BOSTON -- Kawhi Leonard was the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Kyle Lowry came into the league as the 24th overall selection back in 2006.
As you go up and down the Toronto Raptors roster, there’s a clear and undeniable theme that develops. None of their players were among the most highly sought-after when they came into the NBA.
And that includes players not only drafted by the franchise, but also those they acquired via trade or free agency.
It has been among the more unexpected and unlikely formulas for success that you will find in the NBA, a formula that will be put to the ultimate test on Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Raptors and the heavily favored, two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Toronto’s roster construction is indeed a polar opposite of Golden State, which fields a team consisting of 10 first-rounders (seven lottery picks), a trio of second-rounders and just two undrafted players, along with two others on the roster by way of two-way contracts.
Meanwhile, the Raptors have a roster that doesn’t have a single lottery pick (top-14).
Even more shocking is that Toronto has just as many first-round picks (five) as they do second-rounders (five), which also equals the number of undrafted players on the roster.
Finding that kind of success in the latter stages of the first round is among the reasons why the Celtics, owners of a trio of first-round picks (No. 14, 20 and 22) and one in the latter stages of the second (No. 51), are hopeful that they too can strike it big on draft night June 20 with a not-so-early first round selection.
And while both Toronto and Golden State have found success differently, the way Boston’s roster was constructed this past season draws more of a resemblance to the Warriors.
The 2018-19 Celtics had a roster that consisted of 11 players selected in the first round, which included seven (top-14) lottery picks.
And with Boston getting a top-six protected pick from Memphis conveying next year, the Celtics will continue their trend of having multiple first-round picks.
“It’s always good to have first round picks but it’s better to have them in multiple years than to have them all in one year,” Austin Ainge, Boston’s director of player personnel, told NBC Sports Boston. “We are excited about this draft.”
Aside from the expected top three picks - Zion Williamson of Duke, Ja Morant of Murray State and R.J. Barrett of Duke - there’s no consensus on who the next best draft prospects are going to be.
That’s something that bodes well for a team such as the Celtics, who are in position to potentially select a player at No. 14, No. 20 or 22 who may turn out to become the best player in this draft class.
Leonard is a great example.
Selected by Indiana with the 15th overall pick in 2011, Leonard was traded on draft night to San Antonio for a package that included George Hill.
Leonard has developed into one of the most complete players in the NBA and has arguably been the most impressive performer thus far in this postseason.
There’s no way of knowing if this year’s draft has a similar diamond in the rough in the middle of the first round or in its latter stages.
Still, as the Celtics continue to work out different players and evaluate their options through the draft, they do so knowing that the building blocks they are looking to add for another run at a title may indeed be there for the taking with their current crop of draft picks that as we see play out in Toronto, could be the missing ingredients to a title-contending roster.
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