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TOR Leiweke & Ujiri

Will The Toronto Raptors Draft A Canadian Tonight?

Finally, in 2014, the stars may be aligned so Toronto can draft a Canadian basketball player. The Raptors hold draft picks at 20, 37 and 59 this year and President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has shown a lot of skill at the art of the deal, so if there is a player to be drafted he wants that doesn’t fit with his available selections, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he can pull off a deal to make it happen. When MLSE President and CEO Tim Leiweke arrived last spring, he made no secret of the fact he would like to see a Canadian playing for the Raptors.

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Canadians to keep an eye on at the NBA Draft include Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Ennis, Nik Stauskas, Dwight Powell, Khem Birch, Jordan Bachynski, Melvin Ejim, Sim Bhullar and Stefan Nastic.

The Likely Lottery Picks

1) Wiggins is expected to be drafted in the top three, possibly first overall and in general, those picks just don’t get traded. Usually teams had to tank pretty hard to secure that pick and there isn’t anything they want more.

Wiggins is a potential franchise player and Ujiri has to try and do a deal, but the chances of landing Wiggins is closer to fantasy than possibility – not that there hasn’t been a constant stream of rumors suggesting the Cavaliers pick is available.

2) Stauskas showed why going to the Draft Combine can be a good thing. He measured 6’6.5” in shoes and had a maximum vertical of 35.5”. The above average body fat measurement of 12.1 percent is a concern, but something a good NBA trainer can help him turn into muscle.  The shooting guard has an NBA ready skill, he averaged 44.2 percent from three-point range on 5.8 attempts per game last season. He is a wing that can score, however, Stauskas has been moving up the draft boards and is likely out of Ujiri’s reach now.

3) Ennis is expected to be a late lottery to mid first round pick depending on team needs which makes trading up to land the sure-handed point guard a possibility – there are even scenarios where he could fall past 20.  However, if the plan is to bring back Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez, – and that is the stated plan – then it would not make much sense to pursue Ennis.

Likely Second Round Draft Picks

4) Powell is expected to be a mid-second round draft pick and attending the NBA Draft Combine likely helped this Stanford senior. Powell measured out very well at 6’11” in shoes with a 7’0.5” wingspan and a maximum 35” vertical which helps his case at either the power forward or center spots and the solid three-point range he displayed as a junior suggests the possibly of becoming a stretch-four or stretch-five if his jump shot continues to improve.

5) The 6’9 Birch is a hustle big man expected to end up at the back end of the second round. His Combine measured 7’1” wingspan and 35.5” maximum vertical should make up for his height when playing power forward and possibly even center. Birch has limited offensive skills, but he was an excellent rebounder and one of the best shot blockers in college at 3.8 per game. The 21-year-old might just have the rim protecting potential that Ujiri has said he is looking for if he is still available at 59.

On The Bubble

6) At 7’2” in shoes, Bachynski was the tallest player measured at the NBA Draft Combine and at 24 years-old (25 before next season starts), he is likely the oldest player who could be drafted as well. The senior from Arizona State got markedly better in each of his four seasons. He has a 7’4” wingspan and decent speed and leaping ability for a big man and he used those attributes to average 4 blocks per game last year. He can rebound, defend and score at the college level, but the concern revolves around how much upside is left in him? His size and shot blocking ability should get him a hard look around the league.

Possible Undrafted Rookies

7) Ejim was the Big 12 Player of the year as he led Iowa State to the Big 12 Championship and the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. A 6’7” forward, Ejim has the size to play small forward in the NBA and over his four college seasons, he developed three-point range although his shooting remains a work-in-progress. As a 23-year-old that still has a lot of work to do on his skills, he probably doesn’t get drafted, but he is definitely worth a look. The tools are there and he is known as a hard worker.

8) If Bhullar wasn’t 7’5” tall with a linebacker body, he probably wouldn’t even get a mention, but you can’t teach height and this 21-year-old kid is a giant. As a sophomore at New Mexico State, he averaged 10.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks in 26.3 minutes. He might be too slow to play at the next level, but a GM would have to be crazy to not see for himself. A 59th pick in the draft wouldn’t be wasted on tying this kid up just to find out.

9) Nastic went to high school in Thornhill and could be considered either Serbian or Canadian, however, he is likely to be overshadowed by follow Stanford senior Powell during the draft process.

Based on the players available this year, it should be very easy for the Raptors to draft a Canadian if they want to. However, what Ujiri does at this draft is still very much up in the air.

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.