Andrew Wiggins, an 18-year-old athletic phenomenon from Toronto, today was named the recipient of the Naismith Award as the best high school basketball player in North America. He is expected to pick a university, play for one year, then declare for the NBA draft in 2014. Andrew, a 6′ 8″ swingman, is the son of Marita Payne, a double silver-medalist in track at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and Mitchell Wiggins, who played in the NBA and Euroleague, so he comes by his athletic gifts honestly. I can’t think of another Canadian baller who has generated so much excitement at such a young age. Can Toronto Raptors’ management stick-handle its way to the top draft pick and add this potential superstar to our team?
We need to be clear-eyed about this: with the advent of the draft lottery, gaining the top pick is not guaranteed. The Raps could do everything right, but be foiled by ping-pong balls bouncing wrongly in a hopper. OK, we know and accept there’s risk, and yet we should still examine what “doing everything right” consists of.
First, let’s take a guess at our likely draft position following the ’13-’14 season. Our team is young, and still taking shape. Players like Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross will be expected to produce much more than they have been asked to in this, their rookie season. Assuming they step up, and players like DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay hold their ground or improve, the Raps will finish anywhere from #13 to #17 overall. Our chances of winning the lottery (assuming we are in the wretched thing) are therefore so slim as to be not worthy of consideration. That leaves us with two versions of the nuclear option, the first of which is to trade away all our veterans to bad teams and take back draft choices this off-season. If we could somehow grab 3 first-round picks from lottery teams, we’d have an excellent chance of one of those being magical. We fans would have to suffer through another miserable season, as we’d be rebuilding – again. The other nuclear option is similar, but occurs at the trade deadline next season. [20 second timeout: I suppose there's a third option, which is trading for Andrew after he's been drafted. If Andrew shows in college that he is indeed the second coming of LeBron James, fans of the team we get Andrew from will hang their general manager in effigy, if they can't find him in body. The third option is several degrees past far-fetched.]
The trade-deadline plan is our best choice, and it’s not a close decision. After his one-year college apprenticeship is complete, we’ll know how good Andrew truly is, and who the NBA’s likely lottery teams will be. Bryan Colangelo can then craft a package (I’m just spitballin’ here, but how about Kyle Lowry and our first-rounder in 2014 and -’15) which one or more basement dwellers can’t pass up. If we have 2 (dream on!) chances in the lottery as a result, we’ve got a shot.
I’d rate our chances of grabbing the #1 pick, even if we do as I’ve outlined, at less than 10%. But at least we’ve made the attempt. If we don’t try, our chances are nil. Andrew Wiggins might be a once-a-decade player, and he’s a Native Son. Bryan, you’ve got to try.
Brian Boake is a co-editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.