Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

Should the Raptors Draft a Point Guard?

On Lillard, Marshall, Wroten, Teague, and more.

Lilly and Marshall

If the Toronto Raptors decide to renounce their rights to Jerryd Bayless in the next few weeks, they’ll have just a lone Point Guard under contract in Jose Calderon. Calderon, a soon-to-be 31-year old who has never averaged more than 34.3MPG and has only played a full season once, is the type of point guard that most certainly needs a caddy, both due to playing time restrictions and his defensive shortcomings. The Raptors could conceivably make a big splash in free agency (overpaying for a Jeremy Lin or Goran Dragic, perhaps), sign a restricted guard to an offer sheet (D.J. Augustin qualifies as a candidate), or bring Canada to a halt by somehow luring Steve Nash back “home.”

In reality, it seems more likely that the Raptors will use one of their three draft picks to find Jose’s next backup, unless a trade can be managed (and that’s not out of the question). So in summation, I have no clue who the backup point-man will be next year, whether it be a free agent, trade target, draft pick, or even Bayless himself again. And don’t give me that weak Ben Uzoh sauce, either. He of the world’s most tank-ish triple double is more of a third PG than a reliable back-up on a team with playoff aspirations.

But since I can’t analyze things like signings or trades until they happen, I can at least take a look at prospects who could potentially be the PG Of The Future or at least the Backup PG of the Present. The draft is pretty devoid of guard talent, so if the Raptors were set on this route they would likely try to acquire another first round pick (or slide down), but let’s do the analysis anyway, just to be thorough.

Round #1, Pick #8 (or 1-11)
This pick could wind up as Anthony Davis (2.8% chance), 2nd overall (3.3%), 3rd overall (3.9%), 8th (72.4%), 9th (16.8%), 10th (0.8%) or 11th (near-0 odds). So…we don’t know where this pick will come. Imagine that, uncertainty in a Blake Murphy offseason article!

I would assume if this pick lands in one of the more favorable spots, the Raptors will employ the “best player available” approach and ignore the point guard position. However, if it ends up at #8 or lower, the top two point guard prospects really come in to play, as they’re ranked in the 13-17 range by Chad Ford and Draft Express, and the Raptors Republic Reader Rankings had them both in the lottery. At #8, you can reach a bit for need, and the later this pick falls the less of a reach it would be.

Damian Lillard – Ford, DX, and myself all like Lillard slightly better, but the differences are universally negligible. The RRR had Marshall a spot higher, probably due to the narrative of him being a team-first, makes-everyone-better type. Still, Lillard has a more obvious upside. While some draw Bayless comparisons, he appears to be a much better version – he scored at will in college and was maybe the best lane penetrator in the country. While he didn’t find teammates as much as you’d like, he showed impressive range and servicable defense while ranking second in the entire nation in PER. Because he went to Weber State, some will question his numbers and how he’ll fare against other top guards, so the team workouts will be paramount for his draft stock. Based on his floor as a Microwave Man and his (admittedly generous) ceiling as a Westbrook-type scoring threat, I’d be excited about Lillard coming to the Raptors as high as the #8 pick.

Kendall Marshall – Marshall might be a safer pick because he has the UNC pedigree, the team-first reputation, and the narrative of UNC’s offense falling apart without him in the NCAA tournament. With that said, he shows little in the way of scoring ability and his shot isn’t fantastic. His basketball IQ and court vision are both otherworldy, and it’s difficult to see this intelligent a player completely failing at the next level, so his floor is sufficiently high. Defensively, he’ll probably be better off guarding bigger point-men, which may lend itself to some cross-defending if paired with a smaller two-guard (not relevant for the Raptors, though it does mean he could play with Jose). I’d be okay with Marshall just as high as Lillard for the Raptors, but my preference remains Lillard due to the enormous upside.

Limbo Range – Late First Rounders
Without a second 1st round pick, the Raptors will probably miss out on the opportunity to draft this next group of guards.

Tony Wroten Jr. – His potential is among the highest in the entire draft, regardless of position, but he also has the highest potential for a quick flame-out. Wroten possesses the vision and quickness of an elite NBA guard but certainly not the IQ, and his draft position will come down almost entirely to his pre-draft interviews, I would think. For the Raptors, he’d be intriguing as a combo-guard who could play with Jose but also run the second unit. I don’t see him being in the plans due to his projected 15-22 range.

Marquis Teague – Teague was expected to be the top point guard in this draft class at the season’s onset, but he struggled for a chunk of the season and his value dropped. He still has the speed, vision, and finishing ability of an elite NBA prospect, but his lack of performance and jump shot make him a question mark. Given a couple of years to grow into the role, I could see him succeeding as a lead guard. I don’t see him being in the plans due to his projected 18-26 range.

Tyshawn Taylor – Taylore may slip until #37, but no mocks I saw had him fall that low. Still, picks outside of the lottery are never reliable, and a lot can happen for these 1st-round bubble players in workouts. I don’t really doubt that Taylor can score at the NBA level, but I do question how much of a point guard he can become given his poor decision making and propensity to look for his own shot first. He’s a plus defender, just for the record. I don’t see him being in the plans due to his projected 25-35 range.

Second Round, Pick #37
I should reiterate that it’s difficult to project where players will go beyond the lottery, so I could have grouped all of the second round prospects together. With that said, I split them based on their projected range since one prospect in particular sticks out as a target at #37.

Tomas Satoransky – DX lists him as a combo-guard, ESPN as a small forward. I’m not touching him with the idea of him being a one.

Scott Machado – Machado would be a really nice target with this pick, and I like him better than most players projected to go in this range. a Four-year player from Iona, Machado flew under the radar this year despite leading the nation in assists at 9.9 per game. He could actually sneak into the first round, and by attending the New Jersey workouts (only one other potential first rounder is attending), he’s clearly doing what he can to up his stock. If his size hurts him in workouts and camps, he could be a steal at #37 for the Raptors, as he’s a strong penetrator and drive-and-kick passer, making him an ideal fit in a pick-and-roll heavy offense. His rankings range from late-1st to mid-2nd, so your guess is as good as mine if we’ll have a shot to grab him here.

Second Round, Pick #56
The gap between the #56 pick and an undrafted free agent signing is almost nil. These picks are usually used on European “stash” players, simply because you retain their rights for multiple years, whereas a domestic #56 pick may not be good enough at present to crack a roster. None of these guards would get the fan base excited, but they’re worth noting in the event that Colangelo wants to replace Uzoh with a fifth-guard type late.

Tu Holloway – Holloway’s numbers actually regressed as a senior, and he has a borderline 2nd round projection right now. He’s a smart defender and has the quickness to be effective in isolation, but he lacks a shot and will struggle guarding larger guards.
J’Covan Brown – Brown is a super-me-first player, putting up over 20 points at Texas as a Junior but doing little else to help the team. He has shown range and an obvious ability to score, but his upside might be a Microwave Man off the bench. The best thing abot Brown being in the draft is the numbers of touches it opens up for Myck Kabongo at Texas this year.
Casper Ware – Ware is a diminutive guard (5’10”, 170) who can score prolifically thanks to his quicks and handle. He’ll obviously struggle to defend any even average-sized player, but his quick hands do produce steals. He’s another Microwave Man candidate, a typical “two in a one’s body,” but hey, the team has to replace Barbosa, right?
Josep Franch – The lanky Spaniard gets postitives for shooting, smarts, and savvy on scouting reports, but I have not seen him play a minute, so I’m really in no place to judge.
Jordan Taylor – Taylor lost some of his offensive game this year, shooting worse and scoring less, but his defense and basketball IQ still make him an intriguing end-of-the-rotation player. He could play minutes simply by way of being a mistake-free, takes-nothing-off-the-table type.

It certainly does feel like a weak point guard class having run through the top-10 or 11 candidates, and that’s probably why a large portion of the fan base is clamoring for the Dragic’s, Lin’s, Augustin’s, or Bayless’. They’re not wrong, it’s just that those are generally known commodities that will command fair market prices (if not more), and there’s serious value in locking in a guard for the next few years on a rookie scale deal. There’s also value in “drafting your own,” but more in the “it’s impossible to overpay these guys” sense than any intangible feeling of attachment. Basically, the cost of one of these players is simply the pick their drafted with, not years, dollars, cap space, and expectations. I certainly wouldn’t reach for a point guard if we land a top-3 pick, but I’m a little bit in love with Lillard and Machado in their respective ranges, especially if Colangelo can craft something for a late first round pick.

And…well, that’s all. It’s some content.