It was a busy day in Raptor-land as a new assistant coach was announced, and the Toronto Raptors brought in their first bunch of draft prospects for a look. RaptorsHQ breaks things down and goes one-on-one with two of the possible first-round picks, Avery Bradley and Stanley Robinson...
So much for a quiet off-season.
You knew the Bosh rumours were going to run rampant up until July 1st but besides the NBA Draft, things were supposed to be relatively quiet for the first little while.
But late last week Hedo Turkoglu decided he needed to vent to the public about his disdain for the Raptors, and then late yesterday, reports were confirmed that the Dinos were indeed hiring PJ Carlesimo to be an assistant coach under Jay Triano next season.
I'm sure we'll get the goods on the PJ hiring at today's workout session a bit later this morning, but my immediate thoughts are along the lines of "nice first step Bryan, now let's get some players who want to be coached and can deal with a little yelling."
Oh...and let the choking jokes begin.
Moving back to the draft, yesterday saw four potential first-round picks drop by the ACC for workouts; Gordan Hayward, Stanley Robinson, Avery Bradley and Willie Warren. Unfortunately we only got to see about 10 minutes of action, but some of it was indeed one-on-one, so there was still some insight to be gained from the process.
For starters, Stanley Robinson to me was the most impressive player in the gym. He's an Amir Johnson clone physically, yet is a much better ball-handler with greater shooting range. Our Canball correspondent accompanied me to the workout and right after we discussed similarities to Amir, Robinson went one-on-one against Bradley, taking him off the dribble at the 3-point line, spinning left, and jamming it home with authority.
Yes...not exactly something in Amir's bag of tricks at this point in time.
Robinson is extremely powerful and looks ready to defend at an NBA level thanks to his length and athleticism, and certainly left an impression on the Raptors. Jim Kelly even went so far as to say that every team in the league could use a player like him on their roster, and went on to note that Toronto had only the likes of DeRozan, Weems and Amir (who could be gone) with similar athletic abilities. Apparently before we were let into the workout, Robinson was dunking any lob the Raptors' coaching staff threw at the rim, no matter how high.
I talked to him after the workout and here's what he had to say:
RaptorsHQ: So how did the workout go today?
Stanley Robinson: I think it went pretty well, think I had a solid game. I shot the ball well and think I showed them what I can do.
RHQ: Tell us a little about what you've been doing since the end of the year at UCONN and the draft process so far. How many teams have you worked out for?
SR: It's been good. I started preparing for the draft almost right after our season ended and I've worked out for like four teams so far. I'm just keeping it moving though because I've got a lot more coming up.
RHQ: Anything in particular that you've been working on?
SR: Not really, I think some folks have wondered about me shooting the ball so I've done extra work on that, but overall, just trying to keep improving day by day.
RHQ: What position do you see yourself playing in the NBA? You play the 4 but you've played some 3 and 5 under Coach Calhoun too...
SR: It doesn't matter to me really, I'll play whatever position the coaches want me to play, so, it doesn't really matter.
RHQ: What kind of traits do you think you can bring to a team like the Raptors, especially since they may be lacking in the big man and athleticism departments?
SR: I'm hungry, I'm aggressive, I've got good size, and I'm just ready to come in and work and do whatever the coaches want.
Unfortunately I had an eye on Avery Bradley and had to cut my chat short at that point. However it's clear that this isn't a player a team is going to have to bring in and motivate. Don't believe me? Check out this now-famous story of him leaving UCONN to work in a sheet metal plant to help provide for his family.
In my eyes, Robinson is a game-changer and someone who would look great in a Raptors' uniform next year, Amir or no Amir. Will the Raps grab him at 13? I think they're looking for more of a "sure-thing" but I would not be surprised at all if they look to acquire a second pick to nab him if he falls too far.
I asked Kelly about the option of buying another pick, or even trading down, especially in a draft as deep as this, and while he discounted the idea of trading down, he did acknowledge as usual that grabbing another pick might be an option if there's someone they really like who's still around.
So what about the others in the gym?
Willie Warren didn't exactly stand out, although again, we're talking about 10 minutes of action and some time with the press.
However Gordon Hayward looked a lot more solid physically than I remembered, and shot the ball quite well. In the one-on-one drills, while he wasn't the quickest or most athletic, he used a wide array of moves to score and get to the rim. You can tell from watching him that this is simply a guy who knows how to play, and while I don't see him being an option for Toronto at 13, I do think he'll find a nice place in the league.
Finally, we get to the player most of the media wanted to talk to, Avery Bradley.
Bradley's speed was on display when we were allowed to view the one-on-one action, but other than that, it was hard to take much from this type of setting. He wasn't running a team, going end-to-end (the games were halfcourt only), and considering he's hardly a gunner from distance, his shooting didn't blow anyone in the gym away either.
That being said, it's easy to see why folks are so high on him. He's got a knack for getting to the rim, was aggressive offensively, and has the length and size to be a true pesk on D at the next level.
Here's the chat I had with him after his workout concluded:
RHQ: How'd it go today out there?
Avery Bradley: It went well.
RHQ: Good workout?
AB: Yeah man.
RHQ: Have you played against any of these guys before, sort of, in any of these one-on-one settings?
AB: Stanley, like I said, we work out in Vegas so we know each other's game like this. (Crosses fingers.)
RHQ: Who else are you working out with down there?
AB: There's a big group of us, I can't even name all the dudes, there's like 20 of us.
RHQ: Ok cool. Talk to us a little bit about how you think your game translates at the next level? I've heard comparisons to guys like Russell Westbrook, and Jrue Holiday because of your defence and athleticism...talk about sort of, where you see your game going?
AB: I know my game is going to go as far as I take it, I mean if I want to get better and keep improving, it's going to happen; I feel like when I get to the league, I love the game so much that I'm going continue to get better and better. Like I was saying before (in previous media scrum while we were chatting with Stanley Robinson), the spacing in the NBA is really going to help me a lot because I can use my speed and athleticism and have room to operate.
RHQ: Talk about your season at Texas then; sort of a disappointing season considering the talent you guys had, what do you think happened? At one point you guys obvioulsy had the number one ranking but then fell off, what would you say was the reason?
AB: Things happen. I'd just say that we stopped playing as a team and as you know, when that happens, it's pretty tough to win games.
RHQ: What about those people who started questioning your leadership abilities because of that? Is this something you feel hurt your stock?
AB: Not really, I mean, we weren't the older guys in the league and it's kind of hard for the younger guys on the team to, but by the end I thought the whole team was getting on the same page. But by then...
RHQ:..it was too little too late?
AB: Yep. But I don't think last year hurt me personally in terms of whether I can lead a team. I'm not sure the expectation was really there to begin with either.
RHQ: What about coming out of high school, you were such a highly recruited prospect, right up there with the likes of John Wall. Did you think you'd be making the jump to the league after one season? What was your thought process?
AB: The thought process was just to head to Texas and try to win a National Championship but, as it went along, I thought maybe I could have chance to play in this league, and towards the end of the year, me and my family decided.
RHQ: So who would you compare your game most to, or there a player or two that you've modelled your game after?
AB: I've modelled my game after Monta Ellis and Russell Westbrook, I watch those two guys a lot.
RHQ: And what types of things have coaches talked to you about needing to work on? I know you mentioned in the earlier media chat that you're always working on your game but anything in particular you've heard over and over in this process?
AB: Shooting, you've always got to get a lot of shots up, and my ball handling. Those are probably the big ones.
RHQ: It seems like you're really enjoying this process.
AB: Oh yeah, love it, I mean, this for me is a dream come true.
RHQ: What about this workout, how did it compare to the others you've done?
AB: It was a little different, more shooting than the other workouts, but I really enjoyed it, it's another opportunity for me to go out and show people what I can do, and keep improving.
RHQ: Thanks for taking the time to chat man and good luck in the process.
So my thoughts on Mr. Bradley?
Great kid, one of the most enthusiastic interviewees I've ever spoken to during pre-draft sessions, but still not sold on him as the top option for Toronto at 13.
Not to say I'd be livid if he was the choice, but just think there are better options out there for TO at this point.
Today's participants? An interesting group of mostly second-round options although I'm thrilled to say my boy Devin Ebanks will be present. Here's the full list:
Name Position Height Previous Team
Ben Uzoh Guard 6-3 Tulsa (NCAA)
Michael Roll Guard 6-5 UCLA
Latavious Williams Forward 6-8 Tulsa (NBDL)
Devin Ebanks Forward 6-7 West Virginia
Samardo Samuels Forward 6-9 Louisville
Gani Lawal Forward 6-8 Georgia Tech
Oh...and one final note.
We were told by the Raps' PR staff prior to workouts that there would be no comments on the issue but that we could take a stab at it with Colangelo and co if we wanted. However the opportunity never presented itself as BC and crew stayed in their own corner and never wandered over to say hi as they typically do.
I'm sure they'll be more talkative later this morning with the PJ news, however it wasn't hard to take it as a sign of how mad Colangelo was regarding Hedo's comments. I've attended pre-draft workouts the past four years and not once do I recall him not mingling with the press...