Last year, while at UCLA, I had a chance to see DeMar DeRozan first hand and realized very early he met all the needs of the Raptors. After speaking with several of my sources and contacts, I was able to pin-point him as the Raptors top choice for the #9 slot. In much the same way, I’ve had Ekpe Udoh at the top of my draft board since its induction, and I’m still of the belief that he is the best pick for the Raptors, but the more people I speak with, the more I keep hearing that he projects to go as high as #8 and will not drop past Memphis at #12. After that, the big board really gets sticky, with most scouts telling me that the talent between 12 and 40 is pretty close to each other and not necessarily very distinguishable. So, while originally we had some upside guys, like Whiteside and Orton on our board, after speaking with some people close to the team, I’ve been led to believe that guys like Udoh, Patterson, Hayward, and other guys with hustle, and some chutzpah are appearing more desirable to everybody. Even Patterson is on the rise and could very well be gone by the time the Raptors pick at #13.
So, assuming that the ping pong balls on Tuesday night keep everything the same, and that the Raptors pick at #13, here is what I foresee happening: Look for the Raptors to draft 19 year old Avery Bradley, the 6’3″ Texas guard. Here’s why:
- He was the best perimeter defender in the NCAA last year.
- He was rated higher than John Wall coming out of high school, and he was the top rated player in the country before going to Texas.
- He has a 6’7″ wingspan.
- He is an excellent scorer and a good mid-range shooter.
The knock against him is that he is more of a “combo” guard and not a true point, but with the Raptors locked into 5 years of Turkoglu at the SF, a back court of DeRozan and Bradley – two young, athletic, long, defensive minded guards (in a rotation that includes Jack and Weems) allows the Raptors to run their offense through Turkoglu as the point-forward. At the same time they make up for some of the defensive deficiencies of Turkoglu and Bargnani. In fact, if they can draft Bradley at #13, keep Amir Johnson, and find a way to get a legitimate big man back in any deal that sends out Bosh and Calderon, this team would could realistically focus on the 5 seed in the East and 45 wins. Lastly, with the increased emphasis on guard play in the league and the number of lightning fast guards out there, a guy like Bradley who can guard both the 1 and the 2 would be invaluable.
So The Big Board now looks like this:
Udoh stays at #1, since if available and if Bosh goes, it would be hard to argue against all that he could add to this team immediately. Patterson moves up to #2, for many of the same reasons as Udoh and for all that he can do (visit the podcast from 2 weeks ago with Chris Denker for more on Patterson). Bradley moves up to #3 and becomes the only guard on the Raptors. Hayward drops to #4 and becomes important if the team feels that it can move Turkoglu and look to keep its guards intact, since Hayward brings a similar game as Turkoglu but for a fraction of the cost. Whiteside drops to #5, although he still has upside and can bring a lot to the defensive end, Colangelo wants to compete now and must address the issues of toughness and energy, two areas where Whiteside still needs to improve, especially when compared to the 4 names above. John Wall’s backup, Eric Bledsoe, falls off the Big Board.
As for Avery Bradley, after watching the tape and talking to some sources, I think I have the pick tabbed.
|#1||Ekpe Udoh||PF||6-10, 240lbs, Age: 22||Baylor (Junior)|
The word about Udoh is getting out as he sees himself rise in almost every board. His NBA-readiness is proving to be attractive and his future as a defensive anchor is being talked about. There’s a good reason why he’s held the #1 spot on this board since Day One, and now others are seeing the light. He’s no longer a sleeper and should now be considered unlikely to be available at #13.
|#2||Patrick Patterson||PF||6-8, 223lbs, Age: 21||Kentucky (Junior)|
A strong defensive game and an inch or two are what’s keeping Patterson from shooting up the charts. The hard work and grit he’s shown scouts has gone some ways in repairing his reputation as a mediocre defender. He’s shown a real ability to knock down the mid-range jumper which will complement his back-to-the-basket game very well. The only real issue is where you play him? At 6’8″ he is probably too small to play the 4, but too slow to play the 3. However, knowing Patterson’s personality, he won’t be afraid to work hard to find an answer to this dilemma.
|#3||Avery Bradley||SF||6-3, 180lbs, Age: 19||Texas (Freshman)|
John Hollinger is the only one that sees him as a lottery pick. Well, him and me. The fit with the Raptors is natural, we don’t necessarily need a true PG with Turkoglu around, and he isn’t one. The danger of course is that we might pick him too high, but that’s where a shrewd GM makes his money by trading down and getting a bonus in the process.
|#4||Gordon Hayward||SF||6-8, 200lbs, Age: 20||Butler (Sophomore)|
Efficient NCAA player and good shooter, both should translate to the NBA level. However, his athleticism isn’t considered to be prototypical and some teams could see him as a defensive vulnerability despite his size. The fact is that he could do a lot of what Turkoglu is supposed to be doing at 1/10th the cost. He’s a crafty offensive player and that alone should make him a rotation player in the NBA.
|#5||Hassan Whiteside||C||6-11, 225lbs, Age: 20||Marshall (Freshman)|
His stock his holding stead as a borderline lottery pick, the 7’6″ wingspan is impressive and there’s no doubt about his weak-side defense; whether his thin frame can hold up in the NBA remains to be seen. He is one of the best defenders, shot-blockers and lock-down defenders in the NCAA. Chad Ford compares him to Marcus Camby. If he went back for another year, he could be a top 5 pick in 2010. Not the greatest offensive player right now, but is a better offensive prospect than Thabeet. Very young, if the plan is to rebuild, take him. If he’s off the board at #13, it means someone like Greg Monroe is available.
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