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.
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.