Draft

Draft workout notes: Lydon, Alkins, and Ennis headline opening session

Draft workout season officially gets underway!

The Toronto Raptors held their first set of 2017 pre-draft workouts with media availability on Wednesday, and they aren’t wasting time getting to names that could be available when they select at No. 23.

Unfortunately, the process this time around may be a little more difficult. There is a giant cloud of uncertainty hanging over things, and with the draft taking place nearly two weeks before the start of free agency, the Raptors have some guesswork to do in terms of how a player might fit not only the roster but the team’s timeline.

“It is what we deal with. You almost have to keep the two things separate,” director of player personnel Dan Tolzman said of the draft and free agency. “You approach the draft with what you expect your roster to look like and how they’ll fit in. But almost every year when it comes down to draft night, you end up thinking to yourself, ‘Who is the most talented player on the board regardless of how they fit on the roster?’

“From there, talent almost always trumps positional need when it comes to the draft. If you’re able to get someone that doesn’t really fit what you’re expecting, then you have the summer to see how it lines up and how to make it work.”

That last quote is telling about the team’s approach to things in general. It’s going to be really hard to peg down what the Raptors are thinking, and they haven’t by any means been beholden to consensus in the past.

Over the coming weeks, a lot of the names they bring in will be getting worked out for due diligence for potential Summer League or training camp invites, maybe even two-way contracts down the line, or for Raptors 905. Each workout usually contains one-to-three legitimate options for the pick and a handful of others the team wants to get to know for varying reasons, including to help test the higher-profile names (Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam both famously endeared themselves to Toronto by playing well against higher-regarded prospects). The net could be cast especially wide this year with the draft feeling very wide open outside of the top 15 or so and the Raptors having a bit of a penchant for going off-board.

As a refresher on these workouts, don’t get too riled up, if you can manage. They’re just one part of the process, there are a lot of them, they serve more ends than just the No. 23 pick, and teams generally can’t bring in higher-ranked players if they don’t have a high pick. You can’t live and die with these. It’s just one element, and we cover them in detail because it’s the only public element.

Player Notes

Here’s the full list of players who attended the workout:

Dylan Ennis Guard 6-2 Oregon
T.J. Williams Guard 6-3 Northeastern
Rawle Alkins Guard 6-5 Arizona
Jeremy Hollowell Forward 6-8 Georgia State
Rashawn Thomas Forward 6-8 Texas A&M C.C.
Tyler Lydon Forward 6-9 Syracuse

Dylan Ennis
Chad Ford Rank: Unranked, DraftExpress Rank: Unranked

The Raptors like mature, experienced prospects. Nobody has maturity and experience like Ennis, the Brampton native with five years of college ball under his belt and one of the oldest prospects in recent draft memory at age 25. He’s not letting that get in his way at this time of year.

“Obviously the league is great players,” he said. “No matter if you’re 19 or 25, if you’re one of the better players, then somebody’s gonna find you. I just get into these workouts, do the best I can, work as hard as I can, and be the best competitor out there.”

Ennis bounced from Rice to Villanova (with a red-shirt season between) to Oregon (with a red-shirt fifth year) during his NCAA career, and his final season was his best one as he helped lead the Ducks to the Final Four. A knock-down shooter on a solid number of threes, Ennis is used to playing alongside another guard and working on- or off-ball. He averaged 10.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists working in tandem with Payton Pritchard in the backcourt and ceding ball-handling duties to fellow Canadian Dillon Brooks for stretches. His journey has given him a wealth of experience, in other words.

“I’ve been around. There’s a lot of guys who go to college and go straight to the league, and they haven’t been through the things I’ve been through,” he explained. “I’ve came off the bench, I know how to deal with that. I’ve been a starter, I know how to deal with that. I know how to play off the ball, I know how to play on the ball. And I’m experienced. I know what the coach (is) gonna want, I’m an extension of the coach on the floor. So instead of being older, I’m more experienced than a lot of guys.”

The brother of NBA point guard Tyler Ennis, on whom the Raptors were quite high a few years ago, Dylan Ennis probably isn’t on the draft radar but would make for a nice lead guard for Raptors 905 if he opts not to cash in overseas.

(And yes, he hit up his brother plenty for advice on the process.)

T.J. Williams
Chad Ford Rank: Unranked, DraftExpress Rank: Unranked

Williams is an almost impossible case to figure after emerging as a star for Northeastern following three years in a very limited offensive role. As a senior, Williams averaged 21.4 points and 5.3 assists, good numbers that held up even against high-major competition. The issue, of course, is that he didn’t face much of it, and projecting a senior leap season for a 22-year-old in a middling conference is difficult. He does have some things the Raptors might like, though, and they’ve shown they’ll look past mediocre shooting numbers if they believe the jumper can be worked on mechanically. Williams measured with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, for example, among the larger measurements for a point guard, and his body already looks the part of an NBA player at 211 pounds. The 905 have wanted for point guard play for their entire existence now, so maybe he’s on the radar there.

Of all the unranked seniors in today’s workout, Williams probably has the closest line to relevance next year. He also had the best hair at the workout, which is saying a lot given Ennis’ colors.

Rawle Alkins
Chad Ford Rank: 57, DraftExpress Rank: 70

The Raptors could figure to need wings this summer, and despite measuring under 6-foot-4 in shoes, Alkins boasts the size to help with a 6-foot-9 wingspan and one of the largest max vertical jumps at the combine or Portsmouth (40.5 inches). At 223 pounds, Alkins is already a physical player, and while that often leads to him trying to out-muscle defenders rather than finessing his way to the paint, he’s a great finisher when he manages to get there. He also knocked down 37 percent of his threes as a freshman and shot 73.3 percent from the line, indicating he has some notable potential as a shooter. He’ll need that, of course, especially if teams see him as more of a two than a three. More than anyone in this workout, Alkins requires some projecting, as he’s still just 19 and was fairly inconsistent this season. Alkins stood out at the combine against strong competition, and those closer to the draft process say he’s improved a great deal as a defender over the course of the year.

https://twitter.com/Iam_RawleAlkins/status/864604433392574465

If the Raptors like the character and think those improvements can continue, a strong, physical wing defender would be a nice addition to the development program, though they may have to hope he slides undrafted and becomes a two-way contract candidate. For what it’s worth, Alkins spent longer than any of the other prospects talking with Dwane Casey after the workout ended.

Jeremy Hollowell
Chad Ford Rank: Unranked, DraftExpress Rank: Unranked

After two years at Indiana, Hollowell transferred to Georgia State to help absorb some of those sweet, sweet R.J. Hunter touches that had been abandoned. The search for a home he’d be a priority in worked well, and his numbers spiked across his final two years, peaking with averages of 15.2 points and 5.9 rebounds this season. Hollowell wasn’t the most efficient of scorers and was a shaky 3-point shooters on a large volume of attempts, but his free-throw success and 3-point volume suggest it’s a skill that could improve over time. Unfortunately, Hollowell didn’t measure exceptionally if teams are going to look at him as a combo-forward, and if they’re looking at him as a small forward, he’ll have to work out exceptionally well.

Rashawn Thomas
Chad Ford Rank: Unranked, DraftExpress Rank: Unranked

A four-year senior out of the Southland Conference, it’s hard to get a good feel for how to translate Thomas’ production as a senior. It’s great that he showed progress, and spikes in assist rate, steal rate, and 3-point shooting suggest he may have figured some important things out. At 22, though, he’d have to show that there’s still growth in his profile. The Raptors haven’t shied away from four-year players in the past, and at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds with at least a show-me 18-footer (Thomas was 14-of-37 from the college 3-point line), there’s some potential for Thomas to prove himself as an undersized shotblocker who can do a little more, too. It’s just going to take a lot of proving – Thomas didn’t play particularly well in games against high-major or power conferences, and his wingspan (7 foot) and standing reach (8-foot-9.5) were good, not great, for the position.

Tyler Lydon
Chad Ford Rank: 36, DraftExpress Rank:24

Oh, so your team struggled with shooting from role players in the playoffs? Enter Lydon, who knocked down 40 percent of his threes over two seasons at Syracuse and was very efficient scoring in general in his secondary role. Lydon’s kind of tough to figure in that sense, as it’s hard to project high efficiency from a muted role, especially since he’s already 21. He has some post-up skill against smaller forwards, and he can put the ball on the floor with some explosiveness, and even if those don’t come, he can shoot the hell out of the ball. Syracuse’s zone-heavy defense doesn’t make things any easier on that end, either, as Lydon was productive as a shot-blocker but isn’t currently strong enough to defend in the post at the next level, and there are some concerns about his ability to guard threes on the perimeter.

“I think I went out and I thought I played pretty well,” Lydon said. “At the end of the day, I think I can handle the ball a lot better than people think. I know that coming from Syracuse, a lot of people question my defense, so that’s something I know right off the bat I’ve gotta work on and get better at. And my strength, and everything. But I feel like I can come in and make an impact.”

His strengths and weaknesses sound a lot like another prospect the Raptors liked last year in Jarrod Uthoff, who wound up landing with the Dallas Mavericks after a 905 stint. Lydon won’t slide out of the draft, though. Workouts figures to be a big part of the process in learning how Lydon responds outside of Syracuse’s system and determining whether he can be a role player or something bigger.

Assorted

  • As a reminder, the draft takes place on June 22. We’ve got a long way to go.
    • The adidas Eurocamp also goes down June 9-11, if you’re looking ahead to future drafts.
  • Yes, Dwane Casey was in attendance. So, too, was Jerry Stackhouse, both lead assistants, and pretty much everyone else from within the organization. It was all hands on deck. Jama Mahlalela ran the workout, as he did last year.
  • Lydon might get along well with Jonas Valanciunas, as he’s apparently a big hunter.
  • It is really, really hard not to root for Ennis after talking to him. He’d be such a phenomenal fit with the 905 if he can’t land on an NBA roster.
  • I don’t have a full list yet, but T.J. Leaf headlines tomorrow’s workout. The Raptors also have workouts scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
  • I asked Tolzman the hard-hitting question “Who are you drafting?” He doesn’t know yet. I tried, guys.
  • I’ll be posting some things on my Instagram story throughout the process, if you want to follow along there, too.

*A NOTE ON THIS PROCESS: We’re going to hear a lot of names rumored or reported to be coming in/meeting/working out/etc. I’m not always going to pass them on, especially this early in the process. A lot of it is due diligence and doesn’t mean a ton, and they’re also just low-value posts (“Rumor: Player X to work out”). Sometimes there will be (good) reasons the team doesn’t want the names public or a player can’t come in (Visa or scheduling issues). If anyone does visit and there’s media availability, we’ll have you covered. Obviously, feel free to comment and discuss those rumors (Hoops Hype is a good source for rumor aggregation) in the comments/forums, I just may not always throw a post up. Closer to the draft, as we get into second workouts or if someone outside of Toronto’s range visits, that information becomes a little more important.

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