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The Raptors have completed their draft night, and ended with some surprising picks.
With back-to-back picks in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors selected a pair of guards in Dalano Banton from Nebraska, and David Johnson from the University of Louisville.
The 21 year-old Banton is a native of Rexdale, Ontario, and he now holds the distinction of being the first Canadian player to be selected by the Raptors. Johnson is 20 years old and had risen up the NBA draft boards in recent days.
Instead of going with some names fans were expecting, the Raptors took on some more projects, but players that could potentially have much higher ceilings in the future. It makes for an interesting case, and grading them is tricky now.
Nevertheless, they are once again choosing to bet on themselves and their ability to develop NBA talent.
Grade for Dalano Banton: B-
The Raptors went well off the board here in selecting Banton. He was unranked on many NBA draft boards, but Toronto clearly values his size and his ability to handle the ball.
He’s a 6-foot-9 point guard with a 6-foot-11 wingspan who specializes defensively, but leaves a lot to be desired on the offensive end. He shot 25 per cent from three in his sophomore season at Nebraska on 3.0 attempts per game, and only 66 per cent from the free throw line. He will need to improve his confidence and his jumper in order to succeed at the NBA level, but there is a little bit to like here.
Banton feels like a Raptors 905 stash for the upcoming season, and their hope is that they can work on his jumper and help him become more comfortable shooting at the NBA level. This is a great opportunity to develop his skills while playing in his hometown. He grew up just a short drive from both Toronto and Mississauga, where he figures to spend a lot of time next year. It should be a great opportunity and homecoming for him.
Grade for David Johnson: A-
It’s hard not to like gambling on Johnson at 47 here. He made some really nice strides in his sophomore year at Louisville, and he’s a bouncy athlete whose intelligence on the court helps him succeed.
Johnson once again presents a strong physical profile, standing at 6-foot-4 with an impressive 6-foot-11 wingspan. He averaged nearly six rebounds a game as a guard, and he hustles hard on every play. He certainly has the ability to outperform his draft position, and with a little bit of polishing, he is seen as someone who is capable of becoming an NBA-level player.
Like his new teammate Banton, Johnson also figures to see a lot of time with the Raptors 905 this season as he develops his skill-set. Johnson is still extremely young, and the Raptors could easily slot him in spot minutes later this season next to Malachi Flynn as the bigger combo guard. He is a little more NBA-ready than Banton, but there is a lot of room to grow.
It’s easy to like the progress he’s made at Louisville and expect that his trajectory will continue on this route, but for the 47th pick, this is a terrific pick to make.
Overall Grade for the Raptors: B+
The Raptors passed on some bigger names to go with the picks that they liked. In the second round, it’s okay to take those riskier gambles, and the Raptors picked some players with great physical attributes they feel they can mold into NBA players.
The Raptors have had a common trend in their picks, opting to choose players with strong physical attributes and equipping them with the tools to succeed in the big leagues. By betting on their development program, they are giving themselves a chance to have a higher ceiling in the future, even if it means going with the lesser-known picks now.
The Raptors notably passed on players such as Auburn’s Sharife Cooper and Kentucky’s Brandon Boston, but it feels as though these are going to be valuable picks. Their track record has been impeccable, and in the second round, they’ve been able to find some solid gems in the past. In fact, the last time they picked 46th overall in a draft, they selected Norman Powell, and he’s now become an impact starter in the NBA.
The Raptors are going mining for diamonds once again, and time will tell if they’ve found their next hidden gems.