Now the real work begins for the Raptors after they caught some NBA lottery luck Tuesday night.
After a disjointed non-playoff year when they had to play “home” games in Tampa, the Raptors moved up three spots in the lottery and will have the fourth overall pick in next month’s draft.
It is a significant move for a team that missed the playoffs for just the first time in eight years, and opens a plethora of options.
“The value from seven to four — even if you look at it historically, whether it’s a player or trade — it’s meaningful,” general manager Bobby Webster said. “All of our options are open. As much as we would love the pick, we’re going to see what it yields outside of the draft.”
Many experts consider this to be one of the deepest draft classes in years, rife with teenaged prospects of varying skills and sizes.
Speculation will immediately centre on players such as G League Ignite guard Jalen Green, Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, Ignite forward Jonathan Kuminga or even perhaps USC big man Evan Mobley.
“It’s a silver lining on a tough season, but the work starts now,” Webster said. “For us, the jump from seven to four is meaningful. As far as franchise-altering, obviously it depends on the player and who gets selected and ultimately what the player becomes, but it does increase our odds here.”
And the Raptors have several roster holes to plug. They don’t currently have either an NBA-proven shooting guard or centre under contract and will start the season without Pascal Siakam, who had shoulder surgery earlier this month, or a backup to presumptive starting small forward OG Anunoby. But with a core that includes Fred VanVleet, Anunoby and Siakam, when he gets back, there is certainly a solid nucleus for a young player to join.
There will be ample speculation about what the “right” move might be for Webster and team president Masai Ujiri to make. The fourth pick will represent Toronto’s highest since they chose Andrea Bargnani first overall in 2006.
“We haven’t, fortunately, been in this position much in the past, and so for us it’s a great challenge,” Webster said. “It’s a great project for us to really dive into. From that perspective, I think less pressure and more challenge.”
The Raptors had vice-president of basketball operations Teresa Resch at the actual lottery drawing in Secaucus, N.J., and were represented by VanVleet for the broadcast portion of the event.
Webster, Ujiri and the rest of the team’s front-office staff watched on television from Chicago, where they are taking part in the league’s draft combine.
“We just literally watched at a local bar around the corner from where we were having dinner,” Webster said. “Nothing crazy.”
The Detroit Pistons won the draft lottery and the right to select presumptive No. 1 Cade Cunningham. The Houston Rockets wound up with the second pick, followed by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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