RAPTORS BLOG: VanVleet’s big night and re-drafting the 2016 NBA Draft

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Anyone can say this after the fact, but never for a second did I doubt the Raptors would rally to beat Utah on Friday. Even when they were down big and even with the team playing perhaps its worst and most frustrating basketball of the season, it was hard to imagine they would lose to such a depleted opponent.

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Of course, I didn’t see Fred VanVleet’s all-time scoring rampage coming.

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Yes, it came against players that usually wouldn’t be on the court, but that shouldn’t take too much away from what VanVleet did in putting his teammates on his back and rallying them. Even in a scrimmage that would be tough to pull off. Heck, even in an empty gym it would be. It really is a shame that Raptors fans didn’t get to witness either VanVleet’s exploits, or OG Anunoby’s thrilling game-winner in the playoffs in the bubble a couple of years ago (I think it was a couple of years ago. Who can keep track of what year it is or when things happened anymore?).

Of course mistakes happen every year in the draft. Even the best talent evaluators in the world aren’t infallible. But how on earth do you pass on VanVleet? How does he go undrafted after all that he did at Wichita State and in high school? And with what you’d expect were incredible character reports?

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Yes, he’s small, but Kyle Lowry was already a dominant NBA player at basically the exact same height.

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What a disastrous draft that 2016 night was. There was nothing wrong with Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown going 1-2-3, and Jamal Murray at 7 was deft work, as was Domantas Sabonis 11th, but there were some all-time misfires, including Phoenix taking Dragan Bender 4th and Marquese Chriss 8th. How did future All-NBA player Pascal Siakam slip to 27, or rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon to 36 (Brogdon’s medicals at least explain his drop, we’ve heard they were concerning, but still).

Other than Ivica Zubac, Brogdon, Patrick McCaw, and Georges Niang, the entire second round was a complete writeoff. Yet, VanVleet wasn’t chosen. But the Raptors got him anyway, along with Siakam and lottery pick Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl isn’t Sabonis, but he’s become an above average starting centre and was a key piece in the deal that brought back Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

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If you asked me to redraft that group today I’d go:

1 Jamal Murray

2 Simmons

3 Brown

4 Siakam

5 VanVleet

6 DeJounte Murray

7 Ingram

8 Brogdon

9 Sabonis

10 Poeltl

* And that’s no knock on Ingram or Sabonis. The other guys just provide awesome defence too (and Jamal has “it,” for those saying this is too high for him. Brogdon’s great too, but DeJounte Murray is a monster.

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Finally, welcome back Jonas Valanciunas, who finally makes his first return to Toronto Sunday. Valanciunas was a great Raptor, arguably the greatest centre in franchise history.

FORMER RAPTOR OF THE NIGHT:

Norman Powell.

Things have taken a dark turn in Portland. The team is awful, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are both hurt and this is not what Powell expected after being dealt there last season and then re-signing. It’s possible the Blazers might tear it all down, with rumours Lillard, who hasn’t looked right since the Olympics, possibly being shut down.

Powell had a nice game in a loss against Cleveland, scoring 19, along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

CANADIAN OF THE NIGHT:

Dwight Powell.

It’s been a relatively quiet season for the Dallas centre, but Powell’s on a nice run lately. He had 15 points in 19 minutes in a win over Houston. In the four games Kristaps Porzingis has missed recently Powell has averaged 11.8 points on 71% shooting, 4.8 rebounds and a steal in 22.4 minutes a game. He’s also +30 in those games and hit both his three-point attempts and 11-14 free throw attempts. Powell’s carved out a nice career for himself, with just shy of $50 million in career earnings. He’ll be a free agent after next season.

THREE STARS

1 Fred VanVleet

2 OG Anunoby

3 Elijah Hughes

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