Before we get into basketball talk this morning…um…CITO FREAKIN’ GASTON??? Isn’t that like the Raptors dumping Sam Mitchell and rehiring Butch Carter? Ok…not quite but talk about grasping at straws. And I’m not even a big baseball guy!
Anyways, back to the ball talk as there is plenty of it.
Today we’ll be taking in another workout at the ACC getting a look at Florida’s Mareese Speights. Originally four players were expected to participate at this morning’s workout however it now sounds like only two will be present. Mick Tuck, a Canadian kid who played at Loyola was brought in as a replacement for Thursday’s workout instead of Nicolas Batum, and it sounds like Hofstra forward Antoine Aguido won’t be around today either.
So that leaves two power forwards on tap for today. Let’s take a look at each:
Who is he? 6-10 Sophomore Power Forward from Florida.
Last Year: Averaged 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per 24 minutes of action for the Gators.
What Can He Do? Speights played under in the shadow of Florida’s amazing crop of forwards a year ago and therefore really only got to show what he could do this year. After averaging only about five minutes a game in 2006-07, he became one of the go-to guys for the Gators last year, even without playing exhaustive minutes. He’s a big body who can defend, block shots and score off the blocks. Some see him as an Elton Brand type because of his athleticism and soft hands while others have even gone so far as to compare him to Al Jefferson.
Like Jefferson when he first declared for the draft, conditioning issues swirl around Speights so it will be interesting to see him up close today. Speights plays tough around the rim but some wonder if he’s sort of a big version of a tweener, stuck between a 4 and a 5, and a player who falls in love with his jump shot too often.
The Bottom Line: Speights is probably one of the most talented players in this draft. Had he gone back to Florida and dominated he would have been a sure-fire lottery pick next year. So the question then is, should the Raptors take a look at him at 17 if he really is the "best talent left on the board" at that point in time? I think so, even if he doesn’t quite fit either of the positions Toronto is really looking for help with.
Having watched him play with the Gators last year, Speights is obviously still quite raw as in many ways, last year was his freshman season. He did put on some dominant performances throughout the year and in many ways, the Al Jefferson comparison seems quite understandable. This would be another pick that the Raptors would have to be patient with in terms of development but at 17, there aren’t many better options if Toronto is looking for strictly the best talent, and not a perfect line-up fit.
Who is he? 6-8 Senior forward from Rhode Island.
Last Year: Averaged 18.6 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Rams.
What Can He Do? Daniels flew under the radar for many scouts playing for Rhode Island. He had a good career with the Rams but is definitely a tweener as he lacks a strong low-post game and is not a great perimeter shooter either. However in college he showed a great understanding of the game, good scoring skills, and an ability to take advantage of size mismatches, especially on the blocks against smaller 3’s and 4’s.
The Bottom Line: Daniels won’t be an option at 17 for Toronto but it will be interesting to see how he works out against the bigger and stronger Speights. Some see Daniels being able to play the "undersized power forward card" ala Udonis Haslem and Leon Power but right now, he’s not as quick or athletic as either. However he does have a great basketball IQ and was a leader throughout his college career so perhaps some seasoning overseas or in the D League will help him find a niche in the NBA.
It’s too bad the Raptors couldn’t have gotten a few more types of bigs in for today’s workout. Seeing Speights go against athletes like De Andre Jordan or JaVale McGee would have been interesting or even smaller 3-4’s like Darrell Arthur. However right now it’s just a hope that Speights shows and with him crossed off the list, the only legit prospects Toronto has not seen are probably the aforementioned three bigs, Jordan, McGee and Arthur. All in all, not to bad considering the reported problems some teams are having with getting to see players.
The question now is, will we see any recalls? Toronto has gotten a good look at almost everyone they wanted to for the 17th spot, so now is there anyone in particular they’d like to see again, perhaps in conjunction with a few other "recall" prospects. For me personally, a workout consisting of Speights, Ajinca, Hibbert and Lopez, with maybe Rush and CDR or Greene added on would be well worth the price of admission.