Raptors HQ's 2011 NBA Draft Favourites


The HQ takes a look at a number of prospects that the they feel the Raptors should be taking a long, hard look at as the draft approaches...

Finally!

With the NBA's draft lottery now complete, we here at the HQ at last can start breaking down the various prospects in the upcoming draft.

By May 20th in previous years, we had already started looking at individual prospects, seen workouts, and conducted interviews but this year, thanks both to the new draft timelines and Toronto's lack of mid first or second round picks, this process is just getting underway now.

The annual NBA combine is in full swing in Chicago, and we may start seeing individual workouts for the Toronto Raptors as early as next week.  (Although I'm guessing things won't really get going until the week after that.)

In the meantime though, I thought we'd take a look at five players who are quite high on the HQ's "want" list regarding this draft, and the tomorrow, switching gears and discussing some we'd prefer Bryan Colangelo and the Dinos stay away from.

In terms of the "want" list below, these aren't all options as lottery, or even first-round picks, but players who I think provide great value or fill needs for the Raps and considering Toronto's current situation, may be available should the team look to trade down for multiple picks.

Here we go, in no particular order...

1)  Kenneth Faried, 6-8 F, Morehead State.

There's not much not to like about Faried.  While perhaps a bit undersized at the 4 in the NBA, he makes up for it thanks to heart, hustle, athleticism, and length.  He's got a great head on his shoulders, led the NCAA in PER last year, and would provide the Raptors with a DeJuan Blair/Paul Millsap type presence, something that would be huge if the club can't retain Reggie Evans.

He was extremely impressive at the first day of the NBA Combine in Chicago, winning the sprint drills and essentially playing at 150 miles an hour the entire time.  He's raw offensively and will probably never be a scorer in the line of the aforementioned two, but he's a superior shot-blocker to both and would be a huge asset to a club like the Raps needing an injection toughness and defense.

2)  Marshon Brooks, 6-6 SG, Providence.

Every year early in the draft process certain guys leap out at you despite perhaps flying under the radar a bit in college.  Last year we started up the Paul George bandwagon and this year Marshon Brooks is falling into this category for me.

Simply put, this is your prototypical NBA shooting guard.  He can shoot the ball, slash, score, finish at the rim, and has a 7-2 wingspan that could make him a very good defensive option later in his career.  I watched him drop 52 points on Notre Dame during the last college season and he had numerous other big scoring games for Providence.

But this isn't just a scoring guard.  Yes, he averaged nearly 25 points a game but did it by shooting an incredibly efficient 48 per cent from the field and he also averaged 7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and over a block a game.  His individual work so far this off-season has been so positive in fact that his trainer, the infamous Tim Grover, recently compared him to Kobe Bryant...pretty lofty praise for the 22 year old.

3)  Chris Singleton, 6-9 G/F, Florida State.

I've been a big Singleton fan for a couple years now, watching him give my Blue Devils' clubs nightmares in ACC match-ups.  He's got that size and length that everyone wants from a small forward now in the NBA, but doesn't just pass the eye test.  He's truly one of the best perimeter defenders I've seen in college in years, using that size and length to constantly harrass opponents, something obviously the Raps could use a major dose of.

However he's got a ways to go at the offensive end.  He's not a great passer or someone I'd feel comfortable with handling the ball a lot, and beside his three-point shooting (he hit 37 per cent last year) he's not going to light it up on a nightly basis.

But as a defensive specialist who can make open shots?  (Think James Posey in his prime or a less cerebral Shane Battier.)  Yes please.

4)  Kawhi Leonard, 6-7 SF, San Diego State.

Can Bryan Colangelo find his next Shawn Marion by grabbing Leonard in this draft?  It's pretty easy to make comparisons between the San Diego State foward and the former UNLV product after all, since both were extremely athletic tweeners coming out of college.

Leonard however looks miles ahead of where Marion was as a Running Rebel on the offensive end, and while not quite as big as Marion, has a similar upside, especially in terms of being a high-energy difference maker at the next level.

The Raptors are auditioning James Johnson as their starting small forward of the future but that doesn't mean they shouldn't take a very close look at Leonard.  A player who could become a Marion or Gerald Wallace in the NBA would make a pretty deadly platoon partner with the a guy like Johnson, giving the Raptors some serious size, length and athleticism at the 3-4.

5)  Jonas Valanciunas, 6-11 C, Lithuania.

Of all the International prospects in this draft, Valanciunas is the one I'm most high on.  He's only 19, but has proven himself at the international level for a while now, and is one of the only legit center options in this draft, a position of dire need for Toronto.

By all accounts he's not your typical Euro-big man either, possessing a desire to bang in the paint, and has the length and athleticism to at least by an Andris Biedrins type shot-blocker and rebounder at the next level.

He's got some contractual issues apparently that might scare some teams away, and he needs to bulk up and get stronger (what 19 year old doesn't though) but considering his upside and the Raps current needs, I'd be fine with Toronto making him one of their final options at that fifth draft spot.

10 More:

-Jan Vesely, 6-11 F, Czech Republic - The next Nic Batum?

-Alec Burks, 6-6 SG, Colorado - Raps have DeRozan but Burks very intriguing in a weak SG draft.

-Marcus Morris, 6-9 F, Kansas - Much better all-around game then many realize.

-Josh Selby, 6-2 PG, Kansas - Possible PG sleeper option ala Darren Collison?

-Malcolm Lee, 6-5 G, UCLA - Another example of a Bruin better suited for NBA than NCAA?

-Nolan Smith, 6-2 G, DUKE - Heart, proven winner, and well-rounded skillset.

-Travis Leslie, 6-4 G, Georgia - NBA scoring and athletic ability despite small stature.

-JaJuan Johnson 6-10 F, Purdue - Length and athleticism in spades but is his offensive game NBA ready?

-Chandler Parsons, 6-10 F, Florida - Do-it-all forward who could be a more athletic Luke Walton at next level.

-Jimmy Butler, 6-7 F, Marquette - One of the best defenders in the draft with great upside offensively.

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