The UDFA’s left on the market worth pursuing

8 mins read

Although it ended up being a relatively tame night for Raptors fans, relative to expectations, there was one minor piece of news following the draft as the Raptors signed undrafted free agent Rawle Alkins to a training camp deal. Despite not being as sexy as having the bragging rights to say you were drafted in the second round, it holds essentially the same weight as neither contract guarantees much of anything. In fact, many would argue that going undrafted is the better option as players are given their pick of the litter rather than being stuck on a non-guaranteed with a team you didn’t choose. One of the NBA’s best-kept secrets is that plenty of agents tell teams not to draft their guy if he falls past pick 45 so that said agent can handpick their destination.

Whether it is Kent Bazemore, TJ McConnell, or the Raptors own Fred VanVleet, it is far from unheard of to see an undrafted player make a serious impact in the league. Acquiring such players is oft what separates the league’s great organizations from the rest, and Alkins is likely just the first domino to fall.

By this time, the majority of the coveted undrafted free agents (UDFA’s) have already been scooped up. Usually as a result of handshake agreements made before the draft by agents to put their player in an ideal situation should worst come to worst. It’s the Woj/Shams firestorm of tweets following the draft that only junkies really pay attention to. With all that said, there are a few intriguing prospects left unsigned that might warrant a look by the Raptors.

Guys the Raptors worked out

Wenyen Gabriel, Kentucky
Mean Prospect Ranking: 73rd

At 6-foot-9 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and 40% from three, Gabriel is an intriguing prospect, to say the least. A former 5-star recruit, Gabriel had some enticing moments during his two years at Kentucky. However, his lack of lateral quickness and inability to create any meaningful shot for himself or another (per Basketball Reference, his TO rate was triple his assist rate—oof!) caused scouts to sour on him. Still, there is a lot to like about the 21-year-old.

Namely, his unique combination of size and shooting make him a perfect fit for today’s game if he manages to become passable in other areas. Due to his 8-foot-11 standing reach, he has an extremely high (and aesthetically pleasing) release that is difficult to contest regardless of the defender’s size. Additionally, he has a surprising 36.5-inch vertical, which, when coupled with his size, allows him to alter plenty of shots around the rim. If Gabriel is able to improve as a perimeter defender he could become a quality 3-and-D power forward relatively quickly; so long as he isn’t asked to do much else.

Marcus Lee, Cal Berkeley
Mean Prospect Ranking: 60th 
(but unranked a lot of places)

Some may remember Lee from his time at Kentucky where he wasn’t allowed to do anything on offense save for catch lobs and put back misses. After sitting out a year to transfer to Cal in order to show the other aspects of his game, it appears as though John Calipari was correct in limiting his role. Lee struggled with the increased role on offense (his turnover rate was double his assist rate) and failed to become the defensive anchor many believed he could be (9th percentile defensively, per Synergy Sports). Regardless, at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a 39-inch vertical, the upside that saw him in the mid-second round in 2016 mock drafts remains.

Besides, Lee never projected as any sort of creator or defensive juggernaut in the first place. With the ability to stay with guards on switches, defend the rim, tip dunk, and catch lobs, he was only ever seen as a quasi-Jordan Bell prospect. If the Raptors are able to acquire him, a few years being baptized by fire in the G League may smooth out many of his issues with decision-making and defensive awareness. If his basketball IQ is able to improve, he could theoretically be an ideal rim-running five in today’s league.

The Guy(s) they didn’t work out

Kenrich Williams, TCU
Mean Prospect Ranking: 38th

Considering plenty of mocks (including Kevin Pelton’s lauded statistical projection) had Williams going in the first round, it’s more than likely that his agent purposely had him go undrafted so he could choose his team. At 6-foot-8, 40% from three (on high volume), and with elite rebounding for his size along with decent playmaking skills, he is easily the most sought after UDFA on the market.

Williams’ most apt comparison is P.J. Tucker, as they are both glue guys who can defend two-through-four (Tucker through five), knock down shots, make the right play, and use their body to corral rebounds they have no business getting. Williams has been improving steadily each year at TCU to refine his guard skills as he moved from a full-time power forward to a 3/4 tweener during his three years. This should prove as an asset in the league, as his ability to do the little things coupled with his experience playing both down low and on the perimeter allow him to fit seamlessly into any lineup. If he chooses the Raptors, he theoretically could fit in perfectly as OG Anunoby’s backup on both ends of the floor.

Considering that this section originally was supposed to have two other players in it (Jaylen Adams and Trevon Duval) and both have been signed in the time it took to write this article, then it is safe to say that Raptors fans shouldn’t have to wait long to see if they make a move. UDFA’s are the easiest way for a capped out/no pick team like the Raptors to improve; I’d be surprised if they stayed quiet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.