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2 sleeper prospects Raptors must target in 2022 NBA Draft

Raptors, Masai Ujiri, Scottie Barnes

The Toronto Raptors struck gold in last year’s draft when they took Scottie Barnes with the No. 4 overall pick. Barnes eventually won the 2021-22 Rookie of the Year award and will be a huge centerpiece for the Raptors for many years to come.

Unlike last year, Toronto will not have a high draft pick nor a first-round selection at all in the 2022 NBA draft. They only have their second-rounder at No. 32. Still, the Raptors have managed to find gems over the years regardless of where they picked in the draft. Pascal Siakam (27th in 2016), OG Anunoby (23rd in 2017), Norman Powell (46th in 2015, originally acquired in a draft day trade with the Milwaukee Bucks) and even Fred VanVleet (undrafted in 2016) come to mind.

With that said, do not be shocked if Masai Ujiri is able to find another diamond in the rough with the 32nd overall pick this Thursday. Here are two sleeper prospects the Raptors must target in the 2022 NBA Draft.

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2 Raptors sleeper prospects

Christian Braun

Braun had a standout junior year with the Kansas Jayhawks this past season. In 40 games, he averaged 14.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Braun comes in with more college experience under his belt than most prospects, which should make him NBA-ready coming into the 2022-23 season. The 6-foot-6 guard may not look like the typical wing player the Raptors seem to have grown fond of over these last couple of seasons. Unlike Siakam, Anunoby, Barnes and Precious Achiuwa, he doesn’t have the lengthy wingspan that just about every Raptors forward has.

Nonetheless, Braun’s defense and tenacity will be his calling card the moment he steps foot on an NBA floor, an attribute head coach Nick Nurse will love more than anything. Defensively, the junior is terrific both on the ball and off the ball. He is great at jumping passing lanes and turning defense into offense in transition.

Offensively, Braun is an athlete who can get up there and throw down huge dunks that ignite Scotiabank Arena. He is able to utilize his athleticism and tenacity to generate extra possessions for his team on the offensive glass. Braun also possesses a smooth-looking stroke from beyond the arc that should translate well in the NBA. He shot 38.6 percent from three this past season, improving from 34.0 percent in his sophomore campaign.

Andrew Nembhard

Nembhard is one of the more underrated prospects in this draft. He comes in as one of the older draftees at 22 years old, having spent four years in college — the first two at Florida, and the final two with Gonzaga. As a senior, Nembhard averaged 11.8 points, 5.8 assists and 1.6 steals.

Having been born and raised in the Greater Toronto Area, Nembhard being drafted by Canada’s team would be perfect for the storybooks. He has also established some rapport with Raptors coach Nick Nurse, playing for Canada in the 2019 World Cup. As such, Nurse knows exactly what Nembhard’s game is all about.

Nembhard should enter the league with the chance to contribute immediately, relying on the maturity he developed over four years in college. At 6-foot-5, he possesses great size at the guard position. Nembhard has a natural feel for the game and is a sound decision-maker with the basketball. He operates best in the pick-and-roll and showed great poise and patience while reading the defense.

Moreover, Nembhard possesses terrific passing ability. He is capable of making pin-point bounce passes to the roll man and is also able to fire skip passes across the court to find open shooters on the perimeter.

The Raptors could use a table-setter like Nembhard in the second unit to spell some minutes for Fred VanVleet.