If the Raptors are intent on keeping and using their eighth overall pick at the June 28 NBA draft — and that remains a question — they could do far worse than either of the two point guards who graced the ACC practice gym yesterday.
North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall and Weber State’s Damian Lillard both made appearances, Marshall in the morning with a group that also included likely mid first-round forward Terrence Ross of Washington and Lillard in the early afternoon, by himself.
Among point guards in this power forward-deep draft, Marshall and Lillard are the two expected to go highest — anywhere from No. 6 to No.15 in the first round depending on which mock board you frequent.
Both men come as advertised: Mature beyond their years and willing and able to fill whatever role a team asks of them.
Lillard comes in with a the reputation of proven scorer. At Weber State he had little choice but to carry the offensive load and finished the year second in the country in scoring.
Marshall’s situation, like Lillard’s, was determined by his surroundings but with at least three or four teammates considered lottery potential, his job wasn’t to score but to distribute, leaving some question about his own scoring ability.
Both players arrived in Toronto trying to show the Raptors they were capable to doing what they other one had done so successfully — Marshall knocking down the consistent jumper and Lillard showing them he was a competent distributor, not to mention a capable defender.
“Being able to play with other guys who are going to be picked in the lottery is a good thing, especially for a guy that is pass-first like him,” Lillard said of Marshall. “I think an advantage for me coming from Weber State and having a lot of offensive responsibilities is going to help me because I am going to have NBA level players around me and I think people will see that I am a lot better passer and player and I think people will see that I can really defend without having a lot of responsibilities offensively.”
Lillard remains a person of interest for the Raptors and their No. 8 selection in the June 28 draft. While a group of eight others — notably North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall and Pickering’s Devoe Joseph of Oregon — worked out in a group in the morning, Lillard had a one-man session in the afternoon.
But it’s not as if the Raptors are getting their first look at the 6-foot-3 guard, who averaged 24.5 points and 4.0 assists while shooting 47 per cent from the field and 41 per cent from three-point range as a Weber State junior last season.
Toronto officials saw him work out in California earlier this month and they got to see him again in Chicago last week. They have seen him rocket up some draft charts — he’s seen as the best point guard prospect in the draft — and interviewed him at the draft combine.
What they likely see is a confident young man entirely comfortable with his basketball abilities and his personality and maturity.
“I’ve been away from home, I’ve had an opportunity to grow as a man and not to down talk anyone else in the draft but I’ve got experience over them,” he said. “A lot of them are 19, 20, some 18 years old and I’m 21, going to be 22 this summer.
“I think my maturity is going to help me.”
But it never gets old to see a draftee seeing new parts of the world for the first time. Damian Lillard of Weber State, the top-ranked point guard in this draft, was out of the United States for the first time on Tuesday in Toronto.
“I went through customs and I had never been out of the country before so it was different,” Lillard said after going through an individual workout. “But it’s kind of like you’re not in the United States but you’re right here. … I think I could live here and I like it. It’s lively. It reminded me of Chicago.”
In fact, Lillard only recently obtained his first passport.
“I’m glad I did, man,” Lillard said. “I think I’ll be using it more often. I think it’s cool to be out of the United States and see different parts of the world.”
Lillard averaged 24.5 points and 4.0 assists for Weber State this year. Most experts have him pegged as a mid-to-late lottery pick, between 6th and 12th. The Raptors are slotted to select eighth in the June 28th draft.
• Three current Raptors took in Tuesday’s workouts: DeMar DeRozan, Jerryd Bayless and Ed Davis.
Davis has a connection with North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall.
“Me and Ed played AAU together one year and I lost to him in the state championship my freshman and sophomore year,” Marshall said. “He left [North] Carolina the year before I got there but we’ve been pretty cool for about five or six years.”
Tyreke Evans is the players who will be mentioned in trade rumors a lot this offseason. Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld has already reported the Toronto Raptors have inquired about Tyreke along with a host of other players in the NBA.
That being said, what could the Raptors offer that the Kings would want? Jose Calderon? Andrea Bargnani? DeMar DeRozan? None of these guys are worth Tyreke by themselves, and it’s unlikely Toronto would gut their team to make this deal work.
The only way this might happen is if Sacramento could ask for one of those players and grab Toronto’s draft picks. And then perhaps Sacramento could package their two top ten draft picks for an even better player. The possibilities are endless the further you go down the rabbit hole.
Last year, the Raptors used their pick (fifth overall) on Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas, whose contract in Europe kept him from coming to the NBA until next season. Valanciunas has played well in the interim, winning the MVP in the FIBA U-19 tournament, joining the national team in the Eurobasket tournament and averaging 14.2 points and 7.4 rebounds in 23.5 minutes in the Lithuanian league. With Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis also on board, the Raptors have enough youth at power forward and center.
Then there’s the small forward position, where Toronto started James Johnson last year and doesn’t want to do so again. The Raptors have about $10 million in cap space and have been rumored to be pursuing Memphis’ Rudy Gay and Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala. But Gay is not available, and while Iguodala would fit coach Dwane Casey’s mission to improve the perimeter defense, bringing him in requires taking on the two years and $28 million left on his contract. The Raptors also could address the need for a wing in the draft, with a player like Ross, Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones or Austin Rivers.
There’s also speculation that Toronto is the team that promised Syracuse guard Dion Waiters a lottery spot, but one East general manager said, “I don’t believe it is them.”
The wildcard in all of this is the amnesty clause, which Toronto could use this summer to be rid of Jose Calderon’s contract and leave the team with more than $20 million in cap space. They can’t amnesty Calderon until after July 1, so that added cap space won’t be available on draft night. The Raptors have not made any decision on the amnesty clause, but Calderon’s future is clearly tied to what happens in the next two weeks. If Toronto winds up picking Lillard or Marshall, or if the Raptors take on significant salary, Calderon could be out.
The buzz around this year’s draft crop seems to have died down. There are some quality front court prospects, led by Unibrow Davis, but the small men don’t appear to be causing hearts to flutter. Given the number of freshmen who are heading this draft, and the unlikeliness of any of them making a splash in their first season (they’re so young!), I can see why BC is questioning the wisdom of adding another beardless youth. Even the pushover Raps’ commentators are saying that BC won’t keep his job if the team ends up in the draft lottery after the upcoming season. Put another way, it’s playoffs or bust. FWIW, I concur with that assessment. You can’t rebuild forever.
BC seems to have a very tight lid on his operation; leaks are as common as Sasquatch sightings. It’s hard to countenance the idea that after all the chatter, BC won’t make a deal. But he needs 2 other parties to agree to a trade – the other team, and the traded player(s). Lord save us long-suffering fans from another Alonzo Mourning debacle. MLSE has never shown much concern about its teams’ fan bases – do I need to mention Exhibit A, the Leafs? But it’s past time for the Raps to throw the fans a bone, namely, a playoff team, and for that to happen, we need a stronger and healthier (please!) roster. If BC has built us up, only to let us down, this is his last year in Tdot.