As the NBA has become more global, selecting international players in the draft has become less of a developmental lottery ticket and more of a way to build a championship team. With Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka all have prime roles on the Toronto Raptors’ first title team, Masai Ujiri and this organization know all about the talent on display outside of North America.
Europe has been a particularly fertile proving ground for NBA talent over the last few decades, and while there are prospects like Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba that will go in the first round, there are some studs that the Raptors could select with one of their two second-round picks in this class.
Moving up for one of these three might be a necessity, as some of them have impressed in pre-draft workouts. The Raptors could use more players that start of in the 905 developmental ranks and end up emerging as key contributors.
These 3 prospects could be ideal second-round targets, as all of them have the potential to emerge as contributors at the NBA level quicker than some players who could be picked around that range.
3 European prospects the Toronto Raptors could use.
3. Vrenz Bleijenbergh, SF, Antwerp Giants (Belgium)
One of the more interesting first-round picks of last year’s draft was the Thunder bringing Aleksej Pokusevseki, a seven-foot guard/forward amalgamation that didn’t even crack 200 pounds, to Oklahoma City. If the Raptors want to add a positionless unicorn of their own this year, they could draft one of the finest Belgians in the world in Bleijenbergh.
Bleijenberg has a limited sample size of EuroCup games to lean on, but averaging 9.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game right before he turned 20 years old is impressive production for his age. With the handles and shooting of a guard, the height of a center, and the moves of a small-ball forward, Bleijenbergh has plenty to offer Toronto.
Vrenz Bleijenbergh is an enticing athletic package for the Raptors.
Bleijenbergh could take a while to get going, as he is barely over 200 pounds despite his 6-11 frame. Staying that skinny is going to be a problem in the pros, and the idea of forcing him to bulk up and play inside the arc more than he did in Belgium is still on the table. He may have to start his career in the G League.
After workouts with teams like Sacramento, San Antonio, and a scheduled one with New Orleans on the 17th, the league has shown that they are receptive to Bleijenbergh’s style of play. If any franchise can figure out what position he is best at and mold a plan of attack to accentuate that, it’s Toronto.