We’ve had a couple days to celebrate. We’ve let it sink in (somewhat). The Toronto Raptors have achieved the ultimate goal that every NBA team exists for, every basketball player world for, and every fan cheers for. We’re motherfu**ing NBA Champions baby.
Free agency is less than two weeks away though. The draft is less than one week away. With these events on the brink, it’s time for Masai and Bobby to get down to business. The Raptors hold the 59th pick on Thursday night, which is anything but worthless to a team who consistently finds studs late in the draft. I also wouldn’t count out the possibility of trading up in the draft, possibly by packaging this pick, along with a future pick, or a guy like Norman Powell, for a pick around the mid first round.
Assuming that management is content with where they are picking, after having no picks last year, there are still even more guys to look at who could make an impact at 59.
Moses Brown is a long 19 year old centre, who played one season at UCLA, and averaged 12.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. He has great size, and a strong work ethic, however is still very raw. He’s a smart player, getting to the right spots on time to be a scary shot blocker, but is still very skinny and could find it harder to compete against bigger bodies in the NBA. He reminds me a lot of a young Pascal Siakam – which needless to say is a good thing. Even if Marc Gasol re-signs, and Serge Ibaka is not traded, Brown would make for a great third string centre, who could step into a bigger role in the near future as the other two continue to get older.
Jalen Lecque is an explosive 19 year old combo guard from Brewster Academy (the only high schooler in the draft). He won his team the national championship this past season, and won MVP of the tournament in doing so. He has great size, at 6’4, and with a combination of explosiveness, and fearlessness, draws comparisons to a young Russell Westbrook. Many scouts believe that he has first-round talent, but lacks the discipline for the NBA, and has yet to be seen playing against stronger competition. With a ton of potential, and the Raptors thin at the guard spots, Lecque could be a great project for Nick Nurse to work on.
Tacko Fall is a name that most basketball fans have heard before. Drafting a 7’6 guy with an 8’4 wingspan, you know exactly what you’re getting into. Fall is a guy who has dominated at both the high school, and college level, however that’s mostly due to the lack of competition that can match up with his size and strength. It’s unlikely that a guy like Fall ever develops into an NBA superstar, despite going head-to-head with Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett in the round of 32, and almost helping his team to a huge upset over Duke. Despite his relatively low ceiling, the Raptors could draft him as an injury-insurance third string centre, who they can throw in the game at times against smaller teams to provide a different look. He’s a more short-sighted pick that would work if the Raptors expected to bring a similar team back next year.
Luguentz Dort is a guy that I really like for his pure athleticism (and he’s Canadian). Last year, Raptors summer league viewers fell in love with Rawle Alkins as he lit up Miles Bridges and the Hornets with 25 points and 11 boards, showcasing just about everything in his arsenal. After losing him to the Bulls shortafter, Dort might be our shot at redemption. He fits the identity of the Raptors squad as a gritty defensive player, and selfless, and smart on the other end. Though he’s not a great playmaker or shooter, he’s still just 20, and has a lot of room to improve on the offensive end. If he’s available with the 59th pick, don’t be surprised if he’s a Raptors a few minutes later.
The 59th pick obviously is not a huge deal. With 58 picks before it, and 29 other teams in the league, you can do the math as to how much more excited other teams should be for Thursday night than us. Don’t count out Masai’s ability to find a gem though. Two of the key pieces to our championship run: Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, were both picked up by Masai on draft night in 2016 with only the 27th pick.
I’m not saying that whoever the Raptors take at 59 will bring us another parade, but who thought undrafted Fred VanVleet would be on a float with Drake?