Grade the Pick: Raptors don't panic, draft perfect fit in high-upside wing

The Toronto Raptors selected Baylor wing Ja'Kobe Walter with the 19th pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, and he looks like the perfect fit for their roster long-term.
Ja'Kobe Walter, Adam Silver, 2024 NBA Draft
Ja'Kobe Walter, Adam Silver, 2024 NBA Draft / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors entered the 2024 NBA Draft with a need to find players who can fit around Scottie Barnes and Immanuel Quickley. They have a number of other talented players, but everything they do moving forward has to make sense with Barnes and Quickley as the centerpiece.

That means finding shooting to space the court around Barnes and perimeter defense to play next to Quickley. RJ Barrett is a strong tertiary shot creator and a decent defender, but he is not an ideal role player to fit in with those stars.

The Raptors may have found that player with the No. 19 pick of the 2024 NBA Draft. They used the pick on Texas native and Baylor student Ja'Kobe Walter, a player who makes so much sense on the Raptors that he was linked to them again and again over the draft cycle.

The Toronto Raptors select Ja'Kobe Walter

Winning an NBA Championship requires players that fit into different roles. You need your Nikola Jokic or Kawhi Leonard, but you also need a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green. The Raptors just took a swing at filling that need, and from this perspective it certainly looks like they did.

Caldwell-Pope stands out as a comparison of note, as he was lauded as a top prospect and had a high usage rate in college at Georgia where he tried to create his own shot and score at a high rate. As his career went on, he settled into a role as an elite 3-and-D wing and has won two titles and counting as a starter.

That's the path for Walter, a player who came into his freshman season as a Top 10 prospect. He was clearly outmatched trying to be the No. 1 option for the Baylor Bears, and that led to a lot of turnovers and bad shots, often pull-up jumpers in the face of tough defense.

Projected into a smaller role, however, and suddenly Walter's strengths rise to the forefront. He has a smooth 3-point shot and elevates when he shoots, and he can shoot as both a spot-up option and coming off of screens and handoffs. On defense he plays with passion and intensity and will dive for loose balls and fight for rebounds. He has a long, 6'10" wingspan and is adept at reading passes and picking them off.

Walter doesn't have the ball-handling ability to be a driver of offense as the advantage creator, but he does have enough handle and passing ability to attack closeouts or against rotating defenses out of position. Having a player with Walter's skillset as the fourth option on the team is an insane luxury.

The draft thus far was a wild one, with a slow, chalky start suddenly giving way to chaos. The Minnesota Timberwolves mortgaged their future to trade up and draft Rob Dillingham, getting fleeced by the Spurs with the same pick they plucked from the Raptors.

Meanwhile, high-scoring wing Dalton Knecht fell all the way to the Los Angeles Lakers at pick No. 17, while the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat both reached to secure backup centers in Zach Edey and Kel'el Ware, respectively.

It would not have been surprising for the Raptors to look to move up when players high on their board were being drafted to ensure they got someone they liked. Instead, they stood pat and landed someone high on their board and who fits extremely well with their stars.

When the Raptors came on the clock with the 19th pick, the highest player on our final Big Board was Ja'Kobe Walter, ranked No. 13, one spot ahead of Kyle Filipowski. Either would have been a solid pick, with the Duke big man filling a need at center as a big who can dribble, pass and shoot and is underrated as a defender.

With Filipowski a possibility to fall to the 31st pick and the center position more secure with Jakob Poeltl in place, it made a lot of sense to go for the perimeter player. That Walter fits like a glove as a role player and boasts upside to grow into something more is icing on a very delicious cake.

It may be that Walter's shot remains average and he struggles to move into a smaller role, but more likely he will find a way to excel and be a strong candidate to start in the next few seasons for the Raptors. This was an excellent pick for Masai Ujiri and company.

Grade: A

7 Stars the Toronto Raptors missed drafting by a single pick. dark. Next. 7 Stars the Toronto Raptors missed drafting by a single pick