The day Raptors fans have been waiting for since the 2011-2012 NBA season tipped off is finally here. Sitting at No. 8 isn’t exactly where fans envisioned the team would be tonight, but nonetheless, the Raps have a chance to add a solid young talent (or trade for an established talent) to kick-start what we all hope is an active, exciting and ultimately productive off-season.
As mentioned recently, we’ve covered pretty much all of the prospects the Raptors have been linked to at one point or another in our series of Draft Profiles. In addition, you can find profiles of the top-rated prospects over at The Basketball Jones.
We obviously have no way of knowing for certain, or even close to certain, what will transpire tonight, whether it be before Toronto selects, after Toronto selects or regarding Toronto’s pick in general. But based on all of the information we can read, watch, deduce for ourselves, etc. we can at least predict what the 2012 Draft will look like leading up to the Raptors’ selection at No. 8, and try to figure out which prospects will be on the board for the Raps.
Without further ado, here’s how I see tonight playing out:
We know who the Hornets are going with, but things get immediately murky after that. Most mock drafts you’ll find currently have Thomas Robinson going No. 2 to the Bobcats, but Bradley Beal is emerging as the consensus No. 2 player overall in this Draft class. Harrison Barnes might not be out of the running at No. 2 and of course, Anthony Davis’ Kentucky teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would surprise no one at No. 2.
While where, exactly, those players end up is still very much up in the air, I think we can assume that they will all be off the board after the first seven picks, and will likely make up picks two through five.
Where the Draft really starts to take focus for Toronto is at No. 6, where the Trail Blazers make their first selection of the night. While Andre Drummond’s “potential” may still hold some power, it’s looking more and more like Weber State point guard Damian Lillard makes the most sense for the Blazers. If Lillard falls past Portland, and Golden State still owns the No. 7 pick, then I’d say the Raps have a legit shot at him assuming the Warriors don’t want to crowd Stephen Curry’s backcourt again.
As for those Warriors, while I originally thought they would be the team to eventually select Drummond and deal with the consequences, recent comments from Jerry West suggest that Golden State isn’t interested in a long-term project type of player. If he’s telling the truth, that pretty much ends the Drummond discussion. If none of the top-five prospects have slipped this far, I can see the Warriors settling for Dion Waiters, with the outside chance of guys like Austin Rivers, Jeremy Lamb, John Henson, Tyler Zeller and maybe even Meyers Leonard being in play.
That brings us to No. 8, which brings us to the Raptors.
My worst fear, and I assume other Raps fans feel the same way, is that Drummond will still be on the board at eight, and that the possibility exists that Bryan Colangelo and co. would consider him the best player available. Unless the Raptors would be trading Drummond upon selecting him, I hope to God that isn’t the case, because while I can be convinced on a lot of players in the 2012 Draft class, uninspiring Andre Drummond is not one of them.
If Lillard and Waiters are off the board and Drummond isn’t in the discussion, the consensus seems to be that the Raptors will select Austin Rivers. I know a lot of people aren’t fans of Rivers, but as I’ve stated before, I would leave Draft night content if the Raptors selected him, assuming players I rate higher (like Lillard and Waiters) are off the board.
If the Raptors keep their pick, ignoring Drummond for the moment, I still believe one of those three players (Lillard, Waiters, Rivers) will hear their name called at No. 8.
Besides those three and Drummond, I honestly wouldn’t be shocked to hear any of the other names we covered called (Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III, Terrence Jones, Terrence Ross, Moe Harkless, Kendall Marshall, John Henson). This Draft just seems to be that wide open.
The other interesting part of the Draft will be to see how any trades change the top-eight. For example, if a team trades into the top-seven to select Andre Drummond, which is certainly possible, the Raptors would likely be assured that at least one of Lillard or Waiters will still be available for them.
Then there’s the possibility of Colangelo pulling the trigger on a trade himself. Kyle Lowry’s name continues to come up in rumours and reports, and if the Raptors were to acquire Lowry, or any other established player, you would have to assume that they move back in the first round. If that’s the case, Toronto might be able to escape Draft night with a proven NBA player as well as a prospect from that second tier of players we profiled.
Lastly, while I would consider it highly unlikely, there is the possibility that the Raptors could trade up from No. 8. Imagine Colangelo somehow finding a way to land one of Barnes, Beal or Kidd-Gilchrist? Again, I’m in no way expecting anything of that magnitude involving the Raptors tonight, but at the same time, I’d say the only thing that’s full out impossible is landing Anthony Davis. It just seems like one of those years where literally everything else is on the table.
If I absolutely had to put money on it, I’d say this day ends with Rivers as the newest Raptor, but it’s tough to confidently predict anything when it comes to this Draft.
UPDATE: ESPN’s Chad Ford updated his latest mock draft early Friday morning and actually has Harrison Barnes falling to Toronto, which would send all of us into a frenzy if were to happen. I’ve written numerous times that in a perfect world, Barnes would slip through the cracks. Included in Ford’s latest mock is a five-player big board for the Raptors that includes Waiters, Barnes, Rivers, Lillard and Lamb.
Scott and I will probably both post our thoughts on what transpires at some point tonight. In addition, we’ll try to deliver a couple of podcasts over the next few days. Stay tuned.