With the trade deadline over and the rosters set for the end of the season, general managers will now have their sights set on the 2017 NBA Draft. Many experts are calling this the deepest drafts in recent NBA history, with some even going as far as comparing it to the vaunted 2001 class that had players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. Now, it seems like every year is the “deepest” draft class, one thing is for sure, there is a plethora of guards with star potential. The Raptors traded away their second round pick to get P.J. Tucker and will be giving away the lower of their two first round picks to the Orlando Magic because of the Serge Ibaka deal. This means they will only have one selection which will most likely be in the 20-25 range.
With a number of key players being eligible for free agency, this draft will be key for the Toronto Raptors as they try and find a player ready to contribute right away so they can take advantage of that rookie contract. Do not expect one of the many talented freshman as Masai Ujiri will not want to have another “project” player. Instead he could very well go the San Antonio route and take an upperclassman. That being said, if they do re-sign Ibaka, Patrick Patterson, Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker, they will probably be looking to find a three-point shooting small forward to come off of the bench.
Justin Jackson – 6’8 Junior, North Carolina
Justin Jackson was a huge prospect coming out of highschool and many thought his college career would only last one season. However, because of some inconsistent play his first two seasons as a Tar Heel decided to stay and improve his body. Jackson has become a revelation this season, showing poise and maturity on all ends of the floor. A legitimate two way- player, Jackson has the length and quickness to guard two or three positions. He is a very capable passer, averaging 3 assists per game and can score from every area on the court. The biggest thing that is catapulting Jackson up the draft boards has been his improved three-point shooting. Having a woeful year from three in his sophomore season shooting only 29%, Jackson has improved his mechanics and his now firing on all cylinders at a more than respectable 39%.
Luke Kennard- 6’5 Sophomore, Duke
If the Toronto Raptors are looking for an offensive weapon and pure shooter, then Luke Kennard is their guy. A lefty-scorer with the “IT” factor, Kennard has proven time and time again this season he wants the ball in his hands at the end of games. Averaging 20.1 points per game on a ridiculous 47% three-point shot, Kennard is automatic from deep and could be the floor-spacer DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas have been looking for in the past few seasons. There are some question marks about his defensive potential. But Toronto have built a very strong defensive unit, and Toronto could hide him by putting him with the likes of P.J Tucker, Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka.
V.J. Beachem- 6’8 Senior, Notre Dame
V.J. Beachem is the prototypical “3 and D” player as he possesses legitimate NBA athleticism and size. Beachem would be able to immediately come into the Raptors rotation and be able to produce on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively there is a lot of room for improvement, but he does bring one aspect that the Raptors desperately need, floor-spacing. Beachem shoots 40% from three and his easy mechanics show he can push well past the three-point line. With creators like Derozan, Lowry and Cory Joseph, Beachem would be able to just float around the three-point line and let fly whenever he touches the ball. I mean this quite literally as he shoots 44% on his catch-and-shoot threes, he would be a deadly weapon behind the arc.
Jaron Blossomgame- 6’8 Senior, Clemson
Jaron Blossomgame is the definition of a defensive stopper. A powerful athlete who has an 8’0 standing reach, he could legitimately guard all five positions and give tremendous versatility on the defensive end of the floor. Possibly the best defender in this upcoming draft, the only reason he has slipped down the draft board is his rudimentary offensive game. He is a more than capable shooter at 44% from three but has a very low release point which could be problematic at the next level where he might not have as much time to release his shots. He does have a quick first step and is very adept at straight line drives. Picture a much bigger Norman Powell which could have the Raptors front office foaming at the mouth.
Dillon Brooks- 6’7 Junior, Oregon
The typical wild-card player, Dillon Brooks will be the gem of the second round. Yes, the Raptors do not have a second round pick, but they could very well go off script like they did with Bruno Caboclo and pick the Toronto native in the first round. Brooks is an elite scorer, leading Canada to a silver medal in the FIBA U-18 championships where he led the tournament in scoring at 28 points per game. A bull in a china shop, his aggressiveness and motor are qualities that are extremely valued at the next level. Like Kennard, Brooks has big-shot potential as he has already made three buzzer-beating shots to give Oregon wins this year. The front-runner for PAC-12 player of the year at this point, Brooks would give Toronto great versatility as he can score from all areas of the court and is a capable passer at times.