The Toronto Raptors will only have a first-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft if they end up in one of the top six selections thanks to a trade with the San Antonio Spurs that is looking more short-sighted by the day. If they keep losing and end up in the top three, however, they could land a franchise player in an NBA mock draft.
The 2024 class is widely regarded as inferior to one of the best in recent memory in last year’s Victor Wembanyama-led parade. Two G League dynamos in gangly forward Matas Buzelis and premium wing athlete Ron Holland are regarded as the two best players, with very little separation beneath them.
The Raptors can’t be in a position to be too picky if they get a top pick, as they need to take the best player available. Toronto did that with Barnes, and they could land a similar player if they have a similar mindset.
In Tankathon’s latest simulation, Toronto, picking No. 3 overall in this exercise, would be using their first-round pick on Kentucky wing Justin Edwards. If the improved Scottie Barnes ends up being the player everyone believes he can be, the 1-2 punch between him and Edwards could set this team up for years to come.
There is some debate over who the best college player in this class is, as Edwards, USC point guard Isaiah Collier, and UConn shooter Stephon Castle all have a somewhat legitimate claim to that title. Edwards might win out based on raw athletic talent alone.
Some might groan at another 6-7 wing coming in, but Edwards differs in that he is a knockdown shooter with the best ability of anyone in this class when it comes to creating shots for himself. With the ball in his hands, Edwards displays guard-like court vision and scoring intuition with incredible verticality.
Defensively, Edwards can be a menace in the right scheme. Skilled enough to guard all three positions, Edwards will only improve as his freshman year at Kentucky drags on and he adds more weight. Of the top prospects, Edwards might best fit Masai Ujiri’s inflexible vision of roster construction.
With Dennis Schroder in town for one more year, a lineup featuring Schroder and Gradey Dick in the backcourt, Edwards and Barnes in the frontcourt and Jakob Poeltl at center could be quite fun. If Toronto can build a bench by trading away one of their star players, the long-term health of this franchise will be in pristine shape.