It is not only the 20th pick in June’s NBA draft that intrigues Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri as he surveys the talent at the league’s combine here. He has his eye on the 37th pick as well. The second round of the draft has historically been a barren wasteland for the Raptors, who have yet to groom a long-term second-round pick of their own. The Raptors are trying to come up with a list of at least a half-dozen players they think would be suitable for the 20th pick, and are trying to narrow down a list for that 37th pick. It’s a commonly held theory that a growing and improving team needs to unearth at least one good second-round player every three or four years, and Ujiri knows full well Toronto’s second-round pick history is bleak. Arguably the best player the organization got in the second round was Matt Bonner, and he was obtained in a trade.
It’s not exactly a solution to draft-day gaffes, but as Goldsberry points out, this crowd-sourcing play is an opportunity to mine a vast resource of untapped NBA Superfans, and their analytical potential. While many GM’s are likely scoffing at the Kings’ decision here, it’s hard to be that critical of the move when every year, the bulk of lottery teams make bad decisions regarding their selections. The current draft evaluation process done by most teams obviously isn’t working, otherwise an upcoming contender like Memphis doesn’t draft Hasheem Thabeet second overall, nor does a “trying to rebuild” Washington Wizards club follow their no-brainer John Wall selection with Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton. So why not try something a little different? I’d love to see the Toronto Raptors do something similar and who knows, maybe down the road we see many teams move to a model like this, not only to tap into fan knowledge and outside-the-box evaluation concepts, but also in terms of connecting with fans. Such a move does a great job of encouraging fan involvement in one of the more passionate NBA topics, the NBA draft process.
The only player to receive even a shot at making the Raps was Angola’s Carlos Morais, and he was cut late in training camp. Would Carlos have stayed on this side of the Atlantic if the Raps had a meaningful place for him to play? I don’t know (he’s an established player in African pro ball, and was MVP of Afrobasket 2013), but he might have, if his NBA dream was strong enough. There it is, Rapture Nation: our team (no, our organization) needs more players from more places, and somewhere for them to hone their skills. The big team won’t be damaged if players know there are some pretty talented people a short plane ride away.