This might not be the worst season for the Toronto Raptors to be bad. The 2021 NBA draft is loaded with talent and the Raptors might have to start asking themselves some questions.
With our hopes of contention slipping to hopes of a playoff berth and now leaning towards…what? Being better than the Cavaliers? The 8th seed? Our beloved Toronto Raptors haven’t started a season this bad since 2012. Remember that? Remember when the brightest light in our lives was Andrea Bargnani’s wobbly arms?
While this 2-6 start has understandably got the fanbase down in the dumps, there may be a silver lining to a year spent slogging through the slums of the NBA. The Toronto Raptors just have to be smart about it.
The Raptors’ woes have been severe enough to warrant talks of blowing the team up, trading our core, and starting again from square one. First, let me say that throwing away pieces right now is a great way to lose credibility.
Trading NBA players work similarly to stocks in that you want to buy low and sell high. In our case, we are very very low right now. Does that mean we should never consider a world where we shop some of our guys around? No. But now is not the time to work that market. We’d be getting fifty cents on the dollar if that, and I don’t care what direction you want to take the team that’s just a bad business decision.
Also, it doesn’t look like we need to make any roster changes to be bad. We don’t need to be proactively losing games, we’re doing that just fine on our own.
Just One Year
Ok, now just because we aren’t actively trying to be bad doesn’t mean we need to worry about short-term improvement. 2021 is a good year to slip into the Draft Lottery, and I’d rather get one of those juicy rookies than swing for a C+ level season. The 2021 Draft is set to be strong and top-heavy. With potential All-Star talent practically serving itself up on a silver platter.
What this iteration of the Toronto Raptors is, is a great supporting cast without an offensive focal point. Without a star. That kind of top-level talent is the most difficult thing to find in this league, and while we were able to trade for it in the Kawhi deal, that was a once in a lifetime move that we shouldn’t bank on winning us more titles in the future.
One would first think about trying to sign a star free agent. But then you realize that every All-NBA guy who’s good enough to vault the team into the Finals mix is either tied up in a long-term contract, young and on the up-and-up, or named Kawhi Leonard (and just like your ex-girlfriend, Kawhi is not coming back).
So if we can’t trade for this guy and we can’t sign this guy how do we get him? Well, the last option is the draft. The fickle, unpredictable, unreliable, unforgiving, NBA Draft.
Building your team around the hope that the lottery odds will fall in your favor is a risky gamble, but for a team on the other side of the hill, it’s better to get the fall over with now rather than endure a slow and painful descent through the myriad marshes of mediocrity to the bellowing bog of the bottom.
We have the talent on our roster for a quick turnaround. We’re a piece here, a signing there, and an identity away from being back in the fold, we just need that centerpiece.
The Loaded 2021 Draft Class
If we continue to suck (and we do suck) we will have a lottery shot at one of the most loaded draft classes to come along in years.
The top of the 2021 NBA Draft is stacked with potential Raptors cornerstones. If these guys were eligible, they would’ve gone lottery this year. That’s how good they are.
The consensus #1 pick on most draft boards is Oklahoma State’s, Cade Cunningham. Cunningham is a 6 feet 7 point-forward with a smooth handle, a reliable stroke from three, and top-tier athleticism. I’ve done some scouting on this guy and let me just say, he’s incredible. He embodies the best parts of DeMar DeRozan, minus the quirks and lack of shooting.
Cunningham’s athletics and potential as a scorer is great, but my favourite part about his game is his decision making. He walks that remarkable line in that he’s a pass-first guy who can recognize when the best play is for him to put his head down and score. This man is not dropping below #2 in this draft so we’ll need some luck to get him, but if we can then there’s nobody better to lead our team back to the top.
The next lottery standout the Raptors should target is Evan Mobley. Mobley would fix our problems in the frontcourt, rebounding and at-rim finishing. Comfortably 7-feet with a 7’4 wingspan, Mobley has that old-school post-scoring big man mentality but does it with a modern flourish. He knows how to use his impressive body but he’s much more of a finesse big man than a lumbering bruiser. I’ll go as far as to say his balletic scoring down low is reminiscent of Kareem. I don’t like to speak The Captain’s name in vain, but there you go. Combine that with a developing long jumper and 3+ blocks a game and Mobley looks like a superstar in the making.
One last guy with superstar potential is G-League Ignite prospect Jalen Green. While Cade Cunningham’s boasts sneaky athleticism, Green’s athletic abilities are by no means sneaky. Downright bombastic if you ask me.
The man is your classic uber-bouncy, iso-scoring, bigger 2-guard, described as part of the Kobe Bryant/Vince Carter mold (I’m not saying he’s Kobe or Vince but he shows some similarities). Do you know how Anthony Edwards has all this raw ability but isn’t really a basketball player? Jalen Green is that same ability honed and polished and focused. He’ll dunk on you and your family.
Let’s face facts,
We’re not a good team anymore. In reality are we as bad as we’ve looked through 7 games? Probably not. But why would we want to bust our humps to be the 7th or 8th seed? We’re one big piece away from being strong again, but we need to take a swing to acquire that piece.
We’re not kidding ourselves with fantasies like the Knicks, we’re not shamelessly tanking like the 76ers, we’re punting this shortened, fanless, homeless, life-sucking season so that when we return to The North beaten and bloody it will be with a promise of a better tomorrow.
Grit your teeth Raptors fans, it’ll be worth it one day. I know it will.