Our friends at Draftexpress.com have managed to grab an early look at the "who's in and who's out" for this year's draft with the official 2006 NBA-Early Entry List. After a quick perusing of the list there are a few things that stick out.
First of all, it's obvious that some of the top prospects in Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Josh McRoberts, Brandon Rush, Tyler Hansborough, Ronald Steele and Corey Brewer have decided to sit this one out. A few of these players (namely Noah and Brewer) would have been of interest to the Raptors who will now have to wait until next year to get a shot at them. As an aside, with these players returning to school, the 2007 draft is now shaping up to be one of the most talented ever based on the names possibly involved. Current high-school studs Greg Oden, Thaddeus Young, Kevin Durant, Spencer Hawes and Gerald Henderson all could be taken in next year's lottery while the aforementioned Noah, McRoberts, Rush, Horford and Brewer will all be high selections as well in all likelyhood.
Secondly, once again this year, a number of players who probably should have returned to school, are opting to "test the waters." While many of these as mentioned may still return to school and are simply going through the process for experience sake, there are others who will undoubtedly listen to the wrong people and declare however in the end will not be among the 60 players selected in June. Some examples of players who I feel would have improved their stock with another year in school include Arron Afflalo, PJ Tucker, Daniel Gibson, Brandon Heath, Mustafa Shakur, Marcus Slaughter, Curtis Stinson and Darius Washington. There are many other examples as well however the players just mentioned all have one or more NBA attributes but need more seasoning to round out their games in some fashion. Perhaps the hope is that once in the league, these players will be able to hone the lagging aspects of their game...welcome to the D League.
From a Raptor fans' perspective what can we take from the draft at this point? Well...not too much as we won't know for another three weeks where Toronto will even be picking. Once this is decided however the "who do we take" speculation will begin in full force. An interesting note from the draft list is that once again the "big tease" Tiago Splitter is entering his name in the draft. However with Tau Vitoria's situation at forward next year, (losing Luis Scola to the Spurs and the fact that some of their other options aren't getting any younger) it strongly appears that Tau won't negotiate a buyout with an NBA team and Splitter will have to wait again till next season before finally entering the draft for good. This is a shame as if the Raptors end up picking right around five, I still think Splitter would be the best immediate fit for this club. He would be someone to play alongside Chris Bosh who could provide some shot-blocking, tough defense and a wealth of international experience as he's been playing against the world's top bigs since he was 15.
On a larger scale, this is what's so tough about this draft and why many columnists have argued that this is the "wrong year to be a bad team." Even if the Raptors win the lottery, the top two players effectively play the same position as Chris Bosh and Charlie Villanueva and don't really make sense except for perhaps as trade bait. And with Splitter likely unavailable again, perhaps Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay (if you believe in that magic word upside) are Toronto's best options if Toronto keeps its draft spot. Or maybe Colangelo falls in love with someone during workouts and they end up being a surprise pick. It sure seems like this is a draft of the "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" so I wouldn't be surprised to see Colangelo pull a fast one on the so-called experts and their mock drafts.