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Raptors hard at work preparing for NBA draft and free agency

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Raptors hard at work preparing for NBA draft and free agency

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Raptors likely will have a lot of different types and ages of players to choose from at draft

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The 2023-24 NBA season might still be going, with four clubs battling it out for league supremacy, but Canada’s team is firmly fixated on 2024-25 and beyond.

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The recent draft lottery was a big day for the Toronto Raptors, because now the front office knows it won’t have a high draft pick on June 26 (that pick went to San Antonio because it did not meet the top-six protection from the Jakob Poeltl deal). However, they could next year in a more highly regarded draft class.

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But Toronto still has the 19th selection next month and the first pick of Round 2, which for the first time goes a day later than Round 1, 31st overall.

This year’s draft order is impossible to predict, but the Raptors likely will have a lot of different types and ages of players to choose from.

There are several quality upper-classmen who might not have big upsides, but should be solid contributors. There are big swing freshmen who either came on late or didn’t meet expectations after being hyped-up high-schoolers.

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Standout Canadian centre Zach Edey, one of the most dominant NCAA players ever, could be up for grabs, too. But Toronto is in a tough spot in terms of attracting players to come in for workouts because those expected to go high probably won’t come in for a team picking 19th and 31st, but a few players projected higher always fall.

That’s where all of the research done throughout their college and international careers comes in. All of that is going on right now, along with workouts following the recent NBA combine in Chicago.

Since 2000, only three players drafted 19th overall have gone on to become all-stars (Jamaal Magloire, Zach Randolph and Jeff Teague), though six of the last 10 players taken there have become solid NBAers, including Brandin Podziemski, drafted in 2023.

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Toronto will have talked with other teams about potential deals, with the most likely transaction probably involving swingman

Bruce Brown. Brown has an interesting contract that has a year remaining for $23 million if it’s picked up by the Raptors by June 29. If a deal cannot be worked out, Toronto could decline the option.

And if Gary Trent Jr., is allowed to walk as well, that could open up $26 million in cap space to try and make a dent in a weak free-agency class while still retaining Immanuel Quickley’s cap hold.

Or the Raptors can try again to deal Brown to a contender before next February’s trade deadline.

Teams can negotiate with their own free agents (most notably for Toronto, Quickley and Trent) starting at 6 p.m. on June 30, with official signings being allowed as of 12:01 ET on July 6.

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While there’s some danger of Quickley being signed to an offer sheet, the expectation is that will be unlikely as Toronto is high on the point guard acquired for OG Anunoby and can match any offer, something other teams would be well aware of.

Toronto also has a $10.2-million trade exception that could come in handy with many teams expected to be eager to dump salary as the league’s new salary rules become more restrictive.

Franchise face Scottie Barnes has been in town with others working out (including at the WNBA Toronto announcement on Thursday morning).

Canadians RJ Barrett and Kelly Olynyk will gather with the rest of Team Canada later in June ahead of training camp, followed by tuneup games and then the Olympics in Paris.

Gradey Dick and the new draftees will attend summer league in Las Vegas from July 12-22.

Vince Carter will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on October 12 ahead of Season 30 for the Raptors franchise Carter starred for. He and other iconic Raptors will be celebrated during the upcoming campaign, which will begin with training camp in early October.

It will be interesting to see what kind of a splash, if any, Masai Ujiri and his staff make before then.

rwolstat@postmedia.com

@WolstatSun

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