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Raptors eyeing option of moving up in important upcoming NBA draft

The Toronto Raptors have some considerations in mind for Thursday night’s draft.

Toronto has just one pick, sitting on the back end of the lottery at 13th overall in the first round. But with a number of unknowns surrounding the roster as free agency approaches, assistant general manager and VP of player personnel Dan Tolzman stated the team is looking at different options, including moving up.

“Quite a bit,” Tolzman said when asked how much consideration there is to move up. “Our whole operation around the draft is to try to know at least all the ranges of picks just in case something comes across the table that’s too good to pass up on.

“As we get to know our pick at 13, we’re also really taking a close look at the players up in the top five, top 10, whatever, just in case. And then same with move back opportunities too.

“How realistic it is that we could move up, I don’t know. But at the same time, we [want] to be prepared for it if it does [happen].”

Tolzman added that moving up, in his mind, would not signal “a major directional shift.”

“Whoever we’re going to go get, we see them as helping the Raptors long term,” he told reporters at the Raptors’ practice facility, the OVO Athletic Centre. “What it takes to get them, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“It’s definitely not something that we’re seeking out to try and shift our direction one way or the other. Just more of those conversations, where they go and what it takes to have them and then the assets that come back.

“If we see that as, whether it’s next season or seasons to come, as an improvement for our team then those are the ones that we debate over and over and really give some good consideration to.”

The Raptors face the potential of losing two key starters in point guard Fred VanVleet and centre Jakob Poeltl.

VanVleet opted out of his $22.8 million US player option last week, while Poeltl was brought in at the trade deadline in the last of a three-year, $26.25 million deal he signed with the San Antonio Spurs.

Guard Gary Trent Jr. had the opportunity to test the market but opted in to his $18.5 million player option Tuesday afternoon.

Tolzman said the team’s approach in the draft won’t be based upon what the roster could look like post-free agency.

“We just try to focus on the best players on the board,” Tolzman said. “We just can’t make roster decisions in the draft based on the current roster just because so much can change.”

Toronto is coming off a 41-41 season — concluding ninth in the Eastern Conference — having missed the playoffs for the second time in four years after falling to the Chicago Bulls in the play-in tournament.

The Raptors fired head coach Nick Nurse on April 21 and hired former Memphis Grizzlies top assistant Darko Rajakovic as his replacement on June 13.

The draft is highlighted by French centre Victor Wembanyama — widely presumed to be the top pick — followed by forward Brandon Miller and guard Scoot Henderson.

Tolzman calls this year’s class “quite deep.”

“Everybody is kind of going nuts about the top of the draft, which it seems like it’s as good as it’s ever been,” he said. “We seem to be really comfortable with a lot of players in this draft, though.

“We like where we’re at at 13 and we’re getting a lot of offers or things coming across the table for picks all around the draft as well and there seems to be a number of different places in this draft where there are players to be had.

“It’s a fairly deep draft, we feel like, and we’re pretty happy with where we’re sitting right now.”

Steve Carr

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