Before we get into the analysis however, some signing news of an unexpected variety. It looks like the Raptors will be signing Jorge Garbajosa, a 6-8 power forward who has played internationally for the last while. Whether his signing during the free-agent period will be the answer to the Raptors' interior woes is anyone's guess at this point. Which is probably why the Raptor brass looked to bring the following four bigs in today for a session:
Who is he? 7-0 Senior forward/center from UCLA.
Last Year: Averaged 7.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game for the Bruins. Hollins is a member of UCLA's career top-ten list of shot-blockers.
What Can He Do? Anyone who watched UCLA's magical run to the title game last season saw just what Ryan Hollins can and can't do. A "late bloomer," Hollins uses his length and great athletic ability to finish around the rim and disrupt shots. While not a shot-blocker "par excellence" per say, he does have good defensive positioning instincts especially on the weak side and a suprising 15-foot jumper. Hollins was an instrumental part of UCLA's lock-down defensive style as teams had a tough time getting to the rim at will with him patrolling the paint. His consistency and "foul-proness" have been major issues however as he tends to disappear in games and he should probably have been more dominant against weaker competition than he was.
The Bottom Line: While Hollins may be an intriguing late second-round pick for the Raptors due to his size, athletic ability and willingness to run the court, in many ways he reminds me of Loren Woods particularly in terms of body-type. The biggest knock on Hollins has always been his body and lack of strength and while not frail (he dunks with authority on put-backs), he simply hasn't filled out at all through his college career and this begs the question as to whether he ever will. Loren Woods had the same issues through college and Woods was a much more polished scorer. Hollins has very few low post moves and his footwork just isn't where it needs to be to play at either the power forward or center positions in the NBA. That being said, Luke Schenscher actually caught on with the Bulls last season and he too was considered too thin to play either position so maybe Hollins will have to take a similar route to get his shot.
Who is he? 6-9 Senior forward/center from Old Dominion.
Last Year: Averaged 13.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game for the Monarchs. CAA Player of the Year and Tournament MVP in 2004-05 and First team NABC All-District IV.
What Can He Do? Born in Australia and playing in relative obscurity for Old Dominion of the Colonial League, Loughton is a player most teams have not seen very much of. In addition, he appears to be recovering still from a bad ankle sprain suffered in Old Dominion's NIT run last spring. He is a fairly skilled and well-rounded power forward but that "well rounded" probably translates more into the fact that he doesn't do any one thing in spectacular fasion. He's been compared to a poor man's Andres Nocioni because of his sweet jump shot, NBA 3-point range and aggressive intensity.
The Bottom Line: To jog our readers' memories, many may remember Loughton's first national exposure from the 2004-05 NCAA tournament when he helped his Old Dominion squad give Michigan State a serious first round scare. Loughton used his size and shooting ability in that game and this is really his best asset besides his rugged tenacity. From a Raptors' standpoint Colangelo and co. may have interest in monitoring Loughton's development as he is probably better suited for some time in Europe at this point. He simply isn't athletic enough to guard the league's small forwards and not big enough to guard other 4's. But establishing a rapport with the Aussie now may go a long way in bringing him over again in a few years time if he is excelling in a Matt Bonner-ish role overseas.
Who is he? 6-10 Senior forward/center from St. Louis.
Last Year: Averaged 13.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for the Billikens. Was named first-team All-Atlantic 10 and received the Chris Daniels Most Improved Player award.
What Can He do? Vouyoukas has been described as your "classic European style player" in terms of forwards as he has a great array of "finesse" moves around the basket and a sweet shot from 15 feet and in. He also has an effective hook shot and gets great position offensively. He's not seen as a great prospect simply because he's not a great defender or shot blocker and tends to shy away from contact - all things that will be issues if he wishes to play the 4 or 5 at the next level.
Bottom Line: The intriguing thing about Vouyoukas is that he has improved considerably from his sophomore year. He's also gained valuable internation experience having trained with the U21 Greek team. If he does not catch on in the NBA it's expected he'll return to Greece to continue his career. With Matt Bonner already on the team in a similar role don't expect to hear Vouyoukas' name pencilled in with the Raptors' 56th pick.
Who is he? 6-9 Senior forward/center from Wake Forest.
Last Year: Averaged 16.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks for the Demon Deacons. 2006 Third Team All-ACC member.
What Can He Do? Williams is a beast. There are very few other players in college ball who possess his combination of size and strength and he uses these at both ends of the court effectively. Offensively he doesn't have any range beyond ten feet but he does the dirty work around the rim. While not extremely athletic, Williams is also a solid defender simply because of his size and the intensity with which he plays. Now for the bad news. His team was a huge disappointment this past season even taking Chris Paul's loss into account and Williams failed to improve after scouts saw him at last year's pre-draft events. His size will be questioned (as he appears to be closer to 6-8 in height) and due to this and his lack of mobility, it will be extremely difficult for him to guard other NBA bigs.
Bottom Line: Last year around this time I was really rooting for Eric Williams to return to Wake, build on his past success, add some elements to his game, and come back to be a late first-round prospect. While he was undersized, I felt he could work on the face-up elements of his game and his quickness (things that the scouts spoke to him about after the last draft) and find a better spot in this weaker draft class. However this obviously did not occur and it's extremely doubtful he'll even be drafted at this point. Williams may need to take the Udonis Haslem route (slim down and develop a consistent outside jump shot) to get into the league however I do understand Toronto's interest. As mentioned, Williams is as tough as they come and is a great defensive rebounder. If he can show Colangelo and co. that he's slimmed down and can provide the interior presence and toughness this team needs, he may find himself available with Toronto's 56th pick.
This is an interesting group of players as I'm not quite sure how any of them reallistically has a shot at being drafted by the Raptors. Hollins and Williams have been seen time and time again by most scouts and after four years don't seem to have anything new to show. Vouyoukas and Loughton just don't seem to be good fits for the club at present but perhaps the Raptor brass wants to see two prospects who did suffer from lack of exposure. In fact the common thread here between all four players is that Toronto may wish to see if any of them have addressed their weaknesses in the offseason to the point at which they might be draftable with that 56th pick. The pick really represents the chance to take-on a "project with some upside" and monitor the player's development via the D League. Of these four, Ryan Hollins best suits this option in my opinion.
Up for tomorrow - a session I'd pay good money to watch as the Raptors bring out personal faves Rajon Rondo of Kentucky, Denham Brown of UConn and Duke's Sean Dockery...