Raptors select Christian Koloko with the 33rd pick in the NBA Draft

The Raptors now have a new piece they hope to turn into an NBA player, and he has a connection to their current star.

Toronto selected Cameroonian Christian Koloko with the 33rd pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, pairing him with fellow countryman Pascal Siakam.

A year after taking the fourth overall pick and turning him into rookie of the year Scottie Barnes, the Raptors have selected a much longer-term prospect in Koloko.

The 2.13-meter-tall 22-year-old forward was Pac-12’s defensive player of the year last season in Arizona.

The Raptors lost their chance to select a Canadian for the second year in a row after Aurora’s Andrew Nembhard came in 31st for Indiana and Mississauga’s Caleb Houstan was snatched 32nd by Orlando.

With the draft now in the rearview mirror, the real work for Toronto begins next week, heading into the free agency opener on July 1 and that will have a significantly bigger impact on the 2022-23 season than Thursday’s draft.

Vice President Masai Ujiri and General Manager Bobby Webster have two unrestricted free agents to deal with – Chris Boucher and Thaddeus Young – and will have the so-called “mid-level” salary cap exception of about $10.5 million (US ) to offer. a free agent or several of them.

The Raptors have some experience picking around the 33 range.

“I think back to previous drafts, obviously Pascal (Siakam) at 27, I think OG (Anunoby) was 23, Delon (Wright) was 20, even Malachi (Flynn) was 29, so I think we always operate in that space,” said the general manager Bobby Webster before the draft.

“I think we’re in tune with the fact that there will be guys on this track. Obviously it’s our job to find them, but I think operating here was a little more comfortable than obviously having the fourth pick last year.”

Toronto selected Cameroonian Christian Koloko with the 33rd pick in Thursday's NBA draft, pairing him with fellow countryman Pascal Siakam.

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