A lot of basketball fans developed their love for the game through playing the sport – and pretty much anybody who was ever any good at basketball had dreams of making it to the NBA at some point in their life. Then for almost all of us, the harsh reality struck one day that we just weren’t tall enough; weren’t strong or athletic enough; or just weren’t good enough to compete with the best of the best.
But of course, there are the few who work their asses off continually. They defy the odds, and of course, they’re blessed with a little bit of luck. Those are the sixty names called each year on draft night. That magical day is just seven days away… but that’s not even the best part.
This year, the Toronto Raptors have a first round pick (gasp). Having finished with the second best record in the regular season, they will be selecting 29th overall, and will hope to find a player who can come in and contribute meaningful minutes as a rookie.
Here are five prospects whom we think might be able to do just that.
Bey is a 6’7 power forward from the University of Colorado with an impressive 7’1 wingspan, and a relentless work ethic. He’s uber athletic, and makes up for his lack of size with his overload of aggressiveness, and leaping ability. Bey measured a Draft Combine record vertical leap for his position at 43.5 inches. He’s a highly versatile defender with the ability to guard ones through fours, and even some smaller fives. Offensively, his game is quite limited. He’s developed his shooting stroke plentiful since arriving at Colorado, and shot 41.9% from behind the arc in his junior season, however in a small sample size of only 1.0 three’s attempted per game, his ability to stretch the floor is still rather unproven. He also lacks any ability to put the ball on the floor or create for teammates, however as John Hollinger says, that’s what you get drafting at #29.
Paul Reed is another interesting combo forward prospect from DePaul, standing at 6’9 with a 7’1 wingspan. Reed is another extremely versatile defender, which was a bona fide occupational requirement for us in assessing the best fits for the Raptors squad. He also has the ability to switch onto guards on the perimeter, and with his length and athleticism, can recover to make blocks even when the smaller guard gets by him. Reed is what is often referred to as a “tweener big” where it is unclear what position would best suit him at the NBA level – a reason that teams sometimes stray away from drafting players like Reed. That was the same case with Pascal Siakam however, and everybody knows how that project turned out. With Reed’s skillset, athleticism, motor, and elite rim-running ability, it’s hard not to liken his game to a rookie Siakam’s as well.
Zeke Nnaji may not be the most exciting prospect on the board, nor might he have the highest upside, but it’s clear what he brings to the team. With all of the Raptors’ centres (excluding Dewan Hernandez) hitting free agency this offseason, bringing in Nnaji would give the Raptors a young big man who could step in and contribute immediately. He is a strong rebounder and that should translate well to the NBA given his size, length, and strength. While he is not a highly switchable defender, nor is he Rudy Gobert-esque inside the paint, he’s not a defensive liability either. He’s also been working hard to develop his shooting stroke. Though he only shot 29.4% on 0.5 attempts per game in his only college season, he’s still very young at only 19 years old, and may be able to stretch the floor later on in his NBA career. Offensively, most of his buckets come from pick and rolls, where he has good hands and can finish well inside, or off post-ups. He hasn’t flashed much of an ability to play in the high post, however his post-hook from the low blocks is solid.