Raptors head into NBA draft with the No. 33 pick and a wide range of possibilities


The pre-draft workouts are proceeding apace and the due diligence is never ending with calls to friends, associates, coaches and teammates.

It’s a true laundry list of those who can provide any kind of intelligence about the many possibilities the Raptors will have with the No. 33 pick in this year’s draft.

And then it can all be blown up 10 or 15 minutes before it comes time to actually make the selection. Such is the lot of a franchise that will have to wait until the second round of the two-round draft to hopefully find a gem who can fit right in and eventually grow into a contributing member of the team’s regular playing rotation.

The draft is an inexact science at the best of times. It’s even more of a crapshoot this year for the Raptors, because no matter who they think might be in the group they’ll choose from at No. 33, there are sure to be draft-night surprises.

“There’s always two, two-plus names that we will probably have ranked in the 20s, or at least higher than our pick, that will end up being there that we have to really be kind of on the clock (about), rethink about and debate a little bit stronger,” Toronto’s vice-president of personal player Dan Tolzman said Wednesday.

“We’re working really hard trying to narrow down the group of guys that we think we’re going to be looking at, and then trying to fine-tune who we like in that group. “But then you also have to kind of prepare for, you know, five to 10 guys that might drop to you just in case, and then how do they compare against the guys that we were preparing for that we expect to be there?”

The Raptors made a conscious decision in February to move back in the draft when they included their first-round pick in a trade for Thaddeus Young and the second-round pick owned by the San Antonio Spurs. They felt comfortable moving back in equal parts because they trust their talent evaluation skills will still land them a useful prospect, and the difference in this draft between 20 and 33 is hardly wide.

It’s a mug’s game to even try to guess who the Raptors might take. There are organizational needs — shooting and backcourt depth — and there’s also a chance they’ll do a draft-and-stash move by selecting a promising young European and leaving him at home for a season. That, however, is not at the top of the priority list.

“We’re kind of going into this year expecting that … whoever we take at this pick will probably be on our roster,” Tolzman said. “In what capacity we don’t know yet, but we’re kind of planning as if that’s the case.”

Not surprisingly, the Raptors put a premium on character when they research their draft possibilities. They can teach shooting and other rudimentary basketball skills. What they can’t teach is a young man confident enough to step back and be a small part of a team when he’s used to being a star.

“You watch how they play … in terms of making the right reads and doing the little things that help their team win, because a lot of times if a role player comes in, and they’re not doing those little things or if they’ re making a lot of mistakes or not playing enough defence, they’re probably not going to see the floor up here.

“If you look for those sorts of things, it at least sets the tone of: This guy could be a pretty good role player for us down the road.”

The Raptors have held a half a dozen or so workouts for groups of six in Toronto — Julian Champagnie, twin brother of 2021-22 Raptor Justin Champagnie, was part of Wednesday’s group — and met with a handful of other prospects at the NBA’s pre- draft combines in Chicago last month.

They have a few more workouts at their OVO training center before the June 23 draft in Brooklyn.

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