There is a lot of buzz about Lottery Draft Picks being available in this year’s NBA Draft and the Raptors started making noise about the desirability of drafting a Canadian player last year, so is this the year President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri should look to trade up?
Andrew Wiggins is expected to go top three, Nik Stauskas looks like a mid-lottery pick and Tyler Ennis is probably gone before the Raptors can pick at 20. There will be Canadians available in the second round, but that wasn’t what Ujiri was talking about even if Melvin Ejim, Khem Birch, Dwight Powell and Jordan Bachynski are all prospects with potential.
The opportunities for acquiring another first round draft pick are real. Half of the teams picking in the lottery have multiple first round draft picks, so draft day deals are a distinct possibility – even a likelihood – plus the Cavaliers and the Kings are rumored to be shopping their coveted lottery picks. As always, it will come down to price and the main obstacle to trading first round draft picks has always been teams falling in love with the guy they believe is available.
The Cavaliers would like to be a playoff team next year and any deal that could make the postseason a certainty will have their interest, but the price for a first overall draft pick is going to be chokingly high. In the Raptors case, even their All-Star DeMar DeRozan might not be enough to get a deal done on his own. Another tempting Raptors asset is their rapidly developing center Jonas Valanciunas, but moving either of these players would represent taking a step back next season in the hopes of moving forward in the future.
What Is the Canadian Andrew Wiggins Worth To The Toronto Raptors? The answer is undoubtedly a lot, but it’s more likely the Cavaliers will want more than even the Raptors can choke down on.
Stauskas looks to be a top 10 selection in the draft and the Kings (8) and the Hornets (9) might just be tempted to trade their pick for a more NBA ready player that could help them win now. The obvious player on the Raptors to dangle would be Terrence Ross. After moving into the starting unit last December, Ross showed he could be an effective part of a winning team and his 51 point game set his future potential at a level no one saw coming. Stauskas has all the tools to quickly become a great NBA scorer, however, he was also a blow-by candidate in college and should be expected to struggle mightily at the defensive end of the court next season and beyond. Ross just seems to be the better fit in Toronto under Coach Casey than Stauskas, but this is a move that at least seems to be possible.
If Toronto could acquire Stauskas for a combination of their 20th pick and future draft picks like the 2016 Knicks first round pick or second round picks, this idea would quickly get a lot more palatable.
There are those who believe Ennis will still be on the board when the Raptors pick at 20, but with so many teams holding two draft picks before the Raptors can select, it is near impossible to judge who will be selecting ahead of Toronto and what their needs will be. Teams with a second draft pick before the Raptors get their chance include 76ers (10), Magic (12), Celtics (17), Suns (18) and Bulls (19). The sheer quantity suggests a deal is going to get done before Toronto can pick at 20. Ennis is a solid prospect, but Toronto can’t plan on the young point guard still being on the board when they pick.
Toronto faces another issue with Ennis. The team intends to re-sign both Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez in order to maintain the base of the team that won a franchise best 48 games last season and was on a 54 win pace after the Rudy Gay trade. Ujiri’s comments aside about how free agent plans do not affect the draft, it is hard to see Toronto taking a point guard with the 20th pick while not having any minutes available to develop the player. (And, the Raptors have brought in at least half a dozen very athletic point guard prospects who are expected to be available at the end of the second round or in free agency after the draft.)
If Toronto really wants Ennis, he will not be drafted so far away from the 20th pick that a draft day deal to acquire him will not be possible or completely unreasonable. The point guard just doesn’t seem to be an easy fit with how the roster is expected to be constituted this fall. Ujiri will find himself under the gun if Ennis is still on the board at 20 and his real goal was to pick up one of big forwards he’s been taking a hard look at in the pre-draft workouts?
This year is unique in Raptors history, never have so many promising young Canadians been available in the draft. Unfortunately, this is one of those unusual June’s when Toronto doesn’t hold a lottery pick and has a core the management, players and the fans can get excited about and argue should be kept together. Toronto expects to be a solid playoff team next season and it’s been a long time since that was true.
Wiggins is worth almost any price except missing the playoffs next year which probably means a deal doesn’t get done. Stauskas may be in reach, but it will depend on the price and there is a real question of fit with the defensive-minded Coach Casey. Its possible Ennis is still on the board at 20, more it’s likely that the young point guard falls far enough that Ujiri could cut a reasonable deal to nab him on draft day. With Ennis, the question is fit. If the Raptors believe Lowry and Vasquez re-sign in July, bringing Ennis on board as the third string point guard doesn’t make a lot of sense.
With so many teams holding multiple first round draft picks, a number of teams looking to improve faster than they can by adding another rookie (or two or three) and teams with star players that seem to need a deal, GMs are going to be busier than usual. If Ujiri wants to get involved, he should be able to find a trading partner, however, it’s going to be hard to keep his core together and move up to grab one of the top Canadians in a deal that makes sense.