raptorsdraft

With the NBA Draft now just two days away, and after looking through thirteen different prospects over nine weeks, it’s time to review the prospects, figure out who the Raptors could draft, should draft and who that probably won’t have a chance to draft.

WHO’S DEFINITELY OUT

There are two players who, for various reasons, I wrote prospecting articles and who will definitely not be available when the Raptors pick at 20.

ANDREW WIGGINS

He was never in the mix to begin with, but he was prospected for sentimental sake. With Joel Embiid’s injury, Wiggins is now the favourite to go number one, again. And if Cleveland passes on Embid, Wiggins is the next best fit.

NIK STAUSKAS

He was a guy who would have to fall for the Raptors to be able to draft him at 20, anyway, and it’s not looking like he’ll fall. He’s gone from a borderline lottery pick to possible top 10 pick.

 

WHO’S PROBABLY OUT

While not locks to be gone by the time the Raptors pick, nearly every mock draft has these three players off the board at 20, so it’s doubtful they’ll be donning Raptors uniforms next season.

ELFRID PAYTON

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Apparently a bunch of other teams saw what I saw in Payton, and he’s now being talked about as a possible top 10 pick. Even if he falls out of the top 10, it’s highly doubtful he’s going to be available when the Raptors pick at 20. Too bad, as he was one of three players I really liked for the 20th pick and one of my biggest sleepers of the draft.

If he does somehow drop, though, he should be near the top of the Raptor’s list. He’s got more upside than anyone else that will be available and his only real flaw is his shot, which is fixable.

JAMES YOUNG

I was never enamoured with Young, who I think has a possibility of being a solid role player in the league, but, despite his physical tools, not much upside. It was his defense that would be most concerning, though, and even if the Raptors retool and trade DeMar DeRozan (who he shares many strengths and weaknesses with) I don’t think he should be high on the Raptors’ list.

T.J. WARREN

Likely to be the second highest college scorer in the draft, Warren has impressed several teams in workouts. In my report on Warren, I mentioned that workouts might be able to determine whether he can defend the small forward position, and perhaps those questions have been answered. Either way, I don’t see him being big enough to play the NBA power forward position full time.

There’s definitely a lot to like about Warren, but the NBA junk pile is littered with tweeners like Warren who never were able to find a position in the league.

WHO DOESN’T FIT

There are players who were prospected, who simply don’t fit on the team as currently constructed, and even if Masai plans to make changes, probably won’t be the best player available.

P.J. HAIRSTON

If Hairston is available, he’d probably be the most NBA ready player they could draft. He’s got the skills to be an excellent role player and his outside shooting and defensive potential are both attributes the Raptors could use. But he’s got poor intangibles, both on and off the court, and putting him on a young team like the Raptors probably isn’t a good idea.

Plus, he can really only play the shooting guard, the position the Raptors are deepest at.

JERAMI GRANT

While the Raptors definitely need a defensive small forward like Grant, he’s got a shot that’s so bad I’m not sure who would win a shooting competition between him and Landry Fields. Well, probably Grant, but it would be close. And even if the Raptors completely overhaul their roster, having a small forward who can’t shoot from outside of the paint might end up hurting a team more than his defense will help. Especially in the playoffs.

WHO ARE POSSIBILITIES

There are four players who, while not not ideal, are still viable options for the 20th spot in the draft, for the Raptors.

ADREIAN PAYNE

There’s a hell of a lot to like about Payne. He’s athletic, tough, long, hustles and is a excellent 3 point shooter. And he’s a high character guy who is loved by both teammates and fans. So far he sounds like a perfect fit for any team, especially the Raptors. Unfortunately, he’s got poor defensive instincts and is already 23 years old, so that’s not likely to improve much, and neither is Payne.

A lot of teams would love to have a player like Payne, especially with such an emphasis on the stretch four.  The Raptors definitely have need for a stretch four, especially with Patrick Patterson a free agent and Jonas Valanciunas becoming a force down low. But his defensive problems and his lack of upside don’t make him a really enticing prospect for the Raptors.

The other issue Payne has is his lung condition, which will limit how many minutes he can play. It’s doubtful he’ll ever be able to play even 30 minutes per game, which might end up inhibiting his career.

KYLE ANDERSON

Anderson would be a top ten player, possibly even a top five one, if he had even average athleticism. There is very little he doesn’t do on the court. At 6’8, he is one of the best passers in the draft and played mostly point guard at UCLA. With his nearly 7’3 wingspan, he 8.8 rebounds per game (almost the same as Jabari Parker, and more than any other prospect on our list). He can also shoot with range, shooting 48.3% from three point range this past season.

Because of his below average athleticism, he’ll never be a plus defender, though, and likely not even a neutral one, so he’ll need to be surrounded excellent defenders, which isn’t the case with the Raptors. He also needs the ball in his hands in order to be effective, which means he’s probably best coming off the bench because I can’t see him being good enough to have the offense run through him on a good team.

K.J. McDANIELS

For a team looking to add defense, McDaniels should be high on their list. He’s an athletic freak who blocks shots and rebounds as well as anyone in the draft class. He’s got a good wingspan for a player his size and can outjump just about anyone.

Of course, he’s not a good shooter and doesn’t have a high basketball IQ, and as a 21 year old junior is considered an old man compared to the majority of players expected to be taken in the first round, so he is basically the player he’s going to be. The question is whether that’s good enough.

The Raptors definitely could use a player with McDaniels ability to play defense and rebound, but without a whole lot of upside, there will probably be better prospects for the Raptors available.

SHABAZZ NAPIER

Napier is as polished a point guard prospect as anyone in the first round, and with the Raptors having all three point guards entering free agency (in some form or another) this summer, filling that position should be high on their list.

Napier might be the second oldest player taken in the first round (after Adreian Payne), which means he’s got little upside, but also should be able to contribute immediately. He can shoot, has become a much better passer and there isn’t a player in the draft with more confidence than Napier.

For the Raptors, taking Napier at 20 (if he’s available) should be a low risk but also relatively low reward move. He’s fairly short for the NBA point guard position (under 6 feet), isn’t a great athlete and doesn’t always make the best decisions on the court. Anyone who cringes at Kyle Lowry’s decision making at times will feel similar emotions watching Napier.

He’d definitely fill a need for the Raptors (point guard, outside shooting) but I don’t see him having the potential to be a starter on a good team, so you’d be drafting a bench player. For some teams, that would be fine, but the Raptors still need talent.

WHO’S LEFT

So after crossing off (more or less) most of the prospects we looked at, there are a couple left that have a combination of talent, potential and lack of red flags that should make picking any of them a good decision.

TYLER ENNIS

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When I wrote the prospecting article on Ennis, he was being looked at as a definite lottery pick and possible top ten pick. In the weeks since then his stock has dropped and most mock drafts have the Raptors taking him at 20. And, in my opinion, there couldn’t be much better news if you’re a Raptor fan.

I’ve never been a big fan of putting too much weight on post-season workouts. Too many players have jumped up the draft boards due to workouts only to disappoint. The biggest problem I have with workouts is they don’t show the most important thing for any player, and that’s how he does in a game.

Jeremy Lin didn’t impress anyone in workouts and went undrafted, but, while he’s not as good as he seemed to be during his time with the Knicks, he’s a very decent point guard whose ability to run the pick and role well simply couldn’t be judged playing one on one or even one on none.

Ennis is one of the youngest players in this draft, but played the point guard position like a four year veteran for most of the year, displaying a maturity and basketball IQ that simply don’t show up in workouts. He’s not an athletic freak and needs work on his shot, so workouts don’t highlight any of his strengths. And with such a premium on Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose or John Wall-type point guards, people forget that in the last fifteen years, the starting point guards who have won Championships have been guys like Tony Parker, Derek Fisher, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups and Avery Johnson, cerebral players who, for the most part, weren’t wowing anyone with their ability to dunk on anyone. It’s no coincidence that three of those players went on to become head coaches, and Billups probably will eventually (and so might Parker).

Basketball IQ and the ability to solidly run a team are two attributes that are too often undervalued when looking at point guard prospects, and Ennis has both of those in spades. And I haven’t even mentioned that he’d be playing for his hometown team.

CLINT CAPELA

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When the good teams draft at the bottom of the draft, they usually look for two types of players. The player who will fit their system and fill a role and the player who does one or two things really well, but needs work on others to fulfill his potential. The latter would describe Capela, who is mostly raw physical potential.

He’s athletic, has a monster wingspan and has an impressive touch around the basket, especially for a player as raw as Capela, and the ability to score off the pick and role. In fact, he has similar tools as a younger Amir Johnson (but with a longer wingspan).

Considering how much talent the Raptors still need, their best strategy in the draft would be to go for a home run rather than a single, and Capela has the potential that could lead to a home run. At least for the 20th pick. There is the danger of him being a bust that never takes advantage of his physical tools, but he could end up becoming a major defensive force who can score when he needs to on the other end.

WHO I MISSED

In the nine weeks of writing the prospecting series, there were a couple of players that were overlooked but who might end up having their name called at 20 for the Raptors.

DARIO SARIC

Up until yesterday (Monday), there was no chance the Raptors would be able to draft Saric unless they traded up into the top twelve in the draft. But then he went out and signed a three year contract with no opt out clause for two years, and my guess is he’ll drop down until, at least, the late-teens and possibly farther. Phoenix, Boston and Chicago all have multiple picks and draft ahead of the Raptors, so he could still be taken by one of them as a down-the-road-pick, but the Raptors need to be prepared if he’s available at 20.

For those unfamiliar with Saric, he’s a very versatile big man who can score in a variety of ways, including from beyond the three point line (although he’s still not a consistent three point shooter), rebound, pass and handle the ball. He’s aggressive, hustles, works hard and has decent, although not great, athleticism. After watching Boris Diaw carve of the Heat defense in the Finals, a lot of teams probably saw similar attributes in Saric, and they wouldn’t be far off. He’s got a high basketball IQ and loves to create shots for his teammates.

He doesn’t have great physical tools (he’s got only average wingspan and isn’t going to wow anyone with his athleticism) but he works hard on defense and has good instincts.

Whatever team does draft him will need to put the ball in his hands and allow him to initiate the offense in order to be truly effective. Putting him into the normal role an NBA power forward would play simply wouldn’t make use of his talents and might

While he’s not the defensive anchor that would be ideal playing beside a player like Valanciunas, I’m not sure the Raptors could pass up a player of Saric’s skill level and potential, even if they have to wait a couple of years before he comes over.

RODNEY HOOD

For some reason I always get Hood and James Young mixed up, and they are fairly similar players. Both are jumpshooting  small forwards who don’t rebound or defend at a high level. Hood is a much more consistent shooter (42% compared to Young’s 34.9%) but Young has more physical tools.

Hood also has the same things to like and dislike for the Raptors. A three point shooter like Hood is always going to have a job, but his future is as a bench player, and the Raptors are still in need of talent, so they should probably target players with more potential than Hood has.

JARNELL STOKES

Stokes had an inauspicious start to his NBA workouts by getting into a car accident on his way to his first one and consequently was out of action for a while, but he’s back on track and moving up the mock drafts enough that he might even be off the board before the Raptors draft.

Although I’ve stated I generally don’t like comparing players, Stokes is eerily similar to DeJuan Blair. Both are undersized big men with NBA bodies and a toughness to match. Both rebound well and can score around the basket, but don’t have a lot of offensive skills, especially as they move farther away (Blair’s improved on that since being drafted). Blair was a better rebounder in college and a much more efficient scorer, but Stokes actually has cartilage in his knees.

Like Blair, Stokes probably doesn’t have a whole lot of upsiAQde, but  he also is one of the few players expected to be taken this low that is pretty much guaranteed to contribute to whatever team he’s drafted by and could definitely fill a role on the Raptors backing up both the four and five spot.

FINAL RANKINGS

Not including the players who definitely won’t be available, here are my final rankings for the prospects, including what chance I see their name will be called when the Raptors make their decision. Astute readers will notice that the percentages add up to 99, which leaves a one percent chance someone else’s name will be called by Adam Silver at 20.

1. Dario Saric – 2%

2. Tyler Ennis – 40%

3. Elfrid Payton – 1%

4. Clint Capela – 15%

5. K.J. McDaniels – 10%

6. T.J. Warren – 2%

7. Jarnell Stokes – 5%

8. Adreian Payne – 8%

9. James Young – 2%

10. Kyle Anderson – 1%

11. Shabazz Napier – 7%

12. Rodney Hood – 2%

13. P.J. Hairston – 1%

14. Jerami Grant – 3%

On Thursday, which is NBA Draft day, tune back in for an all encompassing look at the draft, including predictions, rumours and possibly even a Bill Simmons-style trade proposal or two.