Raptors juggle risk/reward with #20 draft selection

I’ve been cautioning readers not to expect a big contribution next season from whomever the Toronto Raptors select at #20 in the June 25 NBA Draft. [20-second timeout: my colleague Kevin Nimmock raises the interesting possibility of the Raps trading “up” for a better selection, perhaps in the lottery. I’d be surprised at such a move. Masai Ujiri certainly isn’t shy about making gutsy deals, but those kinds of transactions are fiendishly complicated, and very rare as a result. I wouldn’t do it this year anyway, as the rankings from #13 to #25 are all over the place. In other words, once you’re past the top 4 selections, there’s little excitement, and no consensus. I’ve heard chatter about the Los Angeles Lakers being willing to trade their #2 selection. I suspect that’s press-created noise, of which there’s plenty pre-draft, and I’m not buyin’ it.]

Mar 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (23) shoots against Wisconsin Badgers forward Duje Dukan (13) during the first half in the finals of the west regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

But we’re Raptors fans and therefore optimists by nature, so here’s a post discussing some of the late-selection gems NBA teams have enjoyed in the last few drafts. Finding superior talents like Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert and Isaiah Thomas is wonderful job insurance for General Managers and scouts. Conversely, if you pass on Stephen Curry to select Ricky Rubio, then Jonny Flynn (welcome to the worst night of ex-Timberwolves GM David Kahn’s life), unemployment is sure to follow.

Can the Raptors find a starter-grade player at #20? Sure, it’s possible. Of all the players we’ve looked at so far in our series of potential draftees, the two with the highest risk/reward potential are Robert Upshaw and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Upshaw possesses huge talent and physical gifts, but his maturity is questionable, to put it kindly. His inability to steer clear of negative influences appears certain to cost him dearly. Hollis-Jefferson doesn’t appear to have any personal issues dogging him, and has an NBA-ready body and wingspan. BUT (notice that was a big BUT) Rondae has woeful shooting technique, and can’t play on my NBA team, except perhaps off the bench as a defensive stopper. However, we’re postulating semi-miraculous starters from late picks here, not rotation players.

If Masai grabs either of these prospects when it’s our turn on the podium, you’ll know these things have already occurred:

  1. All the players he really wanted are already gone.
  2. He couldn’t find a partner on whom to dump the pick; to trade out of the draft in effect, as we have no second-rounder.
  3. He’d rather take a risk than choose a “safe” selection halfheartedly.
  4. He’s comfortable he has the resources to mitigate the selection’s drawback.

We’re not finished our look at the Draft by any means. Please continue to send me your favourite players, and I’ll take a look at them.