Prospect of Interest: Raptors' first-ever Canadian selection Dalano Banton

The Toronto Raptors made hometown combo guard Dalano Banton and David Johnson the 46th and 47th selections in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Toronto native Dalano Banton made history Thursday night, becoming the first Canadian basketball player ever to get drafted by the Toronto Raptors when the team took him in the second round, 46th overall.

The redshirt sophomore out of Nebraska features length and versatility that that makes him an intriguing project for the Raptors’ vaunted player development program, and the fact that he’s also a hometown kid is just icing on the cake.

“This is a perfect example why you have BioSteel [All Canadian Games]. That's the first time I saw the kid play, right? We all watched him there and have continued to follow him,” said Raptors general manager Bobby Webster after the draft concluded in the wee hours of Friday morning. “To draft the first Canadian kid, I'm sure, was cool for all of us to hear on the broadcast, 'Toronto Raptors select Dalano Banton from Toronto,' right? That'll probably go down for a while.

“But really talented, a bit of a roundabout way for him but that's never deterred us in the past, because we think he's talented, he's big, he plays a little point guard, he sees the floor really well, can rebound really well. He was invited to the G League camp this year in Chicago and didn't make it to the NBA camp, but maybe that was a benefit to us.

“Local kid, I think Rexdale, so shoutout to Rexdale, and I'm sure they're all really excited for him and we'll see what he can do.”

Here’s a little more on Banton and why the Raptors opted to make him the first Canadian the organization’s ever drafted.

Age: 21
School: Nebraska
Position: Point guard
Height: Six-foot-nine | Weight: 204 lbs
2020-21 stats: PPG: 9.6 | RPG: 5.9 | APG: 3.9 | 3P%: 24.7

Long and versatile with plenty of upside

First of all, in case the Scottie Barnes pick at No. 4 – in addition to players like OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam on the roster – wasn’t already a good indicator, then the Raptors opting to take a chance on Banton is as telltale sign of the kind of player the organization values the most above all others.

That is to say, the Raptors seem to really like long, versatile and positionless players, so to speak.

Banton fits this description to a tee, as his natural position is as a point guard, but because he sprouted up to six-foot-nine he became more a forward with point-guard skills

Adept already in the pick-and-roll and, because of his height advantage, blessed with ability to make passes other smaller guards simply can’t, Banton figures to be an ideal facilitator and initiator of the Raptors’ offence.

Additionally, despite his slender frame, he isn’t afraid to crash the glass against bigger bodies, and when he gets a defensive rebound, because of his tight handle and his strong decision-making, he can instantly start a one-man fastbreak.

Lastly, because of his length and his athletic ability, Banton could mold into a decent multi-positional defender, possibly with the ability to defend four positions down the line.

These are all attributes that the Raptors have proven to value over the years and have become adept at developing players in a similar mold – like Siakam.

So, at 46, this seems like a safe bet on a good Canadian story from the Raptors.

Needs to improve his shooting stroke and add strength

Of course, as is the case with most second-round picks, Banton is far from a complete product, and will need to work hard to shore up at least two areas if he’s going to stick around in the NBA for a long while.

First and foremost, Banton is going to need to put on some extra strength and weight. A large part of the versatility he could bring to the table will probably hinge on his ability to guard at least two through four, and right now he doesn’t have the body to bang with power forwards.

The advantage Banton could bring would likely come as a small-ball four, but right now he just doesn’t have the size to do so.

He doesn’t have the shooting stroke to be a threat as a floor-spacing big man, either.

Banton shot just 20-for-81 from deep in 27 games played with the Cornhuskers last season and was just a 65.9 per cent free-throw shooter.

This is an indication that Banton isn’t much of a shooter and has a lot of work to do to even become an average one.

Can he do it? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Has his own ‘Bet on himself’ story

Banton is among one of the best stories in the 2021 draft.

Earlier this week I caught up with him and some members of his representation to learn why he decided to bet on himself.

“I believe in myself,” Banton said at the time.

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