Tricky Ricky.

Some of the comments your readers had after our first set of questions were great and I feel they deserve a proper response. I wish I could respond to everyone but you have such a great following on Raptors Republic that I think I’d be writing until well after the draft

Keep in mind I was trying to issue a relatively short answer to a specific question regarding the Raptors drafting a SG or SF at the #9 spot in the draft. Perhaps I should have started the conversation by saying the first thing that needs to be done is a compilation of the pre-draft assets the Raps have to work with this year. For example, the Portland Trail Blazers have these tools to work with: 5 draft picks (24, 32, 38, 55, and 56), approximately $6.5 Million under the salary cap (which is a number that won’t be exact until the NBA calculates the exact cap figure based on this year’s revenue), a $3 Million Trade Exception (from a trade at the deadline), plus they own the rights to a couple young guys playing in Europe right now.

Secondly, the Raptors need to decide what they’ll do in Free-Agency, how much money they have to work with and who they’ll try to resign off their current roster. Finally, a decision should be made (and probably has been) as to the direction of the team. One of your readers commented that he wanted to take DeMar DeRozan because in the long run he’d be the best player and one argument I had made was to trade down and take a more mature player who could contribute now (Sam Young, Terrance Williams, Gerald Henderson). There are a few things to consider here, first, rookie contracts usually only last 3-4 years so to wait for a guy to come along means the direction you are taking is ‘player development and cost saving’ in that you most likely won’t spend a lot in free agency trying to make a run for the playoffs. If you are like the Blazers coming off 50 plus wins, you are seeing your window of opportunity now and thus feel spending money gives you a chance to win. Aiming for the achievement of your goals now rather than player development for future success. Veteran FA’s worth any considerable value are not going to sign with a club that is developing a young roster. Look at Memphis and Oklahoma City, young talent that is not winning regularly versus the Boston Celtics who went out and got veteran FA’s by working the cap and draft picks to come up with assets to win now.

Finally, another reader mentioned the idea of trading up. I also mentioned this with respect to James Harden if he is your guy. I don’t have any problems with this either IF you feel strongly that Harden is your guy and you have the ability (assets) to make it happen such as multiple 2nd Rd. picks to unload. There have been considerable rumors that 2, 3, 4 could move because after Blake Griffin it is somewhat wide open. Perhaps the Raps see that window and make a move. However, until we know what assets the Raptors have to work with and the direction they want to take the franchise then it’s going to be difficult to get a good gauge on what they will do.

A few random notes from the combine and recent team workouts:

  • One Raptor fan liked Tyreke Evans for his length and thus his ‘potential defensive ability’, which is outstanding. But potential is a scary word sometimes and it should be noted that he had the slowest feet in the agility test which is a good measurable for defensive potential as well. Can you see now why I’m not a huge fan of these ‘combine stats’?
  • A lot has been made of DeRozan’s superior athleticism but if you look at those infamous ‘combine stats’ you’ll see that he has one great mark when compared to the Small Forwards, his max vertical leap (with steps = 38.5″ the same as Chase Budinger). However, because he has short arms he falls to 9th of 11 SF’s in jump reach nearly 5 inches below James Johnson or Damion James. Worse yet, the only player he beat in the footwork and speed tests was 6’11 Austin Daye. And if he had been compared to the SG group, DeRozan would have been dead last in both categories out of 16 guys. His 11.88 agility score would have been .3 tenths of a second slower than 15 other SG’s and 1.4 seconds slower than the fastest SG. Short arms and slow feet, who will he be guarding? Just some food for thought.
  • Sam Young participated in a recent NBA group workout and dominated according to sources.
  • Another guy I mentioned in the last post was Ohio State big man BJ Mullens. Apparently both he and Austin Daye (Gonzaga) looked great in ‘camp drills’ in Chicago because they didn’t have to play 5-on-5, but both have struggled in workouts against physical defense. Mullens just played in Minnesota and was abused by Luke Neville (an Aussie from the University of Utah) who many say won’t be drafted. And yet Mullens is coming out of school early and a projected lottery pick? On a positive note, the 7’1 260 big man did post a ‘quicker’ time than DeRozan in the agility drill.

Q. Are there any differences from scouting via Video/TV as opposed to live?
A.
Pro’s and con’s to both I’m sure. In live situations you definitely get a good feel for the guy physically, what his body is like, his true height and so forth. You can also see his attitude and leadership abilities up close. How he reacts to calls, opposing fans, his coaches, and his teammates. On film, such as Synergy Video, you can see so much footage that you can really get a feel for what the guy does best, what his favorite moves are, and also what some of his weaknesses are because you could potentially watch every shot he took this season. One thing you always have to be careful of, especially in a combine style workout or a closed workout session is falling in love with a prospect based on that one day. See him live as much as possible and then study as much video as you can.

Q. Who will be available at 9? Who will be the best available player at 9?
A.
It’s still too early to tell at this point but I think there will be some good players available at this spot. Keep in mind, last year some guys made very late surges into the lottery such as Russell Westbrook climbing to the 4th spot (OKC), Joe Alexander went 8th (Bucks), and Jason Thompson from Rider 12th (Kings). Anthony Randolph went 14th to the Warriors after being rumored in the top 5 then slipping on some boards to late-first. The point being, decisions are still being made and there are a lot of young guys on the draft board as well as the possibility of guys returning to school. We’ll also learn more about the international guys after the upcoming Euro Camp in Treviso, Italy. Remember that Danilo Gallinari shot up to 6th last year to the NY Knicks. This is something we’ll cover more in the coming weeks.

Q. Is Blake Griffin more a Beasley or Duncan?
A.
I don’t think he’s like either one to be honest. He’s 2 inches and 12 pounds bigger than Beasley but not as long or skilled (at least now) as Tim Duncan. He is a true Power Forward in the ‘power’ sense. He is strong, explosive, aggressive, and very quick for his size. He is much more athletic than Duncan but will he develop the head for the game that Duncan has? Beasley is more of a face-up guy and I think Griffin will be a solid post-up option as well as a good pick & roll guy and he can run the floor well also. I’m not putting him in the Hall of Fame just yet but he does have some Karl Malone like features.

Hijo de puta!

Q. Who is the next best player in the Draft?
A
. The million dollar question, literally. Again, based on results or potential? I like Ricky Rubio and James Harden a lot. I get why people like Hasheem Thabeet with his obvious size and length, but I’m not a huge fan. So if you are the Memphis Grizzlies and you have Mike Conley and OJ Mayo, do you pick Rubio or Harden or trade down? Perhaps they like Thabeet and go that route. I’m a proponent of picking a guy if you feel strongly about him at that spot, if not, trade down and stockpile players and picks. This may the year to do just that.

Q. Who’s your favorite (sentimental) player in the Draft?
A.
As you know, I like international players and REALLY like what the Colangelo’s did in Phoenix bringing in Mike D’Antoni, Steve Nash, and that style of play. So needless to say I’m a Rubio fan and look forward to seeing how that situation plays out. You’ve probably read some of the latest rumblings that he’s willing to stay another year in Spain if he’s not a top 3 pick and I think a lot of that is the negotiations taking place with his Agent and Club (Joventut).

From a basketball standpoint I like his leadership skills for such a young guy, he’s very competitive, has good hand skills and vision and is better athletically than he gets credit for. He is a very good defender and has long arms. He does need to work on his shooting and range, but that should develop with time. A lot of guys from that Spanish team have come to the NBA and done well so I see no reason why he wouldn’t do the same.

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