The Toronto Raptors kick off the first in their 2011 draft workout series by bringing in UCONN stud Kemba Walker...
Here we go.
Things got started a little bit later this year but this morning finally marks the first of two workouts for the Raps on this Tuesday.
Without further ado, let's get into the participants, and a little about each:
1. Kemba Walker G - UCONN - Walker is obviously the biggest name on the first docket. He's a realistic option for the Raptors with the fifth pick overall, and the Raps will get a chance to look at him up close in a somewhat competitive setting.
The former UCONN guard was one of the top players in the NCAA last season. An explosive scorer and passionate leader the question around him continues to be his ability to run a team and consistently make shots.
2. Jacob Pullen - G - K State - If Walker is the top dog of this bunch, Pullen would be number two on the list. A similar player to Walker in terms of being an explosive scorer, Pullen averaged 20 points per game for the Wildcats last season and is one of the best long-range shooters in the draft.
He's not an option for the Raps at 5, and without a second round pick, the team is likely bringing him in as a favour to an agent, or as a good match-up for Walker 1-on-1. Pullen isn't as quick or athletic as Walker, but he's a bull-dog on the court and will give Kemba a good test regardless.
3. Will Graves - F - UNC - Graves is an interesting addition to this workout in that he didn't play college ball last season. The 6-6 forward was dismissed from Carolina in October for unspecified reasons but was draft eligible nonetheless.
He's definitely not an option for Toronto at 5, and I'd be surprised if he was drafted at all considering he was really a role player for the Tar Heels during his time there. He's a decent catch-and-shoot option, but hardly a sleeper prospect.
4. Marcus Simmons - G/F - USC - Right off the bat the inclusion of Simmons, another likely second-round pick at best, would seem to be a favour, perhaps even to alma mater colleague DeMar DeRozan. However Simmons in my books is one of the more unheralded prospects in this draft.
The 6-6 senior didn't light up the Pac-10 offensively, but he was there defensive player of the year last season, and could very well find a niche for himself in the league as a stopper.
5. Dallas Lauderdale - F - Ohio State - And now we come to the big boys. Lauderdale might be undersized for the PF/C position in the NBA, but the 265 pound former Buckeye was one of the more physical presences in the Big Ten last season.
Barely a scoring presence he was basically the fifth option for the Buckeyes last year, but was a huge factor on the defensive end thanks to his 7-7 wingspan (one of the longest in the draft) and blocking over a shot and a half per game.
Again, he's not an option for the Raptors unless they decide to grab a late second round pick, but this is one of the type of players that teams like to keep an eye on as defensive-minded bigs are not exactly easy to come by.
6. Curtis Kelly - F - K State - Finally, the last big man on the docket who no doubt will be matching up with Lauderdale in this workout. Like Lauderdale, Kelly is extremely long for his height (only about 6-7 but possessing a 7-4 wingspan) however he's not the same type of physical presence.
He did block over a shot a game for the Wildcats but was much more of an offensive factor, averaging nearly 11 points a game and being a legit option on O after teammates Rodney McGruder and the aforementioned Pullen.
Kelly, a transfer from UCONN after two seasons, has never been able to live up to his lofty status as a high school star and again, is hardly an option for the Raptors in this draft.
Commentary: There's not a lot here to be frank. It's great that we'll get an up close view of Kemba Walker, but none of the other five participants are very realistic options for Toronto in this draft, even if the team somehow acquires a second-round pick again. Pullen should give Walker a good run but it would have been much better to see Walker face off against the top participant in today's afternoon session (which we'll break down at noon) - Brandon Knight.