NBA Draft 2021

What's next for the Toronto Raptors following the 2021 NBA Draft?

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The Raptors selected Scottie Barnes with the No. 4 overall pick (NBAE/Getty Images)

The 2021 NBA Draft is officially a wrap, and what a night it was for the Toronto Raptors.

With the fourth overall pick, Toronto selected Scottie Barnes from Florida State University, a 6-foot-8 do-it-all forward that fits the bill of a prototypical Raptors player.

They weren't done.

In the second round, Toronto used the No. 46 pick to take Toronto native Dalano Banton and the No. 47 pick to select David Johnson, a shooting guard from the University of Louisville.

The dust is beginning to settle, but the work is far from over, as a busy offseason awaits the Raptors, including a number of pressing questions…

How does Barnes fit with this roster?

It doesn't take long to see similarities between Barnes and a few of his new teammates in OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, lengthy forwards with a knack for defence and an ability to make plays with their versatility.

Head coach Nick Nurse said as much in his post-draft address, saying "he reminds me of two guys we already have: OG and Pascal," per The Athletic's Blake Murphy . Nurse added that Barnes has the ability to come in and immediately be a two-way threat for this team.

So, how?

With Barnes projecting as a 6-foot-8 point forward, there is a timeline in which he could start alongside both Anunoby and Siakam, given the Raptors' successes with small-ball during the 2020-21 NBA season. Barnes' 7-foot-2 wingspan and defensive versatility allow him to be switchy on that end of the floor, while his ballhandling and playmaking ability won't restrict him to playing just one position on the offensive end.

One thing worth noting about the upcoming season is Siakam's offseason shoulder surgery that will likely hold him out of the beginning of the 2021-22 season. While it is unknown how much of the season Siakam could miss, having another big-bodied forward makes lineup issues much easier to solve, as Barnes could conceivably start in the frontcourt alongside Anunoby and whoever the Raptors choose to play at the center position.

Soon to be 20, Barnes will likely have to add some strength to his frame in order to play a small-ball five, but that could be something that his versatility allows him to do in the bigger picture, as Toronto's player development program will allow him to grow and add even more to his game.

Essentially, as a prototypical Raptors pick, Barnes is malleable and can fit within the scope of this roster in multiple ways from Day 1.

Where do the second-round picks come into play?

With back-to-back picks in the second round, the Raptors selected a Toronto native in Banton 46th overall, followed by Louisville's Johnson with the 47th overall pick.

Oftentimes mid-to-late second-round picks are all about upside, and each of these prospects has plenty of it.

As a 6-foot-9 point guard - yes, a 6-foot-9 point guard - Banton showed the ability to create for himself and others during his redshirt sophomore season at Nebraska, leading the team with 3.9 assists per game in the 2020-21 season.

At the very least, Banton could round out Toronto's roster as a potential candidate for a two-way contract, but there is also a chance for him to carve a role as a versatile guard in the team's second unit as a playmaker.

Banton shot just 24.7 percent from deep last season, limiting his ability to play off the ball as a spot-up threat, but his size gives him a chance to develop into an effective cutter and finisher alongside a player like Malachi Flynn.

Johnson measures at 6-foot-5 and averaged 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds as a full-time starter for Louisville during his sophomore season. The 20-year-old projects as a much better shooter after knocking down 1.7 triples per game at a 38.6 percent clip last season.

Another potential candidate to round out the guard rotation on a standard or two-way contract, the upcoming NBA Summer League in Las Vegas will provide an initial opportunity to see how Johnson fits within the Raptors' identity and schemes.

How could the draft impact Toronto's impending free agents?

When free agency begins on Monday, Aug. 2, the Raptors could have five players hit free agency.

While Kyle Lowry, Stanley Johnson and Khem Birch will be unrestricted free agents, Gary Trent Jr. will be a restricted free agent and Aron Baynes has a team option for the 2021-22 season, that the team has yet to make a decision on.

Coming into the draft, it was assumed that Toronto could select a point guard as the heir apparent to Lowry, but it ultimately decided to go in a different direction with Barnes, which could actually be a vote of confidence in Trent.

Nothing is set, but as a number of signs indicate Lowry is set to move on, selecting a forward could mean that the team will prioritize re-signing Trent to place him in the backcourt of the future alongside Fred VanVleet.

At 22, Trent fits the developmental timeline of Anunoby, Barnes and Malachi Flynn, each of whom are under 25 years old. Retooling with a blend of established young veterans and developing young talents can put the Raptors on an accelerated path back towards the top of the Eastern Conference.

Birch, who could be a key part of Toronto's frontcourt rotation, will likely remain a priority given his productivity in Nurse's system to close this past season. Despite standing at 6-foot-9, Birch was the most impactful traditional center for the Raptors last season, a fact that also adds more doubt to a return of Baynes, though the team could exercise his team option for salary purposes in a hypothetical trade.

Johnson showed flashes at the end of the season, but the addition of Barnes to an already-crowded forward rotation likely marks the end of his time with the Raptors.

How could the draft impact Toronto's approach to the rest of the offseason?

There are a number of ways in which things can go.

Financial flexibility can allow the Raptors to be active in free agency and at the top of the list should be another traditional center. Given the fact that the Raptors drafted two players that project as point forwards and a shooting guard, they could look to the free agent market to target the likes of Nerlens Noel or Richaun Holmes, each of whom was listed by NBA.com's Scott Rafferty as potential free agent fits.

While center is the biggest hole on the roster, they have an aggressive front office that will exhaust all options to make improvements across the board, meaning a trade is never out of the question.

Among players that could be in a new home for the 2021-22 season are New Orleans Pelicans restricted free agent Lonzo Ball and Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons, two players that have been linked to the Raptors franchise.

Recent reports have suggested the Pelicans are interested in Lowry, and if the interest is mutual, a sign-and-trade could be executed to make Ball a Raptor. Lowry has also expressed interest in returning home to try to win in Philadelphia, which could pave the way for a sign-and-trade that also involves Simmons becoming a Raptor.

Conversely, the Barnes pick could add validity to some reports that Siakam is "available" in trade talks, and as a one-time All-Star and All-NBA performer, Siakam could net a large return on the trade market.

Of course, there is a reality in which it is all much ado about nothing, there are no trades to be made and the team essentially runs it back with a few new additions. It is far more likely, however, that Toronto makes upgrades that makes this team better for the upcoming season as well as for the next few years down the line.

The question is, what move comes first?

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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