ESPN’s NBA Mock Draft has Raptors making incredibly weird pick

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Peyton Watson #23 of the UCLA Bruins (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Peyton Watson #23 of the UCLA Bruins (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors are always willing to zig when everyone else zags. That unusual draft strategy is one of the main reasons that Pascal Siakam went from No. 27 overall to All-NBA and Scottie Barnes won Rookie of the Year. Masai Ujiri likely won’t completely throw that strategy in the trash in 2022.

The second round, specifically high in the second round, is the time to take gambles on quality athletes and eventually mold them into stars. Even if the college production was subpar, Ujiri is going to take a swing on him if he believes that Toronto’s coaching staff could help him reach his full potential.

Every year, a half-dozen 5-star recruits fall into the second round after failing to make a significant impact on their collegiate teams. The NBA Mock Draft predictors seem to think Ujiri will roll the dice on someone who never got out of first gear in his college career.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony had the Raptors taking UCLA wing Peyton Watson with the No. 33 overall pick in his NBA Mock Draft. Originally thought of as a potential Top 10 pick, Watson’s stock spun down the drain this season after struggling to find consistent playing time. Is he worth the risk after declaring early?

NBA Mock Draft: Will Peyton Watson get better with the Toronto Raptors?

Let’s not sugarcoat things. Watson was terrible last year. In 12.7 minutes per game, Watson averaged just 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while making 32% of his shots and 22% of his 3-pointers. From February on, Watson had six games in which he played fewer than 10 minutes. He wasn’t good enough for the Pac-12.

The Watson optimist would pin his struggles on UCLA head coach Mick Cronin. While Watson is listed as a wing, he found it too hard to leapfrog NBA prospect Johnny Juzang and quality starter Jaime Jaquez for playing time. He has some enticing guard skills, but he didn’t get to show them.

The value in Watson’s stock lies in his freakish athletic ability. A top-flight dunker with great speed and defensive versatility, the idea of what Watson could be seems like a player that Ujiri would typically get a ton of mileage out of.

Watson is a complete projection that will only have success at the NBA level if he lands with a team that invests a ton of time into making him a success. Toronto could be the team to do that, but it might be a hard sell considering how he would be their only draft pick.

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