The Toronto Raptors draft plans will likely include drafting a big man at some point, as signing Khem Birch and Freddie Gillespie, despite how effective they have been, in no way solves the cavernous hole that remains in this roster. If Masai Ujiri wants to add through the draft, look for him to target Illinois center Kofi Cockburn.
Cockburn and point guard Ayo Dosunmu might’ve been knocked out in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, but this inside-outside duo led the Fighting Illini to a top-three national ranking and a No. 1 seed. On a team that loved to push the pace, Cockburn had to solidify the paint on both sides of the floor.
Cockburn averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last year while shooting 63% from the floor. Given his 7-0, 285-pound frame, which may actually be closer to 300-pounds, and Greek God-like arms, he is spending most of his time down in the low post, ramming right through the breastbone of anyone who dares to challenge him.
After Dosunmu confirmed that he was declaring for the NBA Draft after his junior year, Cockburn followed him as a sophomore, though he is still maintaining his college eligibility. If he sticks around and remains intent on going pro, he could find a home north of the border.
Toronto Raptors draft: Kofi Cockburn Strengths
When you’re 300 pounds, it doesn’t matter who is D-ing you up. They will be in for a battle. Cockburn will throw his weight around in the post, and he is becoming a much more efficient finisher in the paint. A great rebounder that is an immovable wall as a screen-setter, Cockburn blends the mentality of a throwback center with the athletic ability of someone much slimmer.
On defense, Cockburn made a huge leap over the course of his second season in Champaign. His post footwork is much improved, as is his ability to protect the rim. He won’t run the floor like Allen Iverson, but he can move well for his size. His double-double potential is ultimately what will be his meal ticket.
Toronto Raptors draft: Kofi Cockburn Weaknesses
Cockburn is only a threat within six feet of the basket. If he gets the ball in his hands outside of that area, defenders might as well back away, as he is a complete non-factor. If the only move he’ll come to the NBA with is backing down bigs and finishing blocks, he’s going to have a very rough time in the pros.
Cockburn is not a great shot-blocker for his size, and since he lacks a ton of defensive versatility, being able to block shots should be the best arrow he has in his quiver. Against teams that like to push the pace and play small, a number growing with each passing year, Cockburn would get attacked relentlessly.
How would Kofi Cockburn fit on the Toronto Raptors?
Cockburn is a very limited player, both in the short and long-term due to his one-dimensional playing style, meaning that he will likely require time in the G League to slim down just a tad, work on running the floor in the high-octane modern NBA, and expand his offensive game beyond just dunking the ball.
Having said that, Birch is on this team because he provides muscle, rebounding, and interior finishing. If the Raptors are sold on Cockburn’s potential in that regard, he could potentially be tabbed by Ujiri as the next backup center behind whomever he signs to beef up their roster in the offseason.