Before heading to the ACC today for another round of pre-draft workouts, Franchise breaks down the impressive group of big men he'll hopefully get to see in action, and discusses some of the issues with the upcoming draft.
The closer we get to the NBA draft for the Toronto Raptors, the more interesting it's becoming.
Back in early April, it didn't look like the team had a pick at all. It also looked like the team had a good chance of retaining its franchise player.
Then by May, that franchise player looked to have one foot out the door.
The Raptors then had a pick, but a coin flip had to determine which pick it would be after Toronto and Memphis finished with the same regular season record.
More recently, Toronto's key free-agent from last off-season has stated publicly that he wants out, and a new coach has been brought into the fold.
So a draft that was at one point viewed as a ho-hum affair, suddenly seems to be growing more important by the day.
Further complicating matters is that aside from John Wall, no one is sure where any of the other prospects will go. Sure we're still about three weeks away from the actual event, but in previous years folks like Chad Ford and Jonathan Givony seemed to have a pretty good read on how at least some of the process would unfold, even this early.
Even Mr. Evan Turner doesn't seem to be much of a lock at 2, despite at one point being discussed as an option for whichever team landed the first overall pick.
This has made things very tricky in mock draft land, and a quick survey of the landscape shows just how far off folks are on who they think our Toronto Raptors will pick.
-ESPN.com has Toronto taking Orton as well, but in their first mocks had Texas guard Avery Bradley,
The problem as I see it, is that after Wall, things could go in an any number of orders, similar to the 2008 draft. In that one, Brook Lopez, a prospect most had agreed was on paper a top 5 pick, fell to the Nets at 10. This year with "character issues" being thrown around regarding DeMarcus Cousins, and "fit issues" with numerous other top prospects, things could unfold any which way, which could mean a player "mocked" to go in the top 10, slipping to the Raptors at 13.
Therefore, the Raptors need to be very thorough in their workout process as even players like the aforementioned Aldrich or Patterson, or the HQ's personal favourite, Xavier Henry, could end up sliding.
This helps explain a banner crop of prospects expected to stop by the Air Canada Center today:
Jeremy Wise Guard 6-2 Bakersfield (NBDL)
Eric Hayes Guard 6-4 Maryland
Ekpe Udoh Forward 6-9 Baylor
Daniel Orton Forward 6-9 Kentucky
Larry Sanders Centre 6-10 Va. Commonwealth
Cole Aldrich Centre 6-11 Kansas
Udoh, Orton and Aldrich are all players who could conceivably be gone by the time Toronto picks, but as mentioned, they could all end up sliding depending on what the teams above the Raptors do.
So let's talk a bit about each.
For starters, Hayes and Wise are likely being brought in as favours to their agents, not because they're options at 13, or even in the second-round. Both were solid players at the college level, especially Wise, who led the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in scoring as a junior before entering the draft, and ending up playing last year in the D League. These two are likely playing for an audition in Summer League.
The other four, well, that's a different story.
Aldrich is probably the surest bet of the bunch, a towering center with good, but not great, athleticism. I'm not convinced he'll be around after the top 10, hence his absence from our "big board," but if he is, I'd love to see him in a Raptors' uniform next season. He's a bit of a Joel Przybilla clone, someone I always thought would pair nicely with Andrea up front due to his ability to block shots and rebound the basketball. The concern of course is that he didn't show much statistical improvement last season at Kansas (in fact aside from shot blocking, most of his numbers were down), however some of this is due to the decreased role he had in the Jayhawks' offence thanks to the talented additions of Xavier Henry etc. He also gets the "big white guy" label but then again so did both Lopez brothers come draft time. This is no Hoffa, and I'd be thrilled to see Toronto land him at 13.
Next up, Mr. Udoh. Basketball fans might actually be more familiar with Ekpe than Cole thanks to Baylor's run to the Final Four this season. He's an extremely intriguing prospect thanks to his outstanding athleticism, power and defensive capabilities as a big man, and on paper, looks to have many of the intangibles this Raptor team needs so badly. However I'm just not sold. I fell for this type of player back in 2006, thinking Tyrus Thomas would become the best of his draft class. He didn't, and while part of this I'm sure was due to effort and attitude, he also simply didn't possess enough NBA-level fundamentals to become a dominant player. I see Udoh in a similar light and visions of guys like Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Jerome Moiso unfortunately flash through my head. These visions were backed up by ESPN.com' s recent statistical draft ratings done by John Hollinger. Udoh finished near the bottom of the prospects in future PER ranking and was given the "dud" status.
VCU Big Man Sanders is next, another intriguing option in the first round. Sanders has continued to develop his game since his freshman season at Virginia Commonwealth and has become one of the better big man prospects in this draft. He's not a monster offensively, but is a definite factor at the other end of the court, something that has to be of interest to the Raptors' brass. Like Udoh therefore, he's still quite raw, however has a more polished passing game and perhaps runs the floor better as well. I'd liken him more to the Raps own Amir Johnson then, as opposed to say Theo Ratliff who some have compared him to. He's not strong enough at this point to play the 5 and really not offensively gifted enough to play the 4 so is certainly a project. One probably worth taking a flyer on later in the first round, but not for Toronto. That's not to say though that by bringing him in with this group, it doesn't make for a very interesting workout.
Finally we get to the rawest of the raw, and the player I think the Raptors take at 13 when all is said and done, Daniel Orton. Kendrick Perkins, Brendan Haywood, Andrew Bynum...take your pick as these are current NBAers who Orton has drawn comparisons too. He played very little last year at Kentucky backing up DeMarcus Cousins but there's no doubting the upside. After names like Wall and Favours, there might not be a player with more in fact. He's got legit size and length to be a true 5 at the next level an like Aldrich, his skill-set would be a great complement to Andrea Bargnani. The problem of course is that if the Raptors make this pick, it signals a full-on rebuild as I don't expect Orton to contribute for a good couple of seasons. However when all is said and done, he may be one of the top 5 players in the draft, and considering Toronto's current needs, he may make far too much sense to pass up.
Orton currently therefore sits at number 3 on our home page's Big Board with only Xavier Henry (perhaps wishful thinking as he seems to be a top 10 pick) and Paul George (a player I feel is quite underrated) slightly ahead. Should Orton dominate today that could change of course and my hope is that we'll get to see a good chunk of what should be some pretty intense action between these four.