Raptors Bring in Seven Players, But Really Just One

Who is it? Find out.

The Raptors brought seven guys in to workout. Interviews here.

Name Position Height College
Kendall Marshall Guard 6-4 North Carolina
Devoe Joseph Guard 6-4 Oregon
Terrence Ross Forward 6-7 Washington
Hollis Thompson Forward 6-8 Georgetown
Henry Sims Centre 6-11 Georgetown
Kyle O’Quinn Centre 6-10 Norfolk State

The whole thing lasted one hour and ten minutes, and here’s a recap of each guy according to Ed Stefanksi, who is way more enjoyable to listen to than this guy. Kelly basically repeated the same words verbatim and always looked like he was a little pissed about missing the early bird special at Dennys, whereas Stefanksi actually listens to the question, thinks, and answers in what appears to be an honest manner.

  • Ross – Great athlete who needs to work on shooting and range.
  • Marshall – High basketball IQ and sees the floor very well. His wrist looked good even if winced when pressure was put on it. Stefanski gave his agent positive feedback, as it was his first workout since January.
  • Joseph – Shot the ball extremely well, but the question is whether he can play point guard or not.
  • Quinn – Displayed solid rebounding technique.
  • Sims – See Quinn
  • Thompson – Good shooter, Stefanksi projects him to go early-mid second round
  • Lillard – Played one on none, and didn’t work out with anyone else which is rare. DeRozan was the last guy to do that. The Raptors have seen him numerous times live and watched a lot of his film. They had a dinner with him and this was all about assessing his personality – conversation was key. Stefanski admitted that “we didn’t learn a lot” but the guys today “tested out well as people” which was a priority more than anything. Here’s a @raptors tweet stating his impressions of Toronto.

Bullet points:

  • Stefanksi feels that point guards are a premium in this draft and that power forward is the deepest position.
  • The Raptors wanted to match players against each other but agents prohibit lot of guys from doing that in fear that stock will fall.
  • Overall, they’re “very happy” with the workouts. The workouts is just extra info gathered on players, the major “body of work” in terms of scouting was done during the NCAA season

Of all the guys interviewed today it looked as if the Raptors were most interested in Lillard, who interviews very well and seems to know a lot about the Raptors (well, he knew Jose’s contract status). Here’s a brief thing on him from Draft Express:

Lillard possesses very appealing physical tools for an NBA point guard prospect, standing at 6’2” with an excellent frame and wingspan, to go along with very good athleticism. He combines those physical gifts with a confident, attacking mentality and a well-rounded skill set, playing as a scoring point guard, capable of carrying a large load offensively at the college level. While he was already an intriguing prospect going into this season, he’s made some clear improvements in his game that he’s been able to display thus far as a junior.

Much of Lillard’s improved efficiency can be traced to his hot shooting, connecting on an outstanding 45% from 3-point range despite increasing his attempts (he shot under 40% in previous seasons). As we noted before, he does have a bit of a low release point, but he has no trouble getting his shot off, whether it’s off the catch or off the dribble, where he’s able to fluidly pull-up from well behind the 3-point line, or utilize a very effective step-back dribble to create space to get his shot off. About two thirds of his shot attempts this season have been jumpers, and his percentages off the catch and off the dribble are almost the same, illustrating his versatility as a shooter.

Lillard has also done a better job of taking care of the basketball thus far, cutting his turnover rate almost in half from previous seasons. This is quite an impressive feat, considering his heavy usage and how much his team depends on him to create offensively. To illustrate that, he actually ranks #1 amongst all NCAA point guard prospects in terms of turnovers per possession, coughing the ball up on just 10% of his possessions.

The large emphasis of the pick-and-roll game in today’s NBA bodes well for Lillard, as he’s shown to be very effective as the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations. His ability to smoothly pull up off the dribble from deep range makes it difficult for his defenders to go underneath the screen, while his burst off the dribble allows him to turn the corner quickly and get into the paint.

Lillard does a good job of playing at different speeds and is capable of driving in either direction, which keeps defenders on their heels and helps him get to the free throw line at a very strong rate. Once there, he knocks down an excellent 90% of his attempts.

The testing of Jerryd Bayless as future Raptors point guard is over, if it even ever was seriously considered. Lillard, though, is a “scoring point guard” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing and shouldn’t be viewed as Bayless 2.0 (who was Jarrett Jack 2.0, BTW). The spectrum of scoring point guards we’ve seen ranges from Russell Westbrook to T.J Ford, so the view that the Raptors should be looking for a “pure” point guard and stop experimenting with SGs in PG bodies isn’t correct. In the modern NBA your PG better be able to score and pass, and Lillard’s passing (especially off the dribble) has been good. At the smallish Weber State he was called on to be a scorer so his assist numbers will not blow you away, but by all accounts he’s always displayed a keen passing ability predicated on instinct.

Any time you draft a player these days you have to account for development time in the NBA, which wasn’t the case as much even a decade ago when players generally stuck around school longer. When you’re drafting a point guard, that development time has been known to increase even more, but at least in Lillard’s case it’s helped by him staying in college for three years. When watching guys like DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis, it’s painfully evident how much an extra year or two of college would’ve helped them out, so Lillard has a leg up in that sense. He’s also in the same age group as our supposed “core”: Jonas 20, Lillard 21, DeRozan 22, and Davis 23. Dynasty right there…I joke, of course.

We should all be wary of a point guard coming in to run the show and the associated growing pains, but hey, we’re not going anywhere fast so let’s take our time. Don’t get me wrong, watching those rare playoff games at the ACC is a lot of fun, but we’ve already been waiting too long and can wait more. That’s the thing with expectations: when you have none you’re never disappointed. Thanks, Bryan.

Draft Party on June 28th, exclamation marks added to convey excitement!!!!

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