Raptors Mock Draft: Toronto wins No. 1 pick in lottery, take latest French phenom

Alex Sarr, Perth Wildcats
Alex Sarr, Perth Wildcats / Paul Kane/GettyImages

By finishing with the sixth-worst record in the NBA this season, the Toronto Raptors put themselves in better position to keep their first-round pick in the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft. Their pick is owed to the San Antonio Spurs from the questionable Jakob Poeltl trade from the 2023 Trade Deadline and is Top-6 protected, meaning if it falls seventh or later it's heading to the Spurs.

While it's about a coin flip as to whether they keep or send the pick, it's also a very real possibility that in keeping the pick they leap up into the Top 4 picks of the draft. In fact, the Raptors have a nine percent chance of winning the first overall pick, meaning one out of every 11 drafts you would expect the team with the sixth-worst record in the league to land that No. 1 pick.

What if the Toronto Raptors won the first pick?

If the Raptors did get some lottery luck and moved up to first overall, which player would they select? There is no clear top prospect in this year's draft, no Victor Wembanyama or even Cade Cunningham. Instead, you can pick a draft analyst and they will likely have a different player at the top of their big board, and it's probably the same for NBA front offices as well.

The Ringer's latest mock draft explored this scenario, handing the first overall pick to the Toronto Raptors and forcing them to make a pick. Draft expert Kevin O'Connor decided to place a French big man at the top of the draft for two consecutive years.

While the Raptors' biggest need is likely on the wing, when you pick at the top of the draft you weigh a player's value and upside significantly more than positional fit. That's why the Cleveland Cavaliers were wise to draft Darius Garland a year after taking Collin Sexton, and it's why the Raptors would be smart to only consider the fit with Scottie Barnes when picking a prospect at the top of the 2024 Draft.

The Toronto Raptors draft Alex Sarr, PF/C, France

The player that Kevin O'Connor assigns to the Raptors is Alex Sarr, a French big man playing for the Perth Wildcats this season. The 6'11" prospect has a mammoth 7'4" wingspan and is an elite shot-blocker who O'Connor compares to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonathan Isaac.

In fact, O'Connor thinks that Sarr is more of an elite athletic wing who is simply as tall and long as a center. He can leap out of the gym, would be a tremendous lob threat for the Raptors' ball-handlers, and at the same time can handle the ball and make passes. The possibility of 4-5 pick-and-rolls with Scottie Barnes and Sarr where either could handle and drive is tantalizing.

On defense, Sarr is able to be everywhere at once, with quick feet and long arms to wall off passing lanes and contest at the rim. He could be a nasty switch defender while also executing a more traditional scheme depending on the situation and who he is sharing the court with.

O'Connor highlights that Sarr is a two-way player who can play in a number of different schemes given his skill and tools, and it's exactly that kind of player that Masai Ujiri has historically liked in the draft, including Barnes and Pascal Siakam.

Jakob Poeltl is not and cannot be the Raptors' long-term answer at center. He is not good enough to justify the lack of spacing and skill from the position, and his scheme versatility is rather limited. Sarr would bust those elements wide open and in a couple of years be ready to make a significant impact.

There are other options for the Raptors if they move up to first overall, including backcourt help like Stephon Castle or Nikola Topic, or forwards like Matas Buzelis and Zaccharie Risacher. If they do get that most valuable pick, however, Alex Sarr is an intriguing option to continue building an elite young core.

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