Posts Tagged ‘NBA Draft

Kyle Lowry might want a change of scenery – expect the Raptors to kick the tires

- May 26th, 2012

Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry doesn’t sound like someone who would prefer to return to Houston next season.

On Friday, Lowry told Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle he can’t see both he and unrestricted free agent Goran Dragic coming back.

Just a few weeks after surgery to fix torn abductor muscles and a sports hernia, Lowry told Feigen:

“I don’t think so. I honestly think it would be tough. Things have to be addressed. The situation would have to be addressed.

“If things aren’t addressed coaching-wise, I guess I have to be moved.”

Lowry made it clear that he has undisclosed problems with head coach Kevin McHale. Though McHale and general manager Daryl Morey downplayed any issues, Lowry clearly is unhappy.

Morey told Feigen:

“I think Kyle and coach McHale are both winners and both competitive guys. “I don’t anticipate any issues going forward.”

At one point during the season, Lowry had to be restrained from going after the coach.

A tremendous defender and rebounder, Lowry averaged career highs of 14.3 points, 6.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game in 47 contests (In 38 starts, Lowry’s numbers were 15.9 points, 7.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game).  However, his injuries opened the door for Dragic, who averaged 18 points, 8.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game in 28 starts of his own.

Dragic is a far better shooter and finisher than Lowry, except for from three-point range and from the free throw line, where they shoot about the same. Lowry is an elite defender at the point guard spot and a better rebounder.

For his career, Lowry has averaged 10.4 points and 4.8 assists. Lowry has two very reasonable years remaining on his contract and will earn $5.75 million in 2012-1 and $6.2 million in 2013-14.

The Raptors are extremely high on Lowry, so there is little doubt – despite Morey’s desire to keep Lowry in the fold – that he and Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo will discuss a Lowry deal. If that falls through the Raptors could instead pursue Dragic, though I do not know if he is a favourite of theirs like Lowry or not.

After Lowry burned the Raptors for a game-high 26 points (including 4-for-4 from three) in a three-point win in Houston, I asked Raptors head coach Dwane Casey what he thought of Lowry and Casey lauded the guard for his toughness and ability.

“He’s a hell of a competitor. He’s their heart and soul and spirit of their team and I love the way he plays,” Casey said.

Long-time Raptor Alvin Williams, now a scout with the team, is extremely close with Lowry and is one of his mentors. Both are from Philadelphia and both played for Villanova. “Alvin is my main man,” Lowry once said.

Complicating a potential deal would be the fact that Houston would have to be sure Dragic will re-sign long-term with the club to be its starter before opting to trade Lowry. That won’t happen until July 1st, after the draft. It would likely be Toronto’s pick – 8th before Wednesday’s lottery – that Houston would be after. The Rockets own the 14th pick (again, pre-lottery) and the 16th. It’s hard to see the Rockets wanting anything besides Toronto’s pick in a potential Lowry deal since Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani won’t be on the table. DeMar DeRozan’s advanced stats likely don’t impress Morey, who is a huge believer in advanced statistical analysis.

Plus there’s the fact other teams could make better offers. Lowry and Luis Scola nearly became Lakers last season in exchange for Pau Gasol and Gasol is very much on the block again and the Rockets have always coveted him.

As well, Lowry has had injury issues including a torn ACL early in his career and has an edge. He was charged with battery after being accused of throwing a ball at a female referee during the lockout. Lowry apologized, received 100 hours of community service and impulse-control counseling.

However, for years the Raptors have lacked extremely competitive, hard-nosed players and that’s a major reason why they haven’t had much success.

Unless Dragic says he’s not coming back, Lowry’s likely moving somewhere. Would he be OK with supplanting Jose Calderon as starter in Toronto if Calderon is still seeing considerable time, some of it in the same backcourt as Lowry? Who knows.

What we do know  is he is not interested in splitting time with Dragic.

“We’re both capable starters. We both want it. It’s going to have to be a situation where they make a decision on one of us.

“It has nothing to do with Goran. I’m not happy with the way coaches handled things. If management wants to do something to keep Goran, I think I’ll have to be moved,” Lowry told Feigen.

“I think I’m still a foundation guy. You can build around me. If I’m not here, that’s welcomed. If I’m here, I guess that’s welcome, too.”

Interesting stuff indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celtics at Raptors Points Per Game:

- April 14th, 2012

Quite a victory by the Raptors and head coach Dwane Casey over Boston on Friday wasn’t it?

Not even the most hardcore of Raptor fans thought the team had a chance against Boston. Rajon Rondo clearly wasn’t into this one and Ray Allen was out, but this was still a statement game for Casey and his club. They won’t back down against anybody, they will fight and scrap and play above their talent level. It’s a very good sign for a franchise that has rarely had that over the course of its existence.

Some thoughts:

- I really liked the way DeMar DeRozan played. As he said afterwards, the shots weren’t falling so he decided to take it inside. He hit all 13 of his free throw attempts and consistently got elite defender Avery Bradley into trouble. As the clear No. 1 option, DeRozan stepped up. Now he’s going to have to learn how to do that in a complementary role going forward.

“Shots were’t falling so I was just trying to be aggressive. Get some easy points from the free throw line,” DeRozan said.

- Casey wants DeRozan to finish his and-ones more frequently, seeing that as “the next evolution” for the shooting guard.

- It was the seventh victory in team history when shooting under 35% fewest number of made field goals in a win.

- Full credit to Ben Uzoh for playing a great game. He has a knack for getting on the boards and was a major reason why the Raptors hammered Boston on the glass, a key to the win. He looked more confident and in control. Along with Justin Dentmon, he kept the turnovers to a minimum, another key.

“We defended and played together as a team, played hard. They really pick up the pressure, they really thrive on their defence. They’ve been on a roll. For us to get this win, this definitely boosts our confidence and shows what we’re capable of when we play hard, play together,” Uzoh said.

- Ed Davis remains a complete non-factor on offence and that jumper can’t be re-worked soon enough, but he is getting his on the boards. He had a game-high 12 rebounds and now has hit double figures in three straight games.

“Ed is putting his work in, paying his dues so let’s see where he is,” Casey said before the game.

- Casey’s comments about Bargnani were interesting. He basically said Bargnani (or other players) will be under a much different standard next season as the Raptors start to (hopefully) turn the corner. Minor ailments won’t mean missed games or extended absences. The toughness level and pain threshold will have to rise because the team is going to be intent on making a run at 7th or 8th in the weak East, which should be realistic with a number of upgrades coming via the draft, Lithuania, trades and through free agency.

- Casey said Bargnani’s standout first 13 games are “all he has to go on,” but later added that it might be unrealistic to think Bargnani can play at quite that high a level – particularly defensively, where he ranked No. 9 overall in the entire league, according to Synergy. Still, the coach wants him to be much closer to that level than to the Bargnani of old. As Casey says, he’s shown he can do it now, so it’s on him if he turns back into a pumpkin.

- Also interesting were Casey’s draft comments. I’ll have more on that another time, but suffice to say how hard a prospect plays will be a major factor for the Raptors. Valanciunas projects as a high impact guy with a great motor. Bryan Colangelo’s trick will be scooping up another prospect like that.

INFIRMARY UPDATE
Calderon was held out for “precautionary measures” so that he wouldn’t do anymore damage to his stitched up eye. He will try to return either Sunday or Monday against Atlanta.
His backup, Jerryd Bayless, is itching to play, but team doctors are expected to hold the restricted free agent out for the rest of the season.
Kleiza (knee) and Amir Johnson (back, foot) were able to play.

Raptors slip from third to fifth at lottery, a look at what might happen next month

- May 17th, 2011

Bad news for the Raptors, they dropped from third spot to fifth at the NBA’s draft lottery.

That said, newly re-signed general manager Bryan Colangelo wasn’t too shaken up over the drop.

“If ever there was a year to drop, this was probably it,” Colangelo said, echoing the thoughts of many.

It’s always better to get a better player, but after the top two this draft is a major crapshoot so Colangelo took solace in the fact he’d be paying out far less to a fifth overall selection than he would to a No. 2.

Here’s my early look at what might happen next month, top eight only:

Lottery fallout:
A summer after losing LeBron James to the Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavaliers got a major boost in their rebuilding effort, gaining the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft via a pick they acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers.
The curse of the Clippers lives on (the pick had just a 2.8% chance of moving all the way up), but apparently the dark cloud over the Cavaliers has lifted.
The Utah Jazz also moved way up thanks to a pick acquired from New Jersey in exchange for all-star guard Deron Williams.
Here’s a look at how the top eight might shake out after Tuesday’s events.
1 – Cleveland. No doubt the lucky Cavs will select Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, the consensus No. 1 overall selection. Only a bad medical report would change Cleveland’s mind.
2 – Minnesota. Tough call, the Timberwolves already have Michael Beasley, who is stuck between two forward spots. Arizona’s Derrick Williams has similar issues – is he a three or a four? But is still a stud and would be awfully tough to pass on though Minny already making noise about moving pick.
3 – Utah. Enes Kanter. Could go with Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight, but Kanter would allow them to move Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap for help elsewhere.
4 – Cleveland. Probably take Kanter if he’s here, but Kawhi Leonard of San Diego State is a stud who does a few of the things LeBron used to, particularly defensively.
5 – Toronto. Many options. Knight, Walker, Kanter, Bismack Biyombo, Jonas Valanciunas, Alec Burks and Leonard were specifically mentioned by Bryan Colangelo as possibilities on Tuesday. Hard to see Burks being the guy since DeMar DeRozan has a firm grasp on the shooting guard spot but all the others are definitely possibilities.
6 – Washington. Have John Wall so Walker and Knight don’t make sense. Another place where Leonard would fit like a glove, though Biyombo would also likely intrigue.
7 – Sacramento. One of Walker or Knight would fit nicely beside former rookie of the year Tyreke Evans.
8 – Detroit. Brampton’s Tristan Thompson or Biyombo would fit nicely as defensive beasts next to all-around stud big man Greg Monroe.
-       Ryan Wolstat

Colangelo situation making MLSE look bad … what else is new?

- April 20th, 2011

Back on February 15th, two reliable sources told me an extension for Bryan Colangelo was a 99% certainty and “was likely for a further five years.”

Here we are now, more than two months later and … nothing has happened.

This has gone on too long and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has bungled this to the point that they look ridiculous. Again. Credibility has been an issue for the Raptors on many occasions over the past 16 years. Clippers North has been thrown around and while that label is a tad too damning, it isn’t that far off either.

One of the rare times the Raptors caught the attention and respect of their peers was when they brought in Colangelo to take over as president and general manager. Colangelo has made many mistakes since, but he has always carried himself with class and represented the franchise well.

In return, he has been left hanging out to dry for months.

A decision to either fire or extend him should have been made well before he was left to meet with the media on Monday.

Make no mistake, people are taking notes of how this is playing out and this could come back to bite the franchise the next time it looks to add a high profile player, manager or coach. Colangelo is highly respected and his father is one of the more influential people in all of pro sports, let alone just the NBA.

I’m of the belief MLSE’s track record strongly indicates they have only a miniscule chance of finding a replacement as good or better than Colangelo, so replacing him makes little sense.

Now the excellent Marc Stein of ESPN is reporting the Raptors have a backup plan featuring hall of famer Wayne Embry and Day 1 scout Jim Kelly running the draft and otherwise if Colangelo is let go before his contract ends on June 30th.

“Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com this week that the Raptors do have a backup plan if the current management — at the urging of staunch anti-Colangelo board member Glen Silvestri — decides it’s best to make an immediate change. Or a change after June 30.
One possibility management is considering, sources said, is naming Embry as interim GM. In that scenario, Embry and longtime Raptors scouting director Kelly would then either be asked to oversee Toronto’s draft in Colangelo’s place, or Embry would simply become interim GM as of July 1. “
I still believe what I have been told – which is that Silvestri doesn’t have the power to force out Colangelo – who has the backing of prominent board members Larry Tanenbaum, Richard Peddie and Tom Anselmi – but regardless, this gong show has placed another black eye on a franchise that, in a refreshing change, had done a good job recently of avoiding being pummeled.

Raptors/NBA Q & A

- February 24th, 2011

A little experiment today. Have been collected questions via Twitter (WolstatSun) and trying a little Q & A in this space that hopefully will become a regular occurence.

Thanks to those who sent in questions, send in more for a future edition.

In a pf heavy draft what should the raps do considering there best 2 young players are Amir and Davis? – HHH1979

Luck into Kyrie Irving. If not, I really like Terrence Jones, a versatile, long three, who doesn’t address the need for a three-point shooter, but has a great motor, slashes to the net, defends and rebounds. But the tournament should make things clearer about who the top players are. If a PF is the best player available by far, you have to take him and see what someone will give you for him via trade.

Can we move any expiring deals for young assets/picks before the deadline? What core players does BC build around? – HHH1979

We’ll find out later today, but I doubt it. The market for Reggie Evans is pretty small, not a lot of teams need a PF and/or have a useless expiring plus pick to offer up in return. None of the other expirings have much value and I think Barbosa could be shopped in the summer if Bayless is seen as the answer in his role going forward.  BC builds around DeRozan, Davis, Bargnani and the pick, with Amir, Bayless and maybe James Johnson being decent depth guys.

How will the looming lockout impact on trade deadline in your opinion?  – DinoNationblog

It made expiring contracts and trade exceptions far less valuable, which was bad timing for teams like the Raptors and Cavaliers that hoped to get something good from the major asset coming back from the loss of their star players. It also made Deron Williams trade-bait because Utah didn’t want to have to deal him after a lost season.

What positions will the Raptors be targeting in the draft? SF & C? – LD10

Point guard, but Irving is the only real option at this point since the other quality points are combo guards. Terrence Jones, as I said earlier, is a solid option at SF, as is Harrison Barnes, who is a lot better than he has shown. Nobody is impressed with the crop of centres in this draft. Enes Kanter is undersized for the position though he makes up for it a bit with intensity and good positioning.

Me via Twitter: “Melo, overrated, Amare, overrated, Knicks still way better than Raptors, but I’m not impressed.” “Are you serious?” – theRealJaRaf

Yes, actually. The Knicks did a great job bringing a buzz back to the Big Apple and got better, but that’s a ton to give up, especially considering how much less the Nets did for Deron Williams, a far better player. Amare and Carmelo are black holes on offence who score a lot because they get more opportunities than most other players. They are good, don’t get me wrong, but neither is a top 10 or maybe even top 15 player and the Knicks are nowhere close to as good as the Celtics, Heat and probably, Magic and Bulls.

What do you think of the Carmelo Anthony Trade to the Knicks? Does he make them a NBA Championship Contender in the future? – Marty2634

See previous answer. They need Chris Paul if they want to become a contender.

If we are, as reported, interested in Gallo, do you think BC has an inside track because of Masai?/with the Miami pick + Evans or Barbosa, do you think we have a shooters chance at Gallo? We need a SF and a 3pt shooter.  -  djxsremix

The Nuggets want to keep Gallinari, at least until the summer. The Miami pick + Evans or Barbosa wasn’t going to be enough to pry him lose. While he’d address the need for a shooter, his defence and rebounding aren’t great and the Raptors need a small forward who brings it in those categories to make up for the failings of Calderon, Bargnani and DeRozan.

Pls tell me BC has no interest in Galinari? We would have the worst defense in the history of the game. – B_Viddy

Agreed.

So I guess he wasn’t really going to use a trampoline to jump over a guy in a chicken suit then? – EC_Rapsfan

Was just a means to drum up attention ahead of the dunk contest. Was good marketing.

Will hoops forever be relegated to the back burner in Canada after obsessed cdns get their hockey and curling highlights first – BrianRay88

Things are gradually changing and I think there will come a time when basketball gets a lot more pub, but it is at least 5 years off and probably more like 10-15 before it is a major player. Baby Boomers control all at this point, but those 35-and-under grew up with MJ and the glory days of the NBA and a huge amount of them love the game and will push and pay for it to get more exposure. Hockey sells right now, but one day, basketball should too.

Assuming that things remain relatively the same, do you think James Johnson will start for the remainder of the season? Why/not? – Raptolicism

He certainly looked good in his first appearance. I think we could see a rotation at the three unless he really stands out. Weems could start sometimes, Johnson others. I don’t think Weems will be back next season, so I think Johnson will likely get a good chunk of starts.

Raptors get an A for their draft; Andy Rautins is a Knick and more

- June 25th, 2010

It was a very good night for the Raptors at the NBA draft. North Carolina power forward Ed Davis unexpectedly fell to the Raptors at 13 after being considered a lock in the 5-10 range all season and the team added a player they really liked, Solomon Alabi, at 7-1, the tallest player in the entire draft, in a trade with Dallas.

Together, the big men bring 5.0 blocks a night to a team that needs that more than almost any in the league. Alabi (who I wrote about here) was the defensive anchor of a Florida State team that led the NCAA in defensive field goal percentage.

I’ve been a vocal critic of the way the Raptors have been built over the past few years. I am a huge proponent of defence and I thought it was an afterthough. These are two of the best defensive prospects in the draft and will be a huge help to the Raptors.

Davis is a much better rebounder than Alabi, he is more athletic and reads shots better, but Alabi is better at rebounding than his numbers  6.2 in 25.6 minutes) show as the entire Seminoles team hit the boards extremely hard.

Neither will ever be 20 point scorers, but Alabi, who has only been playing the game for a few years, has a nice touch on his shot and a developing post game. Davis will take longer to make an impact offensively, but will get putbacks and dunks from the get-go. As Colangelo said, Davis gets a lot done around the basket.

Davis could have gone 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th or 11th. Alabi was projected to go in the 20-35 range.

Both need to put on 15-25 pounds and that will come in time. Davis thought about entering the draft last year and was considered a top 10 pick back then as well. Davis needs work on his free throw shooting (65%) while Alabi shoots and excellent (for a centre) 79% from the stripe.

Further, both are strong character guys. Alabi, in particular is regarded as a player who never stops working. One who energizes his teammates with his hustle and high spirits. The dressing room was not the happiest place last year, so these two happy, character kids should go a long way.

Any time the worst defensive team in the league and possibly the softest can add two hard-nosed shot-blockers with the potential to be solid on the boards, it’s a good draft. Chris Bosh is all-but-gone, Andrea Bargnani brings completely different things to the table than these two guys and they will complement him and help counter some of his faults.

Not sure where this leaves Amir Johnson, but always nice to have options if you’re an NBA GM.

Have to mention Sacramento briefly. DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside? That’s almost unfair. That team has the potential to be very, very good in a few years. Get some shooters to complement Evans and Cousins and they are laughing.

Finally,  big congratulations to Andy and Leo Rautins, two good guys. Great to see Andy land with the Knicks. If they add one of the studs, Andy’s shooting will come in handy. If not, he’ll still find a way to make it. Always good to see another Canadian in the NBA. There will be a ton more in the next few years.

Draft rumblings; Calderon on Bosh; Bosh on the radio, etc.

- June 24th, 2010

Crazy day today. Besides all the draft stuff, there’s news from Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon.

That stuff first:

Bosh was on ESPN Radio and had a few things to say. Basically admitted LeBron is the first domino, everyone is waiting to see what he does before they make their move – no surprise there, the other guys will wait to see what the league MVP does.

“Am I waiting on LeBron? Pretty much,” Bosh said. “I think everyone has to. I have to as well.”

“He’s a great player and I would be crazy to think that all the teams that are considering him, they would talk to somebody else first,” Bosh said. “I think everybody is going to be going at him first.

Bosh talked of the importance of playing for a great coach. As I said earlier, he’s bang on there. You need a proven coach to get it done in this league, history shows that.

Bosh said Toronto isn’t out of it, but I think that’s just to appease the remaining fans he has here (and from the e-mails and Twitter comments I’ve been getting, most people have already turned on him)

“Toronto is a great place. … They have a lot of good things going,” Bosh said. “And they’re definitely a team that I’m going to be looking at very hard because they can do things that other teams can’t.”

To me, though, that’s been one of the main problems. How many good teams give the ball to their star big at the end of games? Dallas and who else? It doesn’t work. This is a guard’s league now. You build around a stud swingman or point guard and have a great No. 2 big man to help out.

Going to address a couple things than move on from Bosh topics for the day. A lot of people have turned on the guy, predictably in this city. But, unlike Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady, Bosh was straight up and played hard for the organization from Day One. Is he acting a little suspect by basically whoring himself out for attention the last little while? For sure, but to forget about everything else and hate on him for that is a bit silly if you ask me.

On to Jose Calderon. My friends at Raptors Republic found a Spanish interview and summed it up like this.Calderon doesn’t know if he’s staying or going but thinks he will stay in Toronto. Free agent market is crazy. Few players know where they are going to play next season.

Now, the main event, the 2010 NBA Draft.

I still maintain, barring the freefall of one of the top guys (including Paul George), the Raptors will end up with Cole Aldrich or Patrick Patterson at 13. I’ve talked a lot about how well Aldrich fits in Toronto but what about Patterson?

Patterson’s main weaknesses are lack of ball-handling (faceup game in progress) and underachieving rebounder considering his size, athleticism and length. So, horrible fit with Andrea Bargnani right? Well, maybe not so fast. Yes it’s a bad combo on the boards, but offensively, Patterson actually might complement Bargnani better than Bosh did in that he is a low-post scorer who can also step out and hit the jumper whereas Bosh could hit the jumper but was far more often a faceup player than a low-post scorer.

Patterson, like Bosh, is a poor passer who doesn’t recognize double-teams quickly, but I think if he sets up down low while Bargnani, the centre in theory, roams around  a bit more, it could work. Defensively, Patterson will be able to guard NBA fours and Bargnani has proven he can guard fives. The question is, is Patterson a good enough help defender to make up for Bargnani’s huge failings in that area?

The Raptors continue to try hard to add another pick. If George, Patterson and Aldrich are gone, I can see them trading 13 for a proven player and a later pick (but not Rudy Fernandez, as was rumoured, more like an Eric Maynor) or for a couple of extra picks. Oklahoma City has picks to dangle and Maynor, a player I have liked going back to his days as a Duke killer at VCU.

Problem is, New Orleans may want to trade the 11th pick for two Oklahoma City picks, trumping the Raptors. I think the Thunder take Aldrich if they make that trade.

Update 2:45 – Yahoo! reports New Orleans has turned down that offer, so the Raptors are back in business.

Like Doug Smith, I don’t expect the Raptors picking at 13 to be the only thing they do tonight.

We shall see.

More as I get it.

Jack happy in Toronto; Raptors workout Alabi, Whiteside, Jones and Stephenson

- June 15th, 2010

More on the draft workout later, but news of the day is Jarrett Jack, in town to workout with the Young Guns, says he is happy in Toronto.

Jack says he has no idea where the rumours of his asking for a trade came from.

He asked the media why he would come up to Toronto to work out if he was unhappy? A good question.

He also said Bryan Colangelo told him he didn’t leak anything about Jack wanting out.

Jack:

“It hasn’t affected my summer at home still have my same approach. Trying to improve and keep myself in shape. There are some situations going on with our team. I know we like to keep that internal, but as far as with me, I know there’s a rumour I’m requesting a trade or something of that matter. But I’m up here on my own merit coming up here to workout just to workout with Sonny and DeMar and Amir and Joey Dorsey. If I wanted a trade I doubt I’d be flying up here to workout. I don’t know where that came from or where that came up. Me and Bryan talked about it. Somebody just put something in the air trying to have something to talk about. It never came from my end, and he said it never came from his either so we don’t know where it came from.

Coexist? I think we can. Went through last year. Could have possibly eased the situation between both of us. Don’t come in there and say players want this. Up to coaching staff. Situations where we maybe could have played more together or switched up the rotation. I hope we can. I would hate for either one of us to have to leave because we couldn’t try to make it work. If we come back, hopefully we can do it, if not then we’ll just deal with it.”

I’d be surprised if Jack is dealt this summer. I think Jose Calderon and Hedo Turkoglu are the first guys to go. Jack did seem perturbed that he didn’t get as many minutes at the two as he was promised when he signed with Toronto. As someone ardently opposed to the Sam Mitchell special (two PG’s on the floor at the same time), I understand why he was frustrated, but agree with Triano that it isn’t a successful look.

Some great character bigs in for the Raptors today, plus two intriguing scoring guards.

Alabi and Whiteside were very personable and very big. The two tallest guys I’ve seen working out for the Raptors since, I would say, 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert a couple of years ago.

Stephenson is trying to put past issues behind him and has the body and athleticism to be an NBA player.

Raptor’s assistant GM Masai Ujiri compared Jones to Rodney Stuckey. Jones is a tweener, but was one of the NCAA’s most potent scorers last season and could be in the mix if the Raptors do the expected and pick up a second first round pick via trade.

Read something interesting today that players including Gordan Haywood are refusing to work out for the Memphis Grizzlies (one of the NBA’s worst-run franchises starting from ownership) who happen to pick one slot ahead of the Raptors. Hayward has been in to work out for Toronto.

As I said, much more on the draft workouts later.

But first, one correction. I thought Damion James would be in today or Thursday to work out. Turns out I was mistaken. Dominique Jones is the player I confused him with. A team source  informed me today that James likely won’t be coming in as he has been “off the radar for a while now.”

Raptors to host some good players this week

- June 14th, 2010

With the NBA draft looming in a week and a half, the Raptors will be very busy this week.

An intriguing slate of players is scheduled to come in. The Raptors are in need of a big man, a dynamic scoring guard or small forward and a starting calibre point guard, so as I said in this space a few weeks ago, they are working extremely hard to add another first round pick. ESPN’s Chad Ford reports the Thunder and Nets, two teams with multiple picks are not selling, but Memphis, Minnesota and Miami could be selling.

The Raptors will bring in:

Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe. One of the top point guards in the draft, though his teammate John Wall forced him to play out of position a lot.

Texas guard Avery Bradley. Bradley hurt his ankle in a workout for the Nets, so will just visit. He has already worked out for the Raptors and the team is very high on him, even though he is not a true point guard (lacks a point guard’s vision and creativity). If Bradley lands on the Raptors, the team will need to have a creator at another spot in order to make the offence work. Hedo Turkoglu would have been a perfect fit in a starting lineup featuring Bradley, but that ship has obviously sailed.

I agree with Ford that Toronto is hoping a talented big man like Cole Aldrich, Patrick Patterson, Greg Monroe or Ekpe Udoh slips to No. 13, but if they are all gone, Bradley could be an easy choice since he and Wall are the best perimiter defenders in the draft and since he can really shoot the ball.

Kansas shooting guard Xavier Henry will also be in the mix. He will also be in this week. Henry can fill it up better than almost anybody in this draft, but doesn’t have many other strengths. He would also force the Raptors to move DeMar DeRozan to the small forward position, which to me, isn’t the worst idea in the world. DeRozan lacks the ball-handling and shooting ability of an elite two-guard and might be more suited to the three, though he’d be a tad short for the position.

Patrick Patterson: If he slips, Raptors could snatch him up but I’m not sure he’s the right fit. Patterson is a very effective scoring big man, but his defence and rebounding is merely average. That doesn’t exactly fit the need list of the Raptors. He projects to be a solid, if unspectacular starting four or first big off the bench. He is extremely unlikely to be  a bust, but similarly, there is very little chance he becomes a star.

I think they look to add another pick in the 20′s to pick up one of these guys who also will be in:

Hassan Whiteside: The Marshall big man is years away from contributing in the NBA. He needs to add at least 20 pounds before he can play centre. He has a lot of upside and led the NCAA with 5 blocks a game, but I don’t see the Raptors as a fit right now at No. 13 because with only a year left on his deal, there is no chance Bryan Colangelo takes a high upside guy who will do nothing next year.

Solomon Alabi: The tallest player in the draft, this 7-footer out of Florida State is new to the game but already an elite shot blocker. He doesn’t rebound great for his size, but he isn’t as bad in that regard as some believe. He has an excellent motor, plays extremely hard and is a high character guy. At 13, probably is a reach, but Raptors would do well to grab him later on. It is not out of the question they take him at 13, since he will contribute right away and give the team a presence at the five that it lacks. But down the line, the team might regret passing on a few guys with bigger upsides.

Paul George: Another NBA-ready guy who could be the guy for Toronto. George is huge (6-foot-9 with an almost 7-foot wingspan and the ability to play both shooting guard and small forward).  The Fresno State product is my pick to be the steal of the draft for whoever takes him. He fills the stat sheet, has a great motor and can jump out of the gym. All that is missing from his game is the ablity to handle the ball and create his own shot at an NBA-level. He is far short in those regards at the moment, because he turns the ball over far too frequently, but is worth taking because hard work can make his game complete. He is not Tracy McGrady, but he could be Danny Granger, or, at the least, Wilson Chandler. George and DeRozan, with input from a great dribbling coach, could emerge as one of the most exciting 2/3 combos in the entire NBA. George just turned 20, DeRozan is also very young.

Damion James:  The Texas senior has many admirers, as the e-mails I receive tell me.  He is yet another player in this draft who can help the Raptors. He’s another NBA-ready guy who pretty much is what he is. A solid defensive player who can help solve some of the problems Toronto has defending the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce and others. James attacks the glass and picks up steals at a high rate. He got to the line in college a lot, but I’m not sure that will carry over against much better defenders. My opinion is he’d be a great pickup later in the draft, but his offensive limitations (ball-handling rears its ugly head again, can he create his own shot?) keep me from taking him at 13. Defensively he’s a starter, no question. But offensively …

Raptor update from Chad Ford:

“Meanwhile, the Raptors are not just sitting around. Rather, Colangelo is shopping Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack with an eye toward making trades before July 1.
The same source told me that a Turkoglu trade was already in the works and could happen by the draft. While the source was confident something would happen, the source didn’t disclose the potential destination(s). The Calderon and Jack discussions are moving more slowly, but over the past few days the Raptors have been pressing forward on those fronts as well. “
So that jives with what has been reported here and in the other Toronto dailies. but the news is a Turkoglu trade could be done by the draft. Knowing that Turkoglu is gone and knowing what comes back obviously helps the Raptors decide who to pick.