This week on The Doctor is In with Phdsteve, we continue our draft coverage with the introduction of our Raptorscentric big board. It’s an annual tradition now at Raptors Republic and has been featured in the past on the main ESPN.com website. There is a rumour floating that Chad Ford bookmarks it every year on his iphone. In fact , the big board has become so popular that most sites now post their own version of the big board, but the original and best big board sits right here!
Joined by my brother Mike (who knows college basketball), Greg Mason (the brain from the south), and Blair Miller from The Fifth Quarter Blog we explore what the Raptors might will should do with the #20 pick overall.
Give the pod a listen and check our accompanying write-ups of our choices below.
In last week’s Dr. Is In podcast 6 Degrees of Separation we each took a turn explaining who we might like to see the Raptors take at #20. By the end of the podcast we came to a consensus that Louisville Power Forward and Junior, Montrezl Harrell, would be a great pick. Mock drafts across the internet heard the podcast and made the appropriate adjustments. Harrell now sits as the primary choice for the Raptors on many mock drafts. He remains the consensus choice of the #wwroundtable.
However, the World Wide Round Table brings together some of the sharpest minds in NCAA Basketball and we are never simply satisfied with consensus. So each one of us decided to look deeper, beyond Harrell, and find a player who would be available at #20 and whom the Raptors would do well to select. Here are our choices.
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The Big Board
Trey Lyles, F, Freshman
Kentucky, 6-10, 235 lbs
Pick by Michael Gennaro, @michaelgennaro
As I put on my Masai Ujiri cap, I know that he will not pick the player that I would (Harrell), even though he is exactly what the team needs – seasoned, hungry, energy, a beast on the boards. Ujiri only sees potential and upside at the expense of the present.
So with upside in mind, Ujiri at 20 picks Trey Lyles from Kentucky. Upside and Kentucky polish will go a long way and I don’t think that Ujiri can pass up on the combination if Lyles is there at the 20. Had it not been for the best college prospect team assembled in history (7 of the 9 Kentucky players will probably be drafted), Lyles would have been a lottery pick. His production in the platoon system of Kentucky hurt his stock as he would have averaged a double-double on almost any other school in the nation. He played most of the time at the 3 (also a hole for the Raps) but has the size at 6’10” and a wingspan at almost 7’4” to guard 3s and 4s. I spoke of acquiring through free agency Brandon Bass on last week’s pod, and Lyles projects to be a similar player to Bass, a perimeter power forward that can guard 3s and 4s. He has a soft touch around the basket but can shoot mid-range jumpers with consistency, 39% this season. He can set screens very well, which will help in the Raps guards in their drive and dish games and improve the offense.
A lot will be said about his defensive deficiencies, like elite quickness and explosiveness for someone his size. As well as a lack of size itself. His rebounding numbers were average at best, but don’t let that fool you. Lyles spent much of the season guarding 3s, while Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein played inside. The fact that he averaged 5 rebounds a game while playing much of his 23 minutes a game with both those monsters on the floor, shows that he has the ability to get rebounds (C-S avg’d 6.4 rpg while KAT Avg’d 6.7 rpg by the way). He also crashes the offensive glass, something the Raps are sorely missing. This is aided by the fact that he has a high basketball IQ and knows where to be on the floor and make space for himself on offense. He can handle the ball well for someone his size. He also runs the floor well and shoots FTs at an almost 74% clip. Here is what we know. He is a skilled inside-outside big man with good footwork and offensive skills that will translate at the NBA level. He can make turnaround jump shots, but also has good ball handling skills and can put the ball on the floor and get past slower defenders. With practice he can extend his range to the 3pt line and become a solid stretch 3/4. But his lack of size might be a problem at the next level.
He needs to put on some muscle as right now he measures 235lbs and will have trouble keeping bigger 4s out of the paint. He didn’t block too many shots in college, but did average almost one a game, and would probably have more had he not been guarding 3s. He had trouble defensively at times and needs to develop a strong work mentality on defense. But in the right system, and playing the right position, can help that. His lateral quickness when guarding 3s will be tested, and he has shown to play poor defense against quicker players – like Sam Dekker of Wisconsin who was able to get past him with ease in the Final Four. His defense will scare many GMs, but his upside will intrigue and he has the ability to be a solid rotation player. But can he stay on the floor long enough, and can he play lockdown D. With his upside and length, I don’t think Ujiri passes up on Lyles if he is on the board, even if Harrell is there with him. His eyes are always on the future and on potential. And the overwhelming reason he gets picked by the Raps, is that Lyles was born in Saskatoon, has played for Canada at the FIBA under 19 championships, and Ujiri reaaaaallllllyyyyyyy wants to add some Canadiana to the team.
Justin Anderson, G, Junior
Pick by Greg Mason, @votaryofhoops
I’m going with the 6’6” swing man from Virginia here. I know he’s not the sexiest pick and that there’s some overlap with James Johnson but I think his skills will transfer well to the pro level. First of all he’s a very good, versatile defender from the squad with kenpom’s top ranked adjusted defensive rating. He’s a solidly built 230 pounds with a 6’11” wing span and can thus defend the two-four positions. Another thing that I really like about his game is his 3-point shooting ability. He shot 45 percent from three-point range on 104 attempts this season. This could be fool’s gold considering he was about a 30 percent shooter from deep coming into his junior season but he totally reworked his mechanics last offseason and so far the results have been promising. You’ll have to listen to the pod for a more in-depth take but that’s a taste to pique your interest
Jerian Grant, G, Senior
Pick by Blair Miller, @TFQuarter
It’s tough to find a true immediate impact player as low as 20 in the draft, but I think Notre Dame point guard Jerian Grant could slide that far, and he’s a great antidote to the lethargy that Ross and Greivis Vasquez bring to any small ball lineup for Toronto – a personnel group that is proving to be more and more important in order to contend with the elite teams in the NBA.
Grant is a leader, and a workhorse that played over 37 minutes per game last season for the Irish. His three-point shooting needs work (31.8% last season), but that’s a common knock on athletic guards coming out of college – one which scores of current and former superstars have overcome with hard work. What doesn’t need work is his playmaking ability, with 6.6 assists per game, despite playing alongside another pro-caliber guard in teammate Demetrius Jackson. While shouldering most of the ball handling duties for Notre Dame, Grant turned the ball over on just 14% of his possessions during the 2014-15 regular season, and was a lethal distributor and shot maker during the NCAA Tournament.
A 6’5” guard who is able to make the right decisions in the pick-and-roll is exactly what Toronto needs right now. Regardless of how many fans and front office personnel are willing to admit it, the team is plagued by awful (can we say shitty? Let’s say shitty) shot selection in the pick-and-roll, which is a death knoll for contemporary offenses. It’s unclear whether Grant could coexist with Kyle Lowry. It’s also unclear that Lowry is the medium-to-long term answer for Toronto. He’s undersized, his weight goes up and down like an EKG reading, and he’s the guiltiest of the handful of bad shot culprits on this team. Assuming Grant is already savvy enough to address this problem is too optimistic. But even as a sizeable upgrade to Vasquez in a “similar” role as a one/two guard he’s a tantalizing option – even if his defense can be as flat-footed as Vasquez’s at times.
Oh, and I know I already mentioned his leadership skills, but let’s go back there. Grant has a strong, take-over-the-room personality – one that is both accountable and leads by performance and work ethic. Toronto needs this, Raptorland. Badly. To have a chance to address this issue with a playoff-low first round draft pick is a pretty sweet position to be in.
Kevon Looney, F, Freshman
Pick by Steve Gennaro, @therealphdsteve
Is anyone ever really surprised that I like a prospect from UCLA? However, putting my personal bias aside, there is no good reason why Raptors fans should get excited about the team taking Looney at #20, because there is no good reason as to why he would be available. He was a five-star recruit out of high school (as a point guard by the way) who came to UCLA, grew several inches, played out of position for an entire season, led all freshman in the NCAA in rebounding (including top prospects from Kentucky and Duke), miraculously took UCLA to the tournament, and then guided them to the Sweet 16 while having to wear a Westbrook-type mask for the tournament with a fractured face. Dude can flat out ball.
And yet at this time of year all kinds of small and intricate details can cause a person’s draft stock to drop. For Looney, the negative focus seems to be on his frame being too small to play the 4 at the pro level, his inability to score with consistency in college, his perceived lack of lateral quickness, and the ever famous UCLA player question “just where does he play at the pro level?” (see: Westbrook, Afflalo, Shabazz, LaVine, etc.) The truth is that while UCLA is the greatest school in NCAA history, they tend to “coach down” their talent and make them look very ordinary in a system that highlights team play and not individual skill sets.
However, Looney’s frame is not wire thin but actually well positioned to add 20 pounds. He is 6-9 and while he may still continue to grow, he will certainly grow into his body and become much more comfortable with his new size. He can play the 4 like he did at UCLA, but would make an excellent 3 at the pro level. His rebounding is elite (and that is a skill set that always transfers well to the pro game) and his shooting stroke is pretty. In fact, when you combine his shooting ability with his top flight ball handling skills, you end up with the potential for a point-forward who could also be an excellent pick n’ pop player. Looney in a back court with Lowry and DeRozan would cause other teams to suffer defensively against the Raptors in trying to pick their poison if the offense were to be built around movement and of course high volume shooting! He can be a solid wing defender at the pro level, a fantastic rebounder at the small forward position, and he has superstar potential. At the 20th pick that is more than you can ever ask for, and if it’s available, which it very well could be, it’s a no brainer.
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