The Canadian U19 Women’s basketball team have guaranteed themselves at least sixth place with a

66-58 victory over Russia in the classification games.

“We showed great resilience and effort in the second half and battled back to win the game,” McKenzie said. “Just a good overall effort in the second half to win the game.”

Bucking the trend, Canada stayed competitive throughout the first quarter behind another great performance from the tournaments leading scorer Shayeann Day-Wilson, who scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

In the second quarter, Russia began attacking inside and stayed in the game by shooting a 66 per cent rate from inside the arc while holding Canada to shooting 30 per cent overall. Russian power forward Olairi Kosu led the way with 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists while adding two steals and four blocked shots. Frontcourt partner Ekaterina Koshechkina blocked another three shots while scoring seven points and dishing six assists.

In the second half of the game, Canada once again locked in defensively and held Russia to just four points in the third quarter by shutting down the paint, and through another gritty performance from Washington State’s Tara Wallack who scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Emma Koabel had another good performance and Isaline Alexander and Deja Lee came in off the bench and gave the team a lift with 10 rebounds and hustle. McKenzie said Lee was their player of the game for her defensive effort and rebounding.

“I gave it my all today and I’m proud of the way I played on defense, and I feel like I helped my team get energy on offense,” said Lee.

Canada will now be playing to finish fifth place on Saturday when they face the Czech Republic who defeated Spain 66-63 in their first classification game. Canada beat Czech Republic earlier in the tournament 79-71 in their lone win during group play behind a stellar 31-point performance from Day-Wilson.

CANADA VS. RUSSIA BOXSCORE

Photo courtesy Canada Basketball/FIBA

In an offseason full of important storylines and transactions, the most important move for the Toronto Raptors this summer may come from off of the court.

This past week, long-time Raptor executive Masai Ujiri signed a contract extension to stay at the helm of basketball operations in Toronto. The extension comes at a time where many Raptors fans began to worry about Ujiri’s future, as the summer pushed forward without much in the way of updates before this past week.

“I love being the leader of the Toronto Raptors”, said Ujiri. “I’m here to stay”.

That love is certainly reciprocated as Raptors fans rejoiced over the news, proudly celebrating his significance to the team’s success. Ujiri inherited a franchise near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and turned them into a perennial contender that was worthy of respect. In this article, we will examine his past accomplishments and determine why his commitment to stay with the team will be more valuable than anything else they manage to get done this offseason.

The Resume

Ujiri had already built up a strong resume before becoming the General Manager of the Raptors. He had previously served as the GM for the Denver Nuggets, and won the award for the 2013 NBA Executive of the Year.

            When he came over to Toronto at the end of the 2012-2013 season, he was taking over a team that was struggling to find its footing in the conference, and lacking any real identity after the departure of Chris Bosh years prior.

            Ujiri’s first mastermind move was the Andrea Bargnani trade to New York, where Masai managed to get out from under the contract of the Italian and still get pieces in return.

Following that, Ujiri made the bold move of trading Rudy Gay, entrusting his team to Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who were not yet fully developed as NBA stars at the time. The Gay trade ended up paying off, as the Raptors turned a poor start around and qualified for the playoffs in Ujiri’s first full season.

Over the consecutive years, the Raptors would continue to bolster their roster and improve their standing in the East, with consistent playoff appearances and hardworking teams that could grind out important wins. He was finally able to see some success in the 2016 season with the Raptors trip to the conference finals, and afterwards announced he would be moving into the President of Basketball Operations role full time instead of serving as the teams GM.

            Even with the title change, Ujiri still made a bulk of the decisions in the front office, and made several key moves that changed the franchise’s history forever. Firstly, he made the decision to fire the former Coach of the Year Dwane Casey after yet another early playoff exit in 2018, and then took the risk of trading his franchise star DeRozan for a 1-year rental of Kawhi Leonard, and we all know how that turned out.

Ujiri’s Raptors track record has way more hits than misses, and even with some surprising moves of late such as drafting Scottie Barnes in the 2021 draft, it’s hard to argue with any move he makes at this point. The contract expiration came at a time of change for Toronto, and so to be able to keep the figurehead of the team in place is crucial to any possible success moving forward.

The New Deal

As of mid-last week, Masai Ujiri signed a multi-year contract extension (length unknown) to remain with the Raptors in an increased role as both a Vice-Chairman and President, with the former title leading people to believe he could be receiving stake in MLSE. The jump is big for Ujiri, who has been slowly moving up the ladder since his arrival in 2013.

With so many other uncertainties surrounding the Raptors the past few seasons, the stability of holding onto your head of operations is too valuable to quickly put into words. Ujiri is the backbone of the best years in this organization’s history, and the new contact ensures that whichever path the Raptors choose to take back into relevance will be one that is thought out and calculated.

Masai and Toronto Moving Forward

There’s no debate that this Toronto team has taken a step backwards from previous years, but the Raptors could be able to get back into the playoff picture quickly with the right decisions form management, as several pieces of the puzzle are already in place. Scottie Barnes will look to make an impact for the team almost immediately, and returning young stars Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby will have another year under the belt at the NBA level.

The Raptors are a superstar or one big trade away from being a legitimate threat, and if there’s anyone that could pull the trigger on something like that, it would be Ujiri. He has done it time and time again over the past decade, and a new installment in the series would be welcomed by Raps fans eager to see their squad move back to relevance.

Why is this the biggest move of the offseason?

More than any individual on the court, Ujiri has a say on how the entire team is shaped and organized, and has a direct impact on the state of the franchise. Ujiri is one of the best front office executives in the league, and re-signing him is the equivalent of re-signing an MVP-caliber player, or maybe even more so.

Ujiri was in hot demand across the league, and for him to make the decision to stay in Toronto over any of the other lucrative offers shows his commitment to the organization moving forward. He wants to see the team succeed, and will take any risks needed to provide a better pathway to that end goal.

Even if the Raptors were able to sign a big name this offseason, that individual would not have the same impact, influence and responsibility that Ujiri does, making even the best Toronto-free-agent target seem measly in comparison. Ujiri is the brains behind the operation, and his contact extension likely allows for a re-tooling instead of a rebuilding process over the next few years, which is far more important than any individual signing.

……

            At the end of the day, it’s true that the players are the ones with the biggest impact on winning and losing, but a good culture and leadership from the top levels often trickles down all the way through the organization. Through re-signing Masai Ujiri, the Raptors have guaranteed that they will be in good hands for the length of his contract, and have given stability to a franchise that could desperately use some. When you put it like that, maybe it isn’t such a hot take after all; Ujiri’s contract extension is the most important move the Raptors will make this offseason, regardless of the other transactions that take place before opening night.

The Canadian U19 women’s team’s run for a medal at the FIBA U19 World Cup tournament is over with a 72-61 loss to the number three-ranked Australia.

Canada continued their habit of starting the game slow and allowed Australia an early lead with Jade Melbourne scoring 11 of her 20 points in the first quarter.

The Canadians battled back into the game in the second and third quarters, with Shayeann Day-Wilson stepping up with 17 points, six rebounds and three assists and Yvonne Ejim with 10 points, 11 rebounds and a block.  Emma Koabel, the youngest player on the Canadian team, also provided a lift in the third quarter that helped Canada take the lead for the first time in the game on a turn-around three-point shot from Day-Wilson.

“We started off slow but battled back really hard. I’m really proud of the effort from the girls,” said head coach Fabian McKenzie.

Rosalie Mercille and Tara Wallack both had seven points and Mercille had eight rebounds.

While Melbourne carried the load early for Australia, it was forward Nyadiew Puoch who took over after the first quarter, scoring 25 points, grabbing seven rebounds and her active hands on defence led to three steals and foul trouble for the Canadians in the second half.

Australia dominated the points in the paint behind Puoch’s and Melbourne’s attacks and had 33 of the points come from the bench to just 17 from Canada.

“It was a tough battle, but we did all we could. We just made a few mistakes and couldn’t get back from it,” said Michigan State’s Isaline Alexander.

Canada will now move on to classification games to help determine world ranking where they are guaranteed at least an eighth-place finish but can move up to fifth if they win their last two games. They will face the loser of Russia and Mali on Saturday on FIBA’s YouTube channel.

 “We still have two games left to regroup and wouldn’t be a shame to go for fifth in the world so, that’s where we’re headed,” said McKenzie.

CAN VS. AUSTRALIA BOXSCORE

Photo Courtesy Canada Basketball/FIBA

France came into the game as a medal contender, having gone undefeated in Group C and beating another basketball powerhouse in Spain in the process. But it’s Canada, led by a breakout performance from Rhode Island shooting guard Rebecca Demeke, who is heading to the quarterfinals at the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup with a 79-72 victory over the French team.

“Today was a huge team win for us,” said Canada’s head coach Fabian McKenzie. “The best basketball we have played so far in the tournament. The girls played extremely hard on defence and then on offence. We shared the ball and played connected together.”

Lemyah Hylton said after the last game “we’ve got the next one” and the Canadians sent a strong message from tip-off that they were here to beat the undefeated French team by taking a 20-12 lead, driven by Tara Wallack and Yvonne Ejim’s hustle.

France battled back in the second quarter to take the lead at halftime and the game was a back-and-forth battle from there. In the last two minutes of the game, Canada’s defensive pressure stepped up, bothering every ball-handler and forcing bad shots late in the shot clock, while holding France to no made field goals in the final stretch.

Emma Koabel, Rebecca Demeke & Lemyah Hylton of Team Canada

The win is Canada’s best team performance yet in the tournament, with Demeke stepping up off the bench to score 19 points on six of eight shooting from deep, Wallack scoring 16 points and providing a massive defensive presence with four steals, and Hylton scoring 14 points.

“Rebecca was a big star for us today, Tara Wallack was the unsung hero, and Lemyah Hylton came out and scored double digits,” said McKenzie. “Just a total team effort.”

Canada’s featured players took a more supportive role during the upset win. Shayeann Day-Wilson scored 11 points, dished out eight assists and four steals, while Ejim scored 10 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and blocked two shots.

“We had a great team win today and everyone stepped up and did their part and I’m just so proud of my team,” said Wallack.

Canada will now have another day off before they face the winner of Argentina and Australia in the quarterfinals streamed live on FIBA’s YouTube channel.

CANADA VS. FRANCE BOXSCORE

Photos courtesy Canada Basketball/FIBA

The Canadian U19 Women’s team has dropped their second game at the U19 FIBA Women’s World Cup in a stunning 88-62 loss to Mali.

Mali came out running to start the game, took an early lead and never looked back. They packed the paint against Canada’s star players Shayeann Day-Wilson and Yvonne Ejim, holding the entire team to 23 per cent shooting from within the arch in the first half, and just 30 per cent on the game.

“Today was incredibly difficult,” said head coach Fabian McKenzie. “They out-rebounded us, out-hustled us and out-worked us in every category and made things very difficult for us.”

 Canada gave up 32 points off turnovers to Mali while only registering four of their own. They also found no success on the fast break this game with just three points to Mali’s 24. Mali dominated inside with 42 of their 88 points coming from the painted area.

“We struggled turning the ball over and getting into a rhythm,” said McKenzie.

Day-Wilson, the tournament’s leading scorer coming into this game, was held to 10 points with all of her made field goals coming from three-point range but she found ways to contribute on her off night with nine assists and five rebounds. Ejim had 15 points and six rebounds, Southwest Academy’s Lemyah Hylton had nine points.

The underdogs grew the lead to 20 in the second quarter and took an 18-point lead into the half and in the fourth quarter they blew the game wide open to take a thirty-point lead.

Mali had six players in double-digit scoring for the game with Kamite Elisabeth Dabou scoring 18 points, Sika Kone scoring 14, Aminata Brahima Sangare scoring 12. Diouma Berthe, Diarrah Issa Sissoko, and Maimouna Haidara all scored 10 points.

With this loss, Canada falls to fourth place in Group D and will face France on Wednesday in the Round of 16. France went undefeated in Group C, including wins over Brazil, Spain and a 57-point win over Korea.

“Today was a tough one but tomorrow we refocus for France to see if we can make it into the top eight,” said McKenzie.

 “We’ve got the next one,” said Hylton.

CANADA VS. MALI BOXSCORE

For a team that only had six practices before the tournament, the Canadian women’s U19 squad is finding ways to win with a 79-71 victory over the Czech Republic at the FIBA U19 Women’s World Cup.

The Czechs were able to keep the game close through a complete team performance in the first half while Canada was still finding their footing. Valentyna Kadlecova had 15 points and four rebounds while Dominika Paurová had 16 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

“We had a tough start, but we picked ourselves up towards the second half and we just played our game and played our style,” Shayeann Day-Wilson said.

Day-Wilson continued to showcase her three-level scoring ability with a variety of step-back threes, midrange jumpers and finishes at the rim that saw her go to the free-throw line 17 times on route to 31 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Once Day-Wilson got rolling the game opened up for the rest of her teammates leading to Washington State’s Tara Wallack chipping in 7 points and Aicha Dia adding 8 points.

Gonzaga’s Yvonne Ejim came through with another solid performance with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Day-Wilson leads all scorers in the tournament through two games averaging 30 points a game with Ejim in fourth with 20 per game.

Canada fixed the rebounding woes that led to their 83-82 loss against Japan in the opening game by dominating the offensive glass, grabbing 28 offensive rebounds to the Czechs 18 and outrebounding them 63 to 48 overall. Izabella Zingaro added six rebounds off the bench and Isaline Alexander had eight.

 “The efforts (Zingaro and Alexander) put forth rebounding and defending was just phenomenal.” said head coach Fabian McKenzie. “They were great team players for us, and it made a huge impact on the game.”

The Canadians have Monday off as the U19 World Cup takes a rest day but will return to action against Mali on Tuesday. Mali is coming off a 67-57 win over Japan led by 24 points and 19 rebounds from power forward Sika Kone.

“Mali is incredibly athletic, incredibly tough defensively. We’re going to have to go to battle and hope that what we do can take the win,” said McKenzie.

CAN VS. CZECH REPUBLIC BOXSCORE

As basketball continues to grow in Canada, Canadians getting selected in the NBA Draft is starting to become a yearly tradition. This year, five Canadians will be entering into the league after finding a home on draft night.

The San Antonio Spurs bet on their development staff once again by selecting the youngest player in the NCAA this past season, Josh Primo (Alabama). The Mississauga native averaged 8.1 points, 3.4 rebounds per game while playing half the season as a 17-year-old. Primo elevated his draft stock with a strong showing at the NBA Draft Combine that showcased his shot-making ability.

Just one pick after, Montreal born and Dominican Republic raised, Chris Duarte (Oregon), went to the Indiana Pacers. At 24, Duarte is one of the oldest players in the draft this year and having won the NCAA Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award puts him in company with guards like Canadian RJ Barrett, D’Angelo Russell and Buddy Hield. 

The Toronto Raptors selected their first Canadian-born player ever, Rexdale’s Dalano Banton, (Nebraska) with the 47th overall pick in the draft. Sure to be a fan favourite, Banton mirrors some of what the Raptors are getting from their fourth overall pick Scottie Barnes. A rangy six-foot-nine guard who will need to work on his shooting while with the Raptors 905 but brings a distinct versatility and defensive presence to the Raptors.

Banton was responsible for just the second triple-double in Huskers history when he had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in Nebraska’s 110-64 win over Doane. 

Another Rexdale product and star of Sportsnet’s NBA Draft Ready feature (Hoop Dreams & On Point Basketball produced), Eugene Omoruyi went undrafted, but quickly found a home with the Dallas Mavericks who didn’t have a pick in this year’s draft. Omoruyi told On Point Basketball’s Drew Ebanks that while he wanted to get drafted, it wasn’t the end of his journey.

“Going through this process is going to be great, just coming out and competing at the highest level for a team I really like in Dallas, I’m going to have fun doing it and I’m going to give it my all, just like I promised,” said Omoruyi.

While at Oregon, Omoruyi averaged 17 points per game during his senior year, including a season-high 31-point performance against Missouri. He’ll be joining a Mavericks team looking to retool their offence under new head coach Jason Kidd and Omouyi gives them a physical body with a shooting touch in the frontcourt.

Brampton’s AJ Lawson (South Carolina) will be joining the Miami Heat after going undrafted, and the Gamecocks guard told the Heat they would not regret giving him an opportunity on Twitter. South Carolina head coach Frank Martin recently said he sees Lawson as a 10 to 12-year pro while praising his work ethic and intelligence before the draft.

On paper, Lawson is the perfect fit for the culture Miami has been cultivating for the last five years. With the Heat’s salary cap being mostly taken up after the Kyle Lowry sign and trade, and Kendrick Nunn moving to the Los Angeles Lakers, Lawson will have a chance to immediately find a spot in the rotation with an impressive showing at NBA Summer League and in the preseason.

Photo edit by Ampofo Edits

Hoop Dreams and On Point Basketball is proud to partner with Sportsnet to produce NBA Draft Ready featuring Rexdale, Ontario’s Eugene Omoruyi. Here is episode 2 which allows the viewers to “Relive the Highs and Lows of the 2021 NBA Draft Night with Canadian Eugene Omoruyi”

Special thanks to Sportsnet, Donnovan Bennett, Eugene Omoruyi, the Omoruyi family, Chris Smalling, Michael Simonetta Jr., Jason Dam & Tenfold Productions, Charlie Graham, our colleagues at Hoopdreams including Adrian Fenty, Michelle Kast and Julia Martin for making this collaboration possible and a huge success! Look out for more great content from the Hoopdreams/On Point Basketball tandem!

Photo by: Charlie Graham

After splitting their first two group matches with a win and a loss, the Canadian women’s national team suffered a tough 76-66 defeat to frontrunning Spain on Saturday evening in Tokyo.

The loss puts Canada in a tough position at 1-2 in the group, in which they will have to rely on results from other teams to qualify as one of the best third-place finishers. For Spain, they finish the group at a perfect 3-0, putting them straight into the Quarterfinals with a likely favourable opponent.

Canada’s scoring was fairly balanced on Saturday night as no one took over the game offensively, but Kia Nurse led the team with 14 points on 4/10 shooting, to go along with 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Natalie Achonwa scored 10 points in 26 minutes of action, on top of grabbing 6 boards in the losing effort. Laeticia Amihere made a difference off of the bench for the Canadians, scoring 10 points in just 17 minutes with an efficient 5/10 from the floor. One of the biggest struggles for Canada in the game was defensive rebounding, who could only muster 22 boards compared to the 33 for Spain.

For Spain, it was the size up front that made the difference, as centre Astou Ndour-Fall dominated in her 36 minutes of action, finishing with a 20-point 11-rebound double-double on 9/11 shooting, along with 3 steals and 2 blocks. Guard Cristina Ouvina was also able to have her way with the Canadian defence, scoring 15 points and dishing 7 assists in the process. Spain was actually beaten 19-17 in terms of bench scoring, but the heavy minutes and impact of the starting 5 were too much to handle for Canada with 4 starters finishing with 8 points or more.

Much like in the first group game against Serbia, a slow start put Canada behind the 8-ball early, with their offence in particular struggling to get any sort of flow going. Spain outscored them 23-13 in the first frame, although the Canadians were able to get things back under control in the second quarter. Spain led 40-34 at the half, but it felt as if they deserved to be up by more considering the flow of the game. To start the third, Canada came out of the gates just as sloppy as they did in the first, with careless turnovers and empty possessions that allowed for Spain to extend the lead. Canada trailed 60-47 after the third, and knew it would take a miracle to come back in the fourth and assure qualification to the next round. Despite a valiant effort in the middle of the fourth, Spain put their foot back on the gas towards the end and ran away with a 10-point win in a game they thoroughly deserved from the first tip to the final whistle.

The loss is Canada’s second of group play, with the first being a tough 4-point defeat to Serbia earlier this week. Canada’s lone win was a blowout victory against South Korea, which helps them in terms of point differential, which is the main tiebreaker in the tournament.

As of Sunday morning, play in Group A has concluded, with Canada finishing 3rd. Group B and C are still yet to play their third matches, and those will be critical for a Canadian team that no longer controls its own destiny. Since 8 out of the 12 teams qualify for the quarters, two of the three third place teams will advance, meaning Canada would need help from other opponents in order to move through on point differential despite its losing record.

Unfortunately for Canada, it looks as if the third-place finisher in Group C (presumably Australia) will finish ahead of them unless Puerto Rico can pull off a miracle, meaning that their only real chance of qualification is to finish ahead of the third-place team in Group B. In order to do that, France will need to lose to the USA by 15 points or more on Sunday, which would put Canada ahead of France by point differential and move them into the quarterfinals.

For Spain, they will await the quarterfinal draw and prepare for whoever their opponent is on Tuesday night, while Canada will sit and wait until early Monday morning to see if they’ll join Spain in the knockout stages for an elimination game that would take place early Wednesday morning.

GAME STATS:

Canada:

Nurse – 14 PTS 2 REB  2 AST

Achonwa – 11 PTS 6 REB 2 AST

Carleton – 9 PTS 6 REB 4 AST

Spain:

Ndour-Fall – 20 PTS 11 REB 1 AST

Ouvina – 15 PTS 2 REB 7 AST

Gil – 8 PTS 7 REB 5 AST

CAN VS. SPAIN BOXSCORE

Photo courtesy Canada Basketball

The 2021 NBA Draft wrapped up late Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, with many teams walking away in a better position than they were the night prior. The Draft is the time of year where the teams who rarely get shine get their turn in the spotlight, especially with the early lottery selections that could drastically change the future of the franchise.

Due to a rough COVID-19-affected season and a little help from the draft lottery, the Toronto Raptors entered proceedings on Thursday night with the 4th selection, a pick that many thought would be spent on Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs. The consensus top 4 heading into the draft (Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, Suggs) were labeled as the best players in the bunch, amongst many other talents that made this one of the strongest draft classes in recent memory. With Toronto picking at #4, as well as having two back-to-back picks in the second round, Raptor fans knew that it was going to be a night to remember for the franchise, which is looking for a spark that can get them back into the Eastern Conference picture after last year’s disappointment.

In this article, we will recap the Raptors selections from draft night as well as a signing that was made the following morning, and look at what this means for the remainder of the off-season.

#4 Pick: Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State (FSU)

Heading into the draft, Scottie Barnes was the consensus 5th best player available, but the Raptors decided that he was too good to pass up, selecting him with the fourth pick.

What Suggs provides in guard-play and shooting, Barnes gives in athleticism, length, defensive ability and commitment. When you think about the current Raptors roster, Barnes makes sense in that he can switch multiple positions, and has possibly the biggest hunger to win out of anyone in the class.

Barnes isn’t the flashiest pick on the board, but he may be one of the most well-rounded. Offensively, he can pass, create for others as well as get his own shot, with his only issue being an inconsistent jumper. Barnes has said that his shot has already improved since his final collegiate game though, and if there’s any franchise in the league that could develop someone into a shooter it would be Toronto, who has done so in the Masai Ujiri era with countless other young players.

The confusion around the pick mostly came down to his position. Barnes is listed as a forward, although he often played as a 6’9 PG at Florida State under head coach Leonard Hamilton. It’s uncertain how the Raptors will choose to utilize him, especially considering they already have more than enough at the forward position with OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, but the thing that makes Barnes special is that you could probably line him up anywhere from the 1 to the 4 spot on most lineups, with the 5 even being an option if you choose to play small.

It’s very clear that Ujiri and Bobby Webster believe in Barnes, and despite the initial shock, Raptor fans should be hopeful about the selection and excited about Scottie’s future, especially considering the development history of this regime and the raw talent that Barnes will bring to the table on Day 1.

Off the court, Barnes actually has ties back to Toronto as well. Barnes stated in multiple post-draft interviews that he has Jamaican roots on his father’s side in the city, and is excited to get up here for the first time and get to work. Luckily for Barnes, it looks the opportunity to play in the North will come to fruition this season compared to the last, and he’ll get the chance to be with his family and enjoy the Toronto hospitality.

#46 Pick: Dalano Banton, G, Nebraska

When you get into the mid-to-late second round, you’re often selecting long-shot players that you have faith in from workouts and scouting, and Banton was exactly that player for Toronto.

Banton is a tall 6’9 guard that excels with the ball in his hands in pick-and-roll situations, and has a strong command of an offence. Much like Barnes, Banton’s weakest attribute is his shooting, but the organization clearly has faith in their abilities to develop a player’s shot, and if Banton could figure that side of his game he could easily make an impact at the NBA level one day.

The most notable thing about the Banton selection is that he is a Toronto native (Rexdale), and became the first Canadian player to be drafted by the Raptors this past Thursday night. The selection proves just how far Canadian basketball has come, and how much it will continue to grow over the years as more and more young talent emerges from north of the border.

Toronto clearly believes that they found a later sleeper with Banton, and it will be interesting to see what kind of impact he makes within the organization down the road.

47th Pick: David Johnson, G, Louisville

With the second of two back-to-back picks in the middle of the second round, the Raptors doubled down and selected another guard, this time by way of Louisville.

Johnson has great size at the guard position at 6’5 210lbs, and has a long wingspan, which has been a consistent theme amongst recent Raptor selections. He has a plethora of weapons at the offensive end, with an ability to break down his defender and get to his spots from mid-range and under the basket.

The one area that Johnson can struggle with is his consistency from beyond-the-arc, but just like the other two selections, the Raptors are hoping they will be able to develop that as he becomes more confident at the professional level.

It’s hard to determine how players selected this late will pan out, but the Raptors believe that there could be a future for both him and Danton on the roster in the future, and it will be interesting to see if they can capitalize on the faith that the franchise put into them.

Free Agent Signing: Justin Champagnie, F, Pittsburgh

After going undrafted on Thursday night, the Raptors signed Pittsburgh’s Justin Champagnie early Friday morning.

Champagnie is a bit under-sized for his position at 6’6, but he makes up for it in hustle and play-style. He plays bigger than his measurements, and provides energy that could easily transfer to the NBA level if he’s able to improve in other areas of his game.

Like everyone else the Raptors have added, Champagnie needs to work on his outside shot, and his ability to improve in that area will likely determine if he is ever able to crack the NBA roster and receive a significant role from Nick Nurse.

Moving Forward

A usual saying amongst NBA front offices is that the picture for next season becomes clearer after the draft, but that isn’t necessarily true for Toronto. The Raptors still have to decide what to do with Kyle Lowry, and as of right now, it seems as if all three options (sign-and-trade, re-sign, and free agency) all remain in play over the next month or so.

With the selection of Barnes, the Raptors now have increased depth at the forward position, possibly meaning that a Siakam trade could be in the works depending on the types of offers the Raptors get back.

Off the court, Ujiri’s contract still remains in the air, although his commitment to the franchise seems to be un-waivered, and it would be a surprise if they were not able to get a deal done that would keep him in Toronto for the foreseeable future.

……

The NBA Draft is a time of hope, and although the Raptors went with a bit of a surprise in the first round, it’s very clear that they got the guy they wanted, and it will be interesting to see how it pans out. Most of the time, the true effectiveness of a draft cannot be determined until years down the road, and so for now, Raptors fans will have to get behind Barnes and company and hope that the organization is able to develop the players they selected just as well as they have done with countless others over the last several years.