The Raptors now have a new piece they hope to eventually mold into an NBA player, and he has a connection to their current all-star.
Toronto selected Cameroonian Christian Koloko with the 33rd pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, pairing him with countryman Pascal Siakam.
A year after having the fourth overall pick and turning it into rookie of the year Scottie Barnes, the Raptors have selected a far more long-term prospect in Koloko.
The 22-year-old seven-foot-one power forward was the Pac-12 defensive player of the year last season at Arizona.
The Raptors just missed out on a chance to select a Canadian for the second year in a row after Andrew Nembhard of Aurora went 31st to Indiana and Mississauga’s Caleb Houstan was taken 32nd by Orlando.
With the draft now in the rearview mirror, the real work for Toronto begins next week heading into the July 1 opening of free agency and that will have a significantly bigger impact on the 2022-23 season than Thursday’s draft will.
Vice-chairman Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster have two unrestricted free agents to deal with — Chris Boucher and Thaddeus Young — and will have the so-called “mid-level” salary-cap exception of about $10.5 million (US) to offer a free agent or a number of them.
The Raptors have some experience picking around the 33 range.
“I think back to prior drafts, obviously Pascal (Siakam) at 27, I think OG (Anunoby) was 23, Delon (Wright) at 20, even Malachi (Flynn) at 29, so I think we’ve always operated in this space,” general manager Bobby Webster said before the draft.
“I think we’re kind of attuned to there’s going to be guys in this range. It’s obviously our job to find them but I think operating here felt a bit more comfortable than obviously having the No. 4 pick last year.”
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