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Player Preview: Gradey Dick has the potential to have a fantastic rookie year

The 13th overall draft pick has a good shooting arm and a charismatic personality — can he put it all together in his rookie campaign?

NBA: Preseason-Sacramento Kings at Toronto Raptors Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Fans were not expecting the Toronto Raptors to draft Gradey Dick 13th overall out of Kansas in the 2023 NBA Draft... but have been pleasantly surprised ever since.

Whether it’s been following along on his social media adventures, or cheering the loudest for him during the Raptors first preseason game in Vancouver, Gradey Dick is already a favourite among fans. Head coach Darko Rajakovic called the reaction to Gradey during the Vancouver game “cute.”

His personality alone is setting him up to be a big name among Toronto Raptors. He has 255,000 followers on Tik Tok, where he posts everything from travel to basketball highlights to dance videos to comedy. He tops that in Instagram with 397,000 followers, fans eager to see his fit pics after that sequin jacket he wore to the NBA Draft.

Gradey represents a new era of NBA player — maybe in coincidence with the fact that we are fully in the Gen Z era of the NBA now. He is active on social media, doesn’t take himself or his image too seriously, and loves a good joke. He always seems down to participate in social media content for the team and already has a good back and forth with the media. Of course, it’s important to work hard and be professional, but the NBA could sure use some players who have big, fun personalities. Love him or hate him, Gradey Dick’s charisma is only good for fan engagement. Fan engagement equals money... and well we all know how the NBA feels about money.

So, aside from his basketball talent (which we’ll talk about, don’t worry), Gradey Dick is good for the NBA, and the Toronto Raptors. All this talk about “vibes” and negativity on the roster? Enter the funny outgoing kid who knows and participates in the latest Tik Tok trends — the kid who is already getting cheered onto the court in his PRESEASON debut. He’s a breath of fresh air, and will surely continue to entertain Raptors fans on and off the court.

Now, let’s talk ball.

Although we haven’t had much of a chance to see him play NBA basketball, we’ve seen flashes in the opportunities he’s been given so far. He got extended run in that preseason game last Sunday against Sacramento, in which he scored five points, one assist, and three rebounds in fourteen minutes. Obviously, we aren’t going to take a preseason game too seriously, so let’s look back on Gradey’s college years.

Gradey Dick played collegiate basketball for the University of Kansas, his home state after becoming a 5-star recruit in high school. He won Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2022 as a high school senior. He only played one season in the NCAA (2022-2023), being named to the second team All-Big 12, as well as the Big-12 All-Freshman team.

In 36 games played for the Jayhawks, he averaged 32.7 minutes per game. He had 14.1 points per game, 1.7 assists per game, and 5.1 assists per game. Maybe most impressive of all was his 40.3% three-point percentage.

One of the biggest talking points as Gradey has transitioned into the NBA has been his shooting ability. Maybe it’s really that good, maybe the Raptors are just desperate for some shooting prowess on the roster. Time will tell. He was regarded as the “best shooter in the NBA draft” this year — and the Raptors, desperately needing that on their team, lucked out when he dropped to thirteen.

He’s a tall wing at six foot eight inches, and that size gives him the match up advantage in a lot of cases. He can also become a rebounding threat with some development at that size — another thing the Raptors definitely need on the roster. Of course one of the things he will have to work on as he enters the NBA is bulking up, so he is able to match the physicality of many NBA guards in the league, as well as be a true defensive threat. Think how O.G. Anunoby operates — his size makes him a defensive POWERHOUSE and he can also shoot from distance. Gradey is nineteen years old though, born in 2003 (feel old? same), and again, that will take time. Another highlight for him in draft talks was his quick release — already on display in the Raptors’ first preseason game.

He’s definitely entered into a good situation to develop over his rookie season. He’s under a head coach in Rajakovic who has has history in player development, with a staff who have the same experience and dedication to developing young NBA talent. He may have more run in this NBA regular season than he may have had on another team or even another iteration of the Raptors. Still, he has to come behind O.G. Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. in his position as a wing. If Gradey can develop into a true bench back up wing, it could be a huge positive note for the Raptors.

Even looking forward past Gradey’s rookie campaign, there are many questions surrounding the Toronto Raptors roster past this current season. Anunoby and Trent Jr.’s futures are both unknown, and Gradey could be next up if either of them decide to move on when their contracts are up.

Gradey Dick is being set up to have an impressive rookie year. He probably (definitely) won’t get as much playing time as Scottie Barnes did in his rookie season, so don’t expect a Rookie of the Year run or anything. Yet, Dick could develop into a shooting threat for the Toronto Raptors, and with time (and bulking up) be a hard-to-guard threat in the NBA.

One thing is for sure, we are excited to see what comes of Gradey Dick’s NBA debut.