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Draft Watch: Can the Raptors ever have enough wings?

In the latest installment of our prospect highlights, we look at three types of wings available in the second round and assess their “Raptors Fit.”

2022 Men’s ACC Basketball Tournament - Second Round Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

To cap off our prospect spotlight leading to the 2022 NBA Draft, we will focus on three wings that could be available in the second round for the Toronto Raptors. As we have seen in the playoffs, a team can never have too many wings — especially if they can shoot.

The three wings we cover below represent the types of wing prospects that may still be available for the Raptors. Like Josh Minott and Peyton Watson, Dominic Barlow is an upside pick. The intrigue here is that he’s young and can be developed as a three-level scorer. Jake Laravia projects to be a role player/glue guy type of prospect but doesn’t have as much upside because of some of his limitations. Lastly, Justin Lewis is someone who can immediately step in as a role player off the bench and still has the ceiling to be a late lottery talent.

Let’s have a look.

Dominic Barlow, Wing

  • Age: 19
  • Height: 6’8.75”
  • Wingspan: 7’3”
  • Affiliation: Overtime Elite (N/A)
  • Stats: 14.8 PTS, 53% FG%, 36.4 3P%, 5.9 REB, 1.5 AST, 1.1 STL, 1.2 BLK, 1.6 TO

Why Dominick?

Unlike most of the prospects we’re covering in this draft, I don’t have much data on Barlow. I had to rely on his NBA Combine scrimmage tapes and some of his highlights on YouTube. Overtime Elite is relatively new, and it’s hard to gauge the prospects’ performance there, including the level of their competition. I treated this exercise similar to how I look at NBA G League prospects — I’ll take the good performance with a grain of salt, but I would be worried if the prospect doesn’t stand out.

Despite not being the main option, Barlow stood out for Team Overtime, just behind much-touted Jean Montero. His size, motor, athleticism, and length fit perfectly the type of player that the Raptors front office is collecting. I initially had him as a “big,” but after watching the tapes available, I concluded that Barlow would be a big wing at the NBA level. That he was just 6’5” just over a year ago is mind-boggling, and he looks so much stronger now compared to when he was in senior high school.

Barlow is a few months younger than Josh Minott but has a much more advanced offensive package. To Minott’s defense (pun intended), he’s a much better defender and played with better competition. Barlow showed out on his second NBA Combine scrimmage game, putting up 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting, showing that he can hang with those other prospects. That said, Barlow comes in as an upside pick and will be a project for at least a year, but not to a point where he can’t see the floor. His versatility and ability to comfortably guard in space make him an interesting curve ball that coach Nick Nurse can use to change the flow of a game.

I believe it’s only a matter of “when” when it comes to Barlow developing a face-up game, and the game-changer to his ceiling is his perimeter shooting. He shot in the high 30s from the perimeter based on his OTE stats, despite starting his shot with the ball on the left side of his face.

Areas of Concern

As mentioned above, it’s hard to evaluate Barlow’s OTE performance for various reasons. However, some things can be easily pointed out, such as if his shooting will hold up at the NBA level, especially with his Lonzo-ish shooting form. Another is if he can get to the basket in traffic against like-sized or more prominent defenders.

At the end of the day, Barlow is raw and will need high-level reps, from playing against higher competition, going through complex offensive and defensive schemes, and “labbing” his bag as they’re not at the NBA level yet.

Raptors Fit

Barlow fits the Vision 6’9” and if he pans out, imagine the Raptors fielding a Siakam-Barnes-Anunoby-Achiuwa-Barlow lineup! However, before we get excited, remember that Barlow is a project and will likely shuttle between Toronto and Mississauga, much like Dalano Banton last season.

Looking at his game, Barlow’s versatility and fluid motor scream of “scratching the surface” untapped potential. There’s the upside of developing into a three-level scorer, and at his young age and rapid development, I won’t be surprised if he ends up as a lottery talent when major outlets do a “re-draft” of this draft 3-to 4 years from now.

Jake Laravia, Wing

  • Age: 20
  • Height: 6’6.75”
  • Wingspan: 6’9.5”
  • Affiliation: Wake Forest (Junior)
  • Stats: 14.6 PTS, 52.4% FG%, 38.4 3P%, 6.6 REB, 3.7 AST, 1.7 STL, 2.2 TO

Why Jake?

Jake of All Trades. Jake does a lot of things well enough at the collegiate level, but if one skill set stands out, it’s his defensive effort as an on-ball, making it hard for the shooter to get a shot over him.

On top of that, Laravia can leverage his great feel for the game to make high-IQ plays on both ends of the floor. His motor, energy, and activity complement his feel for the game and help mask his deficiencies.

Laravia’s game should seamlessly transition to the big league as a good role player off the bench. He can defend, spot up from the perimeter, and find ways to cut to the basket. He’s got pretty good passing instinct, capable of making those quick decisions with the ball. I can’t claim that I have seen all of his games at Wake Forest, but I am confident that he can find ways to make an impact even on a short stint on the floor.

Areas of Concern

Laravia’s subpar athleticism is the main reason he’s pegged as a late 1st, possibly second-round pick. His lack of explosion, whether the quick first step or vertical pop, makes it hard to imagine that his face-up/shot creation will translate well in the big league. It takes too long for Laravia to get to the basket, and he often has to transition that face-up into a post-up just to get a shot off. His pull-up jumper looks stiff, and he could barely get separation to get a middy or perimeter shot off the bounce. Unless it’s a catch-and-shoot opportunity, I can’t trust Laravia to come up with something with the clock running out. If Laravia’s perimeter shot doesn’t develop as expected, I’m not sure what he can do offensively on a half-court set (I’m afraid his value as a cutter might diminish if the defense will sag off him).

The same problem regarding Laravia’s quickness can rear its ugly head when he’s defending fast-twitch guards that can easily blow by him or in situations where he has to close out, and he’ll struggle to recover. Perhaps Laravia’s aware of this weakness, as he’s posted one of the best shuttle and lane agility run at the Combine.

Raptors Fit

Laravia with the Raptors can be an instant upgrade to whoever they currently have as the 9th+ rotation spot. He will find ways to impact the game with his defense, and his ability to sneak up behind/between the napping defense with his cuts to the basket. His potential for a 3+D can be actualized much sooner, as he’s already a solid corner three-point shooter, and he’s not just going to camp there, as he’s an opportunistic baseline cutter.

Laravia’s got the motor, activity, and defensive intensity that suits the Raptors’ defensive system predicated on turning the ball over and getting quick transition points. He fits the “can do a little bit of everything” mould without compromising the lineup’s size and defense. He has a high IQ on both ends of the floor and a great complete level, so I won’t be surprised if he can be a 3+D AND a glue guy in the future.

Justin Lewis, Wing

  • Age: 20
  • Height: 6’6.25”
  • Wingspan: 7’2.5”
  • Affiliation: Marquette(Sophomore)
  • Stats: 16.8 PTS, 44% FG%, 34.9 3P%, 1.7 AST, 7.9 REB, 1.1 STL, 0.7 BLK, 1.9 TO

Why Justin?

Lewis has an NBA-ready body and the potential to be a three-level scorer. His motor, energy, and physicality, along with what he can do defensively, make him an ideal fit next to our army of 6’9” players.

Lewis has a scorer mentality that, if developed properly, can put a lot of pressure on the opposing team’s defense, whether as an on-ball creator, a play finisher via cuts, or hanging out near the basket.

Lewis plays more of a PF now than a wing, but if he can be unlocked as a wing, he’s a mid-lottery type of talent given what he can already do. As it is, he’s exciting to watch on the open floor and in situations where he can get past his man. Those long strides, decent vertical pop, and insane wingspan guarantee a thunderous dunk unimpeded.

Because of Lewis’ physicality, length, and decent lateral quickness, he projects to be a switchable 1-5 defender. He’s shown enough that he can contest shots around the perimeter, including good hard closeouts. Defensively, he’s shown way more than flashes but can still be inconsistent and rely too much on his physical tools at times.

Areas of Concern

Lewis’ face-up bag is limited, hampered by his poor handle and reluctance to use his off-hand (both for shooting and dribbling). Because of that, if a defender can manage to stay in front of him and provide enough resistance, Lewis can easily be cornered to a low percentage shot. It doesn’t help that he’s got a poor awareness/mapping of his teammates on the floor when he’s going into his moves. Often, a pass option is something that he would consider to bail him out of a pickle, but the problem is, he would have to stop and look for where his teammates are. When Lewis tries to force the issue, he will run into traffic, and it’s either a bad finish or a turnover more often than not. The handle and off-hand issues are correctable, but the passing game might take a while to develop, if at all.

Lewis’ perimeter shooting and pull-up game go in often enough but can still look stiff. That’s why I’m a bit skeptical whether his perimeter shooting will translate immediately at the NBA level. I don’t fully trust his shot and question whether he’s got NBA range right now, but nothing that can’t be fixed.

Raptors Fit

As mentioned above, Lewis fits perfectly well with the Vision 6’9” army that the Raptors are building. Because of his size, defensive versatility, and ability to score off the ball, he should be able to crack the rotation this season. There shouldn’t be a significant drop-off defensively with Lewis coming off the bench, and his scoring should be a welcome addition to our offensively challenged bench. His addition should make the Raptors’ transition game even more exciting. In certain situations, Lewis’ physicality and the Raptors’ like-sized lineups could create mismatch opportunities and generate offense off the bench.

Long term, if the Raptors can develop his shooting and handles, he can be an excellent instant offense off the bench and perhaps a three-level scorer. Watching his game, sometimes it feels like I’m looking at a “Kawhi Leonard starter pack,” fluctuating to “Tobias Harris starter pack,” “TJ Warren starter pack,” and “Jamychal Green starter pack.” He’s one of the prospects in the second round that can contribute immediately while having a potential untapped ceiling.