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The Raptors Lose Their 1st Round Pick…Now What?

The NBA draft lottery is always an exciting time for basketball fans, getting to witness what pick their team will receive and looking up mock drafts to see what up and coming prospects their team might select. However, in the case of the Toronto Raptors, they unfortunately will be missing out on the festivities.

Coming into the draft lottery, Toronto was in the position for a high draft pick due to finishing the regular season with one of the worst records in the entire league. Toronto had a 9% chance of landing the first overall pick in the draft, not the best odds but certainly weren’t the worst. The last time Toronto had a lottery pick in the draft was the year prior in 2023, when the team selected Point Guard Gradey Dick from Kansas with the 13th pick. The only time the Raptors landed the first overall pick in the draft was all the way back in 2006, when they drafted Andrea Bargnani who never flourished into the superstar that the team had hoped for.

With all the excitement surrounding the draft, Toronto did have one concern looming over their heads. In reality, Toronto didn’t have full protection over this pick due to trading it away to San Antonio in return for big man Jakob Poetl. The irony of this is that Toronto traded Poetl to San Antonio back in 2018 off-season along with fan favorite Demar DeRozan in exchange for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Toronto initially won this trade, with Kawhi leading the Raptors to their first NBA championship in 2019. However, with the entire core of the championship roster gone and in need of a proper center, Toronto made the decision to trade and bring back Poetl. The conditions for the pick that was sent over to San Antonio are that it is top 6 protected, meaning that if Toronto’s odds were good enough for the pick to land in the top 6 in the lottery, then Toronto would keep the pick. This would be a great situation for the team since they would have successfully traded for Poetl and hold onto their pick. However, if Toronto’s pick would happen to fall outside of the top 6, then the pick would go over to San Antonio.

As the draft lottery came down inside the top 10 picks, both Spurs and Raptors fans were waiting with anticipation when finally at pick number 8, Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum revealed the San Antonio Spurs would receive the pick via the trade with the Toronto Raptors. As Raptors fans were left in disappointment, they would further receive insult to injury as the Spurs would also land the fourth overall pick in the draft and the Atlanta Hawks who had the second lowest odds of getting the first overall pick, ended up winning the lottery.

Now that Toronto has lost their lottery pick this year, what now?

First, they still have the 19th overall pick in the first round and the first pick of the second round in this year’s draft. So although they didn’t get the lottery pick like they had hoped, Toronto is still able to potentially make some steals in this upcoming draft. With the likes of Masai Ujiri still at the forefront of the Raptors front office, it is no question that he will make the best of what he is given when it comes to finding diamonds in the rough. Some of the best picks Toronto has made outside of the lottery in recent memory include taking Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick in 2016, OG Anunoby at pick 23 in the 2017 draft, and signing Fred VanVleet as an undrafted rookie in 2017 as well. Even with the picks that they have, Masai has been known to make magic happen and through the power of player development, be able to take late first rounders and turn them into stars. Another thing that Toronto has to deal with after losing their first round pick, is that the 2024 draft class is being described by most as an underwhelming class without a lot of standout prospects coming into the draft.

Other than Bronny James, who has the hype due to his name but not nearly fit to be a lottery pick this year in my opinion, there is no real clear cut number one overall pick in this years draft. I believe the consensus number one pick at the current moment is forward Alex Sarr, coming out of France with notable names like Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard, and Donovan Clingan all also being potential top five picks according to current mock drafts. Another player that will be in the draft this year is reigning NCAA player of the year and Canadian, Zach Edey from Purdue. However I’m not buying that this is the case, even though the 2025 draft already has an almost guaranteed number one pick in Cooper Flagg, I think this draft class is a lot deeper in terms of having players scattered throughout that can be valuable instead of the top end talent dropping off after the first 5-7 picks.

Another thing that stinks for Toronto, is that this class of players include a lot of what Toronto is needing which I think is very clear, the team needs height. Aside from Jakob Poetl and Kelly Olynyk, the only other player on the team close to 7’0 feet tall is Chris Boucher coming in at 6’9. The team is in desperate need of a legit big man to fortify the paint and this year would have been perfect to grab someone to fill that spot. If Toronto had managed to land a pick in the top six and keep it to themselves, they could have potentially gotten a guy like Donovan Clingan who was a paint beast that dominated down low for UConn on their way to a national championship this past March Madness. Most mock drafts have Clingan going somewhere in the 5-7 pick range, which is right where Toronto would have been had they kept their pick. Clingan is listed at 7’2 tall and 280 lbs, which would have made him by far the biggest body on the team. Also, Bleacher Report gave Clingan an NBA player comparison of Rudy Gobert who is also a tall and lengthy big man known for defense and protecting the rim. In my mind Clingan would have been the absolute best pick in the draft for the Raptors, filling the biggest whole in the teams structure. Instead, Toronto will have to work their magic as I previously mentioned and find the best option available while still catering towards what the teams main needs are.

After the draft comes and goes, what does Toronto do next? well I think the answer is quite simple…suck. At the end of the day, this Raptors team is still very bad regardless of who they select in this upcoming draft. It is unsure if Toronto will be hard pursuing any free agents this coming summer, but even if they do it’s unlikely that the team will make any moves drastic enough to become competitive again. What Toronto needs to do now might not be what fans want to hear, but the Raptors have to endure yet another year of tanking and lose a ton of games. The reason why is because since they lost their pick this year, they will keep their first round pick in 2025 and that pick will be unprotected. What this means is that the worse the Raptors are, and the better odds at the first pick they get, whatever pick they land in the lottery will be theirs to keep no matter what. Like I said before, the 2025 class is looking to be very top heavy with the golden prospects being in the first five picks. Toronto needs to get into the top five next year, plain and simple. If they manage to fail at landing a top five pick, then the franchise will seriously start to be in trouble after having an abysmal record for two straight years and no top prospects to show for it, and all to have Jakob Poetl. As a fan, it’s hard to watch the Raptors go through what they have been for the last couple of years and this draft lottery let down is just another nail in the coffin. Although, like how fans have done in the past they must do again by trusting Masai and hoping the best will work out, since the road to rebuilding is not a sprint, but a very long and emotional marathon.


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