With a 7.5% chance at the No. 1 pick and the seventh-best odds overall, Toronto Raptors were crossing their fingers to move up in the 2021 NBA Draft. A big year as far as retooling goes for this franchise, landing a top pick is the first and most important step to rebuilding a playoff team.
Not everyone can be like the Lakers and overdose on Hall of Famers to sign with your team every couple of years. No, they had to be smart, strong, and a little bit lucky.
Well, tonight they got lucky. Leapfrogging the Thunder, Magic, and Timberwolves, Toronto vaulted from the seventh spot to land the No. 4 overall pick in the craft. This is the highest draft pick the Raptors had in 14 years, when in 2006 they landed Andrea Bargnani.
Raptors fans have to be happy to move up at all, but the fourth spot, in particular, is important to Toronto for a few reasons.
1. The Toronto Raptors moved into star territory in the 2021 NBA Draft
The 2021 Draft has a very defined top four before the quality of prospects drop off. There has been the same consensus four guys all year and really for much longer than even that. Those four are Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, and Jalen Green.
Cunningham has seduced every NBA media member under the sun with his passing and scoring ability at 6-7, Mobley shows the potential to be a unicorn style stretch five, Suggs is the best pure point guard in the draft, and Green has enough athleticism and scoring potential to warrant the hype.
There are four stars in this draft lottery. Raptors needed to move into that top 4 or 5 to land one of them, and the one thing our team is missing is a star. They didn’t need number 1, they just needed top 4, and they got it!
2. The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t need another young guard
Everyone has their own mock draft scribbled down, but most experts agree that the order should go like this; Cunningham, Mobley, Suggs, Green, then at pick five it starts to vary more.
The teams that landed the top two picks (Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets) are both too broken to worry about team fit yet. For them, they’re purely drafting the best man available and then building around him.
Detroit will take Cunningham and allow him to be awesome and run wild putting up empty stats as the team loses 50+ games next season. Same with Houston and Evan Mobley. Where it gets a little more interesting is with the Cavaliers and the third pick.
Cleveland doesn’t have much as far as a set future goes, but the one thing they don’t need more of are young, ball-handling, guards. The one light in the darkness that is the Cleveland Cavaliers is their potentially star backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.
So while most draft-heads would have Suggs going third in this draft, you have to think Cleveland would rather spend their top pick on something, anything else.
Green isn’t a bad option for Cleveland, but that means that all of a sudden, the Toronto Raptors are in line to nab the top point guard in the nation. The leader of a March Madness Finals team. A this-guy-will-not-fail type permitter playmaker with the skillset, physical tools, and leadership style that has drawn Damian Lillard comparisons.
The Raptors may have the fourth pick, but they’re in line to nab a top-3 talent.
3. Suggs allows the Raptors to sign-and-trade Lowry
If everything pans out the way it should, the Raptors will have a shiny new point guard next season. Someone who can be handed the car keys his rookie year and instantly compete with the other star guards in the East, but let’s hold our horses a bit.
We still have a summer full of question marks ahead of us, the most glaring of which is what’s going to happen with Kyle Lowry.
The six-time All-Star and undisputed Greatest Raptor of All Time, Lowry’s max contract expires this summer, and while the man will forever be loved by Raptors fans everywhere, it’s probably in the best interest of both parties for Lowry to be sign-and-traded.
If Lowry leaves, the question then became “who is our replacement gonna be?” Names like T.J. McConnell and Elfrid Payton were thrown around with a look of nausea, but the top point guard prospect on the planet just landed in our laps, so it looks like we have our answer.
With the issue of our backcourt more or less settled, that opens the floodgates for more accurate spins on the Lowry trade machine. Centers, forwards, wings, these guys are more easily pried away from contending teams. Ben Simmons anyone?
The 2020-21 NBA season sucked. It flat-out sucked. The Raptors played in Tampa, they were injured, they were hit with COVID, they lost, they lost again, but this is our reward right here.
Every team has to take its lumps sometimes, but it’s how we bounce back that defines us. The Raps built up good karma this year with all that not-egregiously-tanking and actually winning games sometimes (the same can’t be said for the other teams in the top 5), and this is our reward.