Harrison Barnes and Austin Rivers both worked out for the Raptors today...but not against each other...
And now...Mr. Barnes.
Every year it seems to be harder and harder to get a thorough evaluation of prospects who come through for team workouts as agents seek to control the draft process. And they freely admit that they do. On Tuesday I spoke with the agent of a player currently going through the draft process and he noted as much, going as far as saying that "the closer you get to being a top pick, the more things are controlled."
Which is true, but during my seven years of covering pre-draft workouts I've noticed an increased trend in prospects outside the 1 to 5 range also playing the "I won't work out against so-and-so" game.
And this year seems to be the worst-case yet.
The same agent noted that various prospects have backed out from sessions that would put first round-picks in competition with his guy, a second-round option at best. This seems ridiculous as the reason prospects are slated as first-round options is due to past performance. One bad workout session shouldn't change that. I can see it impacting a team's decision to draft someone they had ranked seventh overall on their big board over someone they had pegged fifth, as the two prospects were fairly close to begin with based on their previous bodies of work.
But a clear-cut mid to early first-rounder not going up against a second-round option?
Today at the ACC this type of draft gamesmanship was on full display as three of the top wing options in this draft (note, using the term "wing" loosely here) were set to work out for the Raptors, but none were competing against each other.
Instead, there were three sessions scheduled, the first a group that would include Jeremy Lamb, the second a group that would include Austin Rivers, and the third a group...no wait...just Harrison Barnes. Now apparently the first and second groups were eventually merged, but only after UCONN's Lamb injured his ankle, and had to stop participating.
We'd discussed the earlier sessions today so let's take a quick look at the remaining draft prospect, Mr. Barnes:
Harrison Barnes - 6-8, F - UNC: For starters, I'll echo my colleague Ryan Wolstat's comments on Twitter regarding the Raptors bringing in Barnes for a look. Considering he's currently slated to be picked before eighth, it's impressive that Toronto got him to come for a visit, even if it's only a solo session. Barnes at one point you may recall, seemed to be the consensus top pick in this draft before Anthony Davis mania took hold, and Barnes struggled as the go-to option for his club in the absence of Kendall Marshall. However his recent athletic testing blew away expectations, and his stock seems to be on the rise again.
But should the Raptors take a shot at him? If he's actually around at 8, it's hard to fault the choice to select him. I'm not a huge Barnes fan, but he definitely addresses a number of the needs the Raptors currently have. My concerns with him are best summed up by this passage from Draftexpress:
His inability to make plays for others, get to the rim consistently, and score efficiently likely limits his upside when compared to the high expectations he had coming out of high school when he was thought of as a potential overall number one overall pick, but he still has plenty of time to shore up his weaknesses and has considerable upside to grow into as he develops his feel for the game.
However at 8, I'm not sure there's a much safer pick. He might never be the next Luol Deng or Rudy Gay (or T-Mac as many thought in high school), but at worst, this is a player who can provide the Raptors with the legit size, athleticism and long-range shooting that they seek at the 3, and he could still become an All-Star type player, especially considering his reportedly strong work ethic.