Life moves pretty fast. The NBA, apparently, moves even faster.
With the NBA Finals wrapped last Friday and the world champion Toronto Raptors fresh off their eventful title parade on Monday, there’s no rest for the team’s front office.
Before anybody really gets a chance to catch a breath, the draft season is in full swing, with the NBA draft set to go down Thursday night.
The Raptors traded their first round pick to the San Antonio Spurs as part of the deal that yielded Kawhi Leonard and, 10 or so months later, their first ever NBA title.
But Toronto still has its second-round pick and are slated to draft 59th overall. It’s not exactly a prime position and it’ll take nothing short of a miracle — and some expert-level scouting — for the team to find a future rotation player that late in the draft.
In fact, there’s barely precedent of a player being selected in that spot going on to have even a quasi-successful NBA career.
Here, in order, are the last ten 59th overall picks:
Not exactly a murderers row of NBA talent. Collectively the group has appeared in 28 NBA games — with 27 of those belonging to Blossomgame last season with Cleveland.
Beginning with the 2000 draft until today, only six players drafted at or near the tail end of the second round have gone on to have successful pro careers: Isaiah Thomas (60th overall, 2011), Ramon Sessions (56th overall, 2007), Amir Johnson (56th in 2005), Marcin Gortat (57th in 2005), and Luis Scola (55th overall in 2002, although he didn’t make his NBA debut until five years later).
Given how rare it is to find a legitimate pro prospect that late in the draft, it’s not uncommon to see teams take a flier on an intriguing prospect with possible untapped potential, like Dallas did with Kostas Antentokounmpo last year, the 60th pick of the 2018 draft, choosing Giannis’s younger brother.
But overall, teams aren’t relying on finding a serviceable player in that slot although it doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
The Raptors held prospect workouts at their practice facility throughout the Finals as they look to gather as much intel as possible on the countless options they’ll have drafting so late.
There are potentially intriguing players expected to be available. Central Florida’s Tacko Fall, a seven-foot-seven centre, UCLA point guard Jaylen Hands, Michigan guard Jordan Poole, and West Virginia shot-blocking big man Sagaba Konate are among the names projected to be drafted near the end of the 2019 draft. NBAdraft.net projects Wake Forest swingman Jaylen Hoard to go 59th to the Raptors, but whomever the team selects will almost surely need to have a monster performance in training camp or flash enough potential to warrant a spot with the Raptors 905 in the G-League to have any sort of future with the franchise.
With all of the questions that now face the Raptors this off-season — whether or not Leonard will be in the fold next year being chief among them — who the team selects with the second-round pick may not be the highest on the food chain.
As the Raptors have shown, when it comes to roster-building there’s nowhere brimming with more opportunity than the draft.
So can the Raptors pull off a miracle and spurn a decade – and counting — of draft history Thursday night?
Doubtful. Then again, you wouldn’t exactly be filling your bank account betting against GM Bobby Webster, president Masai Ujiri & Co. these days, would you?