Nothing quite gets my heart pumping like the NBA Draft. Well...maybe Adriana Lima.
It's my favourite time of the year and with workouts already underway, let's get right to it. Here's who the Raptors took a look at this past Tuesday:
JOSE JUAN BAREA:
Who is he? 5-11 Senior point guard from Northeastern born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
Last Year: Averaged 21 points, 8.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
What Can He Do? Barea is a lightning-quick point with great scoring ability. While undersized, he's as fiery and as competitive as they come and has the strength and athletic ability to finish around the rim. He's not a pure point guard per se (almost 5 turnovers a game) but has great court vision as his 8 assists per game attest. The main worries of course are his size, and his shot mechanics...not exactly Shawn Marion, but not exactly JJ Redick.
The Bottom Line: Barea is one of my top sleepers for the second round. He's undersized but is a great court-leader and has had great international success against the likes of Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul. He's a solid defender and his speed and scoring would be a welcome addition to the Raptors making Andre Barett inconsequential. He was by far the best player at this year's pre-draft Portsmouth camp, and is showing that he can play with the best in the world.
Who is he? 6-0 Senior point guard from Illinois.
Last Year: Averaged 14 points, 5.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
What Can He Do? Brown is one of the fastest players in the country end to end. This allows him to get virtually anywhere he wants on the court and is an efficient enough scorer when he gets there. He's still a bit undersized and is not a great shooter or point-guard so can he actually play the point in the NBA?
The Bottom Line: Many remember Brown from his unfortunate withdrawal from last year's draft due to injury. Returning to Illinois was going to be an attempt to show scouts that he could man the point guard position with former teammates Luther Head and Deron Williams now gone to the NBA. The reviews were mixed as while he did show some skills at the 1-spot, his assist totals actually went down this past season. Like the aforementioned Barea, Brown is definitely not a pure point guard and is probably even less of one than Juan Jose. Unless he blew Raptors' staff away with his shooting in workouts, it's highly doubtful he'll end up on the Raptors' roster even in the second round.
Who is he? 5-10 Senior point guard from Seton Hall.
Last Year: Averaged 16.1 points, 4.5 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.4 steals for the Pirates. Copeland was named Seton Hall Senior Male Athlete of the Year and honoured as one of this past year's All-Big East squad.
What Can He do? Another undersized point, Copeland is a sparkplug offensively and scored over 25 points three times this past season. He's not as quick as Brown or Barea but a better long range shooter (.392 from beyond the arc) and not as turnover prone.
Bottom Line: Without being a phenomenal athlete, scorer, passer or defender, it's going to be tough for Copeland to land a spot with the Raps. At his size, everything that Copeland does, Barrett can do better. And while Calderon may not be as good a shooter yet, he's taller and has better court vision. That being said, Copeland is the type who could enjoy success overseas where his size wouldn't be such a factor due to his shooting and scoring abilities.
Who is he? 5-10 Senior Guard for Troy State.
Last Year: Averaged 17.9 points, 6.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 3.0 steals for the Trojans. Dixon was named to the first-team All-Sun Belt Conference team.
What Can He Do? Dixon led the Sun Belt Conference in assists, steals and three pointers and is a gamer. A fiery competitor and a good floor leader, Dixon had the second best assist-to-turnover ration in the conference as well. As is the case with all four of these "auditionees" however, Dixon is undersized and will struggle against the speed and athleticsm of many of the NBA's point guards.
Bottom Line: I don't expect to see the Raptors using one of their second-round picks on Dixon. In fact I'd be surprised to see him drafted. This year is weak at the point-guard position but unless some team falls in love with his passing abilities, he's probably best served honing his game in Europe. His height will be just too much of a limiting factor considering that he doesn't blow you away with any other one particular element of his game.
Workout Summary: This is an interesting group to start with if you are in Colangelo's shoes. In fact, both this quartet and the players who auditioned yesterday were all point guards and there are more on the way this week. It's obvious that the Raps have a major need at this spot, especially if Mike James' Raptors career is over, and perhaps Colangelo is looking for a diamond-in-the-rough. This would allow him to band-aid this spot if he felt he could play Calderon there next year and allow him to address other needs. In addition, it may also give he and his scouting staff a bar to measure from when some of the premium players like Marcus Williams (working out for Toronto today) come to town.
If I were to rank the abilities of all four of these players in terms of finding a place in the league, I'd actually rank Barea first and than Dixon ahead of Dee Brown and Copeland. I'm not at all convinced that Brown is a good enough shooter and scorer to play the "Ben Gordon" role nor a good enough floor leader to stick at the 1-spot. Dixon actually was seventh in Division I in terms of assists per game behind such names as the aforementioned Williams, Juan Jose Barea and Terrell Everett and could find spot duty in the NBA. But from this workout, the player I'd be keeping my eye on the most would be Barea.