The Toronto Raptors may be making a franchise-altering decision next Thursday at the NBA Draft. With Fred VanVleet already opting out of his contract and preparing for a rich payday in free agency, Gary Trent Jr. may do the same thing. In some quarters, it’s believed Toronto will lose both guards creating a huge hole in the team’s backcourt.
But, armed with pick 13 at the 2023 NBA Draft there are several guards that could fill any hole potentially created at the guard spot. If two of the three free agents, particularly the guards, leave, Baylor’s Keyonte George or Indiana’s Jalen Hood-Schifino could be solid replacements for the Raptors at the Draft.
The Raptors have struggled with their perimeter shooting and need to add more consistency to that element of their game. In 2023, the Raptors shot the 3-ball at 33.5, giving them the third-worst percentage in the association. Only OG Anunoby and Trent, receiving significant playing time, hit the long-range shot above 35%.
Can one of these two help fix that?
Will the Toronto Raptors draft Jalen Hood-Schifino, Keyonte George?
George could help in this category regardless of whether VanVleet or Trent is still in a Raptors’ uniform after July 1. George averaged 15.3 pts per game. It must be noted that he took the tough shots, showed an ability to be clutch, and showed deep range on his outside shooting.
If the Raptors, under new head coach Darko Rajakovic, can find a way to get George catch-and-shoot situations, he could become a steady scorer off of the bench. The 6-4 guard may be a little inconsistent at the defensive end, but does show good lateral quickness at that end of the floor.
A facilitator of offense is what the doctor ordered for the Raptors’ anemic half-court offense.
Another area of concern that Rajakovic will need to fix is who is the man facilitating offense for the Raptors. VanVleet did average 7.2 assists per game in 2023.
This might drive the Raptors toward Hood-Schifino. Slightly bigger than George, JHS averaged 13.5 points per game. He only averaged 3.7 assists per game, but he has shown a knack for being effective in pick-and-roll scenarios and has highlight-reel passes that belie his numbers.
Rajakovic has authored articles on the evolution of pick-and-roll offense and may appreciate a player like Hood-Schifino more than the previous Raptors’ coaching staff.
The Raptors should also appreciate Hood-Schifino’s efforts at the defensive end of the court. The 6-5 muscular guard has more girth and strength than most rookies being considered in the Draft. He can be a versatile defender.
The knock against Hood-Schifino is he excels in the mid-range and isn’t really a 3-point shooter at this juncture.
While only Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri know what their negotiations with VanVleet and Trent have been like, and both are usually very quiet about moves they plan to make, the Raptors roster is flawed as is.
Regardless of who stays and who goes via free agency, the Raptors need to turn the 13th pick at the 2023 NBA Draft into a usable member of the roster. Both George and Hood-Schifino have flaws in their game currently, but what’s a bigger need? Is it shooting or someone to run the offense?
If you are in the camp of this is Barnes’ team going forward, then Barnes needs to be given the reigns to run the offense, and Thursday’s draft choice becomes an easy decision. The Raptors should draft George.