Joey Graham, Matt Bonner, Pape Sow, Roko Ukic, Uros Slokar and Charlie Villenueva are names known by most Raptor's fans and are all slated to be on this summer's team. But as previously discussed, this year's deep draft has meant many interesting undrafted players are attending league play this summer and therefore there may be more impact players on summer squads then ever before. With the Raptors summer team starting up league play on Friday, Raptorshq thought it might be interesting to see just who is on the squad and what 7 players might have a shot at making next year's team.
Wayne Bernard: Bernard was best known at his college of Davidson for being an athletic scorer who at 6'3, played both guard positions. While he went undrafted, his defence and shooting skills had obtained him a position with the Sacramento Kings prior to training camp in 2003. However, he was waived by the team in October of the same year. Bernard has since played overseas, last year suiting up for the Norrkoping Dolphins. Bernard has shown the ability to run the point and with his height and decent size, he might be an interesting backup option if Alvin Williams is unable to be effective.
Lavell Blanchard: The 6-7 swingman from Ann Arbour Michigan is an interesting case study. Rated the nation's number one prospect coming out of high school, Blanchard chose to stay in his own backyard and attended Michigan. Blanchard, along with Jamal Crawford and Robert "Tractor" Traylor helped return the program to national recognition after the Fab 5's departure. While a talented scorer and co-Big Ten Freshman of the year in 1999, Blanchard never stuck in the league and never achieved the status level of some of his under 20 National Team members such as Carlos Boozer and Tayshaun Prince. Blanchard is a good rebounder at the Small Forward position and can score in a variety of ways. If he can play the shooting guard position he may get a long look from Babcock.
Jamison Brewer: Drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft by the Indiana Pacers, Brewer has played for 3 different teams in his 4 years in the league. After 18 games with the Knicks in 2004, Brewer was dealt to the San Antonio Spurs along with Nazr Mohammed, Vin Baker and Moochie Norris in the latest of Isiah Thomas' efforts to help teams other then his own, win championships. Brewer was waived soon after and remained a free agent for the remainder of the season. Brewer could make a strong case for a backup point guard spot come the fall. His size (6-4 and almost 200 pounds) and the fact that he's a great athlete and good defender might make him a great fit as a 3rd stringer for a Raptors team looking to get more physical and better on D.
Bryant Matthews: Matthews continues the trend of Raptors Management's desire to become more athletic, even on a summer league team. Matthews was one of the top leapers in last year's draft class coming out of Virginia Tech and while he was undrafted, Matthews had scouts comparing him to a less heralded Josh Howard. A great scorer (11th nationally in 2004) and solid rebounder at 6-7, Matthews averaged 22.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in his senior season. Matthews spent last season playing for the NBL's Brisbane Bullets averaging 17.5 points and 10 rebounds a game and it appears his outside shooting which was somewhat suspect in college, has become more consistent. Besides Omar Cook, Matthews may have the best shot at making this year's Raptors team.
Tim Pickett: Drafted in the second round of last year's NBA Draft by the New Orleans Hornets (44th overall) is another player who will be attending the Raptors Summer League with excellent college credentials. A First Team All ACC member in his senior season at Florida State, Pickett is an extremely competitive and hardworking player. On the strength of this alone and his excellent 3 point shooting, scouts in last year's draft slated Pickett as a second round pick. Undoubtedly these attributes made him attractive to the Raptors who are looking to improve their team's mentality and toughness and Pickett who was voted onto the ACC's All-Defensive team in his Junior Season, fits this mold. The knock on Pickett was that at 6-4 and a short wingspan, he did not have the size for the NBA shooting guard position and he was waived by the Hornets in November of 2004. Pickett played with the NBDL's Florida Flame last season.
Kelvin Torbert: It appears that the summer league team is somewhat of a broken record. For those who remember Torbert's play for Michigan State in the Spartans Final Four run last year, it probably wasn't for his scoring but more for his smothering defense and athletic contributions. Torbert was Michigan's State's sixth man and much like current Raptor Mo Peterson's role with the Spartans, was instrumental in coming off the bench to sparkplug his team to victory. Torbert much like the aforementioned Blanchard, was perhaps the top high school recruit of his class but failed to live up to the lofty expectations. Early injuries and a deep MSU squad hampered his development however it enabled him to work on other areas of his game besides his offence. Torbert might make a nice fit as a spot minute player used by Sam Mitchell to rest the starters and play tough defence in various situations.
Omar Cook: And yes, we may be saving the best for last on this list. After being one of the lone bright spots from last year's campaign, Raptor fans have been screaming for GM Rob Babcock to extend an invitation to Cook for summer league. The wish has been granted and Cook finds himself in a great situation as a pass-first point guard playing in the summer leagues for a team looking for one. While Cook may have entered the NBA Draft too early in 2001, critics must remember that he's only 23 and would be a senior in this past draft! Cook's critics may also claim that at 6-1 he's undersized for even the point guard position but his tremendous vision, passing skills and feel for the game negate some of this. Cook would be a perfect change of pace guard to Rafer Alston and dare I say may be better suited as a pass first starter, with the run and gun Rafer coming off the bench.
Canadian Contingent: The Raptors have invited Canadians Nate Doornekamp, Olu Famutimi and Jesse Young to camp however all are an extremely long shot to make next year's team. Doornekamp has perhaps the best chance simply based on his size (7 feet tall) but in all likely hood, all will have to find employment overseas or in the minor leagues.