Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State (junior), Big, 6-foot-10, 7-foot-3 wingspan, 20 years old
Vecenie board: 56, Vecenie mock: 22, Composite board: 55
Strengths: Improved shooter by volume and percentage year-over-year, great passing vision and instincts, projectable pick-and-pop/short-roll big package if he can raise other skills to solid floor.
Concerns: Lacks elite explosiveness and agility even after weight loss, not a strong finisher, modest shot-blocking might not translate well if asked to guard in space and without burst.
Raptors fit: Would be a functional bench big in motion system if they think their athletic staff can improve his functional athleticism for defence.
Wesson brings one of the more established shooting profiles among bigs in this draft. He took more than three 3s a game and hit 42.5 of those attempts last season, showed growth in volume and percentage year-over-year and is a solid free-throw shooter. With a good frame and solid screen-setting fundamentals and footwork, Wesson’s path to being a pick-and-pop weapon is fairly clear. He also made strides using his trimmed-down frame on the defensive glass (he was already strong on the offensive glass, though his move toward more perimeter play deemphasized that skill). He made more plays with the ball in his hands, though the turnover rate remained a bit high.
How an NBA team projects its ability to improve Wesson’s flexibility and burst could determine its interest in the big man. Right now, he looks like someone who might struggle with the agility necessary to defend in the NBA, where he can’t just rely on occasional shot-blocking that might not translate all that well without vertical explosiveness. That he wasn’t a strong finisher inside further adds to the concerns regarding his functional strength and athleticism.
Even with the defensive concerns, Wesson’s ability to spread the floor and make high-end reads out of the short roll is enough that someone should try to develop him, even if it’s on a two-way contract. It’s just such a valuable archetype, even in a smaller role, if it clicks.
4. Toronto Raptors
(46-18, rank in last Power Rankings: 4)
No defending champion in recent years has been slept on as hard as the Raptors. I wouldn’t be so high on them, if not for them having already traveled to Florida ahead of the bubble and spent time working out, which should help them re-build the strong chemistry we saw during the regular season which made them one of the biggest surprise teams this season.
To the surprise of many, they could be the rare defending champion that positions itself to repeat.
The NBA’s return-to-play bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando will cost the league more than $150 million, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports.
Citing multiple sources, Windhorst says the costs come from renting out three hotels for 22 teams, operating three courts for games and seven practice courts, meals, daily COVID-19 testing, transportation, security and entertainment.
The NBA expects to have 1,500 people inside the initial bubble, with that number shrinking as teams are eliminated from the post-season.
Commissioner Adam Silver was asked by Time Magazine on Monday about whether the cost to finish the season was worth it. He said finding a safe way to run the event was top priority, regardless of the cost.
“It comes into play that we feel an obligation to our sport and to the industry to find a new normal,” Silver said. “It doesn’t come into play in terms of dollars and cents because, frankly, it’s not all that economical for us to play on this campus. It’s enormously expensive.”
Windhorst reports the NBA will lose approximately $1 billion in revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down the season on March 11. However, the players will retain approximately $600 million in salaries by returning to play and the league will be able to recoup some lost television revenue.
Losing that weight could hinder Gasol’s ability to defend the paint that same way.
On the other hand, however, Gasol has increasingly moved away from the paint in recent years. While he still spends the majority of his time defending bigs, opposing teams have tried to put Gasol in switch situations, forcing him onto smaller, quicker players. This season he’s spent nearly 20% of his defensive possessions defending either point guards or shooting guards, according to Narsu’s versatility statistic.
On the offensive end, the story is very much the same. Last season Gasol took 31.4% of his shots from 3-point range, this year that number has skyrocketed to 53.7%, per NBA stats. He’s also seen a slight uptick in how often he runs the pick-and-roll this season, going from 20.6% of the time last year, to 26.8% this year, per NBA stats.
If a new thinner, more mobile Gasol can continue to stretch the floor for the Raptors, his weight loss could be a huge boost heading into the playoffs. But if he’s lost the defensive post prowess that has made him so special for so long, “skinny” Gasol might want to put those pounds back on.
3- Toronto Raptors
It is still somewhat shocking how well the defending champs have played without Kawhi Leonard this season. Riding stellar performances from Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, the Raptors head to Orlando with a 46-18 record. They are pretty much locked into the No. 2 seed in the East.
I am personally intrigued to see how this brand of basketball performs at Walt Disney World. Siakam is a legit star. VanVleet has a lot to prove as an impending free agent. Meanwhile, Kyle Lowry put his postseason struggles behind him last year. Don’t be surprised if Toronto flirts with a repeat.
Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, the unquestioned leader of the defending champions, got plenty of love for his craftiness and ability to take charges. “Kyle doesn’t get enough recognition,” one coach said. “You probably think of others before him. But KL does so many little things that people don’t see.” One of the nine coaches who voted Lowry onto the All-Defensive Second Team said admiringly: “He’s a pest. I don’t like playing against him. … He is frickin’ everywhere. He sacrifices his body. He’s one of the top players in taking charges. When you’ve got a guy that can sacrifice his body and take charges, those are winning plays.”
4. Kyle Lowry
Perhaps calling Kyle Lowry an X-Factor is a bit of a reach. I mean, he’s the leader of the Raptors. Still, it seems like no one is expecting him to come through, given his history of underperforming in the playoffs and the fact that Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol are in town.
But now that he’s had four months to rest and recover, we definitely expect Lowry to be at his best in the Orlando bubble. His underrated defense could make a huge difference as well as his savvy playmaking and three-point shooting skills.