Draft

Draft workout notes: Justin Jackson leads Canadian-heavy group

Passports fly forever.

The Toronto Raptors held their latest set of 2017 pre-draft workouts with media availability on Tuesday, with a group that included three players with Canadian passports. As a reminder, the organization has never drafted a Canadian, and only two have even suited up for the team. For at least one day, it had some benefit to the players involved.

“That always helps because guys are more inclined to help you, talk to you and motivate you,” Justin Jackson said. “That really helped.”

What wasn’t immediately clear was whether Jackson, the most notable of the Canadian names, would stay in the draft. Tomorrow is the deadline for early-entry candidates to withdraw, and of the 20 prospects the Raptors have worked out, two have already pulled their names out of consideration. Changes to the draft process have made gathering information like this much easier for players, and the Raptors are happy to play a part in helping the players make the right career decisions.

“If they’re in the mix at all for the next couple of years, I think it’s good for them to kind of get a judge on where they are in the process,” Raptors director of player personnel Dan Tolzman said. “There’s no better feedback than the professionals on our side that can really help them at least get an idea of what they need to work on and how close they are…I’ve had a couple tough conversations already on that. It’s just a matter of a lot of times, they’re not looking for any sort of false indications of where thye’re at, they would like to have as honest of feedback as they can, because these are tough career choices”

Their role is not entirely altruistic, however. While the pre-draft workout process can come off as a bit confusing for how wide a net teams will cast, the Raptors are looking at more than just candidates for the No. 23 pick with these sessions. Usually that means looking at potentially undrafted players to bring in for Summer League, training camp, or Raptors 905, but for underclassmen who may be back in the draft process again in the future, it’s a nice way for the Raptors to guide their own scouting and evaluations moving forward.

“We try to bring in a few guys that interest us in terms of seeing where they’re at, set a baseline for what they’re at now and then watch them next year with that in mind,” Tolzman said. “And then when we bring them in next year, if they go through that process again, we’ll have a much better idea of kind of the trajectory they’re on development wise and see how they’re growth grows.”

So maybe Jackson’s a name to watch for 2018, instead. We’ll know by tomorrow, anwyay.

Player Notes

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

Isaiah Briscoe Guard 6-1 Kentucky
Xavier Rathan-Mayes Guard 6-4 Florida State
Justin Jackson Forward 6-6 Maryland
MiKyle McIntosh Forward 6-7 Illinois State
Sebastian Saiz Forward 6-7 Ole Miss
Johnathan Motley Forward 6-8 Baylor

Isaiah Briscoe
Chad Ford Rank: 79, DraftExpress Rank: 90

How much do you believe in the Kentucky bump? Over the last few years, Kentucky’s top players have seemingly done much better in the NBA than even their draft stock would suggest, pointing to the sacrifices the players need to make on consistently deep and talented teams. That hasn’t entirely held true for their lesser draft prospects, though, and Briscoe falls in that class as someone generally ranked outside of the top 60 (he tested the waters only to withdraw last year).

At 21, Briscoe’s already big for the point guard position, and it’s that strength that allows him to penetrate, invite contact, and create for teammates, and his 6-foot-9 wingspan should help him guard at the next level even without elite athleticism, particularly if he sticks at the point. The issue for Briscoe is that he can’t really shoot – he was 22-of-96 on college threes and is a mediocre free-throw shooter – and his inconsistencies were somewhat glaring under the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament. He might be worth developing to see if the shot comes along, but he’s probably going to wind up an undrafted free agent consideration at most.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes
Chad Ford Rank: 136, DraftExpress Rank: Unranked

Scarborough, stand up. After redshirting his true freshman year, Rathan-Mayes hasn’t quite been able to build on his ACC All-Freshman nod in 2014-15. His numbers have tailed off, his role has decreased, and most notably, his 3-point shot hasn’t really come along like some who saw him as a potential wing prospect had surely hoped. On the bright side, Rathan-Mayes has improved as a playmaker, averaging a career-best 4.8 assists as a junior this year, and he remains an effective pick-and-roll scorer.

That point guard development could be his saving grace, because Rathan-Mayes doesn’t quite measure large enough or profile well enough athletically to be a true two-three at the next level – he may be best off as a big combo-guard rather than a smaller wing. Already 23 years old, there may not be a lot of perceived upside left in Rathan-Mayes, but if the team’s looking ahead a bit, a locally produced ball-handler is something the 905 could probably use.

Justin Jackson
Chad Ford Rank: 38, DraftExpress Rank: 31

Notable for far more than just his passport, the East York Justin Jackson (don’t get him confused with UNC’s Justin Jackson, who probably won’t be around at No. 23, during this process) stands as perhaps the most likely player, right now, to be the first Canadian the Raptors ever draft. He’s even suited up for Canada internationally on multiple occasions, most recently in the Under-19 FIBA World Championships in 2015. While he’s been a little under the radar this season and considered a potential withdraw candidate (DraftExpress has him mocked in the 2018 draft, and Jon Rothstein reports he’s expected to return to Maryland), the 20-year-old checks a lot of boxes for the Raptors organization if he stays in.

“I’d probably say it’s a bit easier because I have something to fall back on if things didn’t go well,” Jackson said of his decision. “Truthfully, I’m hearing a whole bunch of different things, it’s kind of mixed right now. I really got to sit down, discuss with my family, my circle and really try to figure things out.”

Standing 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and already weighing in at 219 pounds (he dropped about 10 pounds from last year’s BioSteel All-Canadian Game), Jackson has great size for the three and may even profile as big enough to play some four. DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony even seems to think he could see some time as a super-small five, and that kind of versatility is priceless in the modern NBA. With good athleticism, huge hands, and a willingness to invite contact at either end, Jackson should be able to work his way to becoming a plus-defender. Offensively, his ability to stretch the floor a bit is his primary weapon, as he shot 43.8 percent both inside and beyond the arc this year (he did not shoot particularly well in the Raptors’ finishing drill, though, coming up short on a lot of his threes).

“He’s a player that’s very intriguing because he’s got so many things going for him in terms of size and positional size and athletic ability and God-given intangibles that you don’t find on  a lot people,” Tolzman said. “So with all of that, he’s got some work to do, skill-wise, but that’s what we’re here to do, to evaluate to see how far along is he, how much work, what kind of development stuff…It’s a good early look at him and he’s very talented and he’s going to be an intriguing player to watch if ends up going back. He’s going to be a very highly scouted in college basketball. But if he stays in too he’s a guy that’s going to be discussed in our room, for sure.”

He’s still more of a perimeter or pick-and-pop player on that end, and his statistical production was somewhat muted – 10.5 points and six rebounds – but there’s a lot to like as he gains experience and irons out some of the inconsistencies that comes with a developing feel for offense.

MiKyle McIntosh
Chad Ford Rank: Unranked, DraftExpress Rank: Unranked

While it’s nice to have a third Canadian in a single workout, the Pickering native isn’t really on the draft radar. McIntosh put together a nice junior season at Illinois State, though, and should have proved a strong test for Jackson in the workout environment. At 6-foot-7 and 234 pounds, McIntosh has the body to bang, and he can step out and hit the three a bit, having knocked down 36.3 percent of his long-range attempts the last two seasons. McIntosh also picked up his play against stiffer competition, averaging more points against power conference teams than non-power conference teams over his three years. The 22-year-old has the option to withdraw from the draft, and if he does so, he’s expected to become a graduate transfer who could attract the attention of some major programs.

Sebastian Saiz
Chad Ford Rank: Unranked, DraftExpress Rank: Unranked

Because he’s a Spanish forward, commenters are, by law, required to compare Saiz to Jorge Garbajosa. The passport is about where the similarities end, though – Garbajosa never tried to pull off tinted goggles in a game, and for that reason, Saiz’ ceiling is much, much higher (Saiz suffered a detached retina and wears the protective eyewear as a precaution). In reality, Saiz might be destined for a solid overseas career rather than an NBA one, as the Ole Miss product isn’t really on the draft radar despite a strong senior season in which he averaged 15.1 points and 11.4 rebounds. At 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds with a 7-foot-5.5 wingspan, Saiz is one heck of a rebounder, but without a 3-point shot (he finally started shooting it this year, hitting 28.8 percent of his attempts) or the requisite youth or inexperience to suggest upside (he’ll be 23 less than a month after the draft), he’s not a substantial prospect. He’s got some game, though. And those goggles.

Johnathan Motley
Chad Ford Rank: 39, DraftExpress Rank: 40

Can a power forward who checks off every box except the “stretch” designation land himself in the first round here in 2017? That’s a question Motley is going to try to answer in the affirmative, in large part by showing teams he can shoot better than the 9-of-33 he hit from long-range as a junior this year. Motley’s draft process was almost halted by a meniscus injury that required surgery in April, but he returned to practice earlier this month and reportedly shot well at the combine. If he can show improved range or mechanics with some consistency – he showed a decent face-up game at times in college – that limits his primary weakness and could allow his strengths to shine.

And the list of strengths is long – the 22-year-old is a large, physical presence, with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, 238-pound frame, and 6-foot-9 measurement in shoes. He used that size to strong effect this year, averaging 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks while shooting 52.1 percent and even chipping in 2.3 assists, a nice piece of development from a game-reading standpoint. He’s a capable defender, an elite rebounder, and a quality finisher, particularly on the roll. The question becomes whether a team sees him as eventually being able to slide to the five or shoot the ball a bit more, questions that will determine whether he’s a late-first flier or a second-round lottery ticket.

Assorted

  • As a reminder, the draft takes place on June 22. We’ve got a long way to go.
  • Rawle Alkins and Markis McDuffie, who each worked out for the Raptors in the last week, have withdrawn from the draft.
  • There are no public workouts scheduled until next Tuesday. As a reminder, it’s still very early in the process – if I recall correctly, the Raptors didn’t even hold one of these sessions until June last year and still managed to work out 59 players.
    • “We’re only very early in the process but they’ve been really competitive and the players have really put themselves in a position to play well for us,” Tolzman said.
  • The Knicks are interested in P.J. Tucker, according to Ian Begley of ESPN. That will be an interesting test of money versus the chance to contend for Tucker, as he could probably command up to the mid-level exception if he isn’t bothered by landing on a middling team.
  • 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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