As Raptors general manager Bobby Webster walked into the media room at the OVO Sports Center on Tuesday afternoon in a polo shirt and striped jeans, he joked without ever thinking how the 33rd overall pick was a little different from the fourth overall pick that Toronto made a year ago. The impression is that this is an organization that is ready to operate around the clock.
When preparing for potential free agents or considering candidates to trade, the core of the homework lies in what has already been done. You’re chasing after these guys because you’ve seen what they can do only thanks to the NBA games your team has been in or keeping up with everything that’s going on across the league. There is minimal chance with the draft. Searching for candidates across the NCAA, Europe and Africa, wherever it may be, is essential if you want to increase your chances of getting hit with your choice.
Toronto, as history suggests, has been able to pick them up more often with the current front office iteration. Their numbers show that out of 60 picks made, typically 20-25 become a legitimate NBA contributor, and specifically within their range, they have about 30 percent of the correct shot.
“I go back to some previous drafts, obviously, Pascal at 27, OG at 23, Dillon at 20, Malachi at 29, so, we’ve always worked in that space,” Webster said. “There will be men in that range, and obviously our job is to find them, but I think working here (read: in that range) felt a little more comfortable than getting [lottery] Choose last year.
Over the past several weeks, the Raptors have hosted 12 trial runs with six players each. There were no repeat players, and that puts the total at 72. Some may wonder why so many players work to pick one but due diligence isn’t just about pick number 33.
Yes, the top and middle places determine which 20 or more players are best suited to be on their shortlist, but doing challenging spaces also increases their ability to be flexible on draft day and beyond. Some of the players who stopped aren’t expected to be drafted, and Toronto brought in these players to see who deserves a summer league call and go from there aka the Fred VanVleet Path. Others may be a possibility if the right opportunity arises either to trade up or down, or to get an additional draft pick. You don’t have to be prepared if you are.
“You can meet the kids and you’ll see how they interact with you and the staff,” Webster explained about the value of having potential clients in town and going out to dinner with them. “You have different people eating dinner [with them]It’s not always the same people who go to dinner. You want to get this full view, the full load of the identity of these kids. When they come in here, they meet our medical staff not just in a physical context but interact with them, and we run them through a series of mental tests as well, so, you’re kind of looking for that whole picture but, yeah, having dinner with someone that I socially think is something It will definitely reveal to us.”
With Scotty Barnes, for example, the Raptors have been tracking his progress since he was 16, talking to people in his high school from coaches to teammates and even some of the people he’s played against. When they have the opportunity to talk to a player in the draft group, it’s a chance to gain their perspective on controversies they may have dealt with, or have dealt with in the past, or other potential red flags. This can’t be done with all 72 players the Raptors have brought in, but they usually aim to do it with about 10 players who will be on their “hard” shortlist on draft day.
According to mock drafts across ESPN, The Athletic, Tankathon, Sports Illustrated and The Ringer, there is a wide range of players who could be available when the Raptors pick at age 33 including but not limited to Jake Laravia, Caleb Houstan, Andrew Nembhard, Justin Lewis, Trevor Kells, Walker Kessler, Christian Colocco, Jaden Hardy, Bryce McGuins, Ryan Rollins and Patrick Baldwin Jr.
Laravia, Houstan, Lewis, Keels, McGowens, Baldwin Jr. They are all in the attacking / winger category. Hardy and Rollins are the scoring guards, Kessler and Koloko are centers, while Nembhard is your first floor model. Hustan and Nymbard are Canadians and attended Raptors training, among others. When it comes to whether the Raptors will be looking to craft the best player available or someone who handles the team’s greatest needs, Webster noted the preference has always been about the former.
“You will always be the best out there,” Webster said. “It might be more [about] Player type versus position – you know what we’re doing here: versatile, defensive, and if he can shoot the ball, that’s great. Typically looking at those types of players.”
These characteristics played a major role in the 2022 NBA playoffs and especially in the Finals, with the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics playing scheming based on defensive diversity among players such as Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart, Jason Tatum and Jaylene Brown. Robert Williams III, Kevin Looney, and Al Horford were the top rotation players on the field at 6-foot-9. However, there is only one Steve Curry.
Needless to say, the Raptors are pretty confident in their playing style and now it’s about seeing if they see the need to round the edges or continue to pile their chips on defense and length and take whatever else comes with it as a bonus.