A case for building the Toronto Raptors like the Oakland A’s

(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Fred VanVleet (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Raptors have a recent history of players excelling beyond their initial value.

The A’s completely changed the course of Chris Hatteberg’s career. After surgery to his throwing arm, the A’s employed Hatteberg at first base, a far cry from his years of playing catcher. The move changed Hatteberg’s career arc and helped him remain in the league a lot longer than he assumed after the surgery.

What the A’s did was find a way to employ Hatteberg despite his injury struggles. The Raptors haven’t employed an injury-riddle player like this, but they have found pieces through the draft, or outside of it, that have exceeded expectations.

More recently, the Raptors employed Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam. VanVleet went undrafted out of Wichita State and Siakam went in the late first round, respectively. Both players have become much more valuable to the Raptors than perceived by the rest of the teams.

What made VanVleet and Siakam undervalued?

For VanVleet, an obvious knock was his size. Standing at six feet flat, he is much shorter than a typical NBA player. Despite this, VanVleet cut his teeth in the NBA by working his way into a system and manning a second unit. By doing so, he got to develop his skills to become a reliable player. Now, we’ll see what he can do when more of the load is on his back.

Siakam wasn’t necessarily undervalued–he went 27th after all–but he was passed over by a lot of other teams. Perhaps, his late start into the game of basketball led to this, but we’ve seen players succeed like that before; Hakeem Olajuwon famously didn’t start playing until he was 17 years old.

Siakam is a missing link from old evaluations to new evaluations; he, like many foreign players, will continue to be much more heavily scouted in the future. There are too many success stories coming from a myriad of countries that were once overlooked for basketball talent.

Beyond the confines of the U.S. lies a future undervalued player. Likewise, the upcoming free agency period, while not chock full of superstars may have an unnoticed star, who can alter the trajectory of a team unwittingly.