The Toronto Raptors have been one of the NBA’s best developmental teams since president Masai Ujiri took over the organization in 2013. Toronto routinely turns late draft picks into NBA contributors, and with the 29th pick in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft, the Raptors might want to take another upside, developmental player in Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Nnaji averaged 16.1 points on 57% shooting with 8.6 rebounds per game in his freshman season with the Wildcats. He led Arizona to a 21-11 record last year before deciding to enter his name in the draft pool to fulfill his basketball dream.
At just 19 years old, Nnaji still has lots of room to develop. He’s ranked at the 44th player in the 2020 NBA Draft by Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo who sees Nnaji as a work-in-progress pick.
“A physical rebounder who was effective as a freshman relying primarily on his soft touch and opportunistic scoring in the paint, Nnaji brings energy and a little upside, but his physical stiffness, lack of length and limited ball skills are somewhat concerning,” Woo wrote. “He’s a decent shooter who may be able to stretch the floor, but he doesn’t offer much else in terms of offensive growth potential right now, and he may not be able to live off putbacks in the same fashion. Nnaji also struggles to protect the rim and is a bit behind defensively, which may limit his ability to center competent lineups.”
The Raptors had a “great interview” with Nnaji, he said, and have spoken to his agent multiple times.
With such a late first round pick, it makes some sense for the Raptors to go with an upside player like Nnaji who could get some work in with the Raptors 905.
Nnaji, who projects as a versatile, forward, will certainly need to gain some weight and improve his shooting at the next level after shooting just 29.4% from 3-point range at Arizona. That’s something he knows and has spent much of the offseason working on, he said.
“I’ve been lifting a lot, getting stronger, doing a lot in the weight room, I feel stronger, feel quicker, in terms of lateral quickness, I feel quicker laterally than ever,” he said. “I think the biggest thing I’ve been working on is my shooting, I’m shooting the ball extremely well from 3, from mid-range, from everywhere on the court, I think I’m shooting the ball extremely well. I think teams are going to be shocked when they’re able to see me shoot the ball.”
With such a top-of-the-line development program already in place, the Raptors might want to take a chance on the former Wildcat big.