We're less than 48 hours from the draft. Right now, I'm almost anxious enough to not care about who the Raptors select at any of their 3 draft slots. Almost. These are uncharted waters for our beloved Toronto Raptors. Masai Ujiri appears to be a General Manager who understands the value in finding rotation players with your 2nd round picks. The Houston Rockets got 3 years of Chandler Parsons at under $3 million TOTAL. In today's capology-obsessed NBA, a contract of that nature affords a team significant flexibility to plug other holes on the roster. Needless to say, I think the days of acquiring 2 months of Sebastian Telfair for a 2nd rounder are in the past. Here's ole Bassy's only meaningful contribution to this Raptors team.
Harlem Shake (Raptors Edition) (via amirtv)
The 2014 NBA Draft will hopefully be the first time the Raptors will draft rotation players with their 2 second round picks since the great Roko Ukic and the inimitable Uros Slokar in 2005. Here are some sleepers that might fall into the Raptors' draft range with their 37th and 59th overall picks.
Damien Inglis (1995), SF, France
Inglis has been the darling of the Raptors blogosphere and forums from the moment the season ended. Standing 6'8 and weighing 240 lbs, he has prototypical NBA small forward size. While he's not a freakish athlete, Inglis oozes potential on both ends of the floor. He's a great rebounder in spite of his youth, and has shown the ability to defend the 2, 3 and 4 in the pros. Inglis has a very high IQ offensively. He often operated as a point forward for his team, and is a very good passer at the 3. In terms of shooting, Inglis hit 39% of his 3 pointers in France this year, and should be able to contribute right away in this area. Don't be surprised to see him taken at 37 if he's around that long.
Bogdan Bogdanovic (1992), SG, Serbia
Another name that's been making the rounds on the forums is Bogdanovic (Bogdan, not Bojan). A solid all around player, Bogdanovic reminds me of a poor man's Manu Ginobili. Although not exceedingly athletic, he possesses a crafty handle that enables him to get in the paint generate offense for his team. Standing 6'6, he certainly has the size and length to play the 2 guard. He's one of the better shooters in Europe at the moment, connecting on 37% of his three point attempts in spite of a high usage rate. Bogdanovic is also a very good passer, and should thrive playing off the ball in the NBA. As the San Antonio Spurs have shown, filling the roster with floor-spacers, who happen to be willing passers, is the ticket to efficient offense. Bogdanovic will probably struggle defensively, but there's still a lot to like here at 37.
Spencer Dinwiddie (1993), SG, Colorado
Spencer Dinwiddie was squarely in the conversation for a selection in the 20s until he tore his ACL earlier this season. Having watched him play a couple of times for the Buffaloes, my opinion of him was "nice scorer, good shooter, but too small for the NBA." Of course, he measured out to be a legit 6'6 and I've changed my tune since then. In 17 games this season, he averaged 15 points and 4 assists on 51% shooting and 41% from 3. Operating as the primary ball-handler for Colorado, Dinwiddie was adept in almost all situations offensively. He has the ability to create his own shot, draw contact (7 FTA/G), work the pick and roll, and has shown the ability to distribute the ball effectively. In my opinion, the ACL injury is the only reason Dinwiddie falls to the second round. While Derrick Rose remains a cautionary tale for the time being, we've seen enough athletes recover from the injury and round back into form. I think Dinwiddie would be well worth the risk at 37. He also rocks a beautiful moustache that resembles my own when I was 15.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo (1992), SF, Delaware (D-League)
I spelled his name right on my first try, so I'm going to take that as a good sign for our chances of taking the older brother of The Greek Freak. While Thanasis is not nearly the prospect Giannis is, he still has an NBA skill set that should allow him to find a role on a team. Thanasis plied his trade in the D-League this past season, which isn't always the most accurate barometer of a player's ability. Although his offence remains a work in progress, he showed a decent shooting stroke, connecting on 31% of his 3 pointers last season. The biggest drawback for him at this stage is a poor feel for the game at a relatively advanced age. He's not selfish, but is a poor passer, sporting a AST-TO ratio below 1. He has an unbelievable motor though, which combined with his remarkable athleticism, enabled him to be a terror on the defensive end of the floor. Maybe I'm biased because I love his brother's game, but I think he'll become a good player once he becomes accustomed to the North American style of play. The 3+D potential make for a decent gamble with a second round pick.
Nick Johnson (1992), SG, Arizona
Nick Johnson was the engine behind the Arizona juggernaut this past season. He must've always played bigger than his size, because I was surprised to see him measure only 6'3. However, he's a big, strong Guard that should be able to play the 2 in spurts. At the NCAA level, he was able to bully players on both ends of the floor with his size and athleticism. While he won't have the freedom or matchups to do the same in the NBA, he still has the motor and foot speed to be an above-average defender. In fact, with the NBA going smaller and smaller, he should be able to do an adequate job in most matchups. Johnson also shot 37% from 3 at a very high usage rate, which signifies that he should be an elite shooter when playing off the ball. He'll always be a terror in transition and his defensive ability should find him in those positions often in the NBA. He'll fall in the draft because he's a 21 year old 6'3 SG, but he'd be a potential contributor with the 59th pick.
Roy Devyn Marble (1992), SG, Iowa
Devyn Marble is one of the more unheralded names in this draft, but is one of my favourite sleeper prospects. Playing at Iowa (although they were a ranked team for much of the year), Marble's accomplishments went somewhat unnoticed. He was a great all around player for the Hawkeyes on both ends of the floor -- initiating the offence as the primary facilitator/ball-handler, and often guarding the opposing team's best Wing player. Standing 6'6, 190 lbs, he has good size for the 2 guard position. Marble was widely considered one of the best passers in the NCAA, averaging 4 assists a game at SG, without turning the ball over much (1.7/G). He's not an explosive athlete, so he did much of his offensive damage coming off screens and in spot up shooting situations (35% from 3). Overall, he's an intriguing talent, who I'd be happy with the Raptors taking in the 2nd round.
Khem Birch (1992), PF/C, UNLV
Canada! Khem Birch has had a tumultuous time in College, with respect to his pro prospects. After committing to Pitt as a high school All-American, Birch was thought to be one of the highest-upside players in all of college basketball. One transfer and a mixed bag of results later, Birch finds himself hoping to be selected in the 2nd round. Scouts have him rising on draft boards after looking at his play in retrospect though, as he was arguably the single most feared interior rim protector in the NCAA (3.8 BLK/G). Birch was the MWC DPOY this season, as he averaged a double-double for the Running Rebels. Standing 6'9, 220 lbs, he has the size to play PF or even C in certain situations. Offensively, he almost exclusively scores around the rim (often on put-backs), or at the free throw line (6 FTA/G). The good part in all that is that he recognizes his role in the team's offence and doesn't force the issue. His defence upside is significant, however. Birch has terrific shot blocking instincts and if he ever learns to play team defence, he'll be a terror on that end of the floor. The hope is that Birch can develop into a better rim-protecting Amir Johnson. Hoping he thrives in front of his Canadian fans is a reasonable gamble with the 59th pick.
Jordan Bachynski (1989), C, Arizona State
Canada again! Jordan Bachynski's emergence as a legitimate NBA prospect is an awesome story that only further highlights the rise of Canadian basketball. After taking 2 years off on a Mormon mission, Bachynski was an afterthought as a prospect for much of his Sun Devils career. Despite his advanced age, he still shows enough potential to carve out a niche in the NBA as a rotation big. Standing 7'2, 254 lbs Bachynski has very good size for the Center position. Blocking 4 shots a game this season, he showed great instincts and had multiple game-saving and/or game-ending plays on the defensive end of the floor. His mobility is impressive for a guy his size, and shows decent touch on the offensive end as well. He plays well within himself with the ball in his hands, taking shots he can make (55% FG). I also love that he can hit FTs (69%). If Jeff Withey and Aaron Gray can be rotation bigs in the NBA, you'd have to think Bachynski can do the same. The Raptors really don't have any legitimate C coming off the bench, so it'd be interesting to take a flyer on another Canadian.
Melvin Ejim (1991), SF/PF, Iowa State
Canada one more time! As you've probably heard by now, Melvin Ejim was the Canadian who won Big-12 Player of the Year, not Andrew Wiggins. Another guy who was an unheralded recruit, Ejim improved significantly over his 4 years at Iowa State and now finds himself a borderline NBA prospect. His development as an outside shooter this year (35% from 3) is one of the reasons he should be able to transition from PF in the NCAA to SF in the NBA. Standing 6'7, but strong and athletic, Ejim played in the front court for the under-sized Cyclones. He was a prolific rebounder throughout his college career, ending with 8.4 (2.6 offensive) rebounds per game as a senior. Defensively, he plays with tremendous hustle, and his strength and athleticism should help his transition to the wings, but he remains a bit of an unknown in this regard. His workouts have probably answered some of these questions for NBA teams, for better or for worse. He was a great scorer at the college level (scored 48 vs TCU), but still showed the ability to effective without the ball and score efficiently. I think he has role player and defensive specialist potential, but it all depends on his ability to guard wings.
Josh Huestis (1991), SF, Stanford
Josh Huestis caught my eye in the Kansas-Stanford game in the NCAA tournament for his contribution to shutting down Andrew Wiggins. I wondered whether he had some defensive stopper potential at the NBA level, and sure enough, he's worked himself into draft range with his performances during pre-draft workouts. Standing 6'8, 213 lbs, he's got the perfect size to play the 3 at the NBA level. At Stanford, he was a fantastic shot-blocker for his size and position (1.9 BLK/G). He also pulled down 8.2 rebounds a game (2.5 offensive), further highlighting his contributions in all the "hustle" stats. If Huestis can improve upon his 33% shooting from long distance, he is a very viable bench option in the NBA. Defensively, he guarded any position from 1 through 4 depending on the match up, and his work on that end of the floor will be his calling in the NBA. In my opinion, Huestis would be a great get at 59, especially considering the Raptors' need for defense, athleticism, and shooting at the 3 spot.
So that wraps up my overview of the Raptors' options with all of their picks. To recap for the 1st Round:
- The Wings - McDaniels, Grant, Daniels, Robinson III, Anderson
- The Bigs - Payne, Capela, Stokes, McGary, Porzingis
- The Guards - Payton, Ennis, LaVine, Napier, Hairston