At the end of this season, Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri indicated he wanted to add some rim protection and as doesn’t mind developing players, he might just be able to find some decent options in this year’s draft with one of his three picks at 20, 37 or 59.
There are some interesting big men available outside of the lottery, however, there isn’t much agreement out there about where they should fall on June 26. It’s even possible to find a prospect listed as a late lottery pick in one mock draft and as a second round selection in another. A few big men that have been long assumed as solid NBA prospects don’t even make some mock drafts. As the Raptors first selection is in the second half of the first round, players expected to go in the lottery are not included here.
Clint Capela, 20-years-old, 6’11, 7’4.5 wingspan, 222 lbs
French Pro A, 33 games, 22 minutes, 9.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 1.5 blocks
Draft Express describes Capela as, “ranking among the top rebounders, shot-blockers and finishers in the league, despite being one of the youngest players actually receiving playing time.”
He is expected to be drafted in the back half of the first round and could be available to the Raptors at 20.
Kristaps Porzingis, 18-years-old, 7’, 220 lbs, wingspan n/a (considered long)
ACB (Spain), 32 games, 14.9 minutes, 6.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.9 blocks
Draft Express says, “Besides the potential he shows as an athletic “stretch four,” Porzinigis also possesses another coveted attribute in his shot-blocking ability.” Porzinigis is the typical very young center that general managers so often drool over, but is too young to really know what they are getting, however, an 18-year-old 7-footer that plays above the rim, runs the floor well, has good shooting mechanics, soft hands and can block shots – well that’s hard to pass up.
Porzinigis is also expected to be drafted in the back half of the first round and could be available to the Raptors at 20. He could undoubtedly use another season or two in Spain to get the playing time necessary to develop his skills.
Walter Tavares, 22-years-old, 7’3, 265 lbs, wingspan n/a (huge)
ACB (Spain), 32 games, 20.8 minutes, 6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 1.6 blocks
Draft Express says, “Tavares’ biggest appeal as a NBA prospect lies in his ability to protect the paint. He blocks shots at a very nice rate, ranking #1 overall in the ACB on a per-game basis.”
Tavares was discovered in 2009 on the island of Cape Verde about 600 miles from Senegal and didn’t start playing basketball until then. This is a player who will be well known by Ujiri as the Raptors GM attends the FIBA African Championships and would have seen this prospect in person last summer.
An excellent rebounder, pick-and-roll defender and weak-side shot blocker who can set screens, Tavares is expected to be drafted in the early to mid second round.
Isaiah Austin, 20-years-old, 7’0.5, 220 lbs, 7’4.5 wingspan
Baylor, 36 games, 28.4 minutes, 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 blocks
Austin didn’t show the expected improvement as a sophomore, but Draft Express says, “he remains a rare and intriguing talent with his size, skill level, and shot blocking ability, even after revealing that he’s blind in one eye.”
He is expected to be an early second round draft pick.
Moussa Diagne, 20-years-old, 6’11, 230 lbs, 7’5 wingspan
ACB (Spain), 31 games, 14.4 minutes, 3.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks
Diagne didn’t really start playing basketball until 2011, but Draft Express describes him as, “Combining his physical attributes with a tremendous motor, he ranks among the top-six players in one of the top leagues outside of the NBA in per-minute rebounding and shot blocking.” Probably a late second round pick, this big man from Senegal could be worth a look.
Khem Birch, 21-years-old, 6’9, 209 lbs, 7’1 wingspan
UNLV, 33 games, 31.4 minutes, 11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.8 blocks
The Canadian from Quebec broke out as a junior at UNLV, but as Draft Express says, “Birch did not develop as much as scouts would have liked, but he nevertheless won Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He is capable of blocking shots both on and off the ball due to his combination of length, explosiveness and timing.”
Birch is an unpolished hustle guy that can grab offensive boards and has a lot of work to do on his offensive game otherwise. Possibly a Kenneth Faried light type of player, he could be drafted near the end of the second round.
Other big men outside of the lottery with potential that haven’t shown the same promise as rim protectors include: Adriean Payne, Mitch McGary, Patrick Young, Johnny O’Bryant, Nikola Jokic and Dwight Powell. The 7-footer Artem Klimenko has been playing in the Russian second division and could be a mid to late second round pick.
If Ujiri wants to use one of his picks on a player that could develop into a rim protector, he has possibilities throughout this draft. The large number of European-based players suggests a draft and stash option could also be in the Raptors plans.