Play-In for what? Raptors leapfrog to No. 4 in NBA Draft Lottery

Title: Play-In for what? Raptors leapfrog to No. 4 in NBA Draft Lottery
Date: June 22, 2021
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I broke down the Raptors jumping from No. 7 to No. 4 in the NBA Draft Lottery and what it means on several fronts.

Play-In for what?

Had the Toronto Raptors landed the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, those words — spoken defiantly by president Masai Ujiri at his season-ending media availability — would have been the stuff of legend. It would be on T-shirts and likely help define the early stages of presumed No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham’s career in Toronto.

In a league ever more predicated on the 3-point shot, though, it’s fitting the draft lottery was more of a one-in-three proposition. The answer to “Play-In for what?” was, in probability terms, to punt on a 31.9-percent chance at a top-four pick. Even if you projected the Raptors to get back to health before the playoffs, the climb back to truly competing was so steep, the off-ramp so far in the rearview, that Ujiri and his front office were plenty justified in leaning into developmental moral victories and standings losses down the stretch. They secured themselves the seventh-best lottery odds and a 7.5-percent chance at Cunningham. As Eric Koreen noted in our live blog and I mentioned this morning, the Raptors were due some good fortune.

The ping-pong balls rattled around like a Cory Joseph corner 3, a 31.9-percent chance of falling their way. And they dropped — the Raptors will select at No. 4 in the draft.

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