The first weekend of the tournament is over and with it some 2/3′s have returned back to their respective campuses with nothing to show (including my beloved Bruins). However, 16 teams remain and will meet again starting this Thursday.
Last week I speculated on the Raps drafting a PG and previewed some of the NCAAs top guards heading into the tournament. Good thing I did, since most of them have already been sent home (and BTW – HOW. GOOD. IS. TY. LAWSON?). Most of what people had to say in the comments to the article revolved around the other major gap in this teams lineup – the shooting guard.
Just in case you haven’t been following this disaster of a season and makeshift roster, the starting SG for the Raptors is currently Anthony Parker (who is a FA this summer) with guys like Joey Graham (also a FA this summer) are backing him up. And although there has been a lot of talk about bringing Delfino back for next season, there is no doubt that if the rest of the roster was to return (since BC has said publicly he’d like to see Marion, Bosh, and Bargnani have more time together), the SG would be the weakest spot in the starting lineup.
I had originally argued that finding a guard to back up and challenge/push Calderon should be the top priority and that a good/young SG could be found later in the draft (with a pick bought using the $3 million from the O’Neal deal that Colangelo claims is for buying a pick) or even signed cheaply on the open market. But the argument of the many fans of the Republic has been very convincing. In light of that, Ive taken some time to scout out who will be on the board when the Raps pick in the back half of the top ten. It just so happens that many of the guys I like are playing this weekend.
In The Lottery
Now as we know, a strong tournament can boost anyone’s rankings, most big boards currently list the following players as lottery bound (if they declare):
James Harden, Arizona State – (Out of the tournament)
Harden is the top ranked SG on just about every big board across the internet and its easy to see why. Scouts have fallen in love with his NBA ready game, his killer scoring ability, and his assassin like shooting. However, if a player could do damage to their draft stock in the tournament, Harden would be a prime candidate. Harden went 1-8 against Temple in the first round and then laid an egg against Syracuse going 2-10 (and 0-5 from behind the 3 point line). For a guy who made his name on his scoring ability, Harden, since February, really struggled against many of the quicker/more athletic guards in the PAC 10. He still may be a top 5 pick, but his streaky shooting and poor shot selection throughout March’s tournament play coupled with his less than stellar reputation for defense make him a definite NO for the Raptors.
Demar DeRozan, USC (Out of the tournament)
Much like OJ Mayo one year ago, DeRozan was a top flight high school prep star who went to USC and performed below expectations. Also like Mayo, his character, judgment, and basketball IQ all came under question. And, I would argue, that much like Mayo, the team who drafts this kid will be reaping the benefits for years to come. At USC, DeRozan became the victim of the Coach Floyd syndrome, where high scoring athletic wing players are suffocated in a system where every second of the shot clock is scripted and players who can’t conform don’t have plays drawn up for them. When Floyd let the reins out a bit, DeRozan had monster games (averaging 19 points a game in the PAC 10 tourney and 18 a game in the NCAA tourney) and demonstrated his crazy athletic ability. DeRozan is 6’6 with a 6’9 wing span. He can run the floor, slash, and finish, and really punish opposing teams on both ends. Two years ago he was talked about as a potential #1 overall pick before stepping on the court at USC. He should slip to 7 or 8 and if he is on the board when the Raps pick – he would be an excellent choice.
Gerald Henderson, DUKE (Next game – March 26th vs Villanova)
Shane Battier anyone? Henderson does everything really well but nothing exceptionally well. Read scouting reports about him and they usually begin with his defensive specialties and almost always ignore the fact that he is Duke’s #1 option on the offense and since Christmas has had 10 games of 20+ points, including the 24 he dropped on Texas in the second round of the tourney (he also had 5 games of 19 points). He is a smart, versatile player. He can shoot, he can defend, he can rebound, he can post up, he can handle the ball, and he can score. At 6’4 he’s big enough to play the SG in the NBA – and really, may be the safest pick in the draft. Henderson can step in and start next season on 70% of the teams in the NBA. But at 21 years old, and as a player who will have finished his junior season, he doesn’t come with the flash and the upside of a guy like DeRozan. Still, he would be pretty hard to pass up at 14 or 15 but if he keeps on dropping 20 a night in the tourney and he might climb to the top of teams big boards for off-guards.
Maybe in the Lottery – But Definitely in the 1st Round
These are the guys that could propel their draft status by really taking it up a notch over the next two weeks and propelling their teams to the Final Four.
Tyreke Evans, Memphis (Next game – March 26th vs Missouri)
This guy is just a freak. Some nights he looks like the second coming of MJ – taking guys hard off the dribble, attacking the rim, and running the floor in a classic Memphis style. And then on other nights, he looks like the second coming of AltRaps. He likes to run and he likes to jack up shots but man, can he score. However, two years in a row now, Memphis has put out guys like Ty Thomas or CDR who score in bunches in the NCAA but have been unable to translate that game to the NBA and I’m starting to wonder about how much of their success is connected to Calipari and his system at Memphis (he’s the Mike D’Antoni of NCAA). At 6’6 and 19 years old it’s hard not to fall in love with all of the good that Evans can bring to team and think “if only he could become a more consistent shooter with a more efficient shot selection.” Evans will be there in the late lottery but he is the type of player the Raptors should take a pass on. If you want to draft on potential, my preference would be to go with DeRozan. However, having said that, tune in on the 26th and marvel at what Evans can do.
Terrance Williams, Louisville (Next game – March 27th vs Arizona)
Williams is a very intriguing project. If he has a big tourney he could go top ten. The issue with him tends to be sloppy play (poor shot selection, turnovers, mental lapses, etc). However, when he is on, he may be the best 2 guard in the country. His size (6’6″), length, hops, ball handling, and athletic ability make him a nightmare to defend and match up against. In fact, if he could properly channel his energy he could be a triple-double threat on a nightly basis. However, if after playing 3 seasons under Rick Pitino, you have not yet learned how to focus, the odds of it happening at the pros are slim to none. This is why a guy who should be a no-brainer top ten, might be available in the mid 20s. Either way, I’d take a pass.
Wayne Ellington, UNC (Next game- March 27th vs Gonzaga)
Its hard not to drool when you see Ellington drop 20 on everybody he matches up against in the ACC Tourney and the NCAA’s big dance. What makes Ellington appealing is that he scores not only off the dribble by attacking the rim – like most of the other 2 guards discussed above – but he is also lights out from the floor (on catch and shoot plays) and from behind the arc. While he is a little small (although he is 6’5″, he is the only guy on the board under 210 pounds – listed at 195), if he was to model his game after a guy like Rip or Reggie – he could be a solid contributor to a team right now. Like many of his teammates at UNC, he declared last year but then pulled out when he couldn’t land in the first round and many scouts still have him on the outside of the first round come this June. However, with Lawson injured and most people not believing in Tyler Hans’ ability to go pro, Ellington’s stock is quietly on the rise. Watch him play for a few minutes and you’ll see why! For sure, he’ll be around in the late teens and would be steal in the 20s. He is precisely the type of player I had in mind last week when I suggested the Raps draft a point guard in the top ten and a good 2 guard in the 20s with a purchased pick.
Probably Going Back to School
Evan Turner, Ohio State University
After a tough first round loss, being upset by Siena, and having already completed two seasons at Ohio State, I’d expect Turner to return to College for his Junior season. In his first full season as the go-to-guy at Ohio, Turner has established himself as a solid all around player, averaging 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. He currently is projected to go in the late lottery but with another big year in the NCAA he has the potential to crack the top ten and even rise up into the top 5.
Sylven Landesberg, Virginia
Even though he may have had one of the best January’s and February’s in the Nation, Landesberg’s inability to help propel Virginia into the tourney really hurt his draft stock. As a freshman, he was relatively unknown for the first half of the season, before exploding onto the national scene dropping 20+ against Duke, FSU, Boston College, and Clemson. Much like Turner, Landesberg averages 16.5, 6, and 3 and if he returned could find himself lottery bound. Not bad for a guy that most big boards have never had listed as a first round pick.
Possible Sleeper Picks
Jodi Meeks, Kentucky
How can a guy who drops 50 be a bad second round pick, right? I mean, Meeks averaged 24 points a game this year. And while he may be a little small, he could be a less expensive version of Ben Gordon whom many fans have mentioned as a possible solution to the Raptors issues at the 2.
Chase Budinger, Arizona
Here is a guy who 2 years back was featured as a top prep star and said to be a guaranteed lottery pick. But Chase’s first two seasons at Arizona were less than superb and scouts were hesitant to buy into his potential. Still, he’s 6’7. He can jump and rebound and has some serious long range shooting ability. He averaged roughly 17, 5, and 2.5 in 3 seasons at Arizona. If he falls to the bottom of the first round he could really be a steal. However, seeing that he has already declared twice before pulling out of the draft, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return to Arizona for his senior year.
Other Potentials Who are Still in the Tournament
- Corey Stokes, Villanova (Next game – March 26th vs Duke)
- Durrell Summers, Michigan State (Next game – March 27th vs Kansas)
- Paul Harris, Syracuse (Next game – March 27th vs Oklahoma)
Enjoy the Tourney!
As always, standing in the key, I’m the Dr. I’ve got my feet planted and I’m planning on taking a charge!