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Draft

Draft workout notes: Brooks and Ojeleye headline intriguing session

The Toronto Raptors held their latest set of 2017 pre-draft workouts with media availability at BioSteel Centre on Monday, and it was well worth the staff losing their long weekend. The Raptors brought in the most loaded group of prospects they’ve had yet, and it’s tough to imagine there will be a more interesting six-pack than this the rest of the way. No, it’s not loaded with lottery picks, but getting as many as four potential draftees in for a single workout with only the No. 23 pick in hand is a nice piece of personnel work.

“The group of guys today was very competitive,” Raptors director of player personnel Dan Tolzman said. “A lot of similar traits in what they are going to bring to the NBA level. We kind of brought them in thinking it would give us a nice look at all their different types of skill sets in a similar position.”

It also meant for some nice individual matchups within the team-level workout, providing each interesting prospect with a counterpart that could help test, push, and illuminate. Even if some of these names aren’t in consideration for the first-round pick, the Raptors have some mobility and have done well securing undrafted free agents, something that’s at least on the radar with the introduction of the new hybrid two-way contracts.

“It’s in the back of the head,” Tolzman said. “We don’t have a second-round pick right now but we have shown that we are always able to get back in if we need to. It’s not so much looking at some of these guys as potential two-way guys. It’s more of who are the guys we liked in college that we are interested in and they bring something to the table that we could see fit in what we do…It’s something we will consider when we get there but we don’t really at this point know how we are going to address that or who we are going to fill them with yet.”

As I’ve written a bunch, that’s something to keep in mind with these workouts. Information is never not valuable, so even if a guy comes in and maybe isn’t in the mix at No. 23, a lot can still happen to make the process worthwhile. And hey, it’s not as if the Raptors haven’t surprised before, anyway. Monday had some names worth digging deeper on.

Player Notes

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

Tyler Dorsey Guard 6-3 Oregon
Kobi Simmons Guard 6-3 Arizona
Dillon Brooks Forward 6-5 Oregon
Semi Ojeleye Forward 6-5 SMU
Markis McDuffie Forward 6-8 Wichita State
Johnathan Williams Forward 6-8 Gonzaga

Tyler Dorsey
Chad Ford Rank: 50, DraftExpress Rank: 48

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Orgeon’s run to the Final Four produced a handful of interesting draft prospects, but with eyes landing on Dillon Brooks and Dylan Ennis here north of the border, Dorsey may slide under the radar in this workout despite being perhaps the best NBA prospect on the team (apologies to the injured Chris Boucher). After measuring 6-foot-4.5 at the combine, Dorsey is firmly in combo-guard territory, though his wingspan (6-foot-5) and weight (183 pounds) are a little on the smaller end for the two. Tweener is no longer really a negative term in the NBA, and if teams look at Dorsey as a point guard who can spend some time off-ball and guard some bigger players (think Delon Wright), then his lack of obvious position won’t be that big a deal.

And it probably shouldn’t be, with everything else the 21-year-old can bring to the table. The athleticism is obvious and comes easy, and it’s helped him become one of the best slashers in college basketball and a plus defender for the Ducks. He also knocked down 41.6 percent of a large volume of threes over his two years with Oregon, which bodes well. The lack of time with the ball in his hands makes it tough to project him as a lead initiator at the next level, but he reportedly looked good as a creator at the combine, and he brings the kind of experience the Raptors like, having suited up with Greece internationally and as an older sophomore. If someone doesn’t take a stab at Dorsey in the second round and he doesn’t cash in over in Greece, he’d be an interesting development piece.

Kobi Simmons
Chad Ford Rank: 60, DraftExpress Rank: 65

Simmons didn’t measure quite as large as advertised at the combine, but at 6-foot-4.5 and with a 6-foot-6 wingspan, he’ll be just fine at point guard and, like Dorsey, might even be able to slide over as he adds size. There’s time for that, as Simmons is a pretty slender 19-year-old, but strength is going to be an issue out of the gate, which could stand to limit the effectiveness of his elite slashing early on in his career. Since Simmons is more scorer than distributor at this point, that’s a concern. So, too, is the fact that he fell out of Arizona’s rotation in the NCAA Tournament thanks to some shaky decision-making and generally ineffective play. Any team drafting him – likely in the second round – is doing so on upside, though, and his length, explosiveness, and defensive chops make him an intriguing prospect (he’s also apparently doing well extending his range). His parents also named him Kobi Jordan Simmons after, you guessed it, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, so this stuff is in his blood (his uncle played professionally, too).

Dillon Brooks
Chad Ford Rank: 49, DraftExpress Rank: 55

Brooks makes it two Canadians from Oregon to come in and workout during the first week of the process, and he should catch attention for more than just his passport. While the Mississauga native is mostly considered a potential second-round pick right now, showing some consistency on his 3-point stroke in workouts could go a long way for him. Brooks knocked down 40.1 percent of his triples as a junior and is a strong free-throw shooter, but the Raptors will be looking for repeatability in his mechanics if they’re going to project it out to the NBA 3-point line. Brooks needs that shot as part of his profile, as it’s his offensive versatility that’s most attractive at the next level – he can get into the paint and use his strong frame to finish through contact, make the smart pass to keep the offense moving, and if he can also spot up, he’s a nice fit for what the Raptors have lacked some on the wing (he was also among the country’s best isolation scorers, if you’re not a fan of the culture reset talk).

“Dillon is a guy, who you all know, brings so much passion to the table,” Tolzman said. “Whatever the doesn’t offer skill, talent wise he makes up for just with his winning plays and outplaying his opponents. I think he has shown he can score and defend and do all the things you look for energy-type guys and he brings that.”

He’s a less certain defensive prospect, though, at just 6-foot-6 with the same wingspan and a build that confuses whether he should be a two, three, or four. Again, tweener isn’t a bad word anymore, and he might be able to switch across multiple positions, but he’s not exceptionally athletic (improving his lateral quickness is one of his primary focuses right now), so it will have to be a combination of strength and smarts that carries him at that end. He’s certainly setting the bar high in terms of versatility, anyway.

“I feel like I’m a fast-paced, getting up and down, trying to out-work the opponent at all costs,” Brooks said of his strengths. “Playing three spot and stretching out to the four, like Draymond.”

Semi Ojeleye should have been a really, really nice test for him in this setting. Brooks draws raves for his leadership and personality, too, and so today really could have been a big day for him in either direction as the Raptors got a more intimate look.

Semi Ojeleye
Chad Ford Rank: 37, DraftExpress Rank: 28

Likely the most popular name of the process so far in our comments section, it’s easy to see why the SMU product might check off some boxes for the Raptors. He’s a 22-year-old junior, providing the sort of help-now maturity Toronto has leaned toward in recent drafts, even if his actual college playing experience was somewhat limited. He also earned accolades for his schoolwork (he was a national honor society member and had a perfect GPA in high school), work in the community (he was a NABC Good Works Team nominee), and work ethic (SMU coach Tim Jankovich said he’s never seen a player work harder). The Raptors are a people-first organization, and the well-educated, well-read Ojeleye seems a natural fit in that regard.

“What I am off the court plays into what I am on the court, for sure,” Ojeleye said. “I think you miss shots or someone makes a bad play, I think who you are shows in that moment. So I think that helps me, who I am, I think they see that, I think they know that.”

On top of being mentally ready, he’s among the most physically ready players in the draft, too. And he can really shoot it, with a pretty stroke that saw him knock down 42.4 percent of a high volume of threes after a redshirt year following his transfer from Duke. That transfer may confuse things a bit, though, as it made Ojeleye an older prospect who could physically dominate some of his competition. He played little as a Blue Devil before that, though he did produce more statistically in games against power conference opponents, at least. There’s also some noise in his strong season, too, as some metrics weren’t in agreement with the eye-test about his defense, which may play into the confusion about his ultimate position.

“I’m kinda positionless right now. Everybody asks me that question: Am I a three or am I a four?” Ojeleye said. “I think as far as defense, I can guard the three and the four, so I can play with multiple lineups. And offensively, as I get more comfortable on the perimeter, I can play the three, and I already know how to play the four, so as teams teach me what to do, I think I’ll be more versatile.”

Tweener can be as much a positive as a negative now, and really, it’s easy to see what the Raptors could fall in love with. A 6-foot-10 wingspan and 241-pound frame, an elite max vertical jump, and some of the best agility and speed scores at the combine all speak to the clay the team would be molding with. They believe deeply in their development staff, and like Pascal Siakam a year ago, the Raptors may see Ojeleye as undervalued because of his age but still with plenty of untapped upside. And he would seem to fit perfectly from a culture standpoint.

On top of everything else, Ojeleye also set the 2017 workout high in the Raptors’ finishing drill, which sees players sprint the length of the floor for two-and-a-half minutes shooting catch-and-shoot threes, pull-up threes, and layups. This is not something a 240-pound forward is supposed to dominate in, and yet Ojeleye has set the new high-water mark, scoring 44 points to end his day.

“You know, I didn’t shoot the ball too well when we played live,” Ojeleye said. “I feel like I’m a good shooter and I think it showed in that drill. So just stay mentally poised and know that when you do something well, it’ll eventually show up in the workout.”

Markis McDuffie
Chad Ford Rank: 151, DraftExpress Rank: Unranked

After striking gold with one undrafted Wichita State player a year ago, could the Raptors look to land another? Fred VanVleet’s former teammate turned in a really nice sophomore season for the Shockers, taking on a larger share of the offense in the team’s transition year of sorts. The 19-year-old averaged 11.5 points and hit 35.5 percent of his threes, steps forward from a more muted role in his freshman season. At 6-foot-8, McDuffie might eventually be able to build himself into a stretch-four prospect of sorts. That will probably come down the line, though, as McDuffie seems like a candidate to withdraw from the draft if he doesn’t have a sense he’ll be drafted. Given the improvements he made this year and how his performance sustained against elite quality of competition, he’ll be an interesting name as a junior. And he’s already got the quote game ready for Toronto.

Jonathan Williams
Chad Ford Rank: Unranked, DraftExpress Rank: Unranked

Like McDuffie, Williams hasn’t signed an agent and could withdraw from the draft for another season at Gonzaga. It will probably be a tougher cal for Williams, who turns 22 today and might not have the upward mobility as a fifth-year senior (he transferred from Missouri to Gonzaga and had to sit out a season as a result). Last year, Williams had a nice season with the Bulldogs, averaging 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 59.2 percent from the floor. He even hit 16-of-40 on threes, giving him a 36.5-percent mark for his three-year college career, albeit on a low volume. That will be an important skill to show more of in the workout environment, because the rest of Williams’ profile suggests he’s firmly a power forward, and adding “stretch” to that tag would be big for his eventual stock. It will be interesting to see if a decent NCAA Tournament (he posted 19-and-8 with three blocks in the Elite 8 and shot 25-of-45 for the tournament) and strong workout season convinces him to go pro or not.

Assorted

  • As a reminder, the draft takes place on June 22. We’ve got a long way to go.
  • “Semi,” by the way, is short for Jesusemilore. Ojeleye’s full name is Jesusemilore Talodabijesu Ojeleye. Obviously, if the Raptors draft him, you’ll be expected to be able to spell that correctly in the comments.
    • I’ve mentioned this in comment threads elsewhere, but I’m really high on Ojeleye, in general and particularly for the Raptors.
  • Dillon Brooks was able to spend the weekend at home in Mississauga and play with his 70-pound, nine-month-old rottweiler Zeus. Jealous.
  • Norman Powell was at BioSteel working out.
  • Maryland’s Justin Jackson, another Canadian, headlines Tuesday’s workout group.
  • 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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