Raptors Mock Draft: Toronto lands decorated big man in latest projection

Zach Edey is being compared to former Toronto Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas. A recent mock draft has the decorated college star landing in Toronto.
Donovan Clingan, Connecticut Huskies and Zach Edey, Purdue Boilermakers
Donovan Clingan, Connecticut Huskies and Zach Edey, Purdue Boilermakers / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

NBA Draft season is in full swing, and that means Mock Drafts are flying off the presses. The best versions bring something new and specific to the table. Perhaps they are reporting on the latest intel from around the league, providing an update after pro days and workouts, or laying out a player's range.

Bleacher Report recently published a mock draft that took the angle of providing a pro comparison for every prospect. For NBA fans trying to get up to speed on draft prospects it's a helpful window into how a player may plug into the NBA. When the Raptors come onto the board with the No. 19 pick, the Raptors' connection ends up running twice.

The Raptors' history drafting big bigs

In the past 17 years, the Toronto Raptors have chosen in the Top 5 exactly twice. In 2021 they selected Florida State forward Scottie Barnes, and he has blossomed into an All-Star in just his third season in the league. A decade before, the Raptors found themselves with the fifth pick and drafted Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas.

The behemoth big man, with incredible strength to bang inside, played the first six-plus seasons of his career with the Toronto Raptors, starting at center for a number of high-powered, successful teams that made the playoffs and largely hosted series. In 2019, however, when the Raptors had a shot at winning the title, they chose to upgrade the position and traded Valanciunas to Memphis in exchange for Marc Gasol, a move that helped to propel them to the championship that season.

Valanciunas played 2.5 seasons with the Grizzlies before being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, where he has played the last three season. Valanciunas has some skill, but his primary benefit to a team is smashing defenders in the post, scoring around and through them. When a shot is missed he cleans it up. He is not the best defender in space, and he very inconsistently spaces the court, although he does take them now.

That brings things back to the 2024 NBA Draft, because the player mocked to the Toronto Raptors was given Jonas Valanciunas as a comp. The player? Purdue's Zach Edey.

Toronto Raptors select Zach Edey, C, Purdue

Edey is a 7'4" center who dominated college basketball the past two seasons. He has excellent touch around the basket and great footwork in the post, and he crashes the boards as well as anyone. That all sounds a lot like Valanciunas, even if the Lithuanian veteran doesn't have the same height as Edey.

Their weaknesses are somewhat similar as well, as Edey's achilles heel is defending in space. Players with his size have largely not been able to hold up in the NBA due to the speed and spacing; in this mock scenario, it's the Toronto Raptors who try to get him prepared for NBA speed. Finally, the two centers both have enough touch to slowly move their shots out to the perimeter, although doing so puts them out of position to crash the glass.

For most of the draft cycle Edey has been a late first-round pick, but he is sliding up the boards after dominating in the college basketball tournament and showing well at the NBA Draft Combine. He is also Canadian, giving the Raptors another reason to draft him. Between the Valanciunas comp and his heritage, it seems like a fit that makes a lot of sense.

Drafting Edey doesn't necessarily foretell any changes to the center rotation, but it's likely someone vacates the third-big role. That could allow the Raptors to bring Edey along slowly, giving him reps and ensuring he is ready to go from the moment he steps on the court. It also gives the Raptors time to decide if he is a future starter, a high-minute backup or a deep reserve.

There are players with a higher upside than Edey available at 19th, and it seems like Edey is the kind of player who has a handful of teams that fall in love with him and it doesn't matter that most teams are down on him. Given how he played in college he at least earned the chance to see how he can survive in the NBA.

Next. Raptors Big Board: Top 10 prospects for Raps. Raptors Big Board: Top 10 prospects for Raps. dark