Later this morning, the prospect many have the Raptors pegged to select in a little over a week, Demar DeRozan, will be in for an individual workout.
Considering that just a few weeks ago DeRozan’s agent was saying that Demar wouldn’t even visit Toronto, this is a good sign, and many Raptors’ fans have their fingers crossed that this means he’ll be available at nine.
And yet will he?
Even after an updated mock draft from the great Chad Ford yesterday, it sure sounds like there are no locked-in picks even at this late stage.
However after doing some intel, this is what I think can be said with a fair degree of certainty.
1) After Blake Griffin, the next group will consist of some order of Rubio, Thabeet, Harden, Curry and Evans. Perhaps that’s not earth-shattering news, but essentially that means that the last 3 names should be crossed off from prospective Raptors’ draft list barring a trade.
2) As we reported after the Jrue Holiday workout, Toronto is eyeing Holiday in addition to DeRozan and Gerald Henderson. There have been whispers that James Johnson and Earl Clark are in the mix as well but I truly think the Dinos have these 3 pegged at 9 and whoever falls, again barring trades, will be the selection with DeRozan being the top choice.
Toronto finally got a look at Gerald Henderson yesterday and it’s hard not to be impressed by the kid. Yes, he’s well-spoken and articulate, and seems to have his head on straight, but on the court he certainly possesses some weapons Toronto desperately needs.
In yesterday’s workout he showed off his elite athleticism, and while he still tends to favour going left, showed that his crossover and handle on-one-one is going to be tough to stop at the next level.
However he’s far from a sure-thing.
His shooting yesterday was spotty, something that he’s continuing to try and smoothen out, and he’s not exactly a big player. Matched up against Jerel McNeal, you can see that there isn’t much difference between the two height-wise.
Again though, it’s Henderson’s ability to break down defenses that makes him look to be a nice fit for the Dinos.
That’s why it was a bit puzzling that some of the local media failed to pick up on this, with one reporter telling Henderson that scouts described him as "a guy who just scores and gets his stuff in the flow of games rather than in isolation."
Henderson too seemed confused too and answered with:
"The best thing I feel like I can do is put the ball on the floor and get to the basket."
Henderson is one of the top 3 players off the bounce in this draft without question and while you won’t see it on this clip from Raptors.com, I followed up with a few more questions of my own:
Franchise: "What about your game transitioning in terms of you at Duke being the focal point of the offense, and Coach K would spread things out and let you go one-on-one. Do you think that helps your transition to the next level?"
Henderson: For sure, although depending on what team I go to, that will change the role that I have, but having those skills, and taking it to the next level.
F: "What about Duke alum, did you get in touch with any of them about the process?"
H: "Sure, I talked to DeMarcus Nelson, a guy that I’ve looked up to my whole career, you know, I’ve grown up with him really, Grant Hill, those are guys I’ve talked to a lot. They’ve always you know, just encouraged me, telling me to stay in the gym and work hard at my job now, and to take it serious."
And of course I had to get one or two fan-ish questions in:
F: "What about leaving Duke, last game of course, tough to kind of go out on that note."
F: "Did that give you any pause in terms of taking that next step?"
GH: "That’s long and gone. That’s something I’ll look back on in 10, 15 years – I’ll be like damn that was bad but I’ve moved onto bigger and better things."
F: "What about your own career, having watched you at Duke for a couple of years you sort of took a big jump halfway through last season in terms of your scoring and a bunch of other elements of your game. Was there anything you’d say that lead to that jump or was it a confidence thing?"
GH: "Well my team needed me to do that. You know, if we were going to take our team to another level and take our season to another level, I needed to be playing my best and through December I really wasn’t doing that. I took it on myself to do that, and to play a more aggressive style."
F: "It wasn’t Wojo, he didn’t come into a huddle and yell or anything?"
GH: "No (laughing), Wojo (Wojohowski) has done plenty of that, he can get you amped up for sure but you know it was really just with me and my teammates, knowing they needed me to do more."
As many of our commentors noted yesterday, some of the expected big names weren’t on yesterday’s workout bill.
However it was interesting nonetheless.
I mean, how can you pass on the 7-footer BJ Mullens telling the media that when he ordered room service last night, some random girl came with the room service, went into his room, and just lay down on the bed???
And even though this was no epic battle between top-ranked picks, both Toney Douglas and Jerel McNeal played their hearts out, each displaying NBA-ready traits.
Douglas, can straight-up shoot. In the individual drills and in 3-on-3 play, he rarely missed showing excellent lift and rotation. He’s only about 6-1, but a tough defender and I expect to see him selected towards the end of the first round.
And McNeal, well for one of the less-heralded attendees, he put on a show and was the most dominant player on the court.
He got anywhere he wanted in 3-on-3 play, attacked the cup, made some beautiful passes while running the point, and showed just why he was one of the top 3 players in the Big East last season. It sounded like Jim Kelly was impressed as well and I’d love to see Toronto grab him with a second-round pick.
I had a great one-on-one chat with Jerel post workout and we’ll be posting that tomorrow. It’s always interesting to talk to an NCAA stud who suddenly finds himself to be a potential second-round pick and we touched on topics that ranged as wide as his workout program post Marquette, to the stigma of players wanting to come to Toronto. Stay tuned.
Finally, BJ Mullens showed some nice range and that magic word, upside, although he appears to be years away. He’s dropped some weight since Ohio State though and looks to be quite comfortable with his decision to go pro.
On a final draft note, it sounds like the Raptors are still trying to get one more workout in early next week, and one of the attendees they’d love to see is Tyreke Evans. Evans is of course slotted to go higher than 9 but perhaps if Toronto is dead-set on drafting him, we could see trade talks heat up with clubs like Washington over the next week.
The other extremely interesting thing about yesterday’s workouts was after all was said and done, who should saunter into the gym to get in some reps but Patrick O’Bryant and Quincy Douby.
Talking to Bryan Colangelo, it sounds like these two have been working hard this off-season already and yesterday the two ran through various drills designed to help out in areas where they clearly needed some work last year. This included O’Bryant being hammered by blocker-style padding in the post, and Douby working on various ball-handling and "fake-and-pull-up" moves.
Also, BC mentioned that Marcus Banks is working out in Las Vegas by himself as is apparently his usual off-season regimen.
In addition yesterday, the newest Toronto Raptor, Reggie Evans, was in to speak with the press. He’s already dropped some great quotes in the Star and Globe and I found it interesting that while he relished the Charles Oakley comparison, he noted that he didn’t have Oak’s jumper.
Finally, while financial details weren’t disclosed, to no one’s surprise the Raptors yesterday extended a qualifying offer to Carlos Delfino.
If Delfino comes back, that locks down another roster spot and once you add in a draft pick (or maybe two), things sure are taking shape quickly.