It was another interesting day at the ACC as in addition to the ongoing Free Agent Camp, the Raptors had prospect Marresse Speights in for a look. Contrary to my article yesterday however he was not only accompanied by Will Daniels as four others joined the fray. Most need no breakdown as they were local products or courtesy calls however Illinois’ big man Shaun Pruitt drew my interest.
Pruitt was a player I saw a good deal of last year on TV thanks to Rogers’ pro Big Ten and Big East coverage. He’s a physical presence (even more so in person!) who put up over 12 points and 7 boards a game for the Illini. I was mentioning yesterday that I had hoped the Raptors would have brought in another big to bang with Speights and turns out I got my wish. While we weren’t privy to the "in-game" portion of the workouts, I’m assuming that Pruitt gave Speights all he could handle down low, especially since Pruitt seems in much better shape than he ever was at Illinois.
In fact, Pruitt looked quicker in the lateral quickness drills than Speights, and seemed to post a better vertical leap; both in standstill and running jump situations. Speights in general hardly seemed enamored with the workout process and was a man of few words during our interviews with him.
I think the biggest point of interest from the interview for me was his response to my question concerning which NBA players he modeled his game after.
His response? Rasheed Wallace.
I’m not sure that’s exactly what the Raptors’ brass are looking for from pick 17, a player who would rather shoot perimeter shots than use his bulk and score inside. Interestingly, from some of the other workout reviews of Speights that I’ve read, the biggest critique was indeed his tendency to settle for perimeter shots, some of which were well beyond his range.
So for now, I’m keeping Speights out of our "Final 5" here at the HQ in terms of draft options at 17. I feel that a number of other big simply seem to have more to offer Toronto in terms of immediate help in critical areas.
The other interesting nugget via Jim Kelly, was that Toronto is not done the workout process. It sounds like on Monday the Raptors will be holding one final session at the ACC which may involve some recalls. I’m hoping of course that the recalls include players like CDR, Rush, Ajinca and Lopez. Perhaps though it will be a last ditch effort to bring in some players like JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan, who the Raptors haven’t gotten a look at up close.
Then on Tuesday, it sounds like the Raptors will be traveling somewhere to take in one final workout before Thursday’s draft. We’ll get all the details once we know more.
Moving onto the free agent camp, yesterday gave us a chance to see some actual live action between the auditionees. The Raptors divided the players into two teams and for the last 20-25 minutes of Saturday’s camp, we were privy to the scrimmages.
Here was the roster for the two teams:
John Lucas Jr.
Of note, the original list of players who were expected to attend has changed quite a good deal. Not present were names like Marcus Haislip and Dahntay Jones as they were replaced by others. I believe that Jamal Sampson and Hassan Adams were present as well but their names weren’t listed on the original team breakdown that I had.
So let’s talk about possible options for the Raptors and who stood out.
(Sidebar - It’s funny because before last year’s Jamario Moon breakthrough, the idea of "options" for Toronto from a camp like this was somewhat laughable. But as I mentioned Friday on the site and as well in the scrum with Jim Kelly yesterday, the only real difference between a lot of these guys at the camp and the ones who came in later in the day for pre-draft workouts, is that the camp guys are a few years removed from the draft limelight. However guys like Adams, Slay, White and Langford were all second round picks and only a few years ago it was their names that mock drafts were speculating about. Funny how things work.)
After talking with some folks in attendance and seeing the action myself, I’ve selected two guys from each team. These were players that either stood out in my mind, or who I was told had nice showings on Friday and earlier in the day Saturday before I arrived.
Black Team – Rod Benson and James White.
Benson missed a few cheapy lay-ups and is a hardly the second coming of Dwight Howard body-wise but he did stand out. He threw down a few nasty dunks, displayed some great intangibles in terms of setting screens, moving without the ball, and of course, getting rebounds. I was hoping to get a chance to chat with Rod but missed the boat so hopefully will grab him Sunday.
I only caught glimpses of James White today but Ryan McNeill of HoopsAddict.com told me that on Friday the former Cincy product showed off his athletic ability and stood out amongst the rest. I heard similar whispers from others concerning the 6-7 guard/forward. White is an interesting player as athletically he’s off the charts…the rest of his game just hadn’t caught up to him when he was drafted by the Pacers. He didn’t stick, and eventually wound up playing overseas last year. Interestingly, I spoke one-on-one with White on Saturday and he informed me that the Pacers actually had him in for another look prior to his arrival for camp in Toronto.
The Dinos need both athletes and rebounders so I could see both of these guys finding seats at the end of Toronto’s bench next year. White in particular impressed me as contrary to reports that I had always heard concerning his surly disposition, he was a pleasure to speak with and seemed to have a much bigger perspective on the game than he did after college.
Besides White, I also got to speak with former Kansas standout Keith Langford. Langford is one of the players I expect to see fighting to the finish for a roster spot due to his slashing abilities but from the sounds of things, the Raptors had him playing the 1 a lot in this camp so far. Langford is not really a 1, and he expressed to me the challenge he’s had in this camp to protect the rock from the smaller ball-hawks like Pooh Jeter and John Lucas Jr.
White Team – John Lucas Jr. and Dijon Thompson.
Not much of a surprise here in many ways as I expected both of these players to be near the top of the pile in terms of skill level. Thompson in particular was impressive scoring inside and out using terrific crossovers and getting great elevation on his jumper. Thompson just has a certain smoothness to his game and it’s great to see him healthy again.
Lucas is just a competitor. He did a good job distributing the ball and getting his teammates involved and as a bonus, made opponents pay for leaving him open on the perimeter. He shot the ball from long range extremely well, something that was a knock on him coming out of college. The other knock on him of course is has been his height. He’s listed at 5-11, but considering that I’m a shade under 5-10 and felt taller than him, I’m guessing he’s closer to 5-8 or 5-9. However in a third-stringer role for Toronto, Lucas might be a nice, cheap addition.
The other player on the White Team that apparently stood out was Tamar Slay. I didn’t get to see him much yesterday but of anyone in this camp, Slay should stand out. He’s had more than a cup of coffee with various NBA clubs and is a bit of a "do-it-all" type at 6-8. He can score, defend, and play the 2, 3 and 4. Slay probably just needs to find that right fit for him team-wise and then he’ll stick in the L. Will it be with the Raptors? Hard to say but we’ll hopefully get a better read on questions like this later today as Howland and I head back to camp.
On a final note, it sounds like the Raptors have been quite pleased with the level of play from the point guards present (Lucas and Jeter in particular) and some of the bigs (Sampson, Benson etc.) We should get a better feel for things later this morning and I fully expect to see two or three players from this camp get Summer League invites.
To hear audio files of interviews with Marreese Speights, James White, Keith Langford and the Raptors Jim Kelly click here.