As of yesterday, the NBA draft lottery was exactly a week away. Guest columnist Jeyan Jeganathan is hoping for a top three pick so that the Raptors can secure their shooting guard of the future, Bradley Beal.
With the 2012 NBA Draft almost a month away, it's time Raptors fans started fantasying and generating their ideal rotations for next season. This year's draft has stirred a lot of buzz, and why not? With the likes of Kentucky's Anthony Davis , Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kansas' Thomas Robinson, this is the first time in years that NBA owners will have a wide selection of talent to choose from - something the Toronto Raptors are definitely lacking.
Bryan Colangelo will be looking for a player that can add some much needed offensive punch, but can still adhere to coach Dwane Casey's "pound the rock" philosophy. Although the draft offers some large athletic players, the Raptors should focus on their backcourt seeing how the front court is crammed with the likes of Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas and possibly Aaron Gray already. Colangelo's best option is to pick the freshman out of Florida, Bradley Beal, if he is still available.
Since declaring for the draft in early April, Beal is considered a top prospect at the shooting guard position and will definitely be a high lottery pick in June's draft. Standing at 6'4" in shoes with a wingspan of 6'7" and 200 lbs, Beal can add a much needed defense presence in the Raptors' backcourt and be a third option in the Raptors offense. In his only year at Florida, Beal finished second on the Gators in scoring with 14.8 ppg. Beal also managed to grab 6.7 rpg and dish 2.2 apg while shooting a modest 44 per cent from the field and 77 per cent from the charity stripe. He has already drawn comparisons to New Orleans' Eric Gordon and even future Hall of Famer Ray Allen. Although he had a sub-par season shooting the ball from deep, 33 per cent, he possesses a fundamentally sound jump shot.
"He's not tall, but he's big and thick and strong. He has a lot of poise to him," says one Northwest Division scout. "He didn't have an elite shooting year, but it'll get better. His stroke is good. It's just a matter of taking more shots and making them."
And that's exactly what he did, averaging 5 three-point attempts a game.
Beal was also a beast on the boards, grabbing 5 or more rebounds in 29 of the 37 games he played last season- a statistic any coach would be happy to have from their two-guard.
Beal can shoot, guard his position and handle the ball, making him the prototypical shooting guard. With the departure of Leandro Barbosa last year, and the uncertainty regarding Jerryd Bayless' future with the club, this is definitely an area of need. In fact the Raptors' struggled to get consistent offensive production from anyone other than Bargnani and their starting shooting guard DeMar DeRozan on most nights, and even then.
And speaking of DeRozan, what would that mean for the former USC alum?
Although posting similar numbers to his sophomore season, 16.7 ppg and 3.3 rpg, DeRozan has come a long way with his jump shot. He kept defenses honest with his ability to get to the basket or pull up for a J and was rewarded earlier this week when he was officially named to the 2012 USA Basketball Select Team.
At 6'7", DeRozan should be capable of guarding small forwards and players his size. He has struggled against much more physical defenses last season and that's a crucial indicator that DeRozan needs to get bigger in the off-season.
"Once he gets stronger, that is a huge thing for him going forward," says Casey. "He has to get in the weight room and get stronger, get a little more beef in his pants and that is going to help him tremendously at both ends of the floor."
Under Casey's coaching, no player would ever get a starting role before proving himself. Beal is no exception. Beal would be key rotation player, but would eventually crack the starting lineup based on his sheer offensive prowess and defensive ability, pushing DeRozan to small forward - a position he has played on many occasions this season and during his pre-NBA career.
However if that doesn't work out, DeRozan may find himself coming off the bench eventually, something the Raps will have to be prepared for.
It shouldn't be too much of a concern though.
One of the issues the Dinos needed to address this off-season was talent and in what looks to be a stacked draft, having multiple talented players at the same position is a problem the Raptors should be a-ok with.