The NBA Draft is one of the best times of the year. 60 young men (or 58, this year) look to achieve a lifelong goal of hearing their name called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver or Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum (who handles the second round). The majority of NBA fans only really care about the lottery. It’s pretty crazy to think that 60 players are selected every year, and we probably forget about at least 40 of them by the end of their first season.
However, the forgetful players rarely come from the Toronto Raptors.
Yes, as a fan of a team, it is easier to remember your own players, but there is a different reason why Toronto’s draft picks are typically so memorable. One simple fact: They are often good, productive NBA players.
Some notable draft night steals on Masai Ujiri’s resume: Pascal Siakam at 27 in 2016, OG Anunoby at 23 in 2017, Dalano Banton at 46 last season, and who could forget NBA All-Star, the 2016 undrafted free agent, Fred VanVleet.
I say all this to encourage you to keep the TV on past the lottery, because Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster are going hunting at pick 33. There is a strong chance that you haven’t heard the name before, especially if you don’t watch the NCAA, or follow the draft as tightly as others, but I am here to help!
I had the pleasure of interviewing NBA Draft Scout and Analyst Derek Murray of Basketball News and Babcock Hoops on my podcast, The Raptors Cage Podcast. We talked NBA Draft, Canadian prospects, and of course, what the Raptors will do with pick 33. He gave me four names to look for, and I’m going to relay them onto you.
Bryce McGowens, Nebraska
McGowens is the best player of the group, and likely won’t be there come pick 33. He is a 6’7 combo guard, with an almost 6’9 wingspan who can score at all three levels. Murray mentioned how he thinks McGowens can become a top tier scorer in this league, because of his mix of athleticism and jump shot.
McGowens only shot 27.4% from three point range this season, but the fundamentals and form are clearly there. He attacks closeouts with an athletic first step, and can maneuver his way through the lane extremely effectively.
He is one of those guys with the combination of athleticism, skill and size that can grab a defensive rebound and lead the break himself. He likely won’t be a point guard, or primary ball handler for the majority of his career, but he has the potential to develop into a great secondary creator.
Caleb Houstan, Michigan
Ah yes, everyone’s favourite part of any article; how can the Toronto Raptors grab the Canadian? Toronto’s front office hasn’t shown any signs that the Canadian aspect plays much of a role in their decision making, nor should it. The first Canadian this regime has drafted was Dalano Banton in the second round last year.
Caleb Houstan projects to be a solid 3-and-D player. He can absolutely shoot the lights out of the ball on catch-and-shoot opportunities. He came into the season as an expected lottery pick, but a disappointing year has dropped his draft stock to a late first/early second.
He isn’t the type of 3-and-D player to lock up the opposing team’s star one-on-one, but luckily Toronto already has a few of those. Houstan will make smart decisions off ball defensively, and won’t gamble or make many mistakes.
Standing at 6’8, Houstan once again fits Toronto’s mold which I touched on a bit in my Yuta Watanabe Season Review.
The upside on Houstan is great. Unlike the other players mentioned in this article, athleticism isn’t necessarily his strong suit, but his shooting is fantastic, and he does have the ability to put the ball on the ground and create a closeout. Though his creating ability, and ball handling seemed to be the main thing that dropped his draft stock, the ability is there was a tertiary creator.
Josh Minott, Memphis
Minott is a guy who stands at 6’8, with a 6’11 wingspan, and a 38.5 inch vertical... Must I say anymore? All of these guys do, but Minott especially fits the Raptors current mold of players they like.
It’s still unclear what type of role Minott plays on an NBA court. Does he develop into a small ball five? Is he a slashing forward that cuts a lot off ball?
I wouldn’t say his three-point shooting is completely non existent. He definitely didn’t shoot much this season, only averaging 0.4 three-point attempts per game, but he showed the ability to shoot from midrange, especially off a dribble pullup.
He’s just an athletic freak. You aren’t going to put the ball in his hands and expect him to create, but he can attack off an advantage, is a fantastic passer, and can cut well too.
He seems like a quick decision maker. When he gets the ball, he’s either going to slice down the lane and put it on the defender’s head, make a quick shuffle pass, or pull up for an easy middy. He isn’t super polished right now, but the upside is tremendous.
Peyton Watson, UCLA
It still isn’t fully clear why Watson is declaring for this year’s draft. Obviously the thought of joining the NBA as soon as you can is enticing to anyone, but Watson didn’t have the best season at UCLA.
As a freshman, Watson joined a UCLA team with a lot of talent and upperclassmen, so his role was extremely diminished. He only averaged slightly over 12 minutes per game, and 3.3 points per game within those minutes.
Watson was a five-star recruit coming out of highschool, and he is a supereme athlete. Which, in the case of a guy like Ziaire Williams, we’ve seen that sometimes one slow college season isn’t a huge deal when a guy has the pedigree of being a top tier prospect since highschool.
He didn’t really have any role at UCLA, so if you managed to catch a Bruins game this season, there is a legit chance that you didn’t overly notice him out there. Murray says that Watson’s range is anywhere from 25-50, and it basically comes down to what team is willing to take the chance on the pedigree, with limited college tape.
Whoever it is that the Raptors draft, I expect a celebration directly after, because you know it means someone solid is coming to town. This front office and development team hasn’t managed to miss on many, and obviously the lower down in the draft you are, the less players available, but Toronto still manages to pull anyone out of the weeds and develop them into a rotation caliber player.
There are some trade rumours floating around with Toronto’s name on it, but I can assure you the Raptors are holding their cards tight to the vest, and won’t make any move to rush into mediocre purgatory. It sure does feel good to have such confidence and security in such a strong front office