Raptors HQ Pre-Draft Rumours and Rumblings Thread

A look at some of the top stories in Raptor-land as we head towards the 2011 NBA Draft...

The next 48 hours or so is obviously going to be a whirlwind in Raptor-land.

The team just hired a new coach, has the fifth pick in the draft, is looking for an additional first-round pick, and has enough cap space to possibly move some pieces around either pre or post-draft.

That all equates to lots of excitement for fans, and lots of interesting rumours and rumblings.

But as Jonathan Givony of Draftexpress.com tweeted earlier today:

Hot air coming out of NBA front offices yesterday was impressive...Take everything you hear w/a grain of salt.    

That being said, there are a few interesting notes to discuss, and we'll continue to update this thread during the day as more info comes in.

At the top of things this afternoon, the apparent interest both the Raptors and the Sacramento Kings have in Tony Parker.

According to a report from ESPN.com this morning originating from Yahoo Sports yesterday, the Spurs have been gauging teams' interest in Tony Parker, a player they're apparently willing to move for a high lottery pick in return. And as noted, the two teams with the most interest appear to be Toronto and Sacramento.

At face value, this is a very interesting move.  The Raps would definitely upgrade the PG position if such a deal went through, Parker providing the water-bug, penetrating PG that Toronto hasn't had since TJ Ford arguably.

Is he worth the fifth pick?

I'd say yes in this draft, as Parker still has another three of four good years of ball in him (he turned 29 about a month ago) and could be the club's anchor at the 1 during this "rebuild."

His contract is a lengthy one however, he signed a four-year, $50M extension last fall, so to make things work financially, the Raps would not only have to move the fifth pick, but also one of their bigger salaries.

Jose Calderon makes the most sense, thus alleviating the log jam at the 1 if Parker arrives on the scene, not to mention giving the Spurs a back-up to George Hill, but his salary alone would not be enough to make the deal work, and Toronto would likely have to use the remainder of the trade exception acquired via the Chris Bosh sign-and-trade.

Interestingly, the following deal works.

Throw in the Raps' fifth pick, and maybe the Spurs' 29th pick, and talk about getting "two birds stoned at once," as Ricky from the Trailer Park Boys would say.

However while Blair might be available based on his usage in last year's playoffs, and maybe the Spurs go big at 5 to replace him, it's doubtful either team would agree to such a move.  Plus, ESPN.com's Marc Stein is reporting that the Spurs are trying to move Richard Jefferson too, so that gets tricky.

Plus, I still get the feeling that BC is hanging onto Bargs, more on this in a minute, and can you really imagine Greg Popovich and Andrea co-existing?

Moving on.

About 30 hours from the draft and the mock drafts are firmly divided into two camps as to how Toronto will pick tomorrow evening.

One side maintains that Kemba Walker will be the choice, the other, Jan Vesely.

ESPN.com reported this morning that Kemba's stock may be sliding but that could all be a smoke-screen by NBA GM's, looking to nab the UCONN MVP.

I still have a hard time seeing Vesely as the pick at 5, but then again, I would have bet a huge sum against Toronto drafting Rafael Araujo over Andre Iguodala.  

The ESPN piece goes on to talk Bismack Biyombo in relation to Toronto as well:

Toronto was impressed with the workout of Congo forward Bismack Biyombo Monday in New York, particularly his athleticism and raw skill. But his lack of basketball experience could be a negative in the decision process. The Raptors remain also extremely high on Jan Vesely of Partizan (Serbia) and Knight if the Kentucky point guard remains on the board.     

I still think Knight's the pick provided he's around, and with Utah perhaps leaning towards Enes Kanter over Brandon Knight, this might be a realistic possibility.

I also think that Colangelo is going to do everything in his power to grab Biyombo later on, so this will be an interesting situation to keep an eye on.  Biyombo possesses many of the physical attributes that made Tyson Chandler so valuable to the Mavericks this spring, and with Dwane Casey now on board...

Speaking of Casey, a few quick thoughts from yesterday's presser.

First, love the hire, and as I tweeted yesterday, think this is a huge step back in the right direction for the club.  I'm also a big fan of the timing, as now Casey can have some input on the final decision regarding the draft, as said player will have to be a fit in the system he runs.

That being said, as Kelly Dwyer noted yesterday though, hitting the nail on the head in his piece:

until Colangelo provides Toronto with a suitable roster, then Casey will struggle to match the famous 20-20 mark he put together with a terrible Timberwolves team in his last half-season as coach in 2007-08.

Think we've all been in agreement here for a while on this point.

Second, I got the feeling that Andrea Bargnani isn't going anywhere.  Bryan Colangelo essentially told Casey that he had his work cut out for him in terms of getting the most out of Bargs at that end of the court, and made note of Dirk's improvement on D under Casey.  I couldn't help but think that BC watched the playoffs and said "hey, look what Casey did for Dirk, he can do the same for Bargs!"

As one of our readers posted this morning in the comments section, that's not happening, showing the huge difference between the two statistically.

Backing this up, a scary quote from Casey:

"I mean, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. But we're going to work with him, whether it's holding him accountable, putting my arm around him, whatever it takes to work with Andrea because he's got too much talent to let it fade and not really try to strain his potential out of him and try to get the most we can out of him. Again, he's our star, he and DeMar are our core guys."    

Yikes.

More on this topic via Tim and Sid's podcast with Mr. Casey.

The one thing I was disappointed in regarding the presser, was the lack of questions regarding Casey's use of zone defence.  Sure, it was touched on, but I was kicking myself for not heading down to the presser (and for having another job) and asking a few questions relating to this.  You may recall that last off-season I argued that Toronto should employ this defensive strategy a lot more often, given their personnel, and it would have been interesting to hear if Casey thought that more zone was indeed a solution to the team's defensive woes.

Finally, could Casey's hiring mean another major push for soon-to-be free agent Tyson Chandler?

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2:36 PM EST

One of the worries we've had at the HQ in the Brandon Knight vs. Kemba Walker debate is that one turns into a player the club already has; Jerryd Bayless.

While it was believed that Walker was the more likely candidate of the two in this regard, a post by Basketball Prospectus' Kevin Pelton shows that in fact, Brandon Knight's best NBA compare is actually Mr. Bayless.

However it's not like Walker's compare is Chris Paul.

How about DJ Augustin...

The Raptors' other potential options?

How about Andrew Bogut for Jan Vesely (which seems really strange to me), Joe Johnson for Kawhi Leonard, Dante Cunningham for Chris Singleton, Sean Williams (minus the attitude hopefully) for Bismack Biyombo, and the biggie...Dwight Howard for Jonas Valanciunas.

There's a good explanation for each section, and if nothing, the post illustrates just how these drafts generally turn out; lots of intrigue on paper, but looking back, a lot more misses than hits.

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2:50 PM EST

Any more idea as to which way the Raptors are going to draft tomorrow night?

Not really, although I'd put money down that Bismack Biyombo is in the war room conversation.

From the National Post's Eric Koreen via Twitter:

Colangelo on Biyombo: "He doesn't have a broken shot, by the way. It's not broken at all. We've seen broken."    

Hmmm...

Considering that Bryan Colangelo noted in the Dwane Casey presser yesterday that it appeared more and more unlikely that the team could grab a second first-round pick, if the team covets Biyombo that much, they may indeed reach for him at five.

 

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3:53 PM EST:

It seems that everyone is in agreement that the T-Wolves and Jazz will dictate how tomorrow night's draft plays out.

ESPN.com is now reporting that the Wolves are leaning towards Enes Kanter over Derrick Williams at 3 and if that's the case, suddenly the draft could change quite a bit.

Chad Ford of ESPN lays out three different scenarios after Kyrie Irving is off the board, and what's interesting is that in each one, the Raptors take Brandon Knight if he's available, and if he's gone, they grab Kawhi Leonard.

This seems a bit strange considering that Ford has been banging the "Jan Vesely to the Raptors at 5" in his last series of mock draft iterations.

Further complicating matters?

Ford notes below in this post that:

The Raptors are the next logical landing place for Walker, but they've never been particularly high on him. They've flirted for a while with Vesely, but as I reported on Tuesday, the team appears to be emphasizing defense, as demonstrated by the hiring of coach Dwane Casey. It now appears that either Biyombo or Leonard is the favorite to go No. 5.    

So how again is Vesely the best option here?

Also of note, the Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat is tweeting live from the NBA Draft Media session in NYC.  (You can follow him at twitter/WolstatSun)

From his feed:

Valanciunas & Kanter seemed particularly enthused about playing in a city like Toronto...Val compared self to Bosh

and

Val's English wasn't perfect but I was on conference call for Bargnani in 2006 and he was pretty much unintelligible. Val was OK

and

Valanciunas looked young and very slim. Won't be a viable NBA centre for 3 years, book it.

The Tyson Chandler compares brought up in the Basketball Prospectus link above make a lot of sense then as it took Chandler quite a few seasons in the L before really establishing himself.

Speaking of Valanciunas, he spoke with the media in NYC and noted that his buy-out is $2.5M, and that his contract is very difficult to get out of.  That alone will scare most NBA teams away I'm guessing, and considering that said teams can only contribute $500K to a buy-out, it's doubtful that Valanciunas will be ponying up the rest.

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5:50 PM EST:

Last update probably for the day unless something big breaks tonight.

The latest is that the Raptors may have a best-case scenario in their hands as ESPN.com is reporting that both the T-Wolves and Jazz are looking at Enes Kanter with their top picks.  While Chad Ford from ESPN notes that Minny may just be posturing, and still feels that Derrick Williams will be their pick, the Jazz seem to be ready to snatch Kanter up.

This would mean that Toronto would have its pick of Brandon Knight, Kawi Leonard and Bismack Biyombo, not to mention Kemba Walker, Jonas Valanciunas and Jan Vesely.

Therefore what looked to be a "Kemba or Vesely" situation only a week or so ago, now looks much different as Ford is reporting that Canadian Tristan Thompson, could go fourth overall to the Cavs if Kanter is indeed off the board.

Finally, a few Raptors-related interviews.

First, prospect Kemba Walker.

Second, new Raptors' coach Dwane Casey.

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8:48 PM EST:

Nothing to much to report but ESPN.com is now reporting that the Raptors have narrowed their choice at five to four players; Kawhi Leonard, Brandon Knight, Bismack Biyombo and Jonas Valanciunas.

Personally, I'm just glad to hear that Vesely is out of the running...
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