Sorry, Toronto. While we tried to speak it into existence, the Raptors did not sneak into the number one spot of the 2021 NBA Draft lottery. This means Cade Cunningham will not wear a Raptors uniform. Still, there is some good news here: considering the odds, the Raptors moving up to fourth is huge. This means one of Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, and Jalen Suggs will still be available for Toronto. And it’s worth mentioning that each of those players was at one time in the conversation as the potential number one pick.
On Tuesday night, the Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers crashed into the top-four range, pushing two of the four teams (the Magic and Thunder) out of their presumed spots up top. Our old friend Dwane Casey will now get the pleasure of asking Cade Cunningham to keep pounding the rock, with the Detroit Pistons landing the top overall pick.
The two times the Raptors picked 4th, it altered franchise history. First, Glen Grunwald picked up Antawn Jamison and immediately traded him for Vincent Lamar Carter and some cash for team facility renovations. The other? Chris Bosh, who had a solid run as a youngster with the Raptors. Say what you will about how both players left Toronto, that’s a lot of value in the fourth draft slot. Meanwhile, Toronto takes pride in its scouting and developmental programs, and the team has obviously found success finding diamonds in the rough in the latter part of the draft (or even in the undrafted pool).
Now we will likely get to see the Raptors do their magic on a high-level talent — which is quite exciting and hasn’t really happened since the last time the Raptors had a top-5 pick in 2011. But first, let’s review how things shook out in the lottery and make some predictions as to the likely outcomes in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Reading the Tea Leaves
#1 Detroit Pistons
The Pistons nabbing the top overall pick means the Raptors fanbase should forget about Cade Cunningham for now. Would Masai and Bobby entertain the thought of moving up for Cade? That would cost Toronto future picks, but it’s a risk assessment that the front office would evaluate for sure.
#2 Houston Rockets
The Rockets are still on the hook for John Wall’s massive contract. Their only real future building blocks are Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr., and Jae’sean Tate. On that note, there is some duplication between Wood and Evan Mobley positionally. Getting Suggs would be ideal if they can trade Wall and hand him the keys to the starting PG spot.
Meanwhile, Kevin Porter Jr is a combo guard that’s really a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. Despite that, the Rockets have successfully let him run the point on full game garbage time on their tanking season. Is there a trade that can be made to swap places between the Rockets and the Raptors? It seems doubtful if only because the Rockets need young talent to rebuild.
#3 Cleveland Cavaliers
Thanks to their tanking efforts, the Cavs have plenty of nice young pieces since LeBron James jilted them. We don’t need Brian Windhorst to say that having Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Suggs make sense. There’s also the Jarrett Allen situation — a literal centrepiece that the Cavs wanted to invest in as part of their core. Allen and Mobley might not be the best pairing in the immediate future. However, it might work if Mobley realizes his potential. However, the Cavs might trade out of this position, as Adrian Wojnarowski’s reported that the Cavs might be open to trading their pick to speed up their rebuild with the young core they already have in place.
The Raptors at #4
Keeping the pick is the safest bet for now — even though we don’t know how spots two and three will shake out. There are teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, with a huge war chest of draft assets, who are desperate to move up in the draft. Their whole season was predicated on the idea of getting a top pick, so ending up in fifth is far from ideal for them.
Following that train of thought, the Raptors can either move up or trade down. Of course, moving up would mean sacrificing future picks, and perhaps Malachi Flynn or Chris Boucher. The Raptors don’t have a lot of assets right now to move up, but if there’s a time to swing for the fences, this might be it.
Otherwise, the Raptors can take a step back. If there’s a guy that they like outside of the top four, maybe they can entice OKC (#6, 16,#18), Golden State Warriors (#7, #14), or Orlando Magic (#5, #8) to consolidate their picks/assets.
Another option for the Raptors is to dangle this pick for a win-now trade. Masai and Bobby can include that pick as part of a package to trade for, say, the Bradley Beals of the league, e.g. stars in a bad situation.
At the very least, the Raptors will have a chance to pick an excellent prospect. The favourites are, as noted: Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, and Jalen Suggs — and at this point, I also wouldn’t count Jonathan Kuminga and Scottie Barnes out.
As it stands, various online draft boards have now updated their selections based on how the lottery panned out. The consensus seems to be Jalen Suggs to the Raptors, based on him being the best player available. However, the Athletic’s Sam Vecenie’s updated board has the Raptors picking up Scottie Barnes. Next, the Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman gifted the Raptors with Jalen Green, assuming the Rockets will pick up Evan Mobley. In all, there are still a lot of variables to consider.
Change in Direction For Pre-Draft Workouts
Webster: “It’s a silver lining on a tough season but the work starts now.”
Bobby said they’ve already started scheduling pre-draft workouts, which Raptors will hold in Tampa over the coming weeks. Jump to 4 obviously means they’ll be looking at a few guys they didn’t plan to see
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) June 23, 2021
Based on Raptors GM Bobby Webster’s post-lottery presser, it looks like the Raptors planned their workouts based on their likely range, which was to be in the 7-8 spot. Now it’ll be interesting to see if the Raptors will work out Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, or Jalen Suggs — and who else they may consider.
The pre-draft workout lists that are made public may give us a sense of what the Raptors plan to do with their pick (e.g. whether they plan to trade up or down or stay the course with one of those above-noted names).
Next week, we’ll start looking at options at #4 and an updated consensus board.