With the Raptors now out of the playoffs, it’s natural for fans to start looking to the future. And the next thing in the future for the Raptors is the draft. In my first instalment, I looked Andrew Wiggins, and just to be clear, I realize what an infinitesimal chance the Raptors have of actually acquiring Wiggins, but I wanted to look at him for a couple of reasons. The first, and main one, is that he’s Canadian. He’s not going to be a Raptor anytime in the next five to seven years (if at all) but there are still lots of Raptor fans that had thoughts of Wiggins dancing in their head, so taking a look at him was a good way to launch the series.

Another potential Canadian lottery pick is Tyler Ennis, and he has a better chance of taking the court as a Raptor next season.

Last year at this time few basketball fans, even Canadian ones, had heard of Tyler Ennis. He was left off both the McDonald’s All-American and the Nike Hoop World team like his more famous compatriot. There wasn’t any fanfare when he picked Syracuse as his college of choice. That’s not to say he wasn’t completely unknown. Those that followed prep basketball knew he was. He just wasn’t expected to be an impact player immediately as a freshman.

Ennis didn’t start off his college career with a huge bang, missing all six of his shots in his first game, but he managed to get 7 assists, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and a block in a Syracuse win, so it wasn’t a bad beginning. Syracuse went on to win twenty five straight and Ennis was one of the main reasons why.

It wasn’t long before Ennis started climbing the mock draft boards, until he was being mentioned as a possible top ten prospect. Hitting a last-second game winner against Pitt only added to the hype.

ennis

There are definitely things to like about Ennis’ game. He has a cerebral feel for the game that few point guards have nowadays, and even fewer freshmen point guards. In fact, it’s been said by more than one scout that Ennis has a European style to his game1.

1. Ironically, ‘European-style” is actually a compliment. A far cry from when ‘European’ was synonymous with ‘soft’. It wasn’t that long ago that many Raptor fans were bemoaning the number of international players on the Raptor’s roster. Meanwhile, eight of the top ten scorers on the best team in the league are international players.

While he’s got his weaknesses as a scorer, he has a decent enough jumper to finish the season with a .353 shooting percentage from the three point line. And he has a habit of hitting them when they count (his last game notwithstanding).

He’s also got good defensive instincts, although his average athleticism and Syracuse’s zone defense does make one wonder about how his defense will translate on the next level. He won’t be able to stay in front of guys like Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker, but who in the NBA can? Good defensive instincts and a high basketball IQ should allow him to make up for his lack of foot speed.

What is most to like about Ennis is probably not anything you see on the stat sheet. He’s a cerebral player who understands how to run an offense and make his teammates better. You can probably count on one hand the number of point guards who can do that in the NBA, so his appeal is understandable. He’s also got an almost tangible confidence that never seems brash or arrogant.

He reminds me a little of Maurice Cheeks, but with a bit better jumper. Ennis is taller and with a wider wingspan than Cheeks, but Cheeks was probably a better athlete and played at a time when 6’1 was pretty average for the point guard position. Nowadays, that’s considered undersized.

At this point, mock drafts have Ennis going anywhere from 16 to 10, so with the Raptors drafting 20th, it’s doubtful he would drop that far, but the Raptors could easily move up a few spots if they feel the need to grab him.

Should they?

On the surface, point guard is probably the position that’s the strongest and deepest position on the Raptors. Kyle Lowry was undoubtably the team’s MVP, despite not making the All Star team. Greivis Vasquez struggled early backing up Lowry, but played well after the All Star break and had a very good playoff series against the Nets. Spurs’ import, Nando De Colo, also showed promise when he was allowed to run the point.

Unfortunately, both Lowry and De Colo are unrestricted free agents and while Lowry has publicly stated he’d like to return to Toronto, his salary demands, and interest from other teams2, will have a big say in whether Lowry will don a Raptor uniform next year. Vasquez is a restricted free agent and isn’t likely to get a big offer, but with so many teams with cap room, you never know. There’s a chance none of the point guards will return, so drafting a guy like Ennis might be a smart decision. If nothing else, he could be insurance in case one or all the current Raptor point guards play hardball with their salary demands.

2. The Lakers are the team most brought up as a possible suitor for Lowry, as they will have lots of cap room and a need for a young, dynamic point guard. Depending on the plans of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, Miami might also have cap room and might become an attractive destination for Lowry, especially if Pat Riley decides he work his magic. Houston doesn’t have cap room, but might have the pieces to do a sign and trade , and apparently made overtures to trade back for Lowry earlier in the season. If Kevin McHale doesn’t return (which is looking more and more likely, especially after being soundly outcoached in their first round loss to Portland), then Lowry’s only reason for leaving Houston might be gone.

Point guards like Ennis always seem to end up getting drafted too low and make teams who passed on them regret it.  Ask Eric Bledsoe, Jrue Holiday or Ty Lawson.

And Ennis is the perfect type of point guard for the Raptors. He’s more of a pass first point guard than Lowry is, but plays with a similar confidence (without the chip on his shoulder) and penchant for heroics. If the Raptors can pick of Ennis, it might be an excellent idea, even if Lowry ends up returning. This season is the first in several where he didn’t miss significant time to injury, which is not surprising considering his style of play. And should Lowry revert to his pre-2014 self, it would be nice to have his replacement waiting in the wings.

Next week, we’ll end up looking at the last Canadian prospect, and then onto those not fortunate to be born in Canada. Mark your calendars for Tuesdays and Thursday each week until the draft.

  • tross_31

    Thanks, Tim – do you see any parallels between Ennis’s game and Ricky Rubio’s?

    • sleepz

      Rubio is not as good a shooter as Ennis, but Ricky does things defensively and play making wise that Tyler cannot do.

    • Mugsy

      Don’t see too much similarity there. Rubio seems more up-tempo and creative. While they’re both smart players, Rubio’s more legth, size and skill, while Ennis is more about control and running the offense.

      Cheecks is not a bad comparison. Mark Jackson is another people have been saying. Maybe even an Andre Miller. Ennis seems to have that old man game like all of these guys, but with a jumper. Good tempo-control, high assts-to ratio, calm and confident under pressure, pass-first, etc.

      I’d like him on the Raptors, especially at the 20th pick if he drops a little.

  • preeeezy

    nope, we need a defensive sf and a defensive power forward… why the need of a point guard. torontos core offense and defense runs from lowry and vasquez playing at 1. we can let patterson go. and hansbrough and salmons will leave too. we just need a big lift on power, versatility, and height. we are good to go. Im all in trading amir and #20. and the lowry goes and vasquez go thought. aint gonna happen. THATS OUR CORE right there.

    • Tbird95

      Agree but don’t think we will find a SF in the draft who can stop KD, LBJ etc so instead sign a free agent and draft a pg, you then let decolo and either stone or buyucks walk. Also a veteran back up center who’s a solid rebounder and at least 6’11 would be great.

      • PREEEZY

        i was thinking the same.. but still de colo is a much better fit financially and he can spread the floor too and as this team grows in the offseason. who knows, ross will improve a lot this offseason. and i agree with you having a veteran back up center.. who can play minutes in at the 4…

        but whatever just trade amir and patterson and salmons for nowitzki and carter… discussion done! LOL

    • sleepz

      At pick #20, they had better be trying to draft the BPA. Drafting for need at 20 instead of trying to get the best talent available is a poor strategy for a team that needs a talent infusion.

      • ItsAboutFun

        What criteria defines BPA? At that stage of the draft especially, it’s a very subjective, and subject to different criteria for different organizations’ direction and culture. BPA sounds good as a general concept, but you can bet that every GM considers need in the decision making, unless there’s a very clear, no brainer, BPA, which is unheard of at #20.

        • Nilanka15

          It’s true that “BPA” is subjective.

          But it’s also true that picking to plug a specific roster hole, is a less than favourable strategy.

          • hotshot

            BPA – means the player best to succeed at his position and generate the most value regardless if the position on the roster is completely stocked. The best example is Colangelo selecting Bargnani with the 1st overall pick because he wanted a center to match with Bosh at PF (we all know how that turned out). What he should have done was to select Aldridge at PF and then either trade Aldridge or Bosh down the road for players you actually want (both Bosh or Aldridge would have commended a top 10-15 player from any position including a filler).

            Patience is a virtue which is why the Spurs have usually managed to get the best player for the buck regardless of his position in the draft.

        • sleepz

          When the 20th pick comes around, they should be trying to draft the best talent left on their board. Maybe the prospect doesn’t fill a position of need but as a GM I would imagine at that pick, Masai will try to draft the player he feels has most talent or upside, as Masai has mentioned is his approach to the draft.

    • RevRollie

      we have to try to keep Patterson. Advanced stats show that our starters are as good as any team in the league (which still amazes me…but its true!!!) When we have a top 5 bench (very possible) we can really compete with anyone.

  • Maputo88

    Good work Tim. The comment “He won’t be able to stay in front of guys like Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker, but who in the NBA can? Good defensive instincts and a high basketball IQ should allow him to make up for his lack of foot speed.” is very important. I was stunned to see John Wall completely lose George Hill on one sequence last night, purely because of a lack of good defensive instinct – there is no question about speed here. Recently I read the Canis Hoopus comment on assessing potential. I wonder how you see Ennis based on that type of analysis. http://www.canishoopus.com/2014/2/26/5435374/potential-nba-draft-prospects

  • DanH

    De Colo is a restricted free agent.

  • smh

    which teams have the best chance of a sign and trade for Lowry? And if Lowry returns, would De Colo be movable to move up?

    Where do you see Stauskus?

  • C

    Question: “eight of the top ten scorers on the best team in the league are international players?”. I count 7. Im not trying to be nit-picky, but for my own educational purposes aren’t Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Tim Duncan all american?

    • BlakeMurphy

      Depending on who you ask, Duncan is international because he was born in the Virgin Islands / at a robot factory.

      • dunkmycat7

        Robot factory ?LOVE it !!
        BAD robot !!!

    • MoPeteRules

      That’s a really weird statistic considering he was referencing “European style” of play. Counting Tim Duncan in that stat is strange to do. Let alone counting Cory Joseph and Patty Mills who aren’t European, nor have played Euro league ball.

    • ItsAboutFun

      Yeah. Some mistakenly refer to Duncan as an international, despite being born in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They miss the “U.S.” part? He’s been American since birth.

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    • MoPeteRules

      How dare you insult my mother!

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    • mike, prague

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      NO FLYERS PLEASE!
      And quit swearing, szukat is Czech means to F*ck … and that’s not nice.

  • asifyouknow

    Toronto is going to need 10 to 12 for Kyle and 5 to 6 for Vasquez…..If not AJ had a decent year and you already know him and can be had for about 2 mill…Then draft a PG

  • Tinmann

    Never a popular opinion, but I don’t think we will use this pick. I see it being packaged off with other pieces, for immediate upgrades.
    At this point, the team already expects a lot from it’s youth. I think, at this point, we are looking to upgrade on the wings, and add a monster PF.
    I’m just curious to see how we obtain them.

  • head4

    McHale is back, so we can probably check Houston off the list.