TORONTO – For the first time in three years, the Toronto Raptors find themselves at the mercy of the numbered ping-pong balls.
But general manager Bryan Colangelo said whatever pick his team winds up with when the NBA draft order is determined by Tuesday’s lottery (8:30 ET), he’s confident there’s a decent player out there to be had.
“Overall I think the draft is a bit watered down, but at this stage of the evaluation process there are at least 10 to 12 players that we like and feel can come in and help address a need,” Colangelo said. “Therefore, regardless of Tuesday’s result, we will be content with the pick.”
The Raptors haven’t been in the lottery since they won it in 2006 after finishing fifth-last in the league. They used the top pick on Italian forward Andrea Bargnani.
The team had high hopes at the outset of the 2008-09 season, and a spot in the draft lottery certainly wasn’t on the radar. But the Raptors went 33-49, a late-season push leaving them 21st in the league.
If the balls fall according to odds, Toronto will have the ninth pick in the June 25 draft at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The Sacramento Kings have the best odds of drafting first overall at 25 per cent, followed by the Washington Wizards (17.8), Los Angeles Clippers (17.7) and Oklahoma City Thunder (11.9).
The Raptors have a very small chance – 1.7 per cent – of landing the No. 1 pick. They could also drop as low as 12th.
Colangelo, who will represent Toronto at the lottery ceremony in Secaucus, N.J., has had some luck with No. 9. He was GM of the Phoenix Suns when they selected Amare Stoudemire ninth in 2002 and Shawn Marion at that spot in 1999. Dirk Nowitzki (1998) and Tracy McGrady (1997, to Toronto) are among other all-stars that have gone at No. 9.
Colangelo and his staff have been painstakingly compiling their wish list the past couple of weeks, and by draft day, at least a couple dozen draft-eligible players will have paraded through the practice court at the Air Canada Centre.
This year’s draft class doesn’t have an instant superstar like LeBron James, who has turned around the Cleveland Cavaliers since he went No. 1 in 2003. The consensus top three are Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin, Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio and Connecticut centre Hasheem Thabeet.
Mock drafts link the Raptors with Louisville small forward Earl Clark, and USC swingman Demar DeRozan and Davidson point guard Stephen Curry – the son of former Raptors guard Dell Curry.
The Raptors need some depth at both guard positions, and could also use a dose of toughness, especially on the defensive end.
Colangelo said he doesn’t follow a hard and fast rule about picking a certain way, either by position or the best player available.
“Picking on position alone is dangerous because you might be passing up a better talent that’s available,” Colangelo said. “What you hope to find is a player that satisfies both talent and need.”
The Raptors GM hasn’t been shy about making moves on draft day, and could do the same this year.
“After the obvious top four or five picks, it’s pretty wide open so a couple of our targeted players might even be on the board later in the round,” Colangelo said. “Thus we might consider obtaining another pick if one becomes available.”
The lottery will be televised prior to tipoff of the Western Conference series opener between the Nuggets and Lakers in Los Angeles.