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Why The Raptors Should Draft Sullinger

The following is an excerpt from a recent ESPN Insider written by Fran Fraschilla that aims to assign players to draft positions by best “fit”. Here’s what he wrote regarding the Raptors:


“No. 8: Toronto Raptors

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Buckeyes

The Raptors could certainly use help at a number of spots, but I like them rebuilding their team with a front line that includes high-character Ohio State star Sullinger and 2011 first-round selection Jonas Valanciunas, the 6-11 Lithuanian 20-year-old who spent the past season playing in Europe.

Sullinger may not have the elite athleticism you'd want out of an NBA power forward, but he has always thrived on his toughness around the basket, his outstanding fundamentals and great basketball acumen. He drew an average of 6.1 fouls per 40 minutes this season and shoots a shade under 70 percent from the foul line. In a league full of undersized forwards, he'll get opponents in foul trouble.

Valanciunas, who dominated the Under-19 world championships last summer and who played well this season in EuroCup play, has some toughness of his own. His length and defensive potential at center will complement Sullinger's scoring and rebounding potential as well.

The two 20-year olds won't make the Raptors a playoff team, but it is a good start.”

****

I’ve stated this multiple times in a few different comments sections so felt good to have it validated. The potential pairing of Jonas and Sully is tantalizing. If Jonas’ early success translates to the NBA, I think he and Sully could eventually become a special front court. Both are good defenders in their own right with the opportunity to be special. On the defensive side of the ball, the ability to pair a solid if not spectacular post defender like Sullinger with a shot blocking big who has the reported elite quickness to rotate and help should have fans salivating. On the offensive side of the court, Sullinger’s dominant low post game and soft touch would be complimented well by Jonas’ ability to run the pick and roll, dive to the bucket an finish. Both have the potential and mechanics to be good mid-range jump shooters as well.

From a personality/leadership perspective these guys are - according to all reports - terrific young men. Jonas seems to be a very tenacious young man who just plain battles. Sullinger was a true leader of his Buckeye’s squad this past season and all indications are has innate leadership qualities that should persist in the NBA. In terms of “motors” these guys are Rolls and Royce.

I know Sullinger is not the “sexy” pick. His game is what it is. While he’s not a “potential guy”, he’s a “proven, demonstrated abilities guy”. His skill set (post-offense, defence, rebounding, leadership) are all competencies that have traditionally translated well from the NCAA to the NBA. I truly think staying an extra year in college and allowing scouts to nitpick his game and focus on his perceived deficiencies has led to a discounting of Sullinger’s true value.

Now, despite all this, the latest rumours have the Raptors pursuing guards almost exclusively in their draft efforts (Lillard, Lamb, Waiters, Ross – via Chad Ford). Most of which are arguably a reach for being drafted that high. This reeks of drafting by position to me and that reeks of drafting anyone other than a Power Forward as to protect Bargnani. If Sullinger is selected, the addition of Sully and Jonas could allow the Raptors to trade both Amir Johnson and Bargnani for either more picks or other prospects (young talent) to address other positions (i.e. wing/PG). However, that would necessitate a GM that is committed to a proper rebuild (and not the pursuit of his next contract) and able to think rationally regarding his team.

For me the potential of pairing a better offensively equipped Joakim Noah (Jonas) with a Kevin Love/Zack Randolf type Power Forward’s Power Forward (Sully) is too much to pass up.

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