Everybody who has any stake invested in the Toronto Raptors has been more concerned over the past few weeks with who they’ll select using the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, than with the 46th or 47th overall pick… obviously. It’s the best draft pick that the North has owned since 2006. Whomever the Raptors decide to add to their roster – be it Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Kuminga, Scottie Barnes, or even Evan Mobley or Jalen Green if they slip – will probably develop into a multiple-time All-Star under the Raptors development system. Nonetheless, in a pool of talent that is said to be one of the deepest of the decade, either of Toronto’s second round picks could blossom into a rotation player by the end of their rookie season. For reference, the Raptors three most-recent second round selections were Jalen Harris (59th overall, 2020), Dewan Hernandez (59th overall, 2019), and Norman Powell (46th overall, 2015).
There is always more volatility in the latter half of the draft, which makes predicting where players will land more difficult – especially in a year where the draft is relatively ‘flat’ between picks 25-40. I’ve had my share of minimal success finding gems at the bottom of the draft before – most recently when I recommended that the Raptors take Paul Reed in 2020, or Luguentz Dort in 2019, so maybe – just maybe – one of the players whom you’re about to read about will become a valuable NBA player within the next couple of years.
Position: PF/Undersized C
Amar Sylla is among the lesser known commodities pegged to land in the latter half of the second round in this year’s draft. The Senegal native most recently played for Filou Oostende of the Pro Basketball League in Belgium, where he averaged 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks across 20.3 minutes per game. While his numbers are discouraging – especially for having played in a league far less competitive than the NBA – a lot of Sylla’s value stems from his potential to be good, as opposed to what he’s actually good at right now. Alike a young Pascal Siakam, Sylla has a strong motor, runs the floor very well in transition, and loves to dunk the ball at any opportunity he gets. His combination of length and athleticism makes him a very Raptors-esque prospect, however if the team is looking to find someone who can make an immediate impact, Sylla might not be their guy. He still has a lot of room to grow in terms of his shooting ability after nailing just over 17% of his looks from deep last season, and his defensive positioning leaves much to be desired.
After withdrawing his name from the 2019 NBA Draft, Charles Bassey has reclassified and is looking to find a home in the league. He has not exhibited much development since his freshman season, which certainly won’t help his draft stock this year, but that’s one of the few reasons why he could potentially slip to the Raptors at pick 46. Bassey is an athletic big who leverages his length and strength well down low to finish with power around the basket, but lacks finesse around the rim to get a good shot off over bigger defenders. He’s an good shot blocker with an impressive 33-inch vertical leap for his 236-pound frame. Arguably Bassey’s greatest strength is his rebounding. Last season, he averaged 8.3 boards on the defensive end, and 3.3 on offensive glass. For Bassey to carve out a successful career at the next level, he will need to gain more confidence in his jumper and shoot more consistently from deep, in addition to improving his pick-and-roll defense, and figuring out how to be a more effective passer.
Position: PF/Potential to play some SF or C if he bulks up
It’s hard not to look at Isaiah Todd‘s highlights and get excited about the player that he could become in the NBA. It’s rare for a player of his height to also play with the fluidity that he can, which is the greatest reason why he probably won’t be available by the time the Raptors pick at 46, however some mock drafts have him slipping that far, and so I felt the need to include him here. Before anyone starts thinking to themselves that he could be the next Kevin Durant or Paul George, let’s tame your expectations. I’m not a big believer in NBA comparisons because I think it limits our perception of what a prospect can develop into, but Todd is more of an Otto Porter Jr. than an NBA superstar. He can run very well in the open floor, and has a legitimate three-point stroke which is legitimized by his solid free-throw percentage. Last season with the G-League ignite, Todd shot 36.2% from deep, and 82.4% from the charity stripe. In addition to his shooting ability, Todd has shown that he’s capable of pulling up from the mid-range, or getting all the way to the basket to finish with either hand. Having played against older and more mature competition in the G-League, there is also less concern surrounding whether Todd’s game will translate to the next level. Ultimately, Todd has no glaring weaknesses in his game. The only things for him to work on to become a rotation player in the NBA are his ball-handling ability, his playmaking ability, the frequency with which he attacks the basket, and his strength.
Position: PF/Potential to play some SF or C if he bulks up
JT Thor is another player with a wide range in this year’s draft. Some scouts project him to land in the back half of the first round, while others have him falling all the way into the low 40’s. Thor is an uber-long forward with a decent shot. He possesses great athleticism, and leverages that athleticism well on the defensive side of the ball. In his lone season at Auburn, he attempted a healthy 4.3 three-point attempts per game, and shot 29.7% on those looks. He’s also proven that despite his slight frame at only 202 pounds, he can still be a solid rebounder, having pulled down 7.9 per game last season. His greatest areas for improvement are his three-point shooting and his passing ability. Last season, Thor posted a dismal assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.55.
Herb Jones is a freak athlete and an elite defender who can comfortably guard players two through four on the court. His calling card is his defense, as he plays with a lot of intensity and has a high IQ on that side of the ball. His offensive role at the next level projects to be a limited one, as he still lacks polish there, but under the right development system he could develop into a 3-and-D specialist. Last season at Auburn, Jones averaged 1.5 blocks and 2.3 steals while shooting 35.1% from deep. The range of NBA comparisons for a 3-and-D specialist like Jones is wide, but however you spin it, a player of his archetype holds tremendous value in the modern NBA if his skills can translate.
There aren’t a lot of players at Jay Huff‘s height who possess the ability to block shots and knock down outside shots like he can, which is what makes him such an intriguing prospect. Huff’s age certainly hurts his draft stock, but how much does that really matter when you account for the fact that last season he blocked 12% of all opponents’ two-point attempts, and was able to knock down outside shots at a 38.7% clip? Huff’s greatest downside is that despite his gaudy shot-blocking abilities, his slight frame enables bigger centres to push him around in the paint. At the same time, it’s difficult to move him down a position and play him at the four because he doesn’t have the lateral quickness to stay in front of guys on the perimeter.
Regardless, second round prospects aren’t going to be perfect. They all have holes in their game, and if those weaknesses can be developed – or if they can be mitigated by the teammates that these guys are on the floor with – that’s how you end up with a Draymond Green, a Nikola Jokic, or a Khris Middleton.