.
Next up: we get into potential free agent targets — Exhibit 10 targets or undrafted players deserving of a second look for the Raptors.