Last week, Raptors Cage took our own shot at drafting two 15-man rosters, with a $100M salary cap, using all current players’ contracts from the 2019-2020 season. One busy week of NBA news and rumours later, we decided to take our jab at another fantasy draft – this time, with no salary restriction, but one where we can only choose players who were not drafted in the lottery of their respective draft class. The 2018-19 Raptors proved winning without a lottery pick was possible, as one of their defining traits was having zero lottery players on the roster. Teams here were built without regard for future contracts, extensions, or player potential. The only criteria was building the better team for the current season. With your mind probably already running, let’s get into it.
1st Pick – Jared: Kawhi Leonard
There’s a little less creativity needed here as opposed to the $100M salary draft. At the top, Kawhi and Giannis are very clearly ahead of everyone and, though I’m sure not everyone would feel the same, I didn’t hesitate in taking Kawhi. With Kawhi, I know what I’m getting during the Playoffs and I have a lot more flexibility with who I’m adding to the starting lineup. As we saw last year, the ceiling of a strong team with the two-time Finals MVP is limitless.
2nd Pick – Neeraj: Giannis Antetokoumnpo
The first two picks of this draft are like dealing out the last two potato chips in a bag – they’re not completely identical, but you don’t really care which one you get. Honestly, I’m glad I didn’t have the first pick this time, because it’s easier for Jared to have just made this decision for me, than me having to make it myself. While Kawhi is a more proven player in The Playoffs, as we obviously saw his historically dominant run before our eyes last year, Giannis was looking like a freight train to The Finals this year where the Bucks would have had homecourt advantage. While they may not have their rowdy fans giving them an extra jolt of energy in Disney World, Giannis may finally have a chance to cement his legacy with a ring.
3rd Pick: Neeraj: Nikola Jokic
Part two of why it’s better to have second pick in this draft: you get two superstars instead of one. Like I mentioned before, Kawhi and Giannis are unquestionably the top two picks in this draft, regardless of how the dominoes fall, but right behind them in a tier all to himself is Nikola Jokic. The Joker fits perfectly next to whomever he plays with because he can do it all on the offensive end. He’s arguably the best playmaking big man that the NBA has seen since Arvydas Sabonis; he can stretch the floor well enough to open up driving lanes for Giannis; and with his 6’10, 250 lb frame, he’s a walking bucket in the low-post.
4th Pick – Jared: Pascal Siakam
I was hoping Neeraj would go with the homer pick at 3 so I could snag an elite center in Jokic, but Pascal will most certainly do. A Giannis-Jokic duo may be incredibly exciting, but they definitely don’t have the familiarity a Kawhi-Pascal duo does! We saw Pascal complement Kawhi’s scoring load during the playoffs last year, particularly in his 32-point Game 1 performance in The Finals that really set the tone for the series. With another much-improved season, Pascal feels like the best player overall here.
5th Pick – Neeraj: Kyle Lowry
I really wanted Siakam to tie together my all-international frontcourt, but I guess sometimes dreams don’t come true. With the first real decision that I had to make in this draft, I was choosing between Jimmy Butler, and Kyle Lowry. Butler, while I concur is probably a better individual basketball player, Kyle Lowry is just a winner. We’ve seen throughout Butler’s career that he has a constant desire to be “the guy” on his team, and for everyone else’s role to cater towards him. On a team with Jokic and Antetokounmpo already, that wasn’t going to happen. On the other hand, Lowry is the perfect point guard for a star-studded roster. While a very capable scorer himself, he’s happy to take a backseat in scoring to the bigger fish, and focus on all of the little things that win basketball games.
6th Pick – Jared: Jimmy Butler
There’s the homer pick I wanted earlier! I like getting Butler here- though his numbers don’t pop off the page in Miami, he’s a terrific fit on almost any team and would be even better with a superstar next to him. Butler is the perfect player to throw into any lineup with a terrific offensive ability and ability to guard wings and longer guards. In the playoffs last year, even in a team with a handful of big names, Butler was by far the scariest for Raptors fans. If Kawhi didn’t… you know… Butler’s end-to-end layup with 4.2 left could have been among the worst memories Raptors fans have ever endured. I’ll take that on my team.
7th Pick – Neeraj: Khris Middleton
Seeing Lowry next to Giannis was enthralling. Seeing Lowry next to Middleton next to Giannis was appalling. But, team colours aside, that’s a horrifying point guard and wing combo to compete against. All three players are exceptional defenders, and their offensive skillsets fit each other perfectly. Middleton is another guy who doesn’t demand the ball in his hands, but is an elite scorer when called upon, as we saw in late-January when he dropped 51 points in a game that Giannis was sidelined.
8th Pick – Jared: Jrue Holiday
Seeing that Neeraj already has a center, I’ll take the best PG on the board. Always a candidate for a trade, Jrue has fared very well staying put in a much-improved New Orleans lineup. Zion’s emergence made his points per game dip under 20 but he’s a perfect PG in that he can do-it-all and doesn’t need to score to make an impact.
9th Pick – Neeraj: Rudy Gobert
I needed another 3-and-D forward to compliment Giannis in the starting lineup, but at the same time, I wasn’t going to allow Jared to build such a tantalizing lineup defensively with the likes of Jrue Holiday, Jimmy Butler, Pascal Siakam, and Kawhi Leonard under his wing. With Gobert locking down that lineup at the 5, it didn’t matter who I had on the other side – every basket that my team scored would be a challenge in itself. Thus, this pick was more focused on not letting Jared get the Steiffel Tower, than it was on bolstering my own lineup. The best defensive big man in the league off the bench sounds pretty nice too, though.
10th Pick – Jared: Malcolm Brogdon
Well, so much for waiting for a center. I love the move from Neeraj here, because Gobert was an obvious pick for me. It’s the KD-Warriors paradox… The 73-9 Warriors didn’t need Kevin Durant, they needed him to not be on the Thunder. In any case, I’ll just go with my favourite player on the board here in Malcom Brogdon. The once Rookie of the Year was having an excellent first season in Indiana and is a great option off the bench for me. My center will have to wait.
11th Pick – Neeraj – OG Anunoby
Now it was back to business. OG is arguably the best one-on-one defender in the entire NBA. With his quickness, enormous 7’6 wingspan, and tree-trunk of a lower body, there are few players in the NBA that he can’t guard in isolation. He’s also vastly elevated his offensive game this season, finally stroking the ball at nearly 40% from deep. Call me a homer – and maybe I drafted him too high – but Anunoby is among the most valuable players in a draft like this.
12th Pick – Jared: Nikola Vucevic
I’ll finally take my center here. Vucevic was neutralized against the Raptors in Round 1 last year but remains an excellent offensive center that gives you a ton of options on that side of the floor. He’s certainly a different type of 5 than Gobert, but I’ll take any big who can rebound and score. I have another center in mind for later on but I wanted to make sure I scooped up an All-Star, which are few and far between.
13th Pick – Neeraj: Tobias Harris
All of a sudden, Tobias Harris’ 5-year, $180M contract that he signed last summer looks much less enticing. Not only is the salary cap expected to take a hit next year because of the unpredictable revenue losses caused by COVID-19, but Harris hasn’t lived up to his value either. Philadelphia was easily the most underwhelming team this season based on their expectations, and though for a while it looked like “The Process” was about to take over the league someday, they now look like a team destined for top tier mediocrity. That being said, it’s not all Harris’ fault. Elton Brand will have his work cut out for him if his Sixers aren’t able to make a deep playoff run at Disney this year, but regardless of what happens to Tobias Harris, he’s still a solid combo forward off the bench for my team.
14th Pick – Jared: Bogdan Bogdanovich
One of the gems of the 2014 draft, Bogdanovich was quietly having another solid year for Sacramento despite not starting most games. He’s an incredibly reliable backup wing and is due to make a ton of money as a restricted free agent this summer. Though the Kings were stingy with Buddy Hield, they’ve said they’d like to do whatever it takes to bring Bogdanovich back. Vlade trusts him, and so do I.
15th Pick – Neeraj: Spencer Dinwiddie
I’m sticking with the same guns I used last time with this pick. Dinwiddie, who describes himself as “just a tech guy with a jumper”, happens to be one of the best young guards in the NBA. This season, he’s posting career highs in minutes per game, points per game, assists per game, and rebounds per game. With his size and length, he could make an alluring pick-and-roll combo with Gobert.
16th Pick – Jared: Draymond Green
Draymond fell and fell hard. His $100 million contract this summer was one of the best player decisions made in recent memory as Steph and Klay’s absence combined with a handful of minor injuries and rest days helped sour views of him. Still, I’m not sure what people expected. Though his offense has faltered and his shot is completely non-existent compared to the somewhat-alright option it was in 2016, offense has never been his game. Draymond is at his best in high-intensity with scorers to distribute to, something he lacked very much this year. We’ll see what happens when Steph and Klay are back and for now I’m happy to get him on my bench.
17th Pick – Neeraj: Fred VanVleet
VanVleet is arguably one of the top-five undrafted players of all-time, in company with John Starks, Avery Johnson, and Ben Wallace, of course. This season, VanVleet cracked the All-Star fan voting lists for the first time in his career after playing an integral role on last year’s championship roster. One could make a case that he could’ve been on all-star if he was given more touches on a worse team than the defending champs. Much like his big brother, Kyle Lowry, VanVleet constantly goes out and shows that it’s heart and hustle over height. You’ve just gotta Bet On Yourself.
P.S. Please stay, Freddy.
18th Pick – Jared: Serge Ibaka
Continuing with the Raptor theme, I went with Serge here. We all saw what he was doing this season, averaging 16-8 in a contract year for the Raptors. Though Serge is always frustrating given his up-and-downs, my team won’t ask a ton of him, which seems to be key for him. The lightened load will make him a great option in my bench lineup, helping stretch the floor and provide rim protection.
19th Pick – Neeraj: P.J. Tucker
Tucker was one of the two biggest steals in this draft, the other of which I had completely forgotten about in John Collins. Still, everywhere he goes, he wins. Tucker had to scratch and claw his way into the NBA, but now he’s known as one of the best and most versatile defenders there is. He’s thrived in Houston and played his role exceptionally, even as a centre at times in Mike D’antoni’s infamous small-ball lineups. I don’t think he’ll be playing any time at the 5 on my roster, with most of those minutes already being eaten by Jokic and Gobert, but he’s definitely an asset to have off the bench.
20th Pick – Jared: Caris LeVert
Tucker was going to be my pick here. He’s a winner! I’ll settle for a guy I picked up in the previous draft (albeit as a PG) in the NBA’s most recent 50-point scorer. LeVert was having a terrific season for the Nets and can provide a massive spark off of the bench. We’ll see how he fits into a fully healthy Nets team but for now he looks incredibly capable of consistently providing solid scoring nights.
21st Pick – Neeraj: Danny Green
Raptors fans might have a sour taste in their mouth when they hear the name Danny Green because of his performance in last year’s playoffs, and more notably, a near-costly turnover in the last seconds of Game 6 of The Finals. Still, not enough can be said about how valuable his locker room veteran presence is – given that he’s a two time champion and has played next to some of the best players of all-time, in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis, but also his on-court presence. While maybe not as good of a defender as the other D. Green, Danny is still a former All-Defensive Second-Teamer, and a career 40.2% three-point shooter.
22nd Pick – Jared: Patrick Beverley
As a third PG, I wanted somebody who can get into the heads of the other team when needed. One of everyone’s least favourite players, but undoubtedly an excellent player to have, Pat Bev’s enemies include Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and many others. If we were lucky enough to get a Raptors-Clippers Finals I’m sure I’d feel differently, but for now I love having him on my team.
23rd Pick – Neeraj: Norman Powell
His career trajectory was up and down like the rides at Canada’s Wonderland until the second half of this season. Powell was coming on strong, and it’s not an overstatement to say that if he played that way all season, he would’ve surely been an all-star. Still, without the selection to his resume, his stellar play that continued to ramp up with The Playoffs around the corner was going to make him Toronto’s next best scoring weapon after Siakam and Lowry, giving the Raptors a serious chance at making another finals push. He even earned himself Player of The Week honours in early March, making him just the tenth Raptor in franchise history to do so.
24th Pick – Jared: Montrezl Harrell
Another Clipper here, I love Harrell’s game. A late pick, he proved his worth very quickly into his career and has blossomed to the Clippers’ third scorer on many nights. He is another great option off the bench in terms of scoring, and though I don’t think I’ll pair him with teammate and fellow undrafted player Lou Williams, he can run the pick and roll effectively with just about any PG.
25th Pick – Neeraj: Devonte’ Graham
Unfortunately, I don’t watch a ton of Hornets basketball, so most of what I know about Devonte’ Graham is through scouting reports, highlight reels, and articles. Nonetheless, Graham is an electrifying young talent. In just his second season in the league, posting 18.2 points and 7.5 assists per game, contributing 3.4 win shares to a lowly Hornets team, he’s going to be a solid player for a long time to come. While this draft disregards any future potential of players, I’m still a fan of the young stud, and he can do some damage with this talent I have set up next to him.
26th Pick – Jared: John Collins
I love this pick. Collins has been incredible this year as the latter half of the Hawks’ talented young duo. Consisting of him and Kevin Huerter, of course. I can see Collins as being even good enough to start on some nights. His defense was incredibly shaky early on in his career but he has recently improved while guarding bigs and become much smarter as he becomes more experienced and plays a bigger role in Atlanta.
27th Pick – Neeraj: Mitchell Robinson
Poor Mitchell Robinson, man. Another talented player whose potential is being wasted in the Knicks’ system. Robinson is probably the team’s second best player behind R.J. Barrett, and is only playing 23.1 minutes per game. Per 36 minutes, he’s good for 15.0 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game. Third string centres don’t get any better than this 21-year-old.
28th Pick – Jared: Joe Harris
The former three-point contest champ shot a ridiculous 47.4% from three last season. Though he hasn’t maintained the same absurd pace, Harris is a great three-point option to have off the bench and can shoot just about any shot from anywhere. I think he can hit 50% on a team like mine, so Kyle Korver’s single season record should be put on notice. Yes, Kyle Korver once shot 53% from three…. Huh?
29th Pick – Neeraj: Jerami Grant
Basketball is in his blood. His father, Harvey Grant, played 11 seasons in the NBA for Washington, Portland, and Philadelphia. His uncle, Horace Grant, played 17 seasons in the NBA, and was an All-Star with his teammate Scottie Pippen in the 1993-1994 campaign. His older brother, Jerian, is also a pro hooper, most recently playing for the Orlando Magic. More importantly, Jerami is a do-it-all power forward, who is averaging 11.6 points per game this season on 40.0% shooting from beyond the arc. He’s also a solid rim protector, swatting away over a block per game throughout his entire career.
30th Pick – Jared: Josh Richardson
To end the draft I needed to fill a guard spot and it was important to me that they could be plugged into any situation if needed. Josh Richardson is a favourite of analytics nerds with a decent three-point shot and defensive prowess. Though probably a little over-hyped going into this year with the Sixers, Richardson is a solid fit.
Team Neeraj – Sarunas Jasikevecius
The rules in choosing a coach were that it could not be someone who was picked during the last draft, thus, my top two choices in Erik Spoelstra and Nick Nurse were taken off the board. Instead of going with a household name, like Brad Stevens, Steve Kerr, or even Gregg Popovich, I decided to look overseas. Sarunas Jasicekevecius was a top candidate to take the Raptors’ head coaching job in 2018 before Nurse ultimately won that gig, and admittedly, Jasikevecius was the guy that I wanted. He’s well-known as one of the smartest and best European point guards ever with two All EuroLeague First Team selections and the EuroLeague Final Four MVP in 2005. Beyond his playing career, his transition to coaching has been seamless, and his rise to the top of the coaching world has been exponential. Upon retiring as a player in 2014, he earned an assistant coaching job with Zalgiris of the Lithuanian league, and in 2016, was appointed the head coach. A year later, after winning Coach of The Year honours, he was invited by Gregg Popovich to join the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach, but he turned down that gig, and went back to Lithuania to win Coach of The Year again in 2018, and 2019. Now, we’ll see if he can lead a team led by Lowry, Giannis, and Jokic to a one-game championship.
|K. Lowry||K. Middleton||G. Antetokounmpo||O. Anunoby||N. Jokic|
|F. VanVleet||S. Dinwiddie||T. Harris||P. Tucker||R. Gobert|
|D. Graham||Danny Green||N. Powell||J. Grant||M. Robinson|
Team Jared – Gregg Popovich
Let’s go with Pop, the best coach on the board. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Kawhi Leonard. All non-lottery picks. It’s clear that Pop can inspire these guys and knows how to get the most out of them. If anything, Tim Duncan’s first overall status is the outlier on those Spurs teams! Though the Spurs haven’t been the Spurs this year, it’s hard to say Pop is anything but the league’s best coach given what we have seen him do.
|J. Holiday||J. Butler||K. Leonard||P. Siakam||N. Vucevic|
|M. Brogdon||C. LeVert||B. Bogdanovic||Draymond Green||S. Ibaka|
|P. Beverley||J. Richardson||J. Harris||M. Harrell||J. Collins|