Raptors Mock Draft: Expert sees Toronto making inexplicable mistake with 31st pick

The Toronto Raptors will make the first pick of the second round, and prominent draft expert Jonathan Givony predicts them to make an inexplicable mistake.
Adem Bona, UCLA Bruins
Adem Bona, UCLA Bruins / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors hold all of the cards, and are feeling all of the pressure.

The first round of the 2024 NBA Draft wrapped up last night, with the Toronto Raptors nabbing Baylor wing Ja'Kobe Walter to bolster their perimeter defense and add shooting to a roster that desperately needs it. Now the attention turns to the second round, which kicks off at 4:00 PM ET today.

The Raptors hold the 31st pick in the draft, meaning they will draft first when the second round begins. Unless they decide to trade the pick, a very strong possibility given that teams will be very interested in trading up, the Raptors will get their pick of the litter of the available players.

That's a strong position to be in, as a number of players expected to go in the first round of the draft fell and are still on the board. The three biggest needs for the Raptors are for more shooting, a backup point guard and a backup center. All three of those needs can be met by the top 5 players remaining on the board.

ESPN mock draft has the Raptors making a massive mistake

One of the most locked-in and hard-working draft analysts in the business is Jonathan Givony, founder of Draft Express and currently ESPN's lead NBA draft expert. Along with Jeremy Woo, ESPN published a Round 2 mock draft to project what teams will do in today's draft. That includes who the Raptors will take with the 31st pick.

ESPN mocked a big man to the Raptors, a perfectly reasonable thing to do. The Raptors surely considered taking a center with the 19th pick, with Duke's Kyle Filipowski, Baylor's Yves Missi and Dayton's DaRon Holmes all on the board. They went for a wing instead, one who fits like a glove, but the good news is that Kyle Filipowski fell and is still on the board. Originally No. 14 on our final Toronto Raptors Big Board, it would make perfect sense to add the skilled big man at pick 31 and represents incredible value.

Instead, Givony and Woo projected the Raptors to draft Adem Bona, a center prospect out of UCLA. There is certainly a great legacy of big men to come out of UCLA, from the late great Bill Walton to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Mark Eaton and Kevin Love. Bona, however, doesn't not project to make anyone remember his deeds in the NBA.

To his credit, Bona is a high-energy big, with a good motor who relentlessly attacks the glass and loves to seek out blocks. He has enough mobility that in time he should be able to both defend the paint and survive when switched out onto the perimeter.

On offense, however, Bona looks like a newborn colt. He can't dribble - at all; if he has to put the ball on the court for any reason, the other team is nearly guaranteed a steal. He has poor hands, so while he has the athleticism to be a lob threat he has a small catch radius is essentially useless in traffic. He has no passing touch or vision, so if he gets the ball inside he's going to just throw up a shot and hope for the best. His touch as a shooter is nonexistent; he can't finish in traffic, with no bag of floaters or hook shots, and he can't shoot anywhere outside of the paint. He hit just 57 percent of his free throws.

Bona has the size, athleticism and defensive ability to be an NBA player, but he has years of development merely to reach a level on offense where he could see the court. The Raptors have seen up close how a lack of skill on offense has hindered Jakob Poeltl from being more of an impact player, and Poeltl is light years ahead of Bona.

The Raptors have much better options

Kyle Filipowski is such an obvious pick if the Raptors want to go with a big man that it's painful to consider passing on him, a modern big man whose offensive skillset would pair beautifully with Scottie Barnes, to instead take a player whose concrete hands and complete lack of skill would set offensive basketball back 50 years.

ESPN mocked Adem Bona to the Toronto Raptors ahead of the first round in their final full 2024 NBA mock draft, a move that would have been more understandable when Filipowski, Kolek and Furphy were no longer on the board. To make the move now in light of that value falling to them would be a disaster.

Perhaps the Raptors see something in Bona and want to prioritize rim protection. Perhaps the pick of Bona here is because Givony expects another team to trade up. The Raptors obviously could go with Tyler Kolek or Johnny Furphy with the pick instead.

Taking Bona, ranked 41st on our draft board, ahead of Filipowski, ranked 14th, would be an inexplicable mistake. The Raptors have struggled with the center position, getting fleeced by the San Antonio Spurs in the Jakob Poeltl trade and handing Poeltl a lucrative long-term deal, having Jontay Porter kicked out of the league and Christian Koloko forced to retire from basketball for medical reasons. They have an opportunity to turn that around on Thursday, but following ESPN's lead would be a painful step in that same wayward direction.

Next. Best players available for Raptors to draft in second round. Best players available for Raptors to draft in second round. dark