Raptors Pick Could Depend on Utah’s PG Decision

It’s Jazz v Raptors with the Jazz in the lead.

So the Raptors worked out Enes Kanter in Chicago yesterday. Anything can happen to the draft stocks of players like Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight, Jonas Valanciunas and Nohands Pier from now until draft day, and in no scenario whatsoever I see Enes Kanter being available by the time the Raptors select at five. Colangelo doesn’t have any sort of history for trading up in drafts, and he’s not going to start now. Is he? NBA executives seem resigned to an Irving/Williams #1/2, and the sweepstakes for this draft appear to be for Minnesota’s pick at #2 (apparently they want DeRozan). The next logical line of thinking is something like DeRozan + #5 = #2. It’s a reach, and as I said in the linked thread, I don’t see the Raptors giving up on DeRozan for a guy who is a question mark at best.

Kanter will be taken in the top three, only because he has enough intrigue in him to tease any GM into picking him. Historically, big men have always swooned GMs, and this draft is no different. Between 2001 and 2007, big men constituted 6 of the 7 top picks, and in only one case (Dwight Howard) can you say that they were the best player in the draft. The thing going for Kanter isn’t just his high skill level, it’s that he’s perceived to have a very good motor, a trait you don’t often hear associated with imports.

Enough of me blabbering, let’s get to some quotes. First up it’s Jim Kelly, he’s of course the man we only hear from this time of the year. Soon after the draft ends he goes back to his regular job of doorman at Center Sports. For now though, let’s see what he’s dropping on Kanter:

“We went out last night, we had a nice face-to-face meeting,” said Raptors senior director of scouting Jim Kelly via telephone after the workout. “We met the staff, we met him, met the people that are going to be working with him. I thought that went excellent. We had a great discussion last night and followed it up with a workout today.” Kelly said that Kanter is “probably as strong as any five in the draft right now,” but was not ready to project him as a centre at the NBA level just yet. “I wish I could tell you I have enough of a handle and experience watching him play enough [to say] exactly where that I can put him in on the floor there,” he said. “I think we have the hope that he can play the five, but we really haven’t seen him in enough games on this level where you can actually be really 100 per cent sure.”

Up next is Raptors assistant GM (or is it assistant to the GM?), Marc Eversley talking about draft strategy:

“We know if they can play by now. Now, you’re looking at the intangibles. We get more in-person interplay with them.

“That’s just the way it is right now (Knight and Walker not working out against each other). I think the kids would work out against anybody, I don’t know if they’re making all the calls. “You want to see how they’re handling the process, if they’ll compete and work hard the whole workout. You look at their bodies, see if they’ve been working out and how they’ve been doing.”

In case you missed it, here’s the workout schedule.

Maybe I’m not giving enough credit to the whole process of what the Raptors have been doing pre-draft under Colangelo, but can you really blame me? When was the last time the Raptors did anything remotely unpredictable or exciting with their selection under Colangelo. Never, have a look:

2006 – drafted Andrea Bargnani, decision was made a month before the draft.

2007 – traded away the pick.

2008 – traded away the pick (Roy Hibbert) in Jermaine O’Neal deal.

2009 – DeMar DeRozan, fairly obvious choice at #9 after Curry was selected two picks before.

2010 – Ed Davis, fell into their lap after he dropped (didn’t even work him out).

I’m not expecting excitement from the draft and the last few years have been anything but. This year does seem to be different because the Raptors’ pick is “no man’s land”, not high enough where you can take the obvious best player available, and not late enough where you can take pretty much anyone and you won’t be criticized if things don’t work out. It’s the first time since the 2005 draft when the Raptors selected Charlie Villanueva that there’s a high degree of uncertainty as to what they might do with the pick.

Of all the stories that have come out over the past month, there’s been one that has really and truly caught my eye. It’s the one about the Raptors taking Brandon Knight out for dinner after the combine. My gut feeling at this point is that any maneuvering the Raptors might do will be to make sure the Jazz do not select Knight with the third pick. The Jazz depth at point guard reads Devin Harris, Ronnie Price and Earl Watson, 29, 27 and 31, respectively. Check that, decent, career backup, and aging veteran, respectively. Not to mention that Watson and Price aren’t even signed for next year, so the Jazz have one point guard!

If the Raptors do like Knight, they have to hope that the Jazz settle their point guard issues before the draft via trade (as this Yahoo story hints at). If the Jazz are set at PG, they could opt for Kanter, and I don’t see Cleveland picking up another point guard at #4, which leaves the Raptors free to pick Knight (or Walker). If the Jazz enter the draft without a point guard, the Raptors will be forced to maneuver in order to get the point guard they want. If they don’t, they’ll have to settle for a prospect like Swedish center Smelji Onderver.

I got the day off today, think I’ll go for brunch.

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