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Draft Watch: Are the Raptors looking for wings in the second round?

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Toronto needs to add talent and size, and the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft might be a treasure trove of just that for the Raptors. Let’s review some wings.

BASKET EUROMILLIONS LEAGUE CHARLEROI VS ANTWERP Photo by JOHN THYS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

For the final installment of this year’s Draft Watch, we’ll be looking at a handful of wings that could still be available to the Toronto Raptors for their 46th and 47th selections. Given the landscape of the NBA, the Raptors would be doing themselves a favour if they can turn the franchise into a wing machine rather than a point guard factory. As we’ve seen recently, having a core of multi-faceted wings counts for a lot in the modern NBA.

There are some names not included here for obvious reasons. For example, I like Quentin Grimes, Josh Primo, and BJ Boston, but after putting together a consensus list based on 10+ draft boards, they are all expected to go early in the 2nd round. Meanwhile, at the other end, some of the tough cuts from this list were Kessler Edwards, Isaiah Livers, and Joel Ayayi.

After factoring in potential upside, size, utility, and fit, these are some of the names that I would rather give a longer look than Jarrett Culver:

Juhann Begarin

  • Age: 18
  • Height: 6’4” without shoes
  • Wingspan: 7’
  • Affiliate: Paris Basketball
  • Int’l Stats : 11.69 PTS (45.6% FG%), 34.2% 3P%, 3.5 REB, 2.9 AST, 1.36 STL, 0.51 BLK, 2.4 TO

Begarin is an upside pick in the second round. He’s one of the youngest prospects in this draft, and his game is promising albeit very raw. His size (6’4” height and 7’ wingspan) allows him to play bigger than his height, which is further helped by his athleticism. Begarin is already strong enough to go through his defender to get to the basket, and he’s also shown flashes of playmaking, defensive upside, and a potential to do a whole lot more offensively.

Raptors Fit

That said, Begarin is more of an athlete than an NBA player right now. He could be an interesting project though, a player who could stand to chance to develop with the Raptors 905. In the G League, he can work on his game and get as much experience as possible under his belt. Begarin needs to get a better feel for the game and settle his game down overall. Toronto has the development system in place to turn that potential into reality, but it could take some time.

Joe Wieskamp

  • Age: 22
  • Height: 6’6” without shoes
  • Wingspan: 6’11”
  • School: Iowa (Junior)
  • College Stats (Junior) : 14.8 PTS (49.1% FG%), 46.2% 3P%, 6.6 REB, 1.7 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.3 BLK, 1.4 TO

Let’s start with why Matt Thomas didn’t work out. Thomas is probably 6’3” without shoes, with an approximately 6’5” wingspan. Joe Wieskamp, on the other hand, is almost 6’6” without shoes, with a long 6’11” wingspan. That advantage allows Wieskamp to get his perimeter shot off against most defenders (his high release point is impossible to block), which he fortified with an option to get into a deeper range, and a counter to get to the basket in 2-3 long strides for a dunk or layup.

Other than that, Wieskamp is not a one-trick pony. He can punish smaller defenders, put the ball on the floor, and facilitate now and then. However, just because he can do those things, it doesn’t mean he should be doing more of that. He’s best served as a three-point threat, with the ability to cut to the basket behind the defense.

Raptors Fit

The Raptors need scoring and floor spacing off the bench, and Wieskamp can do that. He also brings solid rebounding at his size, one of Toronto’s weaknesses last season. Wieskamp’s got enough counters — including the ability to pass, should his initial shot get taken away — that he could work in the NBA as a modest rotation player.

Vrenz Bleijenbergh

  • Age: 20
  • Height: 6’10”
  • Wingspan: 7’2”???
  • Affiliate: Antwerps Giants
  • Int’l Stats : 9.5 PTS (37.9% FG%), 33.5% 3P%, 4.8 REB, 3.5 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.6 BLK, 2.5 TO

Vrenz Bleijenbergh brings shooting, playmaking, and versatility to the table. He’s fun to watch when he’s on — he’s got a bit of flair to his game. Bleijenbergh often shows his range from the perimeter, produces fancy passes, and dazzles his defender with a handle that belies his 6’10” frame. I think what I like most about him though is that he’s got a bit of F-U to his game; he won’t just settle for perimeter shots or get bullied out of the play. Bleijenbergh is going to try to get past his defender for a dunk or try for a nasty step-back.

Raptors Fit

It felt like the Raptors’ bench last season was too one-dimensional — we all know that Gary Trent Jr. and Chris Boucher can’t or won’t pass, and Alex Len was best suited to receive passes from the dunker’s spot. Bleijenbergh brings versatility and also some potential scoring punch and facilitation skills. His size and ability to run pick-and-rolls would make some interesting funky lineups with which coach Nick Nurse could experiment.

Aaron Wiggins

  • Age: 22
  • Height: 6’4.5” without shoes
  • Wingspan: 6’10”
  • School: Maryland (Junior)
  • College Stats (Junior) : 14.5 PTS (44.6% FG%), 35.6% 3P%, 5.8 REB, 2.5 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.5 BLK, 2 TO

Out of the prospects in this group, Wiggins has shown much better utility on both ends of the court. Wiggins is not just a spot-up shooter. He can put the ball on the floor and generate his shots in the long/mid-range. He’s sneakily athletic, using his patience and sense of timing to try and lull opponents into thinking “pull-up” before exploding to the basket. Wiggins’ drive game is predicated on avoiding defenders to get a good look, though, and he struggles when a defender can hang/bump him.

Raptors Fit

The Raptors need more scoring options to surround their core players, and Wiggins should be ready to step into the rotation. He’s got decent size, can defend, and do many things with or without the ball. For comparison, he can explode to the rim and can be a three-level scorer/passer. With a projected lower usage at the NBA level, some of his issues could be masked — which is a common enough occurrence for a second round pick — as he won’t be asked to do a whole lot other than be 3-and-D-type player.

Herb Jones

  • Age: 22
  • Height: 6’6” without shoes
  • Wingspan: 7’0.25”
  • School: Alabama (Senior)
  • College Stats (Senior): 11.2 PTS (47% FG%), 35.1% 3P%, 6.6 REB, 3.3 AST, 1.7 STL, 1.1 BLK, 2.8 TO

Herb Jones is one of my favourite players in the second round. He reminds me a little bit of Jalen Rose (offensively) with his ability to run the offense, put up streaky perimeter shooting, and find those awkward angles that only lefty players often discover for themselves. He’s a senior with an excellent motor and should come in as an energy/hustle player. That he can’t shoot from the perimeter makes him an ideal Raptors prospect, so to speak.

Raptors Fit

Jones could fit in well as an agent of chaos with the Raptors’ reserves. His activity and effort on defense can cause problems for opposing teams. It’s fun to see Jones hustle to rotate and contest shots around the perimeter, which is something he’d definitely have to do as a Raptor. To his benefit, he also looks switchable through most positions. The Raptors would need to improve Jones’ shooting to maximize his minutes on the floor, as his IQ on both ends can greatly benefit the team.

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Personally, I would rank these 2021 prospects like so:

  1. Vrenz Bleijenbergh
  2. Herb Jones
  3. Juhann Begarin
  4. Aaron Wiggins
  5. Joe Wieskamp

Fair? Unfair? Let’s debate in the comments.