The Toronto Raptors were completely displaced by the pandemic, having to leave their home and fortress of Scotia Bank Arena in order to accommodate their ability to play games and eliminate international travel.
Essentially playing 72 road games in 2020-21…with home ‘fans’ often more hostile than the road ones…in addition to being decimated by the virus internally and having to occasionally field rosters with benches of essentially nothing…they still found themselves in the hunt for a play in opportunity until they faded again late in the year from, what essentially amounts to, visible fatigue.
So, they are put in a fairly unique situation, hampered by injury, illness, and situation but still feel like the core of this team can very much compete with the East and be a perennial ‘contender’.
Whether that means being a force or Final’s threat is yet to be seen, but it isn’t exactly in Raptors President Masai Ujiri’s nature to field a roster that isn’t at the very least competitive. Having been gifted fourth pick by the cosmic force that is ping-pong balls…moving up from 7th to 4th in the lottery…gives the lone Canadian franchise an opportunity to add a high-end talent to a core that already includes lots of youth and budding prospects.
The Raptor’s current definitive core consists of Point Guard Fred VanVleet, and Forwards OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam. Kyle Lowry would definitively be a part of that but is a free agent and his future is not clear. There is then a list as long as your left arm of young talent who could make the leap to the clear-cut top-end player but are still very much on the bubble and could be moved should the right opportunity arrive.
Players like Gary Trent Jr, Chris Bouchard, Khem Birch, and Malachi Flynn are all interesting players who have the ability to contribute and could be difference-makers. It’s worth remembering it wasn’t so long ago that VanVleet, Anunoby, and Siakam were all in this category as well.
The Raptor’s situation is made even more unique when considering this draft in its context. At four, the Raptors are in a situation where they do not control their destiny in terms of who falls to them, but, among the group of high-end players in this draft someone will fall to them and they likely will be happy with whoever it ends up being.
Looking at this class, the only prospect that seems 100% off the table for the Dino’s is Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham. It’s hard to imagine the consensus number 1 falling out of that top spot let alone twice more after that.
However, beyond that, there seem to be plenty of combinations of events leading to any of the rest of the field being available to them at four.
But who is the best? Well. There is a case for each of the top guys being a strong fit for the Raptors.