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Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri spilled the beans last month discussing the team's 2021 NBA Draft strategy: "It’s either going to be the most talented player available or it’s going to be the best fit for us."

Thanks, Masai!

If Toronto wants to go with the best fit, nabbing a center with their first-round lottery pick is the obvious choice. The problem for the team is — with the exception of Evan Mobley the projected second overall pick out of USC — there aren't very many exciting centers at the top of the draft. That'll likely force the Raptors into the best player available strategy and someone like Tennessee's Keon Johnson.

Toronto Raptors select: Tennessee's Keon Johnson

In The Ringer's latest 2021 NBA mock draft, the Raptors are tabbed to go with Johnson, the Volunteers' 6-foot-5 freshman.

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"Johnson came on strong at the end of the season and left a strong impression on scouts at the SEC tournament, many of whom were seeing him live for the first time," Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Woo. "On whole, his freshman year was a mixed bag, but his flashes of brilliance are encouraging. He’s quick getting into the paint, an elite run-jump athlete, and a disruptive defender with a team-first mentality. Drafting Johnson in the Top 10 is a major bet on those traits coalescing into a high-level starter. There’s reason for concern here, too: he doesn’t have consistent range on his shot, has a rudimentary handle, and doesn’t have much pedigree as an on-ball creator, although Tennessee handed him more decision-making responsibility as the season went on. Johnson competes hard and should find a way to be a useful contributor in a team context, at worst. But his athletic ability and potential for rapid improvement make him a fascinating bet after the draft’s biggest names are off the board."

Johnson averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists while shooting 44.9% from the floor and 27.1% on 1.8 three-pointers per game. Though he started in just 17 of his 27 games, as Woo mentioned, it's hard not to look at Johnson's athleticism and project much bigger things coming in his NBA career.

Even with OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam on the roster, selecting another high-upside wing who can spend some time developing next season seems like a recipe for success for Toronto.

Further Reading

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