Raptors’ NBA draft needs are clear. These five might help


In other significant Raptors news of the moment …

As they prepare to introduce Darko Rajakovic as the team’s new head coach Tuesday afternoon, there is an equally important interview/evaluation process being conducted, this one with a firm deadline and fewer possible candidates.

The Raptors have the 13th pick in the June 22 NBA draft and, with less than two weeks remaining until they are on the clock, crunch time is approaching.

The needs are clear.

Regardless of what eventually happens with expected free agents Fred VanVleet (who declined his contract option Monday), Gary Trent Jr. (player option) and Jakob Poeltl (unrestricted) the Raptors have a desperate need for backcourt help and not nearly enough shooting to be truly competitive in this era.

And while there is a school of thought that taking the best player available is the correct way to approach any draft, the roster imbalance is too grave to ignore.

No one knows if Malachi Flynn can be a capable NBA regular. Dalano Banton is a free agent who has never been a consistent on-court facilitator. Jeff Dowtin Jr. has been little more than the object of fan adulation. The cupboard is bare.

With that, here are five possible draft picks. Who might be left after the first dozen is impossible to tell, and how the Raptors might have them ranked is a closely guarded secret. It’s guesswork, and the draft is always a time of disinformation and subterfuge, but these prospects seem to be legitimate possibilities.

Cason Wallace, 19

The six-foot-two Kentucky freshman guard could develop into an above-average on-the-ball defender, and it’s not like the Raptors are overflowing with guards who have that skill. More of a passer in one college season limited by back issues, he does seem to be a hustle-type defender, which is a skill that should translate to the NBA.

Kobe Bufkin, 19

The six-foot-four Michigan sophomore guard isn’t a wonderful shooter, but he’s thought to be highly competitive, explosive with the ball and able to get past defenders. Putting pressure on collapsing defences was an issue for the Raptors. Bufkin’s rail thin, but he’s also a teenager, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

Keyonte George, 19

The six-foot-four Baylor freshman guard may be a bit on the small size for a combo guard, which is where he likely ends up. Not a great shooter in one college season, but he could be a scoring threat on a young, torn-down roster if that’s the way the Raptors go. Not sure he’d be a top choice if all five of these guys are available.

Gradey Dick, 19

The six-foot-six Kansas freshman wing can shoot, and the Raptors as a team didn’t shoot nearly well enough this past season. For that reason alone, he’s got to be on their radar. He was a good and willing passer against college competition in one season. Who knows if that would transfer against consistently bigger, stronger, faster, better competition.

Bilal Coulibaly, 18

The six-foot-six wing from Metropolitans 92 in France isn’t nearly as acclaimed as teammate Victor Wembanyama, the consensus No. 1 prospect, but the teenager is rocketing up draft boards. He’s raw — his shooting needs a ton of work — but with a seven-foot-two wingspan and freaky good speed, his potential is great. And having played against professionals in the top French league has to count for something.


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