This is the second part in my 2021 draft series. If you missed the first part on the top 5 players in the draft, you can check that out here.
Today we’ll be exploring 5 players that I believe should be targets for the Raptors assuming they stay at the 7th pick, their position going into the lottery. If you need a refresher on the Raptors’ philosophies going into this unique draft, you can check out Oren’s article on that here.
A quick note before we begin: if a player isn’t listed in this piece, I just don’t believe they’d be the best option with the 7th selection. If the Raptors are interested in any players not listed here, I’d hope that they would explore a trade down rather than just selecting them outright at 7. In that case, they’d at least be able to get another asset in the process. Not as much setup this time around, let’s just get right into this next group of players. Just a reminder that these are quick summaries to get Raptors fans acquainted with the prospects. You can expect more in-depth analyses once we know where exactly the Raptors are picking.
The Targets at 7
Scottie Barnes | 19.8 y/o | PG/PF | 6’9 | Florida State | Archetype: Point Forward
The annual Draymond Green comparison of the draft, Scottie is a prime specimen of a point forward prospect. Of course, the Draymond comparison is unfair. Draymond is one of the greatest defensive minds to ever play the game and his playmaking is far more advanced than Scottie’s, but when you have a bulky 6’9 forward who can defend and playmake like Scottie can, the comparisons invite themselves. Ignore the comparisons, Scottie is a fantastic player in his own right and is capable of guarding 1-4, so he can easily play a forward spot as is typical of players his height, but he also played at the point at Florida State and in high school. It’ll be interesting to see if NBA coaches can trust him enough to run a team’s offence, and if he’ll eventually draw comparisons to Ben Simmons instead.
The talent is certainly there, and I’d love to see Point Scottie lineups in the NBA. He excels in transition, both at finishing and playmaking. Some of the passes Scottie makes in transition could fill a highlight reel, and he’s a complete bulldozer when he has the ball in his hands and the rim in his sights. He finished 63% at the rim in college, with 50% from the field, so there’s no concern about his ability to score in close. His playmaking ability in general is impressive, with 4.1 assists per game at Florida State and some impressive reads as the primary ball handler. Scottie is a very unselfish player who is excellent at running plays out of the pick and roll. He can throw pinpoint dimes to shooters in the corner or get it right to cutters going to the rim with relative ease. It’ll be interesting to see how that skill translates since he’s not a good shooter, so teams can afford to go under on screens set for him in the NBA.
On Scottie’s shooting, it’s honestly the thing that will determine whether or not he can become a star. He has a really poor shooting form right now with a slow release and weird foot positioning. His 27% from deep combined with 62% from the free throw line doesn’t inspire great confidence at this point. It’s the same situation with his halfcourt creation and midrange scoring, he really needs to work at it if he’s going to maximize his potential. It’s difficult to expect Scottie to be much of a scorer in his first few years in the NBA.
The defence though. Oh man, the defence. Scottie has an argument for the best defender in the class, up there with Usman Garuba, Evan Mobley, Herb Jones, and Kessler Edwards. He’s going to come into the league as an elite defensive presence thanks to his physical measurements, speed, and IQ. Capable of guarding smaller ball handlers and against bigs backing him down in the post, Scottie is an incredibly versatile defender who would I would wager wins multiple defensive accolades throughout his career. His 1.5 steals in college were great, and while his 0.5 blocks are a bit underwhelming numbers-wise, he certainly possesses the ability to be a rim protector if needed. Scottie’s energy is also amazing to watch, and his motor is probably the best in the class. He hustles on every possession and his attitude is capable of energizing any teammate.
Scottie’s fit on the Raptors is a bit of a gray area. If you’re expecting him to be a point forward who primarily plays the 4, you may be looking at a scenario where you explore a Pascal Siakam trade in the future — as lineups with Scottie and Pascal at the forward may get a bit too congested. If you believe that Scottie is best suited to being a big playmaker and having the ball in his hands a la Ben Simmons, and you have faith that he can develop his offensive game to better suit that role, then he could easily play the point next to VanVleet or Trent. If the Raptors take him, I would want him to get as many reps at PG as possible, and I believe that would be best for his development going forward. This also allows VanVleet to move to an off-ball role, where he’s better suited. Playing a ridiculously athletic 6’9 point guard like Scottie could be extremely fun and yield beneficial results in the not-too-distant future if he develops his shot.
Moses Moody | 19 y/o | SG/SF | 6’6 | Arkansas | Archetype: Two-Way Wing
A strong 6’6 wing with a 7’1 wingspan, Moody has an elite physical profile to pair on the wing beside someone like OG Anunoby. He’s coming into the league with a pristine blueprint for a 3&D player at the very minimum, and he’s only scratching the surface of his potential.
What’s easy to like about Moody is that his physical dimensions and defence are things that are easy to see translating to the NBA level. He has the size to guard bigger wings, and the quickness and IQ to be capable of containing smaller and faster players. He can be an absolute pest when he’s locked in, which is often. His wingspan and timing will allow for him to be able to pick the lane or get up for blocks if necessary, as he was adept at both against college competition. He only averaged 2 fouls per game at Arkansas, which is encouraging for a young player asked to contribute a heavy load on the defensive end. Opposing players shot just 32% when guarded by Moody, an encouraging stat if the team that drafts him is looking for intense defence. He’s also consistently well positioned off-ball.
Moody’s shot is fluid with a high release point. He’d benefit from speeding it up just a bit, as it takes him a second to get it out of his hands, but there’s a lot to like about his shooting. His 3P% was about 36% in college which doesn’t seem too crazy, but looking at the overall mechanics of his jumpshot combined with his 81% from the free throw line provides a lot of confidence in his deep range jumper. Combined with his three pointer, Moody is also a capable mid-range shooter. He practically lived in the mid-range at Arkansas which is partly to blame for his lower FG%. He’s especially comfortable getting off a shot after a couple dribbles, which is a great sign if a team is looking to develop him into a go-to scorer. He doesn’t take too many off-the-dribble threes, but his ability with pulling up in the mid-range shows that he should be able to add that to his game rather quickly. Moody’s not an unselfish player, though passing isn’t a strength either. He’s capable of making easy reads but I don’t think he’ll be expected to be a high end playmaker.
The handle is a work in progress. Moses doesn’t really possess the fluidity or bag of moves of the more advanced shot creators. He’s capable of scoring off the dribble as mentioned before, but most of his efficient looks will need to be created for him until he develops his ball handling in the half court. He’s great at drawing fouls, and he can sell contact, but he’s a poor finisher at the rim. For a player as strong and athletic as he is, developing his efficiency inside the paint will be key to unlocking the next level of his offensive game. Adding a floater would help him tremendously, but he needs to work on his finishing on the interior if he wants to be a threat.
Moody should be an instant contributor from day 1, and he’d compete with Gary Trent for the SG spot on the Raptors. His mid-range game will provide a lot of relief for a team that struggles with that particular part of their game offensively, and his defence will fit in seamlessly in Nurse’s system of switchable players. The gamble with Moody comes with whether or not teams believe he can develop his scoring arsenal. I think there’s upside there, but he needs the opportunity, and it’ll come with growing pains.
Jaden Springer | 18.6 y/o | PG/SG | 6’4 | Tennessee | Archetype: Combo Guard
I like Springer a lot, and I think it’s absurd that he’s being listed so low across some higher-profile boards such as ESPN (#28), Tankathon (#22), and The Ringer (#22). If he does actually fall to the 20’s, call him the steal of the draft right then and there. One of the youngest players in the draft, and naturally he’s going to need a lot of development and patience. However, there are a lot of things that Springer does well for a player so young, and a lot of reasons to expect him to be a quality player in the NBA for a long time.
I don’t really understand why Springer is so consistently ranked below his teammate, Keon Johnson. Whenever I watched Tennessee, I was obviously wowed by Keon’s athletic abilities and bounce, but I was more drawn to Springer’s steadying presence and all-around game. A 6’4 guard, Springer is an intelligent defender who moves his feet well and communicates on the defensive end. The 1.3 steals and 0.5 blocks per game in his limited 26 minutes averaged is encouraging, and there’s little to suggest that his defensive ability won’t continue to blossom in the NBA with his strength and IQ.
Playmaking is a mixed bag with Springer partly due to his limited minutes. Only 2.9 assists per game, but he averaged 4.1 assists per 36. He’s a smart player in general, but for his first few years in the league he’ll likely be limited to being a secondary or tertiary playmaker. I do believe that he can be a team’s primary playmaker with enough patience and development, as he’s capable of making some advanced reads and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes with the ball in his hands. I mentioned his steadying presence before, and I think that’s partly because he uses change of pace well and knows where to find his teammates. You won’t see him rush the offence or force the issue too much, and that’s a very good sign from an 18 year old.
There’s also reason to be optimistic in Springer’s shooting. He didn’t take very many threes in college (45 attempts) but he still hit on a good percentage of them at 44%. His free throw percentage was also solid at 81%. He has a slow release on his form and doesn’t have the ability to shoot off the dribble yet, so maximizing his capabilities as a shooter will involve him improving those areas.
Of course, for a player so young, Springer is naturally pretty raw and has some areas where he needs to improve. He lacks burst off the dribble, so he relies on strength and his good-but-not-great handle to get to the rim. That’s not going to work in the NBA as well as it did in college, so he’d benefit from developing his handle and learning how to play with the ball in his hands in isolation situations. An efficient player as a whole with 57% TS, Springer would benefit from improving his finishing at the rim, where he would often find himself getting blocked or stripped. In general, his half court creation needs work. Most of his points are earned off drives or open shots, so being able to shot create at the next level would raise his ceiling even higher. That will hopefully come as he improves his shot and handle, which he’s already showed encouraging signs of. Until then, he’s likely better used as a complimentary piece. He has a lot of work to do before he’s capable of being a true scoring option.
The benefit with Springer is that he’d be able to fit on the Raptors as a point guard or a shooting guard. Ideally, you’d like to develop him as a point while his playmaking improves. As a bigger guard, he’d be able to co-exist with both Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent depending on the lineup construction. Criminally underrated by major outlets, Springer is an 18 year old who is entering the draft with more proven ability than some players who are 2-3 years his senior. He obviously has to improve several areas of his game if he wants to realize his potential, but the potential is exciting nonetheless when you see what he’s already capable of.
Plus, the hairline is immaculate.
Jalen Johnson | 19.4 y/o | SF/PF | 6’9 | Duke | Archetype: Point Forward
The third Jalen! Two more on your Jalen punch card and you can cash in for a Jalen Rose t-shirt.
It’s hard to really get a read on JJ. He only played 13 games at Duke (we’ll get to that) and he showed as many flashes of brilliance as he did bouts of utter confusion. For starters, he put up an incredible 19/19/5 in his college debut. After this game, many were wondering if JJ would fight his way into the top 5 of the class. A battle with injury coupled with some inconsistent games before his untimely exit from Duke will ultimately keep him locked in the mid to late lottery.
JJ is a playmaking forward much like Scottie Barnes, but I don’t think he’s capable of being a point guard like Scottie is. His playmaking is a great skill when you compare him to other players in his size bracket, but the lower assists, higher turnover numbers, and overall lesser feel makes him better suited to be a secondary playmaker in a team’s offence. Regardless, his court awareness is impressive and you’d expect him to be a positive passer immediately, especially if his team’s offence makes use of moving the ball around.
The percentages are alright with JJ. He’s an efficient finisher at the rim when he can get there, his body control is very good, and he tends to finish with fluidity and finesse. He does tend to shy away from contact, so that’s something to keep an eye on. Learning how to draw fouls and then drain his free throws efficiently will be key to his game if he ever wants to become an actual creator. The deep range shooting sample is too small to take seriously, as he took only 18 threes all year and made 44%. There’s optimism that he’s improving his shot, but he has a stiff form and a low free throw percentage that suggest he still won’t be an effective shooter for his first couple seasons in the NBA.
JJ is a great athlete who moves up the floor with lightning quick speed. He’s solid at running and catching the ball in transition, and he’s equally capable at pushing the ball up the floor on the fast-break. He’s capable of utilizing that quickness on the defensive end as well where he’s excellent at moving laterally and rotating. His effort wanes, but the right system can make him a lockdown defender sooner than later, assuming he buys in. His rebounding is just the icing on the cake, as he had multiple double digit glass cleaning performances at Duke, and there’s no reason why he can’t continue to be a double-double machine in the league. Paired with his playmaking upside, he’s a truly intriguing prospect.
The character concerns are the primary reason why JJ’s stock is dipping so hard. He left his high school team during his senior year, and once again left Duke midway through the season. Fairness to him, Jalen was coming off a foot injury that kept him sidelined for over a month, he had some shaky performances once he came back, so it made sense for him to bow out and guarantee his health for the draft. Regardless, NBA teams are going to be cautious about his character. How committed is he, really? I can imagine he’s going to get some tough interview questions throughout the draft process. I think the talent is real, and JJ can be a star in the right situation.
Jalen Johnson is a high upside talent whose true ceiling is kind of a mystery, as his college and high school careers have been marred by injuries and early exits. It’s reasonable to expect him to be a very good player due to his playmaking ability and athleticism, and he could be a real star if his shot develops. If there are any teams that would be capable of alleviating JJ’s character concerns, the Raptors would be one of them. He’d naturally fit in on the Raptors coming off the bench for Pascal and OG, and could fit in on small ball lineups with any one of them at the 5. If JJ’s true potential begins shining through, Pascal may need to be moved or OG played at guard in order to make room for him in the starting lineup.
Keon Johnson | 19.2 y/o | SG | 6’5 | Tennessee | Archetype: Athletic Two-Way Guard
I think Keon deserves to be a part of this discussion, but I’m less enthusiastic about him compared to the other prospects in this group. I previously mentioned in Springer’s section about how I was constantly wowed by Keon’s athleticism whenever I watched Tennessee film, and that’s going to be Keon’s main selling point for whoever drafts him. You’re taking the athletic phenom and hoping the rest of his game comes along, because it’s definitely a work in progress at this point in time.
I keep mentioning the athleticism because Keon has BOUNCE. He and Jalen Green are the two most explosive players in the class. His career in the NBA will be filled with dunk and block highlights. His speed is also unreal, as he can change velocity and direction effortlessly. The combination of speed and explosiveness allow Keon to be a true force at driving and finishing at the rim.
And by finishing, I mean:
Keon is also a versatile defender for a skinny freshman. He’s able to stay in front of his man and is capable of picking the lane, and his general athletic ability and hustle aids him greatly on the defensive end of the floor. He’s going to need to bulk a bit in the NBA if he wants to guard wings full time, but he’s showing great signs already and should be a positive defender from day 1, even if the rest of his game still needs development.
The enticing part about Keon’s game is that there’s a real pathway to him becoming a shot creator. His explosiveness and ability to change pace while handling the ball gives a glimpse into what he’s capable of. The handle needs to tighten up, as he’s still raw and his moves aren’t varied. He also needs to improve his shooting. His general percentages around the floor aren’t very impressive, and his jumpshot is not very pretty at this point. However, what some scouts are taking note of with Keon is how much elevation he gets on his shot. If he can fix his form, Keon’s going to be able to shoot over pretty much any defender in the league. If Keon truly wants to realize his potential as a scorer, developing his shooting will be key. If he fails at that, you’re just drafting a dude who can jump high. That’s fun, but you’re not going to win many games. He’s young though, and he only started playing basketball recently in high school, so there’s a lot to be hopeful for with his pathway to being a go-to guy.
Keon’s an incredibly raw yet explosive athlete. There’s a real possibility that he can be a star in the league, but there’s also a decent chance that he isn’t able to develop the parts of his game that need to be improved. Developing Keon is going to require patience, but it could be very beneficial for the team willing to put in the hours. The fit for Keon is simple; he’s a shooting guard. His playmaking isn’t good enough to be able to run stretches at point and he doesn’t have the size to play the forward. He’d compete directly with Gary Trent for minutes on the Raptors as they look to the future.