A hot streak to close the 2022-2023 NBA campaign would see the Toronto Raptors climb into the top of the play-in bracket, with a chance to earn the No. 6 seed and cement their postseason status outright. A few losses strung together, and Toronto could just as easily see their playoff hopes snuffed out completely.
As these high stakes teeter back and forth, we cannot help briefly casting our attention toward a loaded NBA Draft. While Raptors fans hope for success, the franchise is still in need of an infusion of star power. Players like Scottie Barnes or OG Anunoby certainly have the potential to make the leap into the All-Star tier as the season closes.
Or, perhaps, Masai Ujiri and the rest of the front office will find their superstar via the draft pool.
While their draft slot will vary depending on how the season unfolds, there is one realistic prospect that Toronto would be wise to consider: Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr. Whether it be by trading up, or by his knee injury causing him to slip, here are three reasons why the Raptors should target Smith.
Toronto Raptors draft: Nick Smith Jr. is worth a trade.
The Shot Creation Skills
Smith is one of the best shot creators in this draft class. The freshman is a capable three-point shooter who would bring floor spacing and range to Scotiabank Arena.
Additionally, his greatest scoring skills come in his midrange abilities. Smith’s quick release makes him a nightmare off the dribble. This, combined with his deep package of floaters and driving shots gives him a dynamic scoring ability.
If developed well, the Arkansas star has drawn comparisons to three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner Jamal Crawford. If Smith were to hit his ceiling, he has drawn comparisons to stars like Miami’s Tyler Herro and Denver’s Jamal Murray. We’ll take that in the top 10.
The Fit in Toronto
This offense-first skill set would fit quite well with the Raptors’ current young core. Pascal Siakam has proven his worth as a scorer. As has Fred VanVleet to a lesser extent. Outside of that tandem, most of the Raptors’ key players are known more for their defensive skills and versatility.
An instant-offense player like Crawford or Herro could be an extremely valuable weapon for head coach Nick Nurse. Smith’s offensive firepower would bring balance to an already dangerous, young, lineup.
While his scoring skills highlight his draft profile, Smith also has useful secondary abilities. The combination of his quickness and 6-8 wingspan should give teams confidence that he could flourish as an on-ball defender.
Additionally, the combo guard’s ball handling and passing are each solid. While he’s best suited as a shooting guard, Smith does have the ability to serve as a competent secondary ball handler and floor general.
In all likelihood, drafting Smith would require the surging Raptors to trade up a few spots. Depending on the price/opportunity, this is not a dealbreaker. If Toronto believes in him, as a protected future first will need to be sent away.
However, it should also be noted that Smith’s freshman season has been limited due to a knee injury. This could cause a drop in his momentum and draft stock that Toronto should closely monitor.
It would be a win to draft Smith under most circumstances, but the opportunity to get him without trading up would be a best-case scenario for the Raptors.