The next momentous event in the immediate future for the Toronto Raptors is the July 22 NBA Draft. The organization is armed with three selections it could use to stock its roster at fourth, 46th, and 47th overall, putting them in a perfect position to draft a player like German center Ariel Hukporti.
The hope is the Raptors use the fourth pick to fill the giant hole they have at the five-spot and acquire a center like Evan Mobley. Still, there are three teams ahead of Toronto at the draft, and it may not be possible to move up, trade for, or select Mobley.
Toronto could draft the German Hukporti, a seven-footer recently playing in the LKL for Lithuanian side Nevezis Kedainiai, to help add some size and athleticism. There will be a steep learning curve that Hukporti will need to withstand, but there is plenty to get excited about.
The Toronto Raptors need frontcourt depth badly.
For most of 2021, the Raptors needed depth and talent in their frontcourt. Too often, a combination of OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam was miscast as the team’s primary power forward and center, respectively.
Late season signing Khem Birch is a free agent as of August 2, and the Raptors need to resign him. Signed to a two-year contract before this season with a team option for next season, Aron Baynes could also find himself a free agent should management opt-out of the second year.
Why is Ariel Hukporti a good fit for the Toronto Raptors?
Hukporti would be a great fit for the Raptors. First, they’re an aggressive defensive team on the perimeter, and what they lacked in 2021 was a shot-blocking and rebounding presence. Toronto was second-worst in the NBA at securing defensive rebounds at 32.1 per game.
Here is a video depicting him transitioning from defense to an offensive attack.
Hukporti could be the Raptors’ future last line of defense with his reach, wingspan, and shot-blocking ability. He makes it difficult for offensive players to pass over or around him, clogging up passing lanes. He averaged 1.2 blocked shots and 7.4 rebounds per game. His ability to track down offensive rebounds and finish offensive plays with put-back dunks is impressive.
Hukporti is essentially a man playing against boys in Lithuania despite his age. At just 19 years old, standing seven feet and weighing 250 pounds, he has a strong post-game with a reliable hook shot.
He uses his size and strength well but also is light on his feet with good footwork. While he isn’t necessarily a speed demon, he is coordinated enough to get up and down the floor. Hukporti can face up a defender and take them off the dribble with good ball-handling skills, and he can lead a fastbreak or go coast to coast with ease.
In 21 games this season, he averaged 23.5 minutes a game. Hukporti needs work on his long-range game as he took few three-pointers and made 27.7 percent of his attempts. Shot selection may also be a concern as he connected on only 41 percent of all his shot attempts.
In this video clip, you get to see how well Hukporti uses his size and can be a defensive disruptor even at seven feet tall.
However, the good vastly outweighs the bad with this center, and it’s hard to imagine why mock drafts project him getting selected in the second round. He looks like a late first-round pick, and very likely is hurt because his competition is deemed far inferior.
With that, Hukporti has three pro seasons behind him and has represented Germany at the 2017 FIBA U16 European Championship and in the 2019 FIBA U18 European Championship.
Regardless of what Toronto does with the fourth pick at the 2021 NBA Draft, there is no denying a center needs to be added to this roster. Hukporti could have an impact for years to come.