Although the Toronto Raptors did not win the 2021 NBA Draft Lottery, that doesn't mean your lucky charm didn't do its job.
Favoured to select seventh overall, the Raptors leaped above their projected slot to land the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, a great spot in a class that has plenty of top-end talent.
While that certainly sets their sights out of reach for selecting expected No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham, there will still be a future star available when Toronto prepares to make its pick - if they make a pick.
Following the lottery, Raptors general manager Bobby Webster addressed the media, saying that the team will keep all of their options open ahead of the July 29th draft date.
"The value from (pick No.) 7 to 4, even if you look at it historically, whether it's the player or a trade, it's meaningful. All of our options are open and as much as we love the pick, we're also going to see what it yields outside of the draft," he stated, according to TSN's Josh Lewenberg.
Will the Raptors stay put, move back in the draft or try and trade out for an already established NBA player? That remains to be seen.
But with a core group of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby all under 28 years old, with Anunoby being the youngest of the trio at 23, Toronto finds itself back on a path for success, both in the near-future and long-term. Add to it that 22-year-old Gary Trent Jr. is under team control as a restricted free agent this offseason and that's a potentially strong four-player building block for years to come in the NBA.
So while it makes sense that Webster, team president Masai Ujiri and the front office will weigh their options and see what's out there, it would be far from a disservice to the trajectory of the young stars on the roster to make a selection at pick No. 4.
Cunningham will be off the board and it's likely that USC freshman standout centre Evan Mobley will be as well. But that still leaves three star-calibre prospects in G League Ignite tandem Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga, and Gonzaga freshman guard Jalen Suggs.
Prior to the draft lottery, I wrote about the Raptors' ideal scenario at each potential top-four lottery selection. At the time of writing, without knowing the order, I had Ignite guard Green as the ideal pick at No. 4, but the way the ping pong balls fell, I believe he's a likely candidate for either the Houston Rockets at pick No. 2 or the Cleveland Cavaliers at pick No. 3.
That doesn't mean the 19-year-old electrifying prolific scorer will not be available when Toronto picks at four - it's just a hunch based on fit and need for Houston and Cleveland.
Besides, with 35-year-old Kyle Lowry set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason, Toronto may want to seek a successor for the franchise floor general. And if things shake out as previously stated, there will be one waiting for them at No. 4.
Gonzaga guard Suggs is everything you could ask for in a leader. He is a true floor general who makes everyone around him better. He has a knack for making winning plays on both sides of the ball, as evidence by leading his team to a near-perfect, one-loss record in his only collegiate season.
And no, I'm not just talking about one of the most clutch shots in college basketball history.
Suggs is unselfish, always looking to make the extra pass or correct read for the benefit of his team and teammates. He's at his best when flying up the floor in transition, which pairs perfectly with the playstyle of this current Raptors roster. He's an elite passer both on the break and in the halfcourt, capable of keeping the wheels turning on Toronto's often-stagnant halfcourt sets.
Most importantly for a Nick Nurse-led team, he's a tough on-ball defender with quick feet and active hands and an intelligent off-ball defender with strong anticipation skills.
He is the perfect safety net in case Lowry elects to sign elsewhere and with his maturity level being well beyond his age, it makes him an ideal candidate to round out Toronto's core group.
SCOUTING REPORTS: GREEN | SUGGS | KUMINGA
Kuminga would offer an eerily similar playstyle to that of Anunoby, which may be redundant, although the Raptors' player development could have a field day with that untapped potential. If Green were still there, he could add a smooth-scoring threat that could single-handedly put an end to Toronto's flat halfcourt possessions.
If the front office elects to trade the pick for an established player, it's hard to blame them for chasing immediate success. If they elect to move back toward where they were originally projected, there's still a handful of players that could benefit and thrive in the Raptors' system.
All of this to say: just because the Toronto Raptors didn't win the No. 1 pick doesn't mean lottery night was a bust.
Exceeding their projected pick in the 2021 NBA Draft order could be the turning point to get the franchise back on track to being a championship contender, one way or another.
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