Before we pass the baton to the free agency talk, let’s have one last look at the 2023 NBA Draft as we wrap up this year’s Raptors Draft Watch. The Raptors selected Gradey Dick 13th overall; a pleasant surprise to see him still on the board when the Raptors were on the clock. We did not get to do a deep dive on him as Gradey (we will refer to him via his first name to avoid any Freudian slip) was constantly mocked at a tier above where the Raptors are picking. We’ll do a bit of a deep dive below.
We’ll also examine the Raptors’ lack of activity before and after Gradey’s selection all the way to the end of the draft. There was a missed opportunity to make incremental improvements, but perhaps this front office has a better plan?
Finally, we looked around the interwebs to see how the Raptors fared on their draft grades. Let’s jump right in!
With the 13th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors select... Gradey Dick!
Size, shooting, IQ stood out a bit - Bobby Webster
There you go. Size matters. The Raptors were attached to several guards that are 6’4” and below in Kobe Bufkin, Cason Wallace, Jalen Hood-Schifino, and Keyonte George. Still, the Vision 6’9” is alive, as they selected a 6’7” shooting guard — a literal shooting guard, being the one of the best, if not the best shooter in this draft. To give you all an idea of how tall Gradey is, here’s a bit of a comparison:
Gradey Dick vs NBA Players with Similar Measurements
I had Gradey a tier above the cluster of Wallace, Bufkin, George etc., and I like him better than some of the prospects drafted ahead of him. Before the draft lottery, he was one of the guys on my shortlist. Still, once the Raptors decided to stubbornly get into the play-in range, I knew the Raptors would be too far out of range for someone like Gradey.
The Raptors’ fit is straightforward. We’ve seen at least two seasons now of horrendous perimeter shooting. The front office hasn’t given the past coach a balanced roster to help space out the floor and open their playbook. The better shooters got relegated to the bench in favour of more length (can’t say more defense, as the defense was bad regardless), which led to non-shooters having to take way too many perimeter shots that became detrimental to their success.
Gradey brings another perimeter threat on the floor to the team, someone that opposing teams would be conscious of. At the very least, it should help open up the floor for the likes of Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes when they have the ball. The best part is Gradey will find his spot on the floor, as he’s an excellent movement shooter, unlike OG Anunoby.
Gradey is not just a perimeter threat, as he’s a good cutter willing to get into the chest of his defender. He’s got good counters, probably limited to 1-4 dribble sidestep/stepback to hunt for the trifecta unless he immediately decides to get to the basket. Shooting-wise, he’s got a lethal catch-and-shoot game, and he’s one of those rare players that doesn’t even have to bring the ball below his shoulders. The fun part is he’s got a good feel for his defender’s closeouts and can quickly decide when to catch the ball up high, leading to his high shot pocket.
I can see why some compare him a bit to Larry Legend, due to the similarities in their game, high release point, and the smart usage of their left hand.
Gradey lacks the quick first step and finishing burst, but he’s got a great feel on how to leverage his gravity and use that as a pseudo-first step to get that half-a-step advantage over his defender. He’s not the most athletic, but Joe Wieskamp makes him look like Dominique Wilkins.
The biggest area of concern is on the defensive end. Like most rookies, Gradey needs to get stronger. He’s had the bulls-eye target defensively, and he’ll have to work hard to ensure he doesn’t get played out of the floor because he’s a huge hole on the defensive end. I am slightly concerned about his lateral quickness, especially being too upright to my liking defensively, but that can be fixed, as he’s shown good effort, but he’s getting blown by far too often to my liking.
Unlike Trent Jr., Gradey’s got a good command of his gravity and makes better reads on how to use it to his advantage. I hate to keep comparing Trent Jr. here, but unlike him, Gradey’s got a better playmaking feel, especially on the move.
Gradey can push Trent Jr. for the starting spot if he can get stronger. Heck, in some transition lineups, he should be tall enough to play small forward. I’m even dreaming of a Gradey-Siakam-Barnes-Anunoby-Koloko five-man lineup at some point in a game. Heck, any Scottie Barnes-led bench/transition lineups should have Gradey all the time.
Gradey should be a decent part-time starter but should see more time off the bench, especially if the Raptors decide to run it back. At the very least, if Gary Trent Jr. has a tough shooting night, coach Darko Rajakovic will have another card on his sleeve.
What sets him apart from his peers? He’s got the (almost irrational) confidence to back it up. He’s been constantly heckled outside of their home court, and perhaps, we’ll have someone that Diar DeRozan can’t rattle.
This year’s draft is littered with prospects that can be instant contributors off the bench, and with no picks next year, this draft was the prime spot to stock up on cheap talent. This is why it’s disappointing that the Raptors could not obtain a pick when the going rate was alright. And no, I’m not even talking about the Pascal Siakam/Portland drama. But do you know who else said that they want to stay in Toronto? Nobody! I’m kidding....
The Raptors only have a few trade chips to play with — they gave their 2024 1st round pick to the Spurs via the Jakob Poeltl trade, and their 2024 and 2025 second-round picks have been given away as well. This leaves the Raptors with only their rostered players as their pieces to obtain additional picks. At the very least, Gary Trent Jr., Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young, Precious Achiuwa, and Malachi Flynn could have fetched them with something — unless this front office overvalues these players. Perhaps they also want to preserve their trade assets as they head into free agency, which will probably have more trade fireworks due to the lack of cap space around the league.
Even if the Raptors only managed to get a second-round pick, several solid prospects were available there. Instant contributors like Maxwell Lewis, Isaiah Wong, and Colby Jones were still available, and intriguing projects like Leonard Miller, Emoni Bates, Rayan Rupert, and GG Jackson could have also been had.
Road To The Six
Now that the draft is over, it’s time for teams to start filling up their two-way contract slots, Exhibit-10s, training camp invites, and summer league roster. It’s been slow news — not a surprise — so far, with only two known post-draft movements.
Desmond Cambridge Jr
Desmond Cambridge Jr. has agreed to join the Toronto Raptors for NBA Summer League, I’m told.— Jon Chepkevich (@JonChep) June 23, 2023
The 6’4 ½” guard averaged 15.7 PTS, 4.3 REB, 1.8 AST, 1.3 STL, 1.0 BLK for his NCAA career at Brown, Nevada, and Arizona State.
4x All-Conference + Portsmouth Invitational selection.
Desmond Cambridge Jr. is a combo guard from Arizona State. He’s a 5th-year senior after transferring from Nevada, and he led the Sun Devils in scoring with 13.6 points per game. He had a down year shooting from the perimeter, only converting 32.3% on 7.5 attempts. However, Cambridge Jr. will not be shy to pull the trigger from anywhere.
The 5’7” Kansas State point guard’s chance to get drafted last night was slim to none, yet that’s not the only path to the NBA. Funny enough, Markquis Nowell ended up with a team harvesting tall and long forwards for the past few years. While Nowell isn’t 6’9” tall, his heart is just as big, if not bigger, than anyone on the floor. He put the country on notice with his elite NCAA tournament performance, putting up 23.5 points, 13.5 assists, and four steals before their run ended at the Elite Eight bracket.
With all the murmurs that the Raptors will run it back, Dick’s fall to 13 allows them to address a huge need.
One thing I can say for sure: I like the pick more than I like what Dick wore on draft night.
While it’s unclear which direction the Raptors are heading, they could clearly use more shooting wherever they go. Dick provides that in spades—and that’s not all he does.
Toronto desperately needed to address its outside shooting, and Gradey Dick should help with that.
It was unclear if Dick would make it out of the top ten entering the draft, so him falling to Toronto at No. 13 was a blessing.
He brings a desperately needed shooting dimension to a Toronto squad full of athletic playmakers. (We take a little bit off the letter grade on account of that suit).
Dick is 6’8 and might be the best shooter in the draft. He has a quick release, deep range, and impressive versatility as shooter, being able to sprint around screens and quickly square himself to the basket to hit shots.
RaptorsHQ (JD Quirante - me!)
Grade: A+ / C
The pick by itself should be an A+. When you have a prospect from a higher tier drop to your lap, and you get to address a need AND keep the Vision 6’9” hive alive, that’s a win. He’s not only the BPA but a draft for fit and should be able to contribute immediately, so I don’t know how these other draft heads came up with a B/B+ grade.
Now, looking at this front office’s draft activity, it’s a solid C. There were plenty of opportunities to get another pick — mid-to-late in the first round and anywhere in the second round. Yet, they are unwilling to surrender low-level assets or bench players to do it. The Raptors could have solidified their bench upgrade from this draft, but what do I know?