It's been two weeks since the Raptors' season ended in heartbreaking fashion. Much of the talk in the aftermath of the loss to the Nets has been about the feel-good story that the 2013-2014 Raptors were. Oddly enough, the biggest positive I took from that series was that it clearly outlined flaws in the make-up of the roster. With that information now in mind, Masai Ujiri can start looking at ways to plug the holes Brooklyn made apparent. Whether it requires an overhaul or minor tweaking obviously depends on the status of the in-house free agents, but the first phase of the offseason starts with the NBA Draft.
A couple of days ago, Adam posted a poll that asked readers the main needs the Raptors should look to address in the upcoming draft. Now that we have a significant enough sample size, we can tailor our analysis to what you all are looking for in a potential prospect.
Personally, I read "Perimeter defence" and "Wing Athleticism" as a need for help at the 2/3 position. That makes sense when you remember John Salmons probably won't be around next season, and Landry Fields is busy continuing to rot on the bench. To compound issues, when you account for the need for depth in the front court as well, it seems as if the only position on the roster that's settled is PG. And both of the rotation point guards are free agents this offseason. Yikes. Now, I think it's fair to say that most people are fairly optimistic that at least 2 of the 3 big free agents (Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson) will re-sign with the Raptors. For the sake of this analysis, I'm going to operate under the assumption that all three of Vasquez, Patterson and Lowry return to Toronto.
I'll do my best to highlight some stateside candidates at SG/SF that would be of interest to the Raptors with their 20th pick this year. Keep in mind, I'm neglecting some players I think the Raptors shouldn't be interested in (Elfrid Payton, Adreian Payne) because of duplication on the roster. Much of the analysis is done with the help of the excellent scouting reports of DraftExpress. Without further ado, here goes:
KJ McDaniels (1993), SF, Clemson,
If you're looking for an athletic wing who happens to be a great all-around defender, KJ McDaniels is your guy. While he stands only 6'6 in shoes, his long arms (6'11 1/4 wingspan) and NBA-body enable him to play the small forward position effectively. On a weak Clemson team, McDaniels guarded 1-4 and was damn good at stuffing the stat sheet. He was the leading shot-blocker in the NCAA among wings (3.2/G), and 4th in steals (1.8/G). During the Draft Combine, Fran Fraschilla mentioned that McDaniels blocked a shot every 11 defensive possessions. That's flat out insane. He's regarded as one of the most explosive athletes in this draft class. His YouTube highlight reel of dunks is impressive. And while he isn't a knock-down shooter, he's a capable one. His 3P% of 33% won't wow you, but keep in mind that he carried much of the offensive load for a woeful Clemson team. He also displayed a nice scoring touch from post-ups and in the mid-range. A nice all around player if he gets a more consistent outside shot.
So, if he's as good as mentioned above, why does he drop to 20? Well, for one, his offensive game is very limited at the moment. While he CAN score in a variety of ways, his ball handling skills aren't very good. McDaniels was accustomed to being the focal point offensively at Clemson and will need to transition into a role-player. His shot selection leaves a lot to be desired from a guy who still needs to iron out the mechanics of his jump shot (sounds a bit like circa-2010 DeMar). Defensively, I anticipate him having some trouble with the size and strength of NBA 3s, but over time, I think his terrific instincts will make him a wing stopper for years.
KJ McDaniels is probably my favourite prospect in the Raptors' draft range. I don't think he has the ceiling of some of the other prospects, but he looks to have all the makings of a terrific role player. Having him come in as the 3rd or 4th wing after DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross would be a nice change of pace. He'd maintain the athletic ability of the starters and add the type of defensive ability this roster doesn't have.
Jerami Grant (1994), SF, Syracuse
Jerami Grant 2014 Scouting Video (via DraftExpress)
Jerami Grant, nephew of Horace, son of Harvey, is Syracuse's second best prospect after Canadian Tyler Ennis. Out of all the guys possibly available at 20, I'd argue that Grant has the highest ceiling. At this point, Grant's game is all athleticism, energy and hustle, (something Braedon Clarke discussed in his profile of Grant earlier this week.) The team that drafts him is taking him to develop into something much better than he is today. Grant has a great body for the position(7'2 3/4 wingspan, 8'11 reach); guys that big, strong and athletic for the 3 just don't come around that often. Even less so when you consider the vital role he played as a 19 year old on a Syracuse team that was considered #1 in the NCAA for a couple of months. Grant's game is currently predicated on moving without the ball, and tenaciously going after offensive rebounds (2.5/Game), and finishing around the rim. It's always hard to project what Syracuse players will look like defensively in the NBA, given that they almost always operate in a 2-3 zone. Grant's physical tools however, offer some hope on that end of the court. He has the raw skill-set to be a terror on the defensive end once his mental game catches up to his physique.
Unfortunately, everything positive about Jerami Grant has to be prefixed with a "But". He was effective in his role, but at the moment, is purely an energy player. The biggest drawback to his game is that he has terrible mechanics on his jump shot. He also can't create any offense for himself at this point in time. While he maintains a respectable TS%, it's mostly due to his effectiveness around the rim and minimizing the number of jumpers he takes. He's also very raw on both ends of the court.. If you're looking for him to be a game-changer on either end of the court in his rookie season, it's probably not going to happen.
I like Jerami Grant as a prospect. If the Raptors front office want's to approach this draft with a boom or bust mentality, Grant's ceiling offers that opportunity. I do think that his energy, size and athleticism will enable him to be effective in spurts early in his career; But I don't think you can rely on him night in and night out because of the glaring holes in his game. He does offer some size on the wing that the Raptors haven't had since maybe....James Johnson? Still, a bit of buyer beware with Jerami Grant.
DeAndre Daniels (1992), SF, UConn
Deandre Daniels 2014 Scouting Video (via DraftExpress)
Shabazz Napier was the talk of the NCAA tourney-winning UConn team, but another prospect who helped his stock just as much is DeAndre Daniels. Daniels offers a different skill set from most of the wing players in this draft. He isn't as explosive an athlete as KJ McDaniels, but is a knock-down shooter. Where Grant offers tantalizing albeit raw, potential, Daniels is a little bit more polished and has an NBA skill already. He knocked down 42% of his 3-point attempts this season, on par with Rodney Hood for 2nd best among Small Forwards in this draft. His length (7'2 wingspan, 8'10 1/2 reach -- just slightly less than Grant) is also an asset, as it enabled him to play all over the front court for UConn. Small sample size or not, he also showed himself to be a very good defensive player all through the NCAA tournament. Daniels blocked 1.4 shots/game, which is very solid from a 3. From what I've read, his defensive prowess wasn't consistent through the season, but he offers some potential on that end of the court.
DeAndre Daniels undoubtedly has 2 or 3 skills that should let him be an NBA-quality wing. However, there are some flaws that limit his potential moving forward. Firstly, he's already at an advanced age (22), and while he improved every year in college, we wouldn't be talking about him if not for his performance in the NCAA tournament. Additionally, Daniels is woeful in almost every offensive situation besides shooting jumpers. He's poor around the rim, has a historically bad assist rate (only 0.4 assists/game), and struggles to get to the free throw line (only 2.3 attempts/game). Those are very legitimate red flags, and any team taking a chance on him will have to weigh the highs of his tournament performance with the staggering lows of his college career.
I'm of the opinion that the Raptors can afford to look for role players that fit their needs, and not worry so much about best player available. For that reason, I like Daniels as a fit for the Raptors wing rotation. Remember how frustrating it was when John Salmons forgot how to shoot 3s? Remember how frustrating it's been to see Landry Fields' inability to shoot the ball leave him nailed to the bench? Daniels is a limited offensive player, but he's a legitimate 3 and D candidate in the NBA. If he really did turn the corner defensively, I love his fit on the Raptors at his size.
Glenn Robinson III (1994), SF, Michigan
Glenn Robinson III Preseason Scouting Video (via DraftExpress)
Another prospect with NBA bloodlines, GR3 is the son of The Big Dog, Glenn Robinson. Robinson is an interesting prospect that spent the past 2 years as the third or even fourth option offensively on a powerhouse Michigan team. He's a prospect in the mould of Jerami Grant, but even more of a freak athlete. At the combine last week, he showed a max vertical of 41.5 inches. That's Wigginsian, FYI. After the combine, where he excelled in all of the physical testing, most draft websites have him going towards the end of the 1st round. Robinson is a capable scorer -- his propensity to play above the rim helped him convert on 57% of his 2 point attempts. He's a perfect off-ball player at the moment and generally does a good job of scoring within the flow of the offence. Defensively, he has a lot of ability as well. His lateral quickness and size generally gave him enough tools to guard 3s at the college level. He doesn't have terrible mechanics on his jump shot, but needs some work on hitting from distance. Robinson only shot 30% from 3 point range, with many of them being open looks. He's not in the Jerami Grant level of incompetence in this area, but still needs work.
You can pretty much use everything I wrote in Grant's section here. Robinson has a ton of potential -- that level of athleticism is elite. He's used to being a role player and understands his limitations on offence. It's reasonable to expect his shooting stroke to improve as he progresses in his career, but it has hampered his stock going into this draft. Right now, the biggest thing working in Robinson's favour is youth and potential. He's another example of a high risk VS. high reward situation.
Where Grant is more of a 3/4 stylistically, Robinson is a 3 through and through. I do think he'll end up being a good shooter at the NBA level eventually, which is why I have him in my top 5 wing prospects. I think he'd be a great young addition to the wing rotation, who could become a valuable contributor for years to come and maybe even supplant one of Ross/DeMar if he pans out. Another player where the defensive potential is enough to push him over the top.
Kyle Anderson (1993), SF/SG, UCLA
One of my favourite all-around prospects in this draft, Kyle Anderson is probably the most unique player in his class. Everything about Anderson's game is a throwback. He isn't impressive physically or athletically, but is extremely skilled and intelligent on the court. Just take a peek at his raw, surface stats: 15 PPG, 8 RPG, 7 APG, 48% 3P%, 2 STL/G. Putting those numbers up on a very good UCLA team reflects his status as an elite college player. Keep in mind that he had the keys to the offence as a 6'9 sophomore point guard. The combine was probably beneficial to him from a measurement standpoint -- he led SFs in reach at 8'11 1/2. He certainly has the size to defend 3s or 4s at the pro level. For all we hear about athletic freaks during draft season, we don't often see prospects with this level of productivity. Anderson is just a smart player who knows where to be on the court, and what to do with the ball in his hands.
As you probably expected, there are serious questions about what position Anderson will play in the NBA. He plays like a point guard, so obviously he'll encounter some growing pains as he learns to play a wing position. His lack of athleticism and quickness will be severely tested at the NBA level as well. He's certainly not your typical 3 and D role player. He was able to boss the college game due to his size and skill, but how will his game translate to the pros?
I don't think Anderson is a seamless fit with what the Raptors are looking for in a wing player. But personally, I think he's smart enough to adapt positionally and become a passable defender in the long run. If the Raptors can address perimeter defence in free agency or the second round (more on that later), I'd love for them to add Kyle Anderson as a secondary/tertiary ball handler and jack of all trades player on offence. The Raptors squad full of one dimensional offensive players, and Anderson would bring a much-needed infusion of talent to the wing rotation.
These are the top 5 wings I'd like to see in a Raptors uniform. I could talk myself into any one of them. What do you think? If you have any thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments!
If you wish to see some NCAA stats yourself, try here.
If you wish to see the NBA Draft Combine measurements, try here.