Latest injury news could lead to the perfect draft for the Toronto Raptors

Top NBA prospect Nikola Topic has suffered a partially torn ACL, which just might cause his draft stock to lower enough for the Toronto Raptors to scoop him up.
Nikola Topic, 2024 NBA Draft
Nikola Topic, 2024 NBA Draft / ALTAN GOCHER/GettyImages

In 2018, a highly-ranked prospect named Michael Porter Jr. was red-flagged due to back issues leading into the NBA Draft, causing him to slide all the way to the 14th pick, where the Denver Nuggets drafted him and landed a key member of their championship-winning starting 5. Just last year, Villanova wing Cam Whitmore received negative injury buzz prior to the draft and fell all the way to pick No. 20, then had a strong rookie season and would easily be a Top-8 pick if the draft happened again.

The Toronto Raptors themselves have experience with such a situation, as in 2017 they held the 23rd pick in the draft and watched as injured Indiana forward OG Anunoby fell all the way to them. Players like Creighton center Justin Patton, UCLA forward T.J. Leaf and Michigan center D. J. Wilson all went in the teens of that draft as Anunoby fell due to his injury. The rest is history, as Toronto landed one of the best two-way players from that draft class.

Fast forward to 2024, and the Toronto Raptors own the 19th and 31st picks in the draft, having surrendered the No. 8 pick to the San Antonio Spurs. There are a number of intriguing players they can consider in that mid-to-late first range, but the very best prospects in the draft seem out of reach.

Nikola Topic injury could cause him to slide

That certainly was the case until the recent news that Serbian guard Nikola Topic suffered a partially torn ACL in his knee. After missing much of this past season with a knee injury, Topic returned to his professional team for the playoffs only to re-injure the knee. The NBA is currently hosting a post-combine event in Italy for international players who couldn't attend the Chicago Combine as their seasons were not completed; at that event, medical testing revealed the partially torn ACL.

That could be a significant blow to Topic's draft stock, which had already taken a hit due to missing so much time with the injury. Having the official diagnosis allows Topic to pursue the best medical path forward, but it will also scare off a number of teams who don't want to take the risk of drafting an injured player or feel that they don't have the time to let him recover before ever playing a minute for their teams.

That fear could lead to a draft night slide for Topic, similar to Cam Whitmore last year. Not only will the injury scare off teams, but other draft prospects are having workouts, doing interviews and being discussed in the media, and those players are moving up team draft boards while Topic falls back down.

Topic was once in the mix at the top of the draft, but now many industry-informed mock drafts have players like Devin Carter, Tidjane Saluan and Kel'el Ware popping up into the Top 10, while Topic is starting to slip out.

The opportunity for the Toronto Raptors

The Raptors should be hoping that slide continues and pushes Topic all the way to them at pick No. 19. The 6'6" Topic is an electric point guard prospect, a truly elite ball handler and smooth passer with a strong shooting foundation and a high basketball IQ.

Before the Draft Lottery we put together a Raptors-specific Top 10 Big Board and Topic ranked second due to his size and skill combination. Teams are thriving with multiple ball-handlers who can handle, pass and shoot, and Topic could play alongside Immanuel Quickley in a highly-skilled backcourt.

Toronto is not (should not be) in a rush, so they can take the time to let Topic recover and ease him in slowly. They would obviously be taking a risk with Topic's knee injury, but any draft pick is a risk, and it's riskier to take a worse player and hope they develop into someone better than to take a player with Topic's proven level of skill and production and hope he recovers fully from an ACL injury.

Other NBA teams are smart, and one of them may still take a chance on Nikola Topic. If he follows the path of other injured prospects and slips down the draft board, however, the Toronto Raptors may get a chance at the perfect draft pick and knock a home run out of the park with the 19th pick.

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