The Toronto Raptors sent the first wave of shock in the 2021 NBA draft by passing on Gonzaga star Jalen Suggs and instead selecting Florida State standout Scottie Barnes with the 4th overall pick. Most mock drafts projected Suggs to go to Toronto and reports hours prior to the draft indicated the Raps gearing towards selecting the 6-foot-4 guard. However, several reports out of Toronto's camp revealed just how much enamored they were Barnes during his workout. Ultimately, the Raptors made the stunner to take Barnes over Suggs. And I believe Toronto made a huge mistake.
It's easy to why the Raptors liked Barnes as a prospect. At 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, he can impact the game with his defense. He is also a capable ballhandler and showed unique playmaking skills from the forward spot. That's why many compare him to Draymond Green. However, like Green, he is pretty limited in terms of creating his own shot and his 3-point shooting is a major work in progress.
Meanwhile, Suggs is a dynamic 6-foot-4 guard who showed two-way potential in his lone season with Gonzaga. The former Bulldog seemed to be a match made in heaven for Toronto, as he could have been the heir apparent to Kyle Lowry, who could potentially bolt in free agency. The fit is definitely there and he has enough size to make up for Fred VanVleet's lack in height. Suggs does have his flaws, particularly with his shooting as seen with his 33.7 percent 3-point shooting clip in college.
But there's just something about the way Suggs carries himself that suggests he'll be an absolute stud in the NBA. He did put the teams selecting at the top of the draft on notice prior to Thursday night about passing on him.
“I will say the ones that do pass up on me and take another prospect, you know, it'll come back, it'd be to their detriment,” Suggs said prior to the draft, via Aaron Rose of Sports Illustrated. “You can look at my track record and what I've done and where I've been, you know, it's always win at a high level, at the highest level.”
Those words could ultimately haunt Toronto forever.
Perhaps the biggest case for Suggs ending up becoming the better player than Barnes is the way the NBA is trending right now. The point guard position has never more important in the NBA, with the league geared towards more pick-and-roll play. Having a lead guard that can score on all three levels and create plays for others has almost become a recipe for success in the NBA.
With Suggs, the Raptors could have had someone that fits that bill. Suggs presents more potential as a legitimate franchise cornerstone that they can build their team around for many years to come. Compared to the Gonzaga star, Barnes just doesn't exude the makings of someone who could be the guy. As mentioned, he's still raw offensively and his shooting could be a problem if he doesn't develop that part of his game right away.
Of course, a lot could still change down the line and this piece could very well end up as a freezing cold take in 5 years. But at this point, the Raptors screwed up on this one.