WINNING FOUR-MULA?: Raptors move up to No. 4 overall in NBA draft

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You easily could make the case the Raptors were owed this.

Not only were the Raptors forced out of their home market by the pandemic this past season, it interrupted them the season before when they were in peak rhythm.

Whey they returned to the court in July 2020 after the league shut down in March, they were anything but in rhythm.

Then this past season, playing the entirety of their season on the road — unless you were one of the few who believed Tampa actually gave the Raptors a temporary home away from home — they dealt with a player and coach outbreak of COVID and enough injury woes that even Nick Nurse’s creative juices were challenged coming up with a starting lineup on any given night.

Perhaps a potential franchise-altering talent or a potential trade for an established NBA talent that is now there can change all that, and that is exactly what the Raptors now have having moved up from the seventh best odds to earn the No. 4 overall pick in next month’s raft.

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Predictably, with all that going on the past season, the Raptors slipped into the draft lottery just two seasons after raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

The Raptors began the night with just the seventh-best opportunity to lock down the No. 1 pick with a 7.5% chance of securing the privilege of drafting consensus first pick Cade Cunningham of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys.

Moving up to fourth, they bucked the odds. The Raptors had just an 8.52% chance of getting that No. 4 pick.

Save a little credit for Fred VanVleet, a guy who had no need for the draft coming out of Wichita State and betting on himself all the way.

VanVleet was the Raptors’ representative on the draft lottery broadcast and his proved to be just lucky enough.

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The Raptors’ entire front office was together for the draft lottery in Chicago, where they are taking in this week’s Draft Combine.

According to general manager Bobby Webster, the whole group watched the lottery together at a Chicago pub.

“You can imagine it was incredibly stressful,” Webster said of the evening. “I guess the fun part of it was it went pretty quick so it wasn’t too agonizing. They get everything done there fairly quickly on TV. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Obviously you are in this position because the season wasn’t what you planned, but it’s also a silver lining as I said earlier.”

Webster confirmed team president Masai Ujiri, who has yet to agree to an extension with the team. remains very much at the forefront of the Raptors’ draft dealings, which should bring some relief to those fearing Ujiri won’t be back in his role as team president.

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As for the pick itself, Webster described the move from seven (where they began the night) to four as a meaningful one, but cautioned it has value as a trade piece too, and all options would be considered.

This year’s draft has a consensus top 4 with a dropoff after that group which makes Toronto’s lottery draft night performance all the more special.

Cade Cunningham, barring a real surprise, will be the No. 1 selection, a spot that the Detroit Pistons and former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey own.

If there’s a drop after four, there is also believed to be a drop between 1 and two in the draft, with Cunningham and his all-around game evoking the franchise-changer tag.

The next three picks though are also highly coveted with USC big man Evan Mobley, Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, and G-League Ignite guard Jalen Green all getting plenty of strong talk surrounding their own NBA futures.

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Should the Raptors go outside that group, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them take an interest in Baylor guard Davion Mitchell. He’s considered the best individual defender in the draft and at 22 one of the older players in the upper echelon of the draft, something that would fit in nicely with what the Raptors have done more recently on draft night.

The Raptors have not been this high in the draft since they selected Andrea Bargnani first overall in 2006.

Next-highest was Jonas Valanciunas fifth overall in 2011.

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Twice in their history, the Raptors have picked fourth, getting Chris Bosh in 2003 and eventually landing the man himself Vince (Air Canada) Carter in 1998 following a trade after initially selecting Antawn Jamison.

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The Raptors will be more than happy with another building block of that stature should he come their way in 2021.

There were a total of 1001 different four-ball combinations among the 14 teams in the draft lottery. The Raptors owned 75 of those. They had a 31.96% chance of securing one of the top four picks.

The most likely scenario would have had them pick eighth where they had a 34.11% chance of choosing.

In addition to the fourth pick secured Tuesday night, the Raptors also have two second-round picks at 46 and 47 in next month’s draft while will take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. on July 29.

mganter@postmedia.com

THE LOTTERY DRAFT ORDER

1. Detroit Pistons
2. Houston Rockets
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
4. Toronto Raptors
5. Orlando Magic
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
7. Golden State Warriors (from Minnesota)
8. Orlando Magic (from Chicago)
9. Sacramento Kings
10. New Orleans Pelicans
11. Charlotte Hornets
12. San Antonio Spurs
13. Indiana Pacers
14. Golden State Warriors

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