Orton, Bledsoe and Patterson, the Kentucky Trio - RaptorsHQ Draft Prospect Preview #5

In the fifth of their series of Raptors draft previews, the HQ takes a look at the Kentucky Trio of Daniel Orton, Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson with a little help from some subject matter experts...

The NBA Draft is in less than two weeks.

And yet it's been eerily quiet around the league.

Usually at this point in the process, ESPN.com's Chad Ford thinks he has 80% of the upcoming draft's picks slotted to their respective teams, however this year has been much different.  Instead, his latest mock draft on Wednesday was peppered with statements like:

"I don't have a good feel for which way the Kings are leaning."

And

"The Clippers could go in a lot of different directions with this pick and I keep getting mixed signals."

Just look at his take on the Raptors and their selection at number 13:

The Raptors could go a number of different directions here. With Chris Bosh likely out the door, Hedo Turkoglu pining for a trade and the team shopping Jose Calderon -- you can expect the Raptors to look radically different next summer.

Finding a center is atop GM Bryan Colangelo's list. If Bosh leaves he'd like to move Andrea Bargnani to the 4. But of the top big men left on the board -- Orton, Whiteside and Alabi -- none of them is close to being ready.

That may shift the Raptors' focus to the backcourt. Assuming they can move Calderon this summer, they'll have a need at the point and Bradley, who can play both backcourt positions, is the type of athletic, explosive athlete they're looking for.

Translation.

"At this point, I really have no idea what Toronto will do."

That being said, I agree with Ford's logic, and it depends on how a few other cards fall first.  My take is that if a player like Cole Aldrich, who can come in and help immediately, is still available, he'll be the choice. However I find that scenario hard to believe hence the reason Cole has yet to make an appearance on our board; I just don't think he'll be around when Toronto picks.

That leaves the Raptors with a variety of options and the pick may depend on which of the following three scenarios Bryan Colangelo feels most confident in transpiring:

1)  The Raptors can get a competent big man back in return for Chris Bosh (assuming he's gone.)

2)  The Raptors can receive some sort of value for Hedo Turkoglu

3)  The Raptors can move Jose Calderon

In fact I bet Colangelo and crew are evaluating these three scenarios at this very moment.

If the first scenario doesn't play out, then Toronto might not have much choice but to go big, as the team could be down to Reggie Evans and Andrea Bargnani by the time August rolls around.

One interesting big man is Kentucky's Patrick Patterson.

He's a bit all over the draft boards right now, but is one of the more proven players coming out of last year's NCAA season.  While he doesn't have the upside of many of his peers (I see him as being a Corliss Williamson or David West 1.0 at the next level), I'm confident he's a player who could come in and have a positive impact on a team immediately.

To this end I reached out to Ken Howlett of SB Nation's Kentucky blog, A Sea of Blue, for his take on not only Patterson, but a trio of Wildcats who might be interesting options for the Raptors at 13.  Here was his take on Patterson, Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe:


Patrick Patterson
 
Strengths: A plethora of around-the-basket moves, defense, ball handling, offensive range, 100% all-the-time player, work ethic.
 
Patterson's offensive game is polished, much more so than either Orton or Bledsoe.  He has a very effective up-and-under move around the basket, a nice 8-10 foot baseline jumper, a consistent 15-foot mid-range jumper, and he developed a three-point shot during the summer between his sophomore and junior years.
 
He not only excelled against players his own size, but he also was effective against taller opponents, because of his ability to drive around the timber, or shot fake, getting his defender off his feet.
 
Patterson also has a decent jump hook, which he developed this year.
 
Patterson is also a very strong defender.  He uses leverage to push big men away from the basket, and he stays on his feet on the shot.  He doesn't reach, or shy away from contact.  He will bump, and play phyisically, oftentimes wearing down his opponent.
 
Patterson was a true leader in his time at UK.  Both through his work ethic, which is unparalleled, and his play on the court. 
 
 
Weaknesses: Size?  
 
Patterson was measured at only 6-8 or so by the NBA people.  Other than that, I can't come up with any weaknesses to Patterson's game. 
 
Well, maybe one thing -- Calipari thought he tipped rebounds too often, instead of grabbing the ball with both hands.  But honestly, I never really saw that.
 
Projected Position and Impact:  Patterson can play either the "3" or "4" at the NBA level.  He can score, or defend either position due to the attributes I list above.
 
I would expect Patterson to play his rookie year, and be a contributor.  It's so difficult to project him as an immediate, high impact guy, because the NBA is such a different game than college, but he possesses all the tools to be a very solid pro, possibly an All-Star-type of performer after a few years. 


Daniel Orton
 
Strengths: Shot blocking, defense, a growing offensive repertoire, rebounding, high ceiling.
 
Orton was an outstanding shot blocker very early on in his frosh year.  He not only defends his man well, but he's an excellent off-the-ball shot-blocker.  Overall, his defense is at an advanced stage for someone so young, although he will at time play D with his arms, instead of his legs.  This caused him to pile-up the fouls, especially through the first 15 games or so, but in the second half of the year, his fouling became less of a problem.
 
Orton's offensive game, which was limited to put-backs, layups, and dunks through the first half of the season grew exponentially as the season progressed.  He developed a nice up-and-under move around the basket, and an impossible to block baby hook.  In high school he supposedly displayed range out to 20-feet or so, but we never saw that while he was at UK, which is probably a result of an urging by Calipari not to wander too far away from the paint.
 
Orton proved to be a solid rebounder at Kentucky.  He uses his body well to shield the opponent, and his footwork is good enough for him to gain position on his opponent.
 
Weaknesses: Unproven range at the collegiate level, tendency to foul, inexperience.
 
I touched on both of these in the above paragraphs.  But honestly, I can't think of any glaring weaknesses Orton has to work on.  He just needs experience.
 
Projected Position, and Impact: If Orton has, or can develop a mid-range jumper, he would be a solid, if not spectacular "4" in the NBA.  As he stands now, Orton could comfortably play the center spot, but I wouldn't look for him to be a starter, or even a major contributor his rookie year.  His inexperience will probably be revealed at the pro level, but if he continues to work hard, and grow his game as he did while at UK, he could be a major contributor by year two.

 
Eric Bledsoe
 
Strengths: Incredible speed, strong motor, quick hands, penetrating ability, unlimited ceiling.
 
Bledsoe is blessed with John Wall-like dribbling speed.  His quickness enabled him to weave through traffic, and penetrate to the rim with relative ease at the collegiate level.  In the NBA he'll have to adjust to the bigger, better players, but in time he will probably be considered an elite level penetrator.
 
Defensively, Bledsoe has extremely quick hands.  He became adept at the back-tip, and interrupting passing lanes.  He did at times have trouble defending quick, penetrating guards (ala Devon Downey), but hey, who doesn't?
 
Bledsoe has a strong motor and great attitude.  He plays hard ALL THE TIME, both offensively and defensively.  His effort cannot be questioned. 
 
Bledsoe's ceiling is so high, Toronto should be very excited to get a player who is already showing signs of being a great contributor at the next level.
 
Weaknesses: Inconsistent ball-handling (decision-making), and streaky outside shooting.
 
Bledsoe went through stretches where he tried to do too much, i.e. forcing passes, and being a less than strong ball handler.  He would also leave his feet, with ball in hand, unsure of where he was going with the pass.
 
All of these problems can be traced to his youth.  With some experience, he should grow out of these issues.
 
Bledsoe arrived at UK with the reputation of having no outside shot.  But upon his arrival on campus, it was obvious he had been working hard on his three-point accuracy.  Although he made roughly 35% of his trey attempts, he was wildly streaky, but if he continues on his current arc, I can easily see him becoming a reliable, if not spectacular, outside shooter. 
 
Projected Position and Impact: Bledsoe is a point guard.  At 6-1 or so, he would be hard-pressed to be a "2" in the NBA, and plus, he has a point guard mentality: Penetrate and dish first, shoot second.
 
I certainly would NOT expect Bledsoe to make an immediate impact at the NBA level his first year.  But with experience, and an improvement in his decision-making (with the ball), physically, he has a chance to be an impact player at the next level.

Fit for Toronto (all three): I'm not familiar with who Toronto may lose to free agency, but, as noted, I would only expect Patterson to be an immeiate impact player. Patterson would be a nice complement to Bosh, Bargnani, and Turkoglu, but I doubt he would unseat any current Raptor starter.
 
Orton, because of his size and increasing skill level, could see some floor time, and although I think Bledsoe has the highest ceiling, I wouldn't anticipate him taking much time away from Jack, or Calderon.

NBA Comparisons (all three):  That's a tough one, because I don't follow the pro game all that much.  But I'll take a shot: 

Orton -- I'll buy the Bynum comparison, but I do think he will be a better defender/shot blocker.  So I think a combination of Andrew Bogut and Bynum might be appropriate. 

Bledsoe -- Baron Davis.  Both are excellent penetrators, and shaky outside shooters, although I do think Bledsoe will eventually become a solid shooter.  Both are quick with the ball. 

Patterson -- He has always reminded me of a better Elton Brand.  Both possess strong around-the-basket skills, but Patterson will probably end up being a more dangerous outside threat, and better rebounder.

A big thanks to Ken for the very comprehensive breakdown.

Of the three, Orton is my favourite option long-term, however if Patterson fell to Toronto at 13, I wouldn't be screaming "Hoffa Part II!" by any stretch of the imagination.

As for Bledsoe, I'm not sure what to think.  We've had him on our big board just behind Avery Bradley for a while now but like JRue Holiday last year, I'm not sold on his pro potential as much as several other players.

Of course we all know how things turned out with Holiday but at least JRue had one NBA-ready skill-set coming out of UCLA, he was a very good defender.  I don't see any one quality like that in Bledsoe.  Orton and Patteson on the other hand both have skills that will immediately translate, something Scout.com employee Evan Daniels talked to me about, specifically regarding Orton:

Having watched Orton quite a bit during high school and throughout his year at Kentucky, I've developed a pretty good feel for his game.  In high school his frame was quite thick and due to a rigorous training program he slimmed up and headed to Kentucky looking quite skinny.  At Kentucky he never really got it going, partly because he was playing behind DeMarcus Cousins.  With that said, he obviously left a lasting impression.  Perhaps his best attribute was his ability to block shots around the basket.  He's a pretty good athlete with good timing.  He's got a nice set of hands and runs the floor pretty well.  Where he needs to continue to develop is his post game.  He has shown a right jump hook, and it's a nice move, but he's going to have to develop some consistency with it, as well as a mid-range jumper.     
I saw a lot of this in Orton's workout here in Toronto and while he's miles away from being an NBA player, having him come off the bench for the next few seasons to back-up the likes of Bargnani and Johnson certainly wouldn't be a bad thing in my eyes.  You can never have enough agile, strong-rebounding bigs, just ask the Boston Celtics, and for a Raptors team that has had major issues on the glass the past few seasons, grabbing a Patterson for the short-term, or an Orton for the long-haul, would be a big step in the right direction.

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