2016, Basketball, Sports

Initial Reactions to the Raptos’ 2016 Draft

I saw a CBC story that claimed Raptors fans (on twitter) were not happy with Toronto’s #9 pick. Some twitter users were unfamiliar with Poeltl because they apparently do not follow college basketball or NBA mock drafts or…maybe they aren’t even actually Raptors fans (but just play them on twitter)?

Frankly, if this is the reaction of serious Raptors fans, I don’t understand it. Ujiri has been the GM for three years. He has shown both here and in Denver that he has a way with trades – he can get the better of many an opposing GM, as he has done it time and again. But, his draft history for the Raps prior to this one is, um, bad:

  • 2013 – no picks
  • 2014 – Bruno Caboclo at 20, DeAndre Daniels at 37, Xavier Thames at 59
  • 2015 – Delon Wright at 20.

Yes, it’s a small sample, but only two of those guys have even played a minute in the NBA and only one of them looks like he might be a minor role player in the NBA if everything breaks right.

So I welcome the safe pick. Poeltl was the consensus best player available (or, at least, very close to it) at 9. I am a big believer in drafting talent over need most of the time. And given that Ujiri is so good at trades, I am optimistic that if JV and Poeltl really can’t coexist, Ujiri will sort it out through a trade.

However, the Raptors’ 27th pick shows Ujiri being Ujiri. My friend felt strongly we should draft Skal with 9th pick (addressing a real need of the Raptors). Somehow, he was still available at 27. But no, we couldn’t take the best player available twice in one draft… Instead we drafted a project, again. Everything I’ve seen on Siakam had him as a mid 2nd round pick. I think Byombo replacement suggestions are natural – even if Siakam sounds like he might be a better offensive player with time – but look how long it took Byombo to figure out the NBA… The Raptors could have had a stretch 4 that many people thought would go in the lottery at 27. Instead, Ujiri went off the board yet again. Alas.

So it was a mixed evening, I would say. But I look forward to free agency to see what happens next.

January 2019 Update:

I hit the nail on the head about Poeltl: he is currently

  • 5th in Win Shares,
  • 1st in Win Shares Per 48,
  • 2nd in Box Plus Minus and
  • 3rd in Value Over Replacement

in his Draft, i.e. he is something like the 2nd or 3rd best player in this draft by these metrics, though drafted 9th. These advanced stats don’t tell everything and Poeltl has been blessed by playing on good teams with good teammates (which inflates some of these stats). Some of the other players drafted above him still have a better upside (if 3rd year players can be said to have upside), some below have played more minutes than him, and he will likely never be more than a 5th starter at best, but he was still a very, very solid pick. (Also, he helped bring in Kawhi.)

But I was totally, utterly wrong about Siakam, who is now the third best player on the Raptors and will be the second best once (if) Kawhi leaves. Sometimes its good to draft based upon potential, especially lower in the draft.

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