Armed with the 33rd-overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday, the Toronto Raptors don’t necessarily have the most attractive of options in front of them, but it’s not like they have nothing to work with, either.
Should the Raptors choose to keep their pick and make a selection for themselves, there’s a wide range of directions they could go in with many players they may be looking at to plug the obvious holes on the roster such as at centre, perimeter shooting, and playmaking and ball-handling coming off the bench.
Though Toronto is picking in the second round, it’s an early second-round pick meaning the club will, essentially, be getting a player with late first-round talent but at likely a cheaper rate and on a deal that doesn’t necessarily have to be guaranteed.
It’s a good spot for the Raptors to be in as they look to build upon what they already have in place right now with lots of choices in front of them.
Here are 10 possible targets the Raptors could be looking at with the No. 33 pick.
Christian Braun, SG/SF, Kansas
Age: 21 | Height: 6’6” | Weight: 220
The ultra-confident Jayhawks junior would be a solid fit with the Raptors as he’s proven himself to be a prototypical-looking three-and-D NBA role player throughout the three seasons he played at Kansas where he shot 37.8 percent from three-point range and proved to be a strong, competitive rebounder with better athletic ability than he’s normally given credit for.
Braun isn’t exactly the most exciting pick, but the Raptors need players who can both space the floor and defend the wing and Braun can do that. If he’s available when their turn comes up they could certainly do worse.
Caleb Houstan, SF, Michigan
Age: 19 | Height: 6’8” | Weight: 205
A Mississauga, Ont., native, Houstan had an alright freshman year with the Wolverines but likely was unable to show all that he could bring to the table due to the physical nature of the Big Ten. Still, at just 19 years of age and blessed with good positional size, strong shooting touch and awareness on the defensive end, the potential for Houstan to be the Raptors’ next great developmental story is high.
Houstan will likely take some time and a lot of work for him to fully blossom, but he’s got the physical tools and the fact that he’s a local boy wouldn’t hurt his chances with Toronto, either.
Trevor Keels, PG/SG, Duke
Age: 18 | Height: 6’4” | Weight: 220
In case those dimensions didn’t make it obvious, Duke freshman combo guard Keels is a big boy. At only 18, Keels is among the youngest players in the draft and is also one of the most physically mature with excellent size and strength that should allow him to defend at least three positions in the NBA.
He still has a ways to go with his shot, ball-handling and decision-making, but he’ll compete hard and could be utilized as a defensive specialist coming off the bench early on, making him exactly the kind of mouldable player the Raptors love.
Christian Koloko, C, Arizona
Age: 21 | Height: 7’0” | Weight: 220
If the Raptors are looking to address their need for rim protection in the second round, they likely won’t find a better option where they’re picking than Koloko. One of the best shot blockers in all of college basketball last season, turning aside 2.8 shots per game, the Wildcats junior had a breakout season where he earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honours and was a First-team All-Pac-12 selection.
Koloko isn’t physically imposing and may struggle against some of the beefier bigs in the NBA, but he’s fleet of foot and has excellent shot-blocking timing. Theoretically, he should have no issues playing in Nick Nurse’s array of zones and switch-happy defensive schemes because of those two skills he possesses.
Jake LaRavia, SF/PF, Wake Forest
Age: 20 | Height: 6’8” | Weight: 235
After playing his first two years at Indiana State, LaRavia transferred to Wake Forest last season where he flourished, averaging 14.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 55.9 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from deep.
The fit with the Raptors is obvious. He was a junior this season but he won’t turn 21 until November so there’s time on his side to develop further, he’s a good shooter and can rebound the ball well enough. Though not as athletically gifted as others, LaRavia has smarts on the defensive end that allow him to play a solid team-defence game. He would fill a need the Raptors have right now.
Bryce McGowens, SG/SF, Nebraska
Age: 19 | Height: 6’6” | Weight: 180
McGowens would be a classic second round high-risk, high-reward pick for the Raptors. He’s a very good athlete with plenty of upside as a scorer and shooter but is probably going to need some seasoning in the G League to get up to snuff in that department. Another knock on him is his lack of defensive toughness, which wouldn’t play well with a coach like Nurse.
With that said, he’s only 19 and is like malleable Play-Doh right now, waiting to be turned into anything the Raptors (or any other team) may want to make him become.
Andrew Nembhard, PG, Gonzaga
Age: 22 | Height: 6’5” | Weight: 195
Another potential Canadian option for the Raptors with the No. 33 pick, the senior Bulldog would be able to step right in immediately and act as the definitive backup point guard to Fred VanVleet.
Nembhard can do everything you want in a solid backup point guard: He’s a strong passer and makes good decisions with the ball, he competes hard on defence and shoots the ball just well enough. Unfortunately, he isn’t all that gifted physically and athletically so he isn’t likely to have much takeover ability, but if reliable point guard play is what you’re looking for, look no further.
David Roddy, PF, Colorado State
Age: 21 | Height: 6’6” | Weight: 260
If there’s one thing the Raptors love it’s guys with versatile, unique skillsets and the Rams junior is that personified.
He has a football player’s body but has the soft touch and skill needed to play basketball at the highest level, as demonstrated by the 43.8 percent he shot from three-point range last season. He’s only six-foot-six, but his heft and strength make him better suited to play the four and there’s a chance he could even see some time at the five because of the heavy anchor that he is.
Peyton Watson, SG/SF, UCLA
Age: 19 | Height: 6’8” | Weight: 200
Another high-upside project, Watson is a long, wiry athlete with all the tools you want in an NBA wing. He has an explosive first step, has great bounce and can attack the rim from the air, is very long and has the kind of quick feet that make you believe he will become a good defender.
The Raptors have no issues sending players down to the G League to develop so the weaknesses Watson has — such as a work-in-progress jumper — can be corrected down there. Watson won’t help the Raptors now, so he doesn’t exactly fit the apparent timeline the team’s on, but he’s a talented player and, more often than not, the Raptors have looked to draft for talent over fit.
Jaylin Williams, C, Arkansas
Age: 19 | Height: 6’10” | Weight: 240
As far as marrying fit and upside, Williams looks like the perfect prospect for the Raptors. A 19-year-old centre with plenty of not-quite-there skills that could be turned into some really intriguing weapons if honed properly.
The Arkansas sophomore makes solid screens, has a very interesting skill in progress has a passer, is working on a budding three-point stroke that would allow him to play as a stretch five (and offence initiator with his passing skills) and though he isn’t the quickest guy out there, he’s strong, smart and plays defence well positionally, enabling him to draw charges at a semi-consistent rate.
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