Toronto Raptors Should Focus On Frontcourt In 2014 NBA Draft

By Ty O'Keefe
Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images
Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

With free agency still over a month away, GM Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors have been busy analyzing one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory, and at such a critical juncture in team history, the franchise simply can’t afford to be misguided on June 26.

During last week’s draft combine in Chicago, Ujiri sat down with many of the top-10 prospects despite Toronto’s ownership of the 20th pick. Outside of Canadians Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis however, Ujiri hasn’t specifically mentioned anyone that the Raptors are currently targeting. Nevertheless, Toronto’s GM has been compiling a wish list of sorts for the team’s first and second-round selections.

Having said that, there’s a few areas where the Raptors could use some help, and considering their talent at guard, adding to the frontcourt with an eye towards rebounding should be the team’s priority on draft day.

Jonas Valanciunas can score, rebounds well, and is by no means a liability on defense. But on some nights, Toronto’s resident big man is all alone in the post and would undoubtedly benefit from the presence of another rebounder capable of putting up at least 10 points a game.

Throughout the season, Amir Johnson‘s experience was an almost irreplaceable asset on this young team, but the 10.4 PPG and 6.6 RPG he averaged will only decrease going forward, and the Raptors aren’t likely to make up the difference with the offensive stylings of Tyler Hansbrough.

And while Patrick Patterson has tremendous value as a reserve, he is far from your typical power forward and prefers instead to make his presence felt on the perimeter rather than in the paint. However, that doesn’t mean he’s not important to the future, but expecting anything beyond the 5.3 boards he registered this season will result in disappointment.

Realistically, Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh, and Aaron Gordon aren’t going to be available as they are the three highest-ranked power forwards. But depending on how the lottery shakes out, Toronto could still have a shot to grab someone like Adreian Payne or T.J. Warren.

In Payne, the Raptors would be getting a 6-foot-10, high-energy rebounder who is able to run the floor and who averaged 16.4 PPG with 7.3 RPG against formidable competition last season. He is someone who could contribute sooner than most due to his four years of experience on the NCAA hardwood.

Warren, on the other hand, is a 6-foot-8 small forward who could easily be a top-10 pick, but his talented classmates could cause him to fall into the final portion of the the first round. Beyond Warren’s versatility, the 24.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG he averaged in one of the country’s toughest conferences has also proven that he’s ready for the next level.

With too many variables still in the way of more accurate projections, Toronto’s first pick will remain unknown until the day of the draft. But if commissioner Adam Silver announces that either Payne or Warren is headed for Toronto, the Raptors won’t be waiting long to reap the rewards.

Ty is an NBA writer for Follow him on Twitter @abovethefoldTy.

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