Workouts for June 13, 2008 – More Bigs and Dukie

JJ Hickson...worth a look as the next Chris Wilcox???

JJ Hickson...worth a look as the next Chris Wilcox???

Happy Friday the 13th everyone.

(Hmmm…hope this isn’t an omen for this morning’s workout participants.)

Today marks Toronto’s fourth installment in the workout series and brings six more players to the Air Canada Center for evaluations.

I recently discussed how sparse workouts have been this year but the truth is that with the Garbo situation, the Eurocamp in Treviso, and mass workouts scheduled for multiple teams at once, it’s not like the Legomaster and his crew have been sitting around eating corn chips and watching old SNL reruns. However with only 13 days until the NBA draft, things should start heating up again on the workout front.

Therefore while Howland and I could have attended today’s session, we both thought it best to save our access for some auditions which featured a few more significant names. At some point we expect names like Donte Greene, JaVale McGee, Chase Budinger, Joe Alexander, Marresse Speights, and maybe even Danilo Gallinari and Nicolas Batum to be listed in terms of workout participants…so at that point we may have to tell our respective employers that we "cough," suddenly won’t be able to make it in to work…

And today’s crop?

Well, it’s not exactly like bringing in Wade, Hinrich, Ford and Bosh for a look, something the club did in preparation for 2003’s draft. But there are still some interesting players in this group so let’s take a look at each one in turn.

DARRELL ARTHUR
Who is he?
6-9 Sophomore Power Forward/Center from Kansas.

Last Year: Averaged 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds to go with 1.3 blocks for the Jayhawks.

What Can He Do? Arthur is like that hot girl in high school who would flirt with you to get at your best friend; he’s a tease. At first glance we’re talking about someone who evokes images of a certain prospect by the name of McDyess after he entered the NBA from Alabama. He’s got an NBA 4 prototype build, with excellent athleticism and scoring instincts and has the ability to score inside and out.

However for someone with his length (measured under 6-9 in shoes at the pre-draft camp but had almost a nine foot standing reach), he’s not exactly a great rebounder, and at only 216 pounds, will need to add some weight to be able to withstand abuse in the paint at the NBA level.

Arthur also will need to wow scouts and GM’s in individual workouts as his body of work from Kansas just wasn’t consistent. He’s got as much or more potential than anyone else in this draft class really, but the question is, can he make good on it.

The Bottom Line: Arthur was one of the more maddening prospects for me to watch last year. Sometimes (like his performance against Memphis in the Championship game where he put up 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds), you’d look at him and wonder why he couldn’t be right up there with Michael Beasley in terms of NBA potential. At others, (his 7 point – 5 rebound performance against the much smaller Davidson only days before playing Memphis) you’d wonder why he’s declaring for the draft at all.

So is he worth a look at 17? I think so, only because on potential and size alone, it’s doubtful he drops this far. He looks like a late lottery pick so if he’s around when Toronto makes their selection, it might be tough to pass on his upside. However while he might be worth a strong look, I’d rather not see his name called by the Raps. Kansas power forwards have not exactly lived up to NBA expectations (see Gooden, Drew and LeFrentz, Raef) and with Chris Bosh in tow, this is one position Toronto can leave alone for a while with others needing more serious attention.

TYRONE BRAZELTON
Who is he?
6-0 Senior guard from Western Kentucky.

Last Year: Averaged 14.4 points and 2.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists for the Hilltoppers.

What Can He Do? Some of you may remember Brazelton for the blistering offensive performance he put on during the NCAA tournament. He dropped 31 on UCLA in a losing cause and 33 on Drake in the game that featured the soon-to-be classic buzzer-beating 3 pointer from teammate Ty Rogers.

Brazelton is not exactly your prototypical point guard but had a great, albeit short, career at Western Kentucky. He’s a solid long-range shooter and can score off the dribble in a variety of fashions.

However he measured under 6 feet even in shoes at the recent combine in Orlando and posted mediocre numbers in terms of strength and athleticism. Therefore he’s going to have a tough time in the league considering he doesn’t have the floor vision or scoring ability of some of the draft’s other small guards like DJ Augustin or Jerryd Bayless.

The Bottom Line: Brazelton is definitely an "under-the-radar" type prospect who may have been brought in to match up with DeMarcus Nelson more than anything. He’s definitely not an option for Toronto at 17 and I doubt he’ll hear his name called at all on June 26th. That being said, this is a player with some nice skills who could find great success by taking his game overseas.

JAMES GIST
Who is he?
6-9 Senior forward from Maryland.

Last Year: Averaged 15.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks for the Terrapins.

What Can He Do? Potential, potential, potential. This really is all you need to say about Gist at this point in time. Gist came on strong towards the end of the season for the Terps and created a nice buzz for himself at the recent Orlando pre-draft camp.

This is an energy player in the same vein as Mikki Moore, who uses his strength and athleticism to impact games on the glass and in the paint. He’s constantly active while on the court and posted over a steal a game last year on average.

However his game does have a number of holes, especially at the offensive end. His scoring arsenal is quite limited to dunks and put-backs and as he’s actually closer to 6-8, many wonder how his game will translate at the NBA level.

The Bottom Line: Gist is an interesting player in that he does a lot of the things Toronto needs assistance with. He can be a ferocious player to contend with at times because of his athleticism (he dropped 31 and 11 on Wake Forest in late February and 26 on Duke earlier in the year) and could become a very nice energy player off the bench in the NBA. I expect him to be a second-round pick and if he falls late into the draft, Toronto could do worse if they’re looking for a player who could help down the road. However right now he’s still quite raw, even for a college senior, and I expect to see him putting in his time via the summer league with a team other than the Raps.

J.J. HICKSON
Who is he?
6-9 Freshman forward from NC State.

Last Year: Averaged 14.8 points, and 8.5 rebounds for the Wolfpack along with over a block a game.

What Can He Do? Hickson is a similar player to Gist in that he’s an athletic big man who finishes well in close and can be a monster on the glass. However Hickson shows more potential as a freshman entering the league and already has NBA level size.

He’s been compared by many to Chris Wilcox because of his leaping ability and powerful dunks and he has a much more advanced offensive game than Gist, even though he sported a lower scoring average on the year. He struggles though with his left hand and at times this year showed that he’s definitely a freshman still learning many of the nuances of the game.

The Bottom Line: Hickson is already climbing the board in many mock drafts as he’s now seen as a potential late first round pick. Could Toronto take a look at him when they pick 17th? I think he’s a bit too raw for that but perhaps if he really impresses against the other bigs today, he might be worth a look. The problem is, he’s definitely not a center as with the exception of his excellent length, is almost undersized as a 4 in the league. And as we’ve previously mentioned, some back-up potential behind Chris Bosh would be nice, but there are other areas needing more immediate attention right now.

DeMARCUS NELSON
Who is he?
6-4 Senior guard from Duke.

Last Year: Averaged 14.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists for the Blue Devils.

What Can He Do? As a senior with Duke, Nelson showed that he can do a bit of everything. He’s a great scorer (he holds the all-time scoring record for California HS basketball) who can put the ball on the deck and get to the rim with the best of them in D1. On the other side of the ball, while undersized (he measured closer to 6-2 in Orlando) he makes up for it with his ridiculous wingspan (nearly 6-11) and was one of college’s best on-the-ball defenders last year.

The problem is, that was in college and it’s tough to predict how his game will impact at the next level. He’s been compared to the likes of Tony Delk because of his size and strength however Delk had a sweeter stroke and perhaps former Blue Devil Dahntay Jones is a more suitable comparison. Both did not exactly have the prettiest form but were excellent athletes who could finish at the rim.

The Bottom Line: Nelson was one of my favourite Blue Devils the past few years because he never took a play off defensively. However I’m not sure how successful he’ll be in the NBA. He’s undersized for his position, hardly possesses a jump shot, and doesn’t have the court vision to play the 1 like some of his Duke predecessors (Duhon, Ewing etc.) However he is a superb athlete (tested as one of the best in the recent draft combine), a potent scorer, a tenacious defender and an excellent rebounder for his size, all traits that will probably land him on a team’s summer-league roster. I’m not sure he’ll hear his name called in such a deep draft, but he’s the type who should look great in workouts and may dazzle a GM enough to be a late second-round option.

Nelson will probably find a role in the league...just not in Raptors' red...

Nelson will probably find a role in the league...just not in Raptors' red...

DAVID PADGETT
Who is he?
6-11 Senior center from Louisville.

Last Year: Averaged 11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and shot 66.7 per cent from the field for the Cardinals.

What Can He Do? Watching Padgett last year for the Cardinals was painful at times. Why? Because I always felt that Padgett was more talented than Rafael Araujo yet Hoffa went in the top 10 of the draft and Padgett will probably be a late, late, second-round pick.

But I digress. Padgett is not exactly your typical college center in that he’s an excellent passer from the post, and is not simply a "jump hook and done" type guy. He possesses an excellent basketball IQ doing a great job of using cutters and seeing angles and his absence will be severely felt by Rick Pitino’s crew next season.

As an NBA prospect, I’d put him above the Jake Voskuhls and Paul Davises of the league and slightly below the Mark Madsens and the Eduardo Najeras. He’s not the most athletic player, in particular after undergoing a series of knee operations, but he makes everyone around him better and no doubt will find a niche role with some team’s bench.

The Bottom Line: Will it be with the Raptors? I doubt it. He’s definitely not one of the horses in the running for the 17th pick, and in terms of a late second-round flyer should BC want to take someone, I’d rather see Toronto grab a more athletic "upside" type big man.

However I’d have no problem with Padgett getting an invite to summer league and/or training camp. I think he’d be much more of an asset to the Raptors than Maceo Baston and could be a good practice and spot minute type. Think of it this way…he’d be one less player that Sam Mitchell would have to yell to much at. Padgett just gets it and while he’s no Brad Miller, promises to find a role in the league provided he can stay healthy.

Conclusion:

First off, kudos once again to Toronto’s staff for organizing a workout which features similar sized, yet multi-skilled individuals. It sort of kills a few birds with one stone as the audition should give Bryan Colangelo and co. a nice opportunity to evaluate the four bigs at once. Can the less athletic but more refined Padgett take advantage of the rawness of Gist and Hickson? Can the more highly touted Arthur step up against energy guys like Hickson and Gist? And can the latter two show each other up one-on-one?

And even outside the "bigs," the match-up between DeMarcus Nelson and Tyrone Brazelton should be a nice battle of similar skills.

From this group, Hickson interests me the most although not at 17. If he were to fall though to say the early second round, perhaps then BC could swoop in and pick him up from a team Seattle or Portland possessing numerous picks. Hickson doesn’t have the all-around allure of Arthur, but I think he could be a nice addition to the bench and a player who could come in and contribute immediately with his rebounding and energy.

FRANCHISE

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