Tolzman added that the transformation, de-emphasizing the traditional, rim-protecting big man in today’s game, has perhaps been overstated. However, Bhullar will have to show that he is agile enough to contain guards in a pick-and-roll scenario to stick in the league. Bhullar said he has dropped 16 pounds since the end of the season, which would put him at about 345. Still, Wednesday was his first workout for a team. He used the early part of the draft process to improve his conditioning, but the lack of teams curious to see him up close underlines exactly what issues will dog him even if he is drafted. He is going to have to continue to prove he is more than just a space-eater.
Few of the big men though outside of Eddy Curry and Shaquille O’Neal towards the end of his career came anywhere close to the 340 pounds that Bhullar currently weighs in at. And unlike those two, Bhullar is joining the NBA in an age where big men have to be mobile enough to defend the pick and roll, certainly not new to the game but far more prevalent than it ever has been. Bhullar admits he has been working on his mobility and his stamina. Getting down to 340 was no easy feat he will tell you, but he’s still going to have to lose more if he’s going to have any chance of fulfilling his dream of playing in the NBA. What he has working for him, though, is that 7-foot-5 frame. As any scout will tell you, you can’t teach size and even in an age where bigs are stepping outside and knocking down three’s there’s always going to be a place in the game for a traditional low post centre who can protect the rim and block shots. “He’s so large and there is always a market for that in the NBA,” Raptors director of scouting Dan Tolzman said. “You want to look at size and you want to see a player and how his agility is, what his reaction time is like. Any time there is a guy with his size, they have potential.”
Early is one of my favourite prospects in Toronto’s draft range as he’s got the tools to be an immediate impact player next season, and perhaps one of the vaunted “3 and D” types the NBA so covets. He’s got great size, length, athletic ability, and as noted, can certainly shoot the ball. There are concerns about him transitioning to a pure 3 at the next level as he played a good chunk of 4 at Wichita State, but I think that’s something he’s more than capable of doing.
For the second consecutive year, Bhullar was voted Western Athletic Conference tournament most valuable player in leading the Aggies to the championship. He led the conference in blocked shots and field-goal percentage and was voted to the league’s all-defensive team. Bhullar averaged almost four blocked shots per game, but his free-throw percentage was the weakest part of his game at .538. He entered the draft despite having two years of college eligibility left. His Aggies were knocked out in OT by San Diego State in the first round of the March Madness tournament. “I took a couple of months to get in shape,” Bhullar said. “I did whatever I could in college. This will be the next level for me, the next step. I just thought it was a good thing for me to make the jump.”
Early’s ability to play multiple positions on both ends of the floor and his solid shooting range make him well-suited to fill a meaningful bench role in the NBA from the opening tip of his career. And he proved over the past two seasons at Wichita State that he is wired to win—the kind of thing that can impress front office folk, particularly if that comes across in the interview process as well.
After getting out from under Bhullar’s very big shadow, the focus was on the Raptors search for a big wing in the first and/or possibly in the second round of the draft. In addition to being a good defender, Toronto is looking for a small forward with the ability to knock down an NBA three pointer or at least have the shooting mechanics and work ethic to develop a solid outside jump shot. “Today we had in a lot of guys that were more four/three type players in college and a big thing on making that transition to the three position (small forward) is being able to hit the NBA three (point shot),” Tolzman said. “I think the main part of the wing position in the NBA right now is to space the floor and open up the lanes for your guards to get into the lane as well as your bigs to work on the low blocks. A key part of that position is to be able to knock down those shots. “When you see guys that have shooting form that is not broken, it’s got a lot of the right principles and they’ve got the right mentality towards working at it, (their three-point shot) can change in a year.”
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