Cleanthony Early. Rodney Hood. Elfrid Payton. Jusuf Nurkic. Jerami Grant. K.J. McDaniels. T.J. Warren. Kristaps Porzingis.

T.J. Warren. Clint Capela. Adreian Payne. Kristaps Porzingis. K.J. McDaniels. Kyle Anderson. P.J. Hairston. Jerami Grant.

Those, respectively, are the players currently mocked in the 18-25 range by Chad Ford and DraftExpress. That’s a lot of names that are in what could generally be considered the Toronto Raptors’ draft “wheelhouse” at this early juncture (the Raptors have the No. 20 pick, along with Nos. 37 and 59, if you were unaware).

Here’s how those names break down:

Guard – Payton
Wing – Early, Hood, Grant, McDaniels, Warren, McDaniels, Anderson, Hairston
Big – Nurkic, Porzingis, Capela, Payne

It’s pretty clear that, should the Raptors determine they’d like to draft a wing player, they’ll have ample options. Meanwhile, almost every big available is a Euro-prospect, and there’s only one game-changing guard likely to slip to the Raptors (unless you’re of the delusion that Anderson, a personal favorite, could somehow rekindle his failed freshman season and play guard, which, yeah, log off pal).

“Great!” you respond, seeing that the Raptors’ biggest immediate hole is a reserve wing to upgrade the “John Salmons position” and having heard general manager Masai Ujiri express that as a desired area of improvement. And it’s hard to blame that logic – see hole, fill hole.

Having said that, I’m hoping that the team takes the “best player available” approach regardless of what position is available at the time.

Generally speaking, I’d advocate for the “best player available” strategy for any team, save for maybe a true contender with a glaring hole and no other weaknesses. It just doesn’t make sense to take a lesser talent to fill a perceived weakness – you’re drafting with a multi-year horizon in mind, so it’s silly to then take a present-day only look at your situation when determining who to draft. Contracts don’t often last more than three years now, trades are, you know, allowed, and most players and systems are such that the “strict five” positions have become largely fluid.

Drafting for need may make the team slightly better off the bat and may make the development plan more clear, but it also runs the risk of leaving a greater talent on the table. I probably only need to mention the names Rafael Araujo, Andrew Iguodala and Andre Drummond to make this point to Raptors fans. Even in the Drummond scenario, where the Raptors couldn’t justify trying to develop he and Jonas Valanciunas simultaneously, the team passed up a far superior talent so that they wouldn’t run into a situation where they had to play one of the bigs at the four or deal one of them. That, in the words of Marlo Stanfield, “sound like one of them good problems.” (Note that I don’t know if this was the logic for passing but it sure seemed the logic.)

And that’s not to disparage Terrence Ross, who obviously seems a capable rotation player, perhaps with the potential for more. But in a vacuum, all 30 NBA teams would deal Ross for Drummond. A good number would surely do so even with Valanciunas on the roster, because talent comes at a premium. Unless you’re already an elite team, you accumulate talent and value, and shuffle the pieces later if need be.

So that’s my general take on drafting – best player available. Maximize talent, make the pieces fit via system changes or roster adjustments later. It’s the best way to ensure you eventually have the best players possible, which is more important to building a winner than the fit early(-ish) in the process.

For the Raptors this season, in specific, it goes doubly because of the question marks all around the roster. Remember that the draft is on June 26, a few days ahead of free agency opening. That means that the Raptors really only have seven players who are locks to be on the team next year at draft time:

Guard – None
Wing – DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Landry Fields
Big – Amir Johnson (there’s no way they don’t guarantee that deal), Jonas Valanciunas, Chuck Hayes, Steve Novak

Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez, Nando De Colo and Patrick Patterson can all walk, Salmons and Tyler Hansbrough seem likely to be waived, and Julyan Stone and Dwight Buycks probably won’t be retained at first because the team will want to clear their cap holds initially.

Said differently, we don’t know what the roster may look like for 2014-15, even if we may have an idea of where they’re going. Even still, ahead of any certainty from the free agency process, you can make the case that the Raptors have a “need” at any position and a clear path to minutes to help develop any player listed in the 18-25 range off the top of the article.

PG: Payton – If only one of Vasquez or Lowry is retained (or neither), the team obviously needs a PG(2), and if Lowry walks they need to work quickly to find a “PG of the future.” Payton is thought by some to be the most undervalued asset in the first round and both Lowry and Vasquez have shown an ability to play effectively in two-point guard lineups, meaning minutes for the rookie aren’t a concern.

Smaller Wings: Hairston, Hood – Ross and DeRozan have both shown an ability to play the three for stretches and, while this isn’t ideal defensively, both of these players bring an offensive upside that may be higher than that of Ross and a higher defensive upside and DeRozan.

Bigger Wings: Warren, McDaniels, Anderson, Grant, Early – The team’s biggest weakness if the entire roster returned, adding a sizable wing who can check larger threes, especially on the block, is an obvious need, especially if the all-okay-defense-no-don’t-shoot-that-nooooo Salmons isn’t retained (please, Shamgod). Valuations on each name vary, but it’s easy to justify a player from this group.

PF: Payne – It’s a Patterson succession plan, allowing the Raptors to focus on a sign-and-trade for Patterson or letting him walk outright if he commands too large a deal as a restricted free agent. Even if the team retained Patterson, Payne could then be a succession plan for Johnson when he can walk in 2015, and Johnson has shown he can play enough five to get minutes there in the interim.

Bigs: Nurkic, Porzingis, Capela – All considered at least medium-term projects, one would think that Valanciunas is far enough along on the development path that the team can begin to develop a backup at the same time. In addition, only Nurkic projects as “center only,” with the other two projecting as enormous fours or thin fives.

So it’s pretty easy to justify taking any player type depending on what you think will happen or what you want to happen in the offseason. So just take the best damn talent available, however the team determines that ranking shakes out (and you’re welcome to your own opinion on that front, of course).

As for “tiers,” a draft strategy some teams reportedly use whereby they place players in talent tiers and draft based on need within each tier, well again, the Raptors have a handful of potential needs. They may have an idea of where and how they’ll be able to fill certain holes and where more may emerge, but the important part of the “tiers” strategy is identifying talent above all else.

  • Marz

    I feel like you’re contradicting yourself a bit here. You say, “you’re drafting with a multi-year horizon in mind, so it’s silly to then take a present-day only look at your situation when determining who to draft.”

    If that is the case, then how can we compare Ross to Drummond? Certainly, right now teams would trade Ross for Drummond (in a “vacuum”). But what about down the line?

    The fact of the matter is, BPA isn’t so black and white, especially at later picks. I mean, there are exceptions (Hoffa vs Iggy is about as black and white as it gets), but most of the time there’s a gray area that seems to get ignored based on 1-2 seasons. Take a look at Tyreke Evans vs. James Harden. I remember a prominent Raptor blogger saying that OKC must be kicking themselves for taking Harden over Evans. And now? I don’t think it’s even close.

    I’m not saying Ross will be better than Drummond or vice versa. My main point is that determining BPA will be extremely subjective at the 20th pick.

    • BlakeMurphy

      Not sure how that at all contradicts. I think 100% of basketball people would tell you Drummond at present and on potential is well beyond Ross.

      • ItsAboutFun

        But not when they were drafted, which is the only point at which BPA is relevant, and the point in time we’re talking about, right? You don’t have hindsight on draft night, nor do you have reliable 3-4 year foresight. It’s a bit of a crap shoot for all teams, though some more than others.

        As Marz is saying, The further one gets in the draft, the more hazy “BPA” is, and it’s rarely black & white. Fine to trumpet “BPA is smart”, but BPA is very subjective and not available in a mathematical formula.

      • Guest

        This may be true now, and if the question was “Would you trade Ross for Drummond,” then your statement would be relevant, but not within the context of your post (which was about drafting the BPA, not trading for the BPA). Since I don’t have first-hand knowledge of what all the best basketball minds were truly thinking prior to the draft (and not just stating, as pre-draft statements tend to be rife with misinformation), I can’t say what the consensus was for true “basketball people”, not that consensus is that relevant either as teams should not be drafting by consensus anyway.

        Not that RR posters count as “basketball people”, but as far as RR public opinion is concerned, there was a drastic shift in tone from before the draft to after it. If we picked the BPA back then based on RR public opinion (as shown in that one thread where people were asked to state their selections and who they felt we should stay away from), an argument could be made that RR forum posters would have selected Austin Rivers over both Ross and Drummond (though Rivers also had quite a few detractors like Drummond did, he also had more supporters than Drummond). That is why all this BPA talk is largely irrelevant or at least inaccurate. You only see people mention how Drummond was the obvious BPA (and how obvious could it have been when there were so many doubts?), but people never mention how he had huge bust potential, especially given his inability to dominate on the college level. Question marks simply cannot be ignored when determining the BPA; if we evaluated simply on upside alone… remember when Perry Jones and Hassan Whiteside were raved about? Upside alone does not make someone the BPA.

  • KingRaptors

    Yeah I agree that we need to find best “talent” and in the piece you kinda go against that. So my question to you, is who is the best talent in the 18-25 range?

    • noname

      definitely payne.

      • CoachDave

        if you draft from 1-10, BPA. If not the talent and potential are hard to evaluate, so TRY to fill position. If it where so easy guys like Tony Parker, iggy, kobe, heck even MJ wouldn’t get passed over.

        • noname

          well I honestly think Payne is the best talent plus he can fill a position of need at pf if patterson doesn’t resign. And who knows Payne might become starting pf caliber, like you said many great players have been taken later in the draft. Although I would want patterson back but the problem is we can’t let go of amir because he loves our city and helped establish along with demar a good basketball culture in TO in the recent years. If he was just another player on the team, then I would just let amir go, resign patterson, draft payne, patterson starts until payne earns it. Then find a 3 who can defend and a big C in free agency (since we need experienced guys anyway).

          • DC

            Your arguments for keeping Amir can’t be the deciding factors.

            • noname

              I know but it’s just too much of a tough decision…the complications are real. I guess the next best thing is to draft a good sf. Although imagine if we could package ross + 2016 first that we got in bargs deal + all 3 draft picks we have this year + 2 expirings (fields and hayes) to cleveland for their 1st overall pick and anthony bennett. We could use that pick to draft wiggins and then have enough cap room to resign lowry, vasquez, de colo, and 2pat and sign a Big C with our mle. Let go of salmons and bam our lineup is Lowry/Vasquez, Derozan/De colo, Wiggins/Bennett/Novak, 2pat/amir/hansbrough (he’s better off coming off the bench), and JV/big C we get. Then the only scrubs we have are Buycks and Stone. That would be awesome.

              • pwnt

                Bennett’s not an SF

                Amir’s our team’s best defender and our success this season was based on being a top 10 team on both ends of the court. Not to mention, he’s highly efficiency when our guards actually involve him on offense instead of chucking up low efficiency shots.

          • pwnt

            old, lung issues..ZBo/David West level potential (not playstyle), floor is Patterson level. I’ll pass.

            Porzingis has a way higher upside – one of the youngest in the draft, higher block rate than Ibaka in Spain, can shoot up to the 3 point line. Perfect fit next to Jonas. Biggest weakness is strength, which is the easiest thing to develop.

    • BlakeMurphy

      I don’t have the access the team has, so I can only base it off what I read and what I saw during the NCAA season. With that information only, Payne is my favorite of the players listed.

      Not sure how I “go against” finding the best talent in the piece, though. It just laid out the case for going BPA, not a particular player.

      • Marnix Saynor

        I think Hairston is the best player available but he’s also got some off the court issues that may overshadow his skillset

        • pwnt

          Hairston’s a 6th man chucker type

  • Dre2

    Solid comment @Marz. Mainly on the Harden Tyreke component. I mean if Drummond ends up as a slightly better Deandre Jordan and Ross ends up as a poor man’s Paul George (its not out of the question, check Paul George in sophmore yr) 12ppg 38% 3pt. 44% FG. Argument probably cant be settled until Ross Drummond hit year 5. So “Best Player available” is subject to debate. There were concerns with Drummond or he would have went before 9.

    • pwnt

      yeah..Drummond dropped and Ross was a reach. Draft Drummond, trade him for Ross + pick or an all-star. Right now, Ross wouldn’t even net us a high end role player. Not to mention, both DD and Ross are pure 2’s. With the plethora of SF’s coming in, it’s going to be a weakness, especially in the playoffs where teams adjust and attack your weak points.

  • ckh26

    BPA vs Need. This is a sports mantra but I think its a touch flawed. Here is a cheap shot analogy.

    You buy dogfood. Its the best GD dogfood on the shelf. Passes every vet classification for purity and health known in Christendom. Problem is.. you don’t have a dog.

    So if the best player available when the Raps draft is a centre and he projects well as a guy who can play but won’t ever take starters minutes from JV do you draft him as the BPA OR do you draft what you need which is a bigger wing at the 3 or a bruiser at the 4. Do you fix what isn’t broke or do you fix what is.

    BPA vs Need.Not many run their day to day lives using this premise . Just an alternate point of view vs conventional sporting wisdom.

    • BlakeMurphy

      Okay, but I would hope my NBA team doesn’t run a lot of things like my day to day life, or the whole team would be drunk 40% of the time and sleep 4hrs a night.

      • ckh26

        The price we pay for livin la vida loca ! (Big Smile). Lots of chess moves about to take place in the next 60 days to keep us all occupied and speculating on what the raps look like and what the conference looks like in October. .

  • Dedd

    >Smaller Wings: Hairston, Hood

    Hood is taller than every one of the “bigger wings” you listed besides Anderson (if he even is a wing)

    • BlakeMurphy

      He’s 6-foot-8 but he’s also only 208 pounds. The only one listed who is smaller is KJ McDaniels, who also happens to have a 7-foot wingspan.

      Height does not = “big”

      • JJh

        He does have a point though. Everyone but Kyle Anderson in the “Bigger Wings” category is within 11 pounds of Hood. Hairston, one of the “smaller wings” at 229lbs would be the second heaviest. Early is 209 and Grant is 215, while Warren is 220.

        These classifications don’t seem consistent.

  • uke2themax

    Here’s one problem with the ‘draft the best talent’ strategy: let’s say a team with 2 good PF’s drafts a 3rd PF because he’s the best talent; several problems can arise due to a scarcity of playing time for each player: one is that otherwise valuable assets are rotting away on the bench (and not developing) — I would rather have a slightly less talented player, who nonetheless contributes, play 25 minutes per game rather than have more talented players playing 10 or 15 (think of it this way: would you rather have a line-up of kevin love, chris bosh, paul millsap, where millsap plays only 10 minutes per game, at PF with kyle lowry and julyan stone, playing 25 minutes per game, at PG, or the same line-up without millsap and with Vasquez playing backup PG eating up stone’s minutes?); of course, ‘best talent’ advocates will argue that it is better to have the most talented players because you can eventually, in my hypothetical example, trade one of the PF’s for a player that fills a hole. The problem with this is that if you have 3 talented PF’s, it will become rather obvious that you’re trying to trade one, which, in turn, will lower the player’s trade value. The result? You’re likely trading away the ‘best talent’ for a lesser talent to fill a hole. Doesn’t this bring us to the original problem?

    • pwnt

      Not if there’s competition to trade for that player..especially if he’s on a rookie contract. Not to mention, you can just trade for the player you originally wanted to draft + an extra asset. Example: Ross + 1st round pick for Drummond.

  • Puffer

    Clearly you draft BPA but you have previously made a deal with some team that has a better fit for that player and is willing to give something up for him. Whether it is picking the player you want (if available at a lower pick, then you get said player at a lower salary thus preserving cap space) or some other valuable asset, like a role player and future picks…whatever. Nothing says you have to draft the BPA and then hang on to him without developing.

  • meductic

    Great to see a realistic survey for the twentieth pick. Some of the ongoing commentary in the forums appears to be either overly optimistic or of the ” lets trade everyone on the team for the 5th pick” variety, Again, a job well done. One thing that is not covered by the BPA approach is how a team is set up to develop the talent they draft. As mentioned, having no place for raw talent doesn’t always help anyone. Nor does forcing time on someone not ready. Trades are not always practical. I guess I lean more to a tier approach than either of the other two…

  • santayama

    Since its completely unclear who the best player available is, it makes perfect sense to pick the player who’s the best fit, imo.

  • Soup

    Can we all agree that we take Aaron Gordon no matter what if he some how drops in the draft

    • brian

      Lol……….just pray

    • pwnt

      overrated athletic tweener

      can he shoot or dribble or post-up? does he have good b-ball IQ?

  • Minks77

    Every time I hear this argument I think why the hell would you draft for need? Draft the best possible asset and figure out the rest later.

    There’s a lot of great examples of D4N backfiring. To cherry pick: Portland in ’84 (Bowie over MJ in part due to Clyde) and Portland in 2007 (Oden over Durant in part due to Roy). This also illustrates why overvaluing size is a perilous decision and exactly why drafting Embiid over JP or AW is a crazy idea IMO.

  • asifyouknow

    I guess we can all talk honestly as to what you need to play with the elite teams:

    DeMar is an amazing shooter but he can’t defend. He is quick enough to be a great defender but as most offensive guys he probably got a pass from his high school and college coach and was never forced to play D. He is a lazy defensive player.
    He is also a terrible dribbler, surprisingly has a hard time handling the ball specially for a guy with such a great level of athleticism.
    If he wants to be an elite type player he needs to make better decisions at critical times and make an attempt to play defense.
    My take: Will be trade bait in a few years if he does not improve.

    Lowry is a top 10 guard in the NBA, probably a 10 mill+ a year guy. Questions are:
    Can he keep up that kind of hard charging game all season?
    He is getting older and injuries will de harder to shake off in a few years.
    Do they want to take a chance and give him four years? OR Do they go out and get a draft pick at PG and keep Vasquez and DeColo until he is ready?
    My take: Go get a PG with your 20 th pick. (I believe that is the pick you got correct me if I’m wrong)

    Ross is young and may be able to put on a few pounds (like 10 kilos of muscles) He started for Toronto but he was really a 15 minute bench guy, that became evident the last few months of the season.

    My take: His spot has to be upgraded, they need about 6’8″ plus and 230 lb + guy at that spot.
    JV is just a baby and will be a top center is a few years, no need to mess with him but Toronto needs to find a good back-up ..Asik?
    My take: Let him play through mistakes Casey! That is how he will learn.

    Amir will be fine , like to see him on a good foot for a whole season.
    My take: The guy can have a hell of a season with a pick and roll set up.
    Those are the core.
    The back up’s like Patterson, Vasquez and Salmons did a great job but are movable parts. Rumors are Vaz and Patterson might get higher offers than Toronto would be willing to pay.
    Knicks are desperate for a back-up PG, Felton was told he would be traded and he is at 4.5 mill and he is terrible, I could see knicks offering Vaz 5 to 6 mill, Toronto is not going to pay that.. If they pay Lowry 12 or better Vaz and Patterson will be gone.

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