Most Toronto Raptors fans are probably stoked that their favourite team has a first round pick this year, and rightfully so: the most recent first round selections of their club have been OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam. That’s compounded by the fact that this year’s 29th overall pick will be Toronto’s first time selecting in the top-30 since 2017.
On the flip side, that’s not to discount from the fact that the Raptors also own the 59th overall pick in this year’s draft. Unequivocally, the odds of drafting a supreme talent are higher at 29 than they are at 59, however there are still gems late in the draft whom teams with good scouting will be ready to snatch up. There are occasionally second round superstars that come around once a decade, like Isiah Thomas at number 60, Manu Ginobili at number 57, or Nikola Jokic at number 41, but even in the past ten years alone, the Raptors have been able to find contributors late in the draft. Just look at Norman Powell, who was selected 46th in 2015, Fred VanVleet who was signed from the undrafted pool in 2016, or Terence Davis Jr. who was also picked up as an undrafted free agent last summer.
This year, the Raptors will surely try to replicate that formula for success, and add someone to the backend of the roster who will be able to significantly help the team in some way. Below I’ve chosen three prospects whom I think fit the Raptors mold and culture well, and would be able to step into a minimal role to help the team win in the near future.
N’doye is a 6’7, 206 pound combo guard from France who last played for Cholet Basket of the French league. Through 25 games, he posted averages of 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. The 22-year-old has a massive 7’3 wingspan making him a terror on defense, especially off-ball where he is able to easily disrupt passing lanes. That is illustrated through his 1.3 steals per game. Defending on the ball, N’doye moves his feet well on the perimeter, but lacks any sort of strength to be able to compete inside. Still, because of his length and size he’s relatively switchable, and is capable of guarding most guards and wings. Before he can become an elite defender, he’ll need to get more disciplined with his reaching and fouling, and also add a significant amount of strength.
Offensively, he naturally has a higher dribble as a taller point guard, which makes him slightly more prone to turning the ball over. Nonetheless, he sees the floor excellently and can make a variety of passes over his smaller defenders. He’s a pick and roll maestro, and has a great floater game in the mid range area. His jump shot is solid by the percentages (44.1% on 1.4 attempts per game this past season), however it’s still a small sample size to judge from, and his free throw percentage (66.7%) draws concerns around whether his shooting stroke is legit. His shot form mechanics are good, although he has a slow release. If he is able to work on his shot preparation, that would help get shots off more comfortably, and probably hit more of them.
In terms of an NBA comparison, it’s hard not to see some of Frank Ntilikina in N’doye – not just because they’re both oversized and skinny point guards coming over from France, but because of the parallels in their game. Both players are strong off-ball defenders, and operate well in the mid-range and in the pick-and-roll, but there are legitimate concerns regarding their jump shot and their strength.
Diakite is a 6’9, 225 pound power forward from the University of Virginia. Coming out of high school, he was lightly recruited, and only played 14.0 minutes per game off the bench as a freshman. Three years later however, he was the Cavaliers’ best player, and saw the court for just shy of 33 minutes per contest. Having put up 13.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game, he’s earned himself the 80th overall rank on ESPN’s best available list.
Also equipped with a 7’3 wingspan, Diakite is an impressive shot blocker, and swats away his own share of three-point attempts. He moves his feet well for his size, and is able to keep up with smaller and quicker guards on the perimeter, which is a skill that NBA teams look out for in big men nowadays, as it allows coaches to run a switch-everything defense. He’s also a very smart defender, and makes quick rotations, in addition to positioning himself well to help out on drives.
Offensively, Diakite’s arsenal has developed greatly over the past couple of years. In his first two years at Virginia, he only attempted a total of eleven three-pointers, and made three of them. During the 2019-2020 season however, he averaged 1.8 shots from beyond the arc, and made good on 36.4% of them. He lacks any sort of ball-handling ability, but his athleticism and length makes him a scary lob threat in the pick and roll, and his ability to stretch the floor at the very least is enough to keep him from becoming an offensive liability.
Diakite’s NBA comparison is along the lines of Chris Boucher, which is convenient for the Raptors if they want to give Dikaite a legitimate look, as Boucher is an unrestricted free agent this fall and is coming off the best season of his career. If Boucher is commanding more than $5M per season on the open market, Toronto could bring in Diakite as a quick and easy replacement to fill the same role. He’ll be a solid rim protector, a good rebounder, a hustle and energy guy off the bench, and will make the crowd erupt whenever he throws down an alley-oop or splashes on a trey ball.
Paul Eboua is a 20-year-old Italian-Cameroonian power forward who last played for Consultinvest Pesaro of Lega Serie A, Italy’s highest ranking basketball league. The 6’8, 200-pound Cameroon native is ranked the 11th best power forward in his class by ESPN.
Coincidentally, Eboua also has a 7’3 wingspan, and his athleticism is off the charts. He positions himself well to help defensively, but can even afford to be a little bit late getting to the spot because of his insane leaping ability and timing. In the NBA, there will be far less margin for error, however that should not be a concern as he’s a smart defender in all other regards. Eboua’s energy and effort on that side of the basketball are also to be adored, as he never gives up on a play, is the first player back on defense after his team makes a basket, and he provides all-around energy and spark to his teammates. Like Diakite, Eboua moves his feet very well on the perimeter and can guard one’s through four’s at the NBA level. With a little bit more muscle, Eboua projects to be an all-around defensive stud in the NBA.
In his only season with Consultinvest Pesaro, Eboua averaged 7.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in 22.4 minutes per game. His numbers don’t jump off the page, and that’s simply because he’s quite raw offensively. His jump shot is inconsistent, and he made just 25.6% of his looks from deep in his only season as a professional. His free throw percentage of 62.5% reinforces the fact that he needs to work on his shooting. Eboua doesn’t have much of a face-up game either. He’s not a good playmaker, and he rarely plays out of the post. Almost all of his baskets come off rim runs, or if a teammate dumps the ball to him inside.
Because of where Eboua is at right now, it’s tempting to compare him to a young Pascal Siakan. As overzealous as that may be – and it’s certainly foolish to think that he’ll reach the level which Siakam is at now – both players at the time that they were heading into the draft rely heavily on their athleticism, their feel for the game, and their motor to get the job done. As a rookie, Siakam was a good, smart, versatile defender, who ran the floor like a gazelle and provided energy to his team. That’s exactly the type of role that Eboua could have for the Raptors, if given the opportunity.