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Raptors select their first ever Canadian in the NBA draft — a breakdown of Dalano Banton

The Raptors made franchise history in the second round of the NBA draft Thursday, drafting a Canadian for the first time ever.

They chose Toronto’s Dalano Banton, a six-foot-nine guard who played at Nebraska last season, with the 46th pick. With the 47th, they chose Louisville point guard David Johnson. In the first round, they chose Florida State forward Scottie Barnes.

Banton began his high school career in Toronto before attending a couple of prep schools in the United States and starting his college career at Western Kentucky. But he truly blossomed in one year at Nebraska under former NBAer Fred Hoiberg, averaging 9.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 22 starts.

Sports Illustrated had Banton as one of their biggest sleepers in the NBA draft in a report last month. This is what they wrote:

A native of Toronto, Banton has spent much of his career flying under the radar, and he enters the draft as a fascinating deep cut, albeit a long shot to be drafted.

The point forward was a top-100 recruit, but landed at Western Kentucky as a freshman in 2018–19, sitting out the following season while transferring to Nebraska, and posting pedestrian counting stats (9.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists) on a team that went 7–20.

He snuck into this year’s draft, declaring just before the early-entry deadline with little fanfare. At surface level, last season’s shooting splits don’t pop at all shooting 49.6 per cent on twos, 24.1 per cent on 79 three-point attempts and 66 per cent from the foul line. On the brighter side, he led Nebraska in assist rate (27.5 per cent) and shot 60.3 per cent around the rim, per Barttorvik.com data.

For better or worse, much of the intrigue with Banton centres on the oft-maligned eye test. But if you’re an NBA team willing to take a flier on a player who can’t really shoot, investing in a huge, skilled passer is a pretty interesting thing to consider.

Banton’s broad shoulders and long arms pop immediately on film, and his height gives him legitimate functionality using ball screens, able to see over defenders and giving him access to passing angles that smaller handlers don’t have.

He delivers the ball well using a variety of passes, and his size allows him to rebound, push in transition and help facilitate early offense. Banton has a long stride that helps him cover ground quickly, and, while not particularly explosive, he has a workable degree of pace as a handler and gets good extension in the paint on finishes. His overall feel for moving the ball stands out immediately, even as bad as Nebraska was this season. The playmaking seems bankable as an NBA-level skill.

Banton’s frame should also make him playable as a team defender—he’s listed at six-foot-nine and looks to be legitimately in that ballpark on film. His length allows him to effectively disrupt passing lanes, contest out onto shooters and have a visual impact on opposing guards. Banton is a bit slow-footed laterally, and his effort on the defensive end also leaves something to be desired, as he tends to be slow to contain on the perimeter and occasionally lazy fighting through screens. He’s more effective defending away from the ball, to be sure. But a better level of effort could make him at least marginally valuable on that end of the floor in relatively short order. He’s functionally big enough to defend wings and forwards. The care factor is something he can control.

The biggest issue here is the jumper, which is the source of Banton’s offensive inefficiencies and will require a good amount of work to become respectable. A quick dive into his film reveals some inconsistency in his shot base (foot placement in particular) as well as his wrist — which led to some wild misses, but also some excusable ones given his team context and the fact that he was tasked with creating late in the shot clock. I’m not a shooting coach, nor will I pretend to be, but Banton’s shot doesn’t look broken.

However, it’s clearly something he’ll have to spend a lot of time on just to reach respectability, which would make a big difference in his outlook. He relocates well off the ball and knows where to find the shots, but Banton will have to start making them to be a truly functional role player and more than a curiosity. But bottom line, there aren’t many players with his type of skill set just lying around. There’s legitimate role player potential here, and there should be interest in his services in the likely event he goes undrafted.

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