Raptors react to Davis drop; Ujiri acquires Alabi

The selection of Davis was an easy decision since it was almost remarkable that he was available this late. Why did his stock drop? Three reasons.

The top four picks were as predicted and then the Warriors took Ekpe Udoh, a guy whose stock shot up during the workouts. As his name was called, the Big Board’s dreams were shattered and it was now all about whether the Raptors would go for the much-bandied about likes of Paul George, Patrick Patterson, and of course, Avery Bradley. That line of thinking didn’t factor in North Carolina’s Ed Davis being available at the edge of the lottery.

The selection of Davis was an easy decision since it was almost remarkable that he was available this late. Why did his stock drop? Three reasons:

  1. A poor season at North Carolina which had lost three starters from the year before.
  2. A broken wrist that saw him miss the last six weeks of the season for a total of 13 games, an injury he himself described as not being 100% healed.
  3. The Clippers, Jazz, Pacers, Hornets and Grizzlies didn’t have too great of a need for a big man, with Griffin, Millsap, Hibbert/Hansbrough, Okafor, and Gasol/Thabeet, already on the respective rosters.

So as much as his stock dropped because of his injury and play at Chapel Hill, the needs of the teams drafting ahead of the Raptors had an equal say in how things transpired. As Steve noted in his live blog, anytime a player who is slated to be a top ten or a top five pick in any draft (as Davis was last year) falls into your lap, you take the chance to grab him. Of course, for every Ed Davis there’s a Willie Warren (taken 54th by the Clippers after being projected top ten last year), so I suppose we’ll see how things will pan out, but taking the best player available (which Davis arguably was) is a pretty safe move to both, please the fans and prevent second-guessing later on. Jay Triano also expressed his surprise at Davis being available:

“We didn’t think he’d be available at 13, we thought he would be long gone, to have him keep sliding, we kept crossing our fingers that he’d keep sliding one more, one more, and he falls right into our lap, which was great,” Triano said.

Full interviews: Ed Davis :: Jay Triano :: Bryan Colangelo

After his season-ending injury, Draft Express did a complete review of his game which is worth a read. According to Doug Smith, Davis was drafted to replace Chris Bosh; although that’s what common sense would dictate, the feeling one’s getting from the Bosh camp is that he’s at least more likely to return than he was, say, a few weeks ago. In his post-draft interview, Davis was quoted as saying that Chris Bosh is his favorite player which is quite ironic in more than one sense.

“My favourite player Chris Bosh plays there. He’s a lefty, 6-11, he can shoot it, he’s just a good all-around power forward, top three best power forwards in the game right now, just a great player to model my game after,” said Davis.

Speaking of Bosh, Colangelo addressed the drafting of Davis in the context of Bosh’s free-agency:

“The scenario with Ed Being there, obviously a little bit of a surprise….with the uncertainity of the PF and C position, free agency looming for Chris Bosh, Amir Johnson, Rasho Nesterovic, Patrick O’Bryant, this is a nice surprise….a lot needs to play out in the coming weeks. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m confident that Chris is coming back. That’s why the selection of Ed Davis at this spot is one that looks to be the right piece.”

After a workout with the Pacers, Davis had choice words about his critics who maintain that he’s not ready to contribute at the NBA level. Some quotes from the linked article:

“When it comes to long and athletic big men, I’m the best in the draft,” Davis said after working out for the Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon. “Whatever team drafts me, I’m going to play up to my potential.”

“People think I can’t shoot,” he said. “I have a nice jump shot and nice touch around the basket; so guys have to respect that . . . I’ll continue to get stronger, but I’m not saying I want to put on 20 pounds.”

The scouting report, according to some, is that it may take time for Davis to be a regular contributor. “Those guys, they do their job, they’re not coaches and they do mock drafts for a reason,” Davis said. “If the coaching staff feels I need to wait or I can play right away, that’s what I go by. Their opinion doesn’t mean anything.”

Obviously, confidence isn’t a problem and it’s good to have a player on the team who feels he’s been sold short and wants to prove people wrong. It’s a sharp contrast than drafting DeMar DeRozan last year, a guy who came in highly touted, was handed the starters job, and although played well enough for a rookie, never took full advantage of his minutes or the lack of depth at shooting guard position. As with most big men, his offensive game will take time to come along and miracles shouldn’t be expected. However, all that doesn’t really matter and can wait because it’s his work-ethic and defensive approach that will define his rookie season. We didn’t draft Ed Davis so he could score points for us, we drafted Ed Davis because he’s a big guy with great rebounding ability, good defensive fundamentals and a high basketball IQ.

So what happened to Avery Bradley? Well, Danny Ainge took him which worries me. Earlier in the workout process Ainge was asked about the process of drafting Rajon Rondo. Ainge’s response spoke of the mental and physical toughness that Boston was seeking, words which is like music to my ears except the Boston part. When the picked Bradley, the above linked clip immediately flashed in my mind, and when they showed the defensive highlight pack of Bradley on ESPN, a feeling of regret took over.

Davis is undoubtedly the player with the greater potential , but there is something to be said for drafting a complete defensive hound, and it would’ve been nice to see the Raptors finally put their money where their mouth is and actually but a pick (like we’ve been told a million times) and get two first-rounders. As delighted as one is to have someone of Ed Davis caliber/potential on the team, the feeling is accompanied by that of a missed opportunity in the form of Avery Bradley.

We didn’t get Bradley, but we did get Solomon Alabi, who trained at Coach David Thorpe’s Pro Training Center. In Steve’s recent interview with Thorpe, the coach goes into a detailed analysis of Alabi which is a good listen.

The first thing you notice about Alabi is that he’s 7’1” and has successfully added weight to his frame over the last two seasons. He’s a center who plays like a center (i.e., in the post) but remains very raw with many scouting reports describing him as “mechanical”. As usual, Draft Express’ take should be read:

According to Synergy Sports Technology, Alabi has received roughly 50% of his possessions in the post this season. Though he remains very raw in regards to his ability to score from the block, and is unlikely to ever emerge as a huge scoring presence, he continues to show flashes of potential. Alabi is slowly learning how to use his size to his advantage, but hasn’t been quite as efficient from the block as he was last season, still has lapses, and looks extremely mechanical with certain moves. He needs to continue to improve his footwork, expand the range of his moves, try to develop a softer touch, become quicker and more assertive on the block, and develop a wider base and better lower body strength to establish deeper post position.

That paragraph could easily be used to describe Nathan Jawai which is scary, but since the pick comes basically free, it’s no harm no foul. By the way, Masai Ujiri’s hands are all over this trade with Dallas which sees us send a future second round pick and some cash.

As the Raptors only had two big men under contract at the end of the season, going big in the draft made sense. Moving up a couple picks to get Ekpe Udoh could’ve been a great option, but as things turned out, Udoh’s stock was out of the Raptors reach. According to Jonathan Givony of Draft Express, the Raptors had keen interest in Paul George, but Indiana’s selection caught everybody by surprise, including George’s people. Such is how the draft works.

Is there a log-jam of bigs? No, assuming Bosh and Johnson re-sign, we’d have five bigs on the roster: Chris Bosh, Amir Johnson, Reggie Evans, Ed Davis, and Solomon Alabi. Last year we also had five: Johnson, Evans, Bosh, O’Bryant and Rasho, so the two selections don’t necessarily mean replacement for either Bosh or Johnson, as is being discussed on the forums. Triano also addressed this issue:

“When you look at the free agents that we have with Chris Bosh, Amir Johnson, Patrick O’Bryant, Rasho Nesterovic — that’s four bigs,” he added. “The fact that we got a big was great. Regardless of who signs, and who comes back and who plays, he’s a big body and he’s athletic and he fits the trend that the NBA is starting to move towards.”

Two moves on the night for the Raptors. Are there more to come, let’s just hope this one about the Magic calling Colangelo about Turkoglu is true.

So what’s Chris Bosh’s reaction to all this? He made a couple tweets, none of them regarding the Raptors or the guy they drafted who happens to play his position:

Congrats to Damion James a.k.a. “Big Freshman”! I remember when he first got to high school….

Just woke up. Watching the #NBADraft. I thought there would be more movement. We’ll see….

Thanks to the folks who came out for a night of good fun at Sports Centre Cafe, and to the hordes who visited the live chat. You keep the Republic Rocking.

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