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Toronto Raptors 2020 Draft Outlook
The Toronto Raptors are the defending NBA Champions who showed the world this season that they don’t need Kawhi Leonard to be a force in the Eastern Conference. When the NBA season stopped, the Raptors were 46-18, and the second-best team in the east with a comfortable 3-game lead. They were playing excellent basketball at home and dealt with injuries throughout the entire year. Marc Gasol missed 27 games with a hamstring injury. Powell missed 20 games from shoulder and hand injuries. Lowry neck and thumb sidelined him for 12 games. Siakam miss 11 games with a groin injury and Vanvleet missed 16 games with a flurry of injuries. Wow. All of that and the Raptors are still locked in as the number two seed in the east. I doubt the Bucks would have 53 wins if Giannis, Middleton, Lopez, Bledsoe, Divencenzo all missed time. All in all, the Raptors are an excellent team that can very well be back in the finals later this year.
As it stands right now, the Raptors would have 28th pick in the 2020 NBA draft. This article will attempt to predict good team fits and potential selections for the Raptors first-round pick.
Raptors Look to Add a Center in Round 1
After this season, Gasol, Ibaka, Vanvleet, and Hollis Jefferson are all unrestricted free agents leaving some significant holes in their roster, especially with their big-men. I can see the Raptors re-signing Vanvleet to a sizeable deal, letting their bigs go into free agency, but even that is a big question mark.
The Raptors absolutely need to acquire a center going into next season. Marc Gasol was critical last season in beating the 76ers in the playoffs, but it is my guess that the Raptors will be looking for a more mobile big who can play in the high pick and roll and finish above the rim.
At pick 28 there should be a few options that would help the Raptors address their hole at center.
1. Vernon Carey (Duke)
Height: 6 foot 10
Weight: 270 lbs
Wingspan: 7 foot 0
If we are optimistic, Vernon Carey from Duke falls to 28. The likelihood of this happening is slim, but Vernon Carey could be a really nice fit with the Raptors. With Gasol and Ibaka out (so we assume), Carey would immediately be looked to as the team’s primary rebounder, something that he excelled at in the 2020 season with Duke, averaging 8.8 rebounds per game.
Carey can step outside and knock down the three, which is essential in the Raptors offense. He’s also mobile enough to run the floor in transition as a trailer or rim runner. He is one of the only big’s in this class with the ability to create his own shot in the post or facing up. That alone could warrant a selection at 28.
Carey struggles on the defensive end which may deter him from earning consistent minutes early in his career. Where Gasol shined, Carey will need to improve. Carey did a poor job guarding the pick and roll and was often getting beat right to the hoop if he switched. Along the perimeter, Carey had a hard time staying in front of quicker guards and on the low block was getting beat by more prominent centers. If Carey wants to play the five in the NBA, he’ll have to improve tremendously on the defensive end.
The Raptors need a big man who will crash the glass and who can create offensively. Carey does both those things at a very high level for a 19-year old. Carey can space the floor if the Raptors want to run a spread offense, and he can also be a factor in the pick and roll or pick and pop in the half-court. He’s more mobile and crafty on the offensive end than Gasol is, which means he will add another threat to the Raptors offense.
2. Zeke Nnaji (Arizona)
Height: 6 foot 11
Weight: 240 lbs
Wingspan: 7 foot 1
Zeke Nnaji is one of the more intriguing prospects for the big men projected in the late first round. He isn’t the most offensively gifted, but he is excellent off the ball and has a very high IQ. Nnaji’s floor awareness is very advanced; he always seems to be in the right spots at the right time.
On offense, he operates mostly out of the high post around the free-throw line. Nnaji is a knock-down mid-range shooter but also does a great job attacking the rim from that spot. Nnaji’s ability to be mobile and run the floor is ideal for the modern NBA and for the Toronto Raptors. He can play in the half-court and make an impact without demanding the ball, and he’s also able to be a factor in transition. Hard to stop a team in transition when Siakam and Nnaji are running right to the rim.
Defensively, Nnaji is a reliable rim protector, but more importantly, has great length and athleticism for his position. He defends the high pick and roll better than average because of his range and speed. His size helps him recover quickly, take up space on defense, and defend positions two through five.
Nnaji’s most desirable trait is his ability to play off-ball and still make an impact. He scores just over 25% of his points, cutting to the basket or cutting to open space. That means that Nnaji does not require the ball in his hands to contribute offensively. Whether that’s being a screener in the pick and roll, or cutting to open spots to space the floor properly, Nnaji’s ability to play the game without demanding the ball makes him a really nice complimentary piece.
3. Udoka Azubuike (Kansas)
Height: 7 foot 0
Weight: 270 lbs
Wingspan: 7 foot 7
Azubuike is a raw talent with great length and athleticism. He finishes above the rim and is an elite rim protector. Azubuike currently struggles with his free throw shooting and outside shooting, but he won’t be asked to do much shooting if he lands in Toronto.
Azubuike would be the Raptors version of Clint Capela or DeAndre Jordan. He’d be asked to play in high pick and roll scenarios and roll/dive right to the rim for a dunk. On defense, he’d be a disruptor in the paint and wreak havoc on traditional back-to-the-basket centers like Joel Embiid. Primarily, Azubuike will be tasked to set good screens, rebound, protect the paint, and score the occasional putback, or baby hook.
Last year at Kansas Azubuike finished 2nd in votes for the John Wooden Player of the Year award. He also won Big 12 player of the year and was leading Kansas to a number-one seed in the march madness tournament.
The only reason that Azubuike isn’t projected higher is because he’s a senior. This hurts his draft stock, but may actually benefit the Raptors. A senior will transition to the NBA far more seamlessly than a freshman. Azubuike already has an NBA body and is more NBA ready than any freshman big-man in this class.
Azubuike is the picture-perfect fit for the Raptors; there is a lot about this pick that makes sense. With the loss of Gasol and Ibaka, the Raptors lose plenty of rebounding. Azubuike is the best rebounder in the draft. The NBA is transitioning into a length and pace era. Azubuike has the biggest wingspan in this class. The Raptors half-court offense heavily focuses on the high pick and roll. Azubuike is excellent as a screen and roll guy. The Raptors lose their best rim protector, Azubuike is debatably the best shot-blocker in this class. The list goes on and on.
Not only do I think Azubuike would be great for the Raptors, I see him as the most likely option.
4. Jaden McDaniels (Washington)
Height: 6 foot 9
Weight: 200 lbs
Wingspan: 7 foot 0
Although OG Anunuoby has shown us that he can be an impact guy, he may have already hit his ceiling as a player. A reliable 3 and D player who can guard multiple positions. If the Raptors are looking for some offensive production from the small forward position, I can see them taking one in the late first round.
The only way that I see the Raptors taking a small forward over a center is if the prospect is a projected high-mid first-round pick who has fallen in the draft. At that point, their talent may be too good to pass up.
Jaden McDaniels is a versatile, two-way wing player, who can play the three or the four. McDaniels can score from anywhere on the floor in a variety of different ways. He is excellent in the pick and roll as a ball-handler, yielding 1.046 PPP (91st percentile), and does a great job creating plays when he draws a double team.
McDaniels’ versatility shows in transition. He can lead the break as a ball-handler and make decisions, or he can run the lanes and look to score the ball before the defense can recover. He’s also great off the ball and does a good job cutting to the basket and making an impact without the ball in his hands. To top it all off, McDaniels is a terrific rebounder for his position and does a great job crashing the offensive glass.
McDaniels would provide the Raptors with even more length and athleticism in their frontcourt.
The addition of a small forward does not address any significant issues with their roster, but it does add young talent to the team that fits the offensive style of play.
McDaniels currently struggles with his shot selection, efficiency, and ball control. He tends not to make the extra pass and be selfish with the ball. This leads to more challenging, low percentage shots. He also tries to do too much at times on the offensive end. Over-dribbling or trying to make a thread-the-needle pass led to McDaniels averaging over three turnovers per game. He is a freshman, so he gets somewhat of a pass, but McDaniels needs to make sure that he cleans these things up once he gets to the NBA or he’ll have trouble earning consistent minutes.
I doubt the Raptors would draft any position other than center in the first round, but if they did, McDaniels’ length and athleticism would make him a nice piece in their rotation. They are deep at guard and have a budding star at power forward, so a versatile two-way small forward like McDaniels could be a great fit for the Raptors. They improve on the weakest position in their starting lineup and add yet another defender who can defend Giannis.
Raptors Look to Add in Round 2
5. Mamadi Diakite (Virginia)
Height: 6 foot 9
Weight: 224 lbs
Wingspan: 7 foot 3.5
At this point in the draft, it’s often beneficial to take either a project player, or a player who has produced at the NCAA level, and for whatever reason, has fallen in the draft rankings. The Raptors currently have one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and are not rebuilding, so I expect them to go with the latter of those two options. That’s why I think Diakite would be the perfect selection for them.
During the 2019 March Madness tournament, Mamadi Diakite was one of Virginia’s most consistent players. He hit big shots (one game-winner) and played well on the biggest stage. He is a senior, which will hurt his draft stock. In many mock drafts, he’s projected to go late in the second round. If he falls to Toronto at 58, the Raptors could come away with yet another impact player in the second round.
Diakite’s skillset offensively isn’t the most refined, and he’ll need to work on his offensive game if he wants to make an impact. He shot only 36% from three last year at Virginia and 47% overall. He isn’t a shot creator, but Diakite does a good job making scoring opportunities by playing off the ball. About 20% of his offensive possessions involve him cutting to the basket or cutting to an open space to create a scoring opportunity. Diakite is also a decent rebounder and finishes well around the basket.
Where Diakite excels is on the defensive end. He is a 6 foot 9 versatile forward with a 7 foot 3 wingspan with enough quickness to defend smaller players on the perimeter, and enough length and athleticism to hang with the big guys down low. Diakite also has excellent recovery speed due to his length. This will make him an asset guarding the pick and roll. The Raptors will be adding yet another player to their roster who can guard Giannis. This would be a great second round pickup.
Diakite will likely be a catch and shoot big on the offensive end with the ability to grab offensive rebounds, a nice fit for the Raptors. Defensively, he’ll be a forward who can guard multiple positions and add even more length, youth, and athleticism to their already long, young, and fast roster. Diakite is an excellent pick this late in the draft.
Raptor’s Prediction for 2020 NBA Draft
The Raptors have done an excellent job drafting over the last few years. They find diamonds in the rough and develop them into impact guys. Pascal Siakam was widely viewed as a terrible pick at the time. He has turned into a star. OG Anunoby has blossomed into a solid complementary piece, and last year’s undrafted rookie Terence Davis looks like he could be a star. The Raptors will do their homework and pick the right player.
Looking forward to seeing any of these guys in a Raptors uniform next year, you heard it here first.
|2||58||Mamadi Diakite||Power Forward/ Center||Virginia|