With the 2014 NBA Draft closing in, pro prospects from around the globe have descended upon the city of Chicago for the annual combine to prove themselves worthy of a selection in June, and for the Toronto Raptors, adding a Canadian to the mix has never been more of a possibility.
Following their unexpected return to the playoffs however, the Raptors lost the tie-breaking coin toss to the Chicago Bulls, meaning that the Atlantic Division champs will pick 20th and participate in the last portion of the opening round for the first time in over a decade.
On top of its first-round draft pick, Toronto also has a pair of second round picks with the 37th (via the Sacramento Kings), and 59th (via the Oklahoma City Thunder) overall selections, but both could still be traded ahead of the big day for a shot at one of the more desired amateurs.
Prior to the start of the regular season, it was widely believed that a best-case scenario for the 2013-14 Raptors would involve nothing more than a low win total rewarded with a lottery pick and crack at Andrew Wiggins, a local product that Canadian basketball junkies would love to see at home.
But because Toronto’s new-found membership in the playoff club doesn’t include lottery privileges, barring a Johnny Manziel-like tumble down the draft board or a trade that would undoubtedly make franchise history, Wiggins won’t be seen in the purple and red anytime soon.
Well aware of this fact, , the Raptors will focus their efforts on draft day towards players they have an actual chance of selecting, and Wiggins isn’t the only Canadian who could help Toronto.
Underclassmen Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis are the two highest ranked Canadians outside of Wiggins, but expecting either to still be available by the time Toronto makes its first selection may be a little naïve. At the moment, ESPN’s Chad Ford has Ennis and Stauskas ranked 11th and 12th respectively in his top 100, while CBS Sports.com also has the three-point threat at 11th, but the point guard sits significantly lower at 19th.
Considering the amount of talent in the class of 2014 and the various needs that each team will attempt to fulfill, Toronto should still be in a position to add a serviceable rookie on June 26, and simply having the opportunity to consider a Canadian draft pick has added a new dimension to the process over the past few years.
Last season, the Raptors didn’t even have a draft pick to ponder. But in 2012, the franchise chose Terrence Ross with the eighth overall selection and are anxious to improve upon the team’s draft history, which has been littered with disappointments.
Ty is an NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @abovethefoldTy.