After the draft, what do we know about the Raptors?

On where Toronto stands after a flurry of moves over the past few days.

It didn’t take long for the Toronto Raptors to dramatically reorganize their roster. Shortly after free agency began, Woj reported the team signed Scottie Barnes to a max contract extension. Then a few days later, Immanuel Quickley is back. (And for a lot of money, at $175 over five years.) No surprises in both coming back. But Toronto also made a trade. Drafted three players. More undrafted additions. Suddenly, Toronto’s pipeline of young talent — while not suddenly stocked with blue-chip future stars — sure looks a whole lot fuller. 

What do the Raptors look like now? Who have they added, and what do those players bring to the team? Let’s break down the additions over the past few days and what it will mean for the team going forward. 

The biggest add is Ja’Kobe Walter. He is, first and foremost, a movement shooter. Sure, he shot 34.1 percent from deep. But he took his shots from deeeeep beyond the college line, on the move, and well contested. He frequently sprinted the baseline before turning and shooting, and Baylor often ran him off staggered pin-in screens to get him space behind the arc. 

He only shot 79.2 percent from the line, which is often a better predictor of NBA shooting than college 3-point percentage. His jumper isn’t Gradey Dick-level. But his form is exquisite, and both Baylor and defensive teams treated him like an elite shooter. He attempted 11.5 3s per 100 possessions in college, which is a huge, huge number. Gradey Dick was at 10.0 in 2023. Only 20 guys hit 11.5 triples attempted per 100 possessions in the NBA last year, and they’re the usual suspects. Walter won’t hit that frequency right away in the league, but volume is more important than percentage, to me. He is a shooter. Perhaps not the best one, but a very good one, regardless of his college percentage. 

At the same time, he shot only 42.3 percent from 2-point range. He has great athletic burst, but he doesn’t always do much with it when he does get inside the arc. There’s very little touch on his finishing, and his movement skills with the ball lack grace and pre-planning. He has the athletic tools — and he does touch the paint — but he needs a huge amount of work to become an inside-the-arc player. Right now, his offense is more or less about his shooting first, second, and third. And then his potential developments in other areas after that. Dick was much more polished as a shooter, and also in other areas. Walter is not. If Dick, Walter, and Quickley play together, that’s a big number of players who are not particularly threatening inside the arc. The bet has to be on improvement down the road for all three. Walter has the furthest to go, of course. 

I trust Samson and Tre’s draft work much, much more than my own. And they say Walter’s defense is theoretical right now. He tries hard and is extraordinarily long, with a 6-foot-10 wingspan while standing 6-foot-4 without shoes, but he’s very slim and doesn’t do much to deter opponents at the moment. 

Still, adding a movement shooter is a nice bit of business. Our own draft experts in Tre and Brendan Stewart both had Walter as a lottery talent. They know better than me. He will fit very snugly into both the offensive system Darko Rajakovic is implementing, and alongside the passing and creation chops of Barnes. He was arguably the most talented player available and the best fit. Toronto did very well on day one of the draft.

But Walter is far from the only rookie Toronto added. The Raptors also drafted Jonathan Mogbo, Jamal Shead, and Ulrich Chomche in the second round. Our very own everything expert Samson is going to help me here.

Mogbo is either a huge wing or undersized big. Though he only stands 6-foot-6, he has an outrageous 7-foot-2 wingspan. (That plus-8 inches from height to wingspan will be one of the biggest marks in the league, comparable to Chris Boucher or Anthony Davis.) His advanced numbers in college were outrageous, giving him the 12th-best BPM in college last year. That’s not always a guarantee of success in the NBA — there’s always players like Oscar Tshiebwe or Drew Timme — but it generally means more than people think. 

And Mogbo popped everywhere. He was a hugely plus passer, particularly with his size. He has a tight handle (for his size), and he can envision plays on the move while still delivering the ball where it needs to be. He had a booming true shooting percentage (just below Zach Edey’s!), largely because he shot 64 percent from 2-point range, basically only took 2-pointers, and also got to the line well. He had solid block rates for a non-center and very, very good steal rates. He was one of the best rebounders in the nation. Toronto needs steals, and rebounds. Mogbo was great everywhere. 

He probably won’t be a shooter, at least not anytime soon. Though he is a solid and versatile defender, the comparison is frequently to Precious Achiuwa, and I think that’s unfair. Achiuwa is so preposterous on that end on occasion that he can truly guard the entire positional spectrum. Don’t expect Mogbo to be there, certainly not right away. But his ability to grow in a variety of areas is tantalizing. 

“The hope is that Mogbo wins the obvious battles and the smaller margins,” says Samson. “He’s supposed to find success pressing his athleticism on both sides of the floor to add stopping power and extra possessions to a Raptors squad that can definitely use both. He can connect the east and west sides of the frontcourt offense with a live dribble and will be expected to finish plays. Anything else is up in the air — especially the jumper. We’ll see.”

Furthermore, Mogbo didn’t have the highest college BPM of players Toronto drafted. Shead in fact ranked fifth. The senior had an enormous assist rate, and he did it in a variety of ways. Swing passes, skip passes, all sorts of connective work. But he also created from a standstill in the pick and roll, loving the laydown passes to his bigs. 

However, he is not developed as a scorer, and he’s not a particularly threatening shooter. He had a sub-50 true shooting percentage as a senior. He is strong, but he doesn’t often get all the way to the rim, preferring to settle for mid-range pull-ups or distance floaters. Passing won’t be enough — just ask Markquis Nowell. Furthermore, many of those laydown passes won’t be available in the NBA unless he proves he can score against bigs in the paint. And now that Toronto has Davion Mitchell (more on that in a moment), defense won’t be enough either. Shead will need to take huge strides as a scorer to earn minutes in the NBA.

“Shead’s defensive prowess at Houston is legend, and for good reason,” says Samson. “The unique way that Houston approaches defense — setting a line of scrimmage, protecting it ferociously — lends itself to defensive stardom for those who can hang. Shead is a hellcat on that end, pursuing players, the ball, and any type of impact play. Offensively, the shotmaking has been mediocre and while the decision making has been competent, he needs to finetune some of the finesse in his game to open up easier routes to success. He should get time with the 905 to iron some of that out, while also providing the type of guard play that the program hasn’t had in awhile.”

Toronto made the ultimate swing on future ability in its 57th pick, taking the Cameroonian Comche. He is very young, only 18, and his 7-foot-4 wingspan is intimidating. He is extremely raw, and if Toronto thinks it’s replacing someone like Christian Koloko in the pipeline, that is likely not going to be true for at least a few years. But the vision is of a Brook Lopez type — he recorded 2.7 blocks per game in three Basketball Africa League qualifier games last year while attempting 7.0 triples per game. Every team needs bigs who can space the floor and defend the rim. If Comche is able to do so at the NBA level, that’s a huge, huge win from the 57th pick. Don’t expect anything particularly soon though, as the team is invested in his future, not his present. 

And now to Samson: “Forgive me, as I’m late to the party on Comche — despite predicting the pick — but he was the only prospect that leaked out of the Raptors front office coming up to the draft. The murmurs were about him. So, while I can’t say I’ve seen more than a scrimmage and some highlights where his athleticism and size pops off; I can say that the Raptors like him a lot. If that means anything to you.”

And since the draft, Toronto has signed Branden Carlson to a two-way deal and Quincy Guerrier to an Exhibit-10 deal. Carlson (not the chess player) played five years in Utah and developed into a solid floor-spacing center. Guerrier was somewhat less successful in college than Toronto’s other additions, but his jumper turned around in his senior year. Expect Guerrior to be a 905 player, while Carlson will likely play spot minutes with the Raptors. 

Of course, Toronto added more players than just those it drafted and signed. It also traded Jalen McDaniels to the Sacramento Kings for Mitchell and Sasha Vezenkov. Don’t be fooled — this was a money dump for the Kings who traded away players it didn’t want, and Toronto received two second-round picks for its trouble. Still, Mitchell and Vezenkov could contribute more in Toronto than they did in Sacramento.

Mitchell especially has a clear-cut opportunity for a role. His minutes shrunk every year in Sacramento, but Toronto desperately needs depth at the point guard spot. While he has a reputation as a lockdown guard defender — Off Night is his nickname — that hasn’t always lived up to reputation so far in the NBA. He doesn’t generate events, and for every highlight lockdown play shutting a player’s tap off, he hasn’t been consistent on that end. Sacramento has been better defensively with Mitchell on the bench, not the floor, for the past two seasons.  

Still, he should immediately be Toronto’s best point-of-attack defender. That wasn’t the case in Sacramento, which can harm on/off stats. When they play together, Mitchell will allow players like Quickley to return to better roles, floating off-ball and rotating. And when Mitchell plays point guard solo, he’ll likely be alongside teammates who can run the offense from other positions, such as Barnes or RJ Barrett. The fit is quite snug for Mitchell in Toronto, and he will likely have his largest role since his rookie season. Last year, he quietly shot 36 percent from deep while taking almost half of his shots from range. If that keeps up, Toronto will be overjoyed. 

Vezenkov is a shooter who didn’t get much of a chance in Sacramento last year, his first in the NBA. He did connect on almost 38 percent of his triples, but he didn’t offer enough elsewhere to stay on the court. He came into the league at 28 years old, so don’t expect a huge amount of growth from him. If Toronto needs shooting, he’ll be very reliable there. 

All in all, Toronto made huge changes. The core remains the same. But now the team has multiple point-of-attack defenders it can throw on the floor. It has multiple big prospects oozing potential. It has far more shooting. That’s a nice bit of work in a few days.