Workouts for June 19, 2008 – A Mixed Bag and some Canadian Content

Greene had an inconsistent and at times immature freshman season but has more potential than most in this draft...

Greene had an inconsistent and at times immature freshman season but has more potential than most in this draft...

Off the top, we should first say that last Friday’s workout apparently had some last minute changes as both David Padgett and Darrell Arthur were no-shows.

Padgett pulled out due to injury but Arthur cancelled without much notice leaving the Raptors a bit vexed. It’s been reported that Arthur has done this with several teams now and it looks like he doesn’t believe he’ll fall past Sacramento at the 12th spot.

Last minute replacements were brought in for both with the most interesting being 6-11 Toronto native Jeff Ferguson who played for Wayne State last year. Ferguson is a former D1 player at Mizzou and high school standout who medical redshirted all of both 2003-04 and 2004-05. However he played with Team Canada in the summer of 05 in Turkey and it looks like as usual, the Raptors are looking to keep tabs on various Canadian prospects.

While it sounded like it was a solid workout from all accounts, Jim Kelly expressed his disappointment at not being able to see Arthur and the Raptors may still look to bring him in at some point over the next week.

Which reminds me…yes, the NBA draft is only a week away…

The draft rumour mill is starting to spin more quickly (hardly a day goes by on hoophype.com where you don’t read a TJ Ford trade option at this point) and workouts are soon going to be coming to a close. Toronto gets a look at Marreese Speights on Saturday which we hope to attend, and the Raptors also kick off their second annual "find the next Jamario Moon" camp tomorrow. There are several intriguing names on the camp list which we’ll be getting into more over the next few days but for now, let’s look at this morning’s workout participants:

NICHOLAS BATUM
Who is he?
6-8 Small Forward from France.

Last Year: Averaged 8.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per 26 minutes of action in Euroleague play.

What Can He Do? Batum has been one of the most heralded foreign prospects for quite some time now. He’s drawn comparisons to Rudy Gay for his build and athletic abilities and he rarely plays out of his element, something his excellent assist to turnover ratio backs up.

However like Gay out of UConn, Batum needs to add some strength and size if he wants to bang with the other 3’s of the league and he seems to lack confidence in his own abilities at times according to scouts. He also was unable to build on his 2007-08 season which has lead many to believe he may be peaking developmentally and therefore lacks the "upside" of many of his draft peers.

The Bottom Line: Batum is currently suffering from a case of Foreignitis. While drafting from overseas was en vogue a few years ago, many NBA teams are once again shying away from foreign prospects or over-scrutinizing them based on mixed reviews from the likes of Bargnani, Darko, Skita, Diaw and Barbosa.

However while he’s probably a bit underrated at this point, I’m not sure his style of play translates well with Toronto’s current needs. He may be one of the best athletes in this draft, but his lack of aggressiveness hurts his chances at being taken by Toronto at 17. In a recent statistical analysis done by Draftexpress.com, Batum finished near the bottom of this year’s small forward class in terms of rebounds per 40 minutes and free throws attempted per 40 minutes, both stats that are indicative of his hesitancy to mix it up in the paint. The Raps already have one Jamario Moon, so unless he blows Colangelo’s mind this morning I doubt we’ll hear his name called at 17 in a week’s time.

DONTE GREENE
Who is he?
6-10 Freshman small forward from Syracuse.

Last Year: Averaged 17.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and attempted almost eight 3’s a game for the Orangemen.

What Can He Do? At the start of the NCAA season, Greene had a number of scouts drooling. There just aren’t that many 6-10 players who can get to the rim or score like Greene, not to mention have the soft touch and athletic ability that he has. However while Donte started the year in the top five on most mock drafts, his stock took a tumble as the season progressed and if you watched the Cuse this year, you’ll know why.

For a player who is immensely skilled and capable of getting to the rim, Greene exhibited some of the worst shot selection in D1. He attempted almost TWICE as many 3 point shots as foul shots, coasted or disappeared at times for his team, and it’s hard to evaluate how he’ll fare defensively in the NBA as Syracuse played so much zone. From the same Draftexpress piece on small forwards however, Greene’s numbers fared better overall than Batum’s.

The Bottom Line: Let me put things this way; if Toronto had a top five pick this year and Greene was still slated to go that high, I would have passed had I been Bryan Colangelo. Greene is one of those athletic prospects that scares the hell out of you as a GM because you just don’t know if his game will translate to the league or if he’ll ever "get it." (Think DerMarr Johnson.)

However at 17, I’m not sure you can pass on his upside. I’m more and more convinced that he won’t fall this far but if he does, this is one player that Toronto should have in their top three pick options. His game at present reminds me a lot of Al Harrington (big guy who isn’t as athletic as he looks and who settles for outside shots) but if he could ever develop some of his other attributes, he’d be an absolute steal this far down in the draft.

ROY HIBBERT
Who is he?
7-2 Senior Center from Georgetown.

Last Year: Averaged 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks for the Hoyas.

What Can He Do? Hibbert probably would have been drafted a lot higher had he come out last season. In a classic case of "bad draft decision," Hibbert opted to return to Georgetown in hopes of leading an impressive cast to an NCAA Championship and boost his stock in the process. Neither occurred of course and the season simply gave pundits more opportunities to scrutinize Hibbert’s game.

And really, Hibbert is a "what you see is what you get" type player. He’s definitely a legit 7 footer with the size and strength to bang in the league. But he’s somewhat of a lumbering giant and his rebounding numbers considering his size hardly give you visions of Bill Russell. He never really stood out or took control of games with the Hoyas, (especially during crunch time where it was usually Ewing Jr. or Wallace doing the damage) and you have to wonder if not for his size, would Hibbert be a second round option.

The Bottom Line: As much as don’t want to see Hibbert in a Raps uniform next year, I do think he’s gone from being overrated, to being somewhat underrated. He’s no Shaq, but he’s not exactly the second coming of Oliver Miller either, as some are making him out to be. I think a fair comparison ironically is Rasho Nesterovic as like Rasho, Hibbert has some nice footwork down low and while slightly mechanical, is a smart player who can block and alter shots with his size, and score with a variety of post-moves.

So I guess the question then is, if Rasho is going to be shown the door, could Hibbert become a solid replacement? I think so, but he’s not exactly going to change Toronto into a championship contender if he’s selected. This would be more of a "plugging the future holes" type pick. I also would have liked to have seen Hibbert workout with other more athletic bigs like Ajinca and Hardin and bangers like Hickson and Lopez. I’m just not sure how much the Raptors’ brass will be able to discern from watching him go at James Tyler.

Hibbert...the next Rasho?

Hibbert...the next Rasho?

JOSEPH JONES
Who is he?
6-9 Senior power forward from Texas A&M.

Last Year: Averaged 10.3 points, and 5.4 rebounds for the Aggies.

What Can He Do? Jones is a bruiser. He’s not exactly the most skilled 4 in the draft but he’s not afraid to bang in the paint and use his size. While his junior season was slightly disappointing, he actually had a strong season for A&M as a senior and developed a decent mid-range game.

His conditioning has always been a problem causing some to refer to him as a poor man’s Zach Randolph however Jones definitely doesn’t carry himself like the former Michigan State star. It will therefore be interesting to see how he looks at this workout and kudos to the Raptors for bringing in someone with the size and strength to match up with Hibbert.

The Bottom Line: The next best thing to DeAndre Jordan? On many mock drafts, Jordan’s stock is falling to the point that he could be around at 17 but it’s his A&M team-mate Jones that got the call from the Raps to this point. Jones, Jordan and Bryan Davis formed one of the biggest frontcourts in all of Division 1 last year and had the Aggies 43 seconds away from knocking off UCLA in last year’s tourney.

I was always a big fan of Jones’ style of play and he could definitely make this Raptor team as a bruising presence off the bench. His improved offensive game helps as well however I feel that Jones will be best served honing his all-around play in Europe or the D-League for a while before making the jump. He’s certainly not an option for Toronto at 17 but will definitely be a nice workout partner for Hibbert.

KYLE LANDRY
Who is he?
6-9 Senior forward from Northern Arizona University.

Last Year: Averaged 17.5 points, and 8.1 rebounds for the Lumberjacks.

What Can He Do? Time for the Canadian Contingent. Each year the Raptors bring in a few select Canadian prospects for a workout and this year Landry and James Tyler are two of the finalists (although Tyler is an American simply playing in Canada.)

Landry actually had a very impressive senior year at NAU being the second leading scorer and third leading rebounder in his conference. Some of Landry’s skill-sets translate quite well to the NBA actually as he’s got great touch around the basket, likes to get to the line (he set a single season school record for free throws made last year) and is a smart player at both ends. He’s not as heralded as some of this year’s other D1 prospects, but some of this has to do with him being a late bloomer who had to overcome various injuries early in his collegiate career.

The Bottom Line: I never got to see Landry play last year for NAU but have read some glowing reports about his all-around game. He’s definitely not in play at 17 and probably not as a second round option either should Toronto look to grab a late pick. However as a member of the Canadian Men’s Developmental team it will be a good chance to look at some local talent, not to mention another skilled big man to throw at both Hibbert and Jones.

JAMES TYLER
Who is he?
7 foot Senior center from Halifax.

Last Year: N/A

What Can He Do? A graduate of Patterson Prep High in North Carolina, Tyler is one of those talented bigs who has flown under the radar for the past while. Due to academic issues, Tyler has been playing with the Halifax Rainmen of the American Basketball Association and prior to that, overseas in Italy.

The Bottom Line: Of all the prospects to come through Toronto so far, Tyler is the one I know the least about. In fact, I’d never even heard of him before seeing his name on the workout schedule!

The fact that he’s another legit seven-footer bodes well at least for today’s workout and from the various articles I pieced together on him, it sounds like he’s definitely worth a look from an "upside" standpoint. BC has shown that he’s not afraid to dig deep to find the next diamond in the rough so perhaps Tyler is yet another example of this.

Conclusion:

Obviously the top three players here today are Batum, Hibbert and Greene. The brief observation period given will hardly be enough time to determine which of the three will become successful NBA players, however it’s always good to see each up close as they run through various drills.

From a Raptors’ draft standpoint, I’d rather they stayed away from both Batum and Hibbert, however a prospect like Greene could very well be gone way before 17. So in some ways, this workout represents some plan B options should Toronto’s number one options fall through the cracks. While I don’t think Greene is as sure of a thing as say a Brandon Rush, he’s more enticing as both a freshman and raw talent and hopefully today’s audition helps BC and his staff fill in any remaining bits and pieces that they were unable to discern from video footage and scouting reports alone.

FRANCHISE

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