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Barring a trade, the Toronto Raptors will select 13th at Thursday’s NBA Draft.
While teams have a far better chance of adding a star with a higher pick, recent history shows, perhaps to the surprise of many, that it’s quite possible to land a difference-maker.
In the past two seasons alone, the all-NBA teams have featured two former No. 13 picks (Devin Booker on the first team in 2021-22 and in 2022-23 Donovan Mitchell on the second team), while this year’s first team included a No. 15 pick (Giannis Antetokounmpo) and a No. 11 (Hamilton’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander).
An all-time great, Kobe Bryant, even went 13th in 1996 and other big hits include Jalen Rose in 1994, Richard Jefferson in 2001, Zach LaVine in 2014 and, potentially, Jalen Duren just last year.
Duren, a 19-year-old centre, shot 65% from the floor for Detroit as a rookie and nearly averaged a double-double in under 25 minutes a game.
Of course, you’re more likely to miss out on a key contributor. Of the past 30 No. 13 picks since 1993, 11 can fairly be deemed outright busts. So you have just shy of a 40% chance of completely whiffing here, based on three decades of data.
A lot of solid rotation pieces tend to get grabbed at 13. Names like Kelly Olynyk, Corey Maggette, Derek Anderson, Corliss Williamson, Thabo Sefolosha, Ed Davis, Tyler Herro and Markieff Morris. Would someone of that calibre be good enough for the Raptors?
If we add who went next since 1993, we actually get less confident about the likelihood of the Raptors adding a key piece. Only two No. 14 selections from the past three decades became all-stars — Bam Adebayo and Peja Stojakovic.
New champion Michael Porter Jr. fell to there because of his injury history and Michael Dickerson sure was a fun Vancouver Grizzlies player before he got hurt, but let’s just say that’s a dire history.
But, again, this is an inexact science. Add in former No. 15 selections and you get all-timers Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Steve Nash, steady big man Al Jefferson, and three good picks in a row more recently (Mark Williams, Corey Kispert and Cole Anthony).
That has been the case at 16, too, with AJ Griffin, Alperen Sengun and Isaiah Stewart all looking like nice young players (Sengun in particular has all-star potential).
But, back to the Raptors. Under current management, Toronto has done an above-average job at the draft. But with much of this group’s drafting success in the rearview mirror, there’s pressure to get No. 13 right. While every draft has more busts than hits overall, their track record should give Raptors fans reason for optimism.
Masai Ujiri and Co. hit grand slams on Pascal Siakam (27th), O.G. Anunoby (23rd), Norman Powell (46th) and Fred VanVleet (undrafted), homered on Scottie Barnes (fourth), doubled on Jakob Poeltl (ninth), Delon Wright (20th) and maybe Christian Koloko (33rd).
But they also struck out completely in 2020 (Malachi Flynn, 29th), 2014 (Bruno Caboclo 20th, DeAndre Daniels 37th) and a number of second-round flyers. The team didn’t have a first-round selection in 2018 or 2019 due to trades.
LUCKY NUMBER 13?
Had to include this odd bit of trivia: Tons of former No. 13 picks ended up playing for the Raptors. It’s actually a bit bizarre just how many. The incomparable Rose was the most notable, but there’s also Keon Clark, North Carolina big men Ed Davis and Tyler Hansbrough, Corliss Williamson Sebastian Telfair, Marcus Banks and Julian Wright.
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