Raptors Mock Draft: Lanky Lithuanian teenager and a Duke star land in Toronto

Matas Buzelis, G League Ignite
Matas Buzelis, G League Ignite / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

For 16 of the NBA's most successful teams, the weeks ahead represent their opportunity to compete on the biggest stage basketball has to offer, fighting their way through the NBA Playoffs in hopes of reaching the NBA Finals. The goal for every team, at some point, is to compete for a title.

For the rest of the NBA, their season is over, and they are working to improve their rosters to be able to compete for a title in the years ahead. That includes the Toronto Raptors, who played so poorly this season that they enter the heart of the draft cycle with the sixth-best lottery odds, giving them a shot at adding a top-tier prospect in the 2024 NBA Draft.

The Raptors could add to their roster in the draft

Armed with a pick in the late teens and the first pick of the second round as well, the Raptors have a shot at adding three difference-makers this year. That will be a boon to a roster that has nearly completely turned over in the last couple of seasons and could use a bolstering of young talent.

The 2024 NBA Draft is considered by many to be a weak draft class, but that largely is meant to highlight a lack of star-level talent. For teams looking for starters and rotation players there seems to be some strong depth, and the Raptors could use some usable players on their roster.

ESPN's draft experts Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo published their latest 2024 NBA Mock Draft, going through all 58 selections in this year's draft. Until the Draft Lottery takes place in a few weeks, ESPN is assuming that the lottery order stays the way that it currently is, which means the Raptors picked at No. 6, No. 18 and No. 31.

Who did the Raptors come away with? Let's take a brief look at all three players.

No. 6 pick: Matas Buzelis, G League Ignite

In the final season of the G League Ignite program, Matas Buzelis was one of a handful of top-tier prospects to play on the team, and he has retained his value much better than his teammates have. The 6'11" Buzelis is an offensive hub, a tall forward who can handle, pass and finish like a much smaller player.

His shooting is the biggest question mark for Buzelis, and he also turned the ball over a lot this past season. Yet G League Ignite prospects have generally outperformed their draft position once they get into the league, and his skillset is varied and savvy enough to be an excellent fit alongside another versatile player in Scottie Barnes. If Toronto thinks the shot is for real, he's an excellent pick at No. 6.

No. 18 pick: Jared McCain, Duke Blue Devils

There was a point during the NCAA Tournament, as Jared McCain was the team's leading scorer and Duke made a run to the Elite Eight, that McCain seemed destined to land in the Top 10. That hype has died down a bit, and he is more likely to land somewhere between 10 and 20, but if the league lets McCain drop it's their loss and Toronto's gain.

The 6'3" McCain was one of the best shooters in college basketball last season, comfortable and capable of firing off the catch or off the dribble. He has a tight handle and is a good passer, making him an ideal backup guard off the bench who can also defend and shoot to play alongside Immanuel Quickley. He lacks star upside as a smaller guard who likely won't be a good enough finisher to carry an offense, but he is a dynamic complementary player whose shooting will make him a weapon from day one.

No. 31 pick: Ryan Dunn, Virginia Cavaliers

A few seasons ago, college basketball's best defensive player fell in the draft because of concerns about his offensive game. Herb Jones then entered the league and proved everyone wrong, developing his 3-point shot and playing such insane defense the New Orleans Pelicans couldn't keep him off the court.

That's the theory of the case with Ryan Dunn, who is the best defensive player in the 2024 Draft class. He has ideal size at 6'8" with a 7'1" wingspan, can defend any position and excels on the perimeter, in help situations and in protecting the rim.

The question is whether he is simultaneously the worst offensive player in this class, a brick layer from anywhere outside of the paint who also cannot make free throws. Can Dunn develop his shot in the NBA to be passable? If not, can he develop into a smallball five whose defense earns him minutes?

Each of these three players brings something unique to the table and would give the Toronto Raptors some intriguing young depth to add to the roster. If the draft fell this way the Raptors would likely walk away with strong grades on the night of a draft and a brighter future for the organization.

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