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Thursday Workouts - Combo Madness

Lots to talk about this morning here at the HQ...the workout planned for today has been altered slightly so that Sean Dockery will apparently be working out tomorrow and instead, Carl Krauser and Mohammed Hachad will be joining Rondo and Brown.

Also, interesting speculation on what the Raptors' will do with the top pick in the draft courtesy of Chad Ford at yesterday:

People around the league are still trying to figure out what the Raptors are up to.

Are they drafting Andrea Bargnani? Are the really after UConn's Marcus Williams? Are they trading out of the draft altogether?

The latest intel is all pretty inconclusive at the moment.

The fact that GM Bryan Colangelo has sent his staff, including Wayne Embry, to Italy to watch Andrea Bargnani is significant. A source in Toronto claims that no one in the organization is as high on Bargnani as Colangelo is. In order to build a consensus on draft night, Colangelo wanted to make sure they had seen Bargnani enough to come to an educated decision.

He probably should've sent forward Chris Bosh as well. Bosh publicly said last week that he didn't think the Raptors needed Bargnani and seemed to be campaigning for LaMarcus Aldridge, a fellow Texan and former workout partner. Personal ties, more than basketball, are probably influencing Bosh. Aldridge is actually much more similar to Bosh than Bargnani is. Still Bosh's complaint is significant. He's the one guy the Raptors don't want to tick off.

If the Raptors did draft Bargnani, they could trade Charlie Villanueva (whose trade value is very high at the moment) for a player who plays the one or the five. Or they could decide to play a little like Phoenix and put Bosh at the five, Villanueva at the four and Bargnani at the three. The team would be long and athletic and could really score. Defensively they'd have some problems, but the league seems to be moving away from its obsession for bruising, physical centers.

Another option for the Raptors is to trade down a few spots in the draft and grab a player who fits a need. Numerous sources around the league are saying the Raptors are very open to trading the pick.

Bill Duffy, the agent for Williams, told me on Tuesday that Raptors loved Williams in his workout and had told him that Williams was in the mix at No. 5. The Raptors moved up to No. 1, and wouldn't consider taking Williams with the top pick. But if they swapped picks with a team like the Blazers, they could be in a position to draft him.

Here's why I think that scenario is unlikely. While Williams is the best pure point guard in the draft, he has a number of question marks that make his selection by the Raptors doubtful.

One, he went to Toronto out of shape. Duffy didn't deny that Williams was overweight, saying that Williams got a late jump on his draft training because of school obligations. Still, a point guard with a weight problem is the last thing a NBA coach or GM wants. Deron Williams overcame those objections last year by slimming down considerably before the draft. Marcus Williams, in contrast, put 15 pounds on top of his playing weight of 205.

Two, his lack of athleticism is going to be troubling to a GM like Colangelo, who had speedy point guards during his tenure on the Suns. Williams has great court vision, but his lack of speed makes him a poor comparison to Jason Kidd or Steve Nash.

Three, questions about Williams off the court, including those about his involvement in selling stolen laptops at UConn, have raised a red flag for NBA teams.

I'm not piling criticism on Williams. I've had him ranked as the best or second-best point guard in the draft all year and believe he's got a chance to be an excellent NBA player. He has an amazing feel for the game. And unlike many of this year's other prospects, he's ready to play now.

But all of those question marks, I believe, will hurt his draft stock a little.

If the Raptors do trade down to No. 4 or No. 5, I'd still expect them to target Bargnani or Brandon Roy.

One more Raptors note:

Jay Williams' agent, Kevin Bradbury, told me that Williams will be in Toronto on Wednesday and Thursday working out for the Raptors. He'll then do a workout a week for select teams, trying to land a one-year guarantee on a roster. Williams has been rehabbing in Chicago all year and according to Bradbury is looking "100 percent better than he did last year."

Couple interesting things from this piece first of all being the Jay Williams bit...if the Raps could grab Williams as a free agent then they could use their second round picks in a package deal or on bigs and not have to fish for another point guard.

Secondly, reading this report makes it seem like more of a smokescreen concerning Bargnani then ever before, and according to our site's survey right now, most fans are leaning that way too.

And finally, Chad's takes on playing Bosh at the 5 and CV at the 4 and Bargnani at the 3 sounds a lot like what we've been talking about as options for the Raptors. This would fit Colangelo's "interchangeable players" style used in Phoenix however as we've discussed on this this really a realistic option?

We'll keep you abreast of all these situations and how they unfold.

Finally, after reviewing Ryan Hollins for yesterday's workouts, I realized the best person to talk to concerning Hollins' NBA chances was our own resident UCLA fan extraordinaire and site contributor Jeff Chapman. Here's what Chapman had to say on Hollins making it in the L:

"If you'd asked me before this season, I'd have said no way. Too
inconsistent and even his flashes were very sporadic. However, it seemed
that the light went on this season. Saying that he was a key part of their
tourney run is an understatement. When he got injured in the week leading up
to the Final 4, there was serious concern about whether UCLA could win
without Hollins. That tells you something.

Will he succeed in the Association? I guess, much like any other player,
time will tell. I think he has a useful skill set, in that he is a long,
athletic big with improving hands. He does need to improve his
shot-blocking, as he relied upon his athleticism in college. If he does, he
has a chance to stick in this league as an athletic, defensive 5 who can
contribute on a running team. Like, say, the Raptors of the future?

I'd take him at 56."

For a listen in on Jim Kelly's report of yesterday's workouts - check here for the audio footage...

...and now, on to today's workouts...

Who is he?
6-1 Sophomore guard from Kentucky.

Last Year and Previously: Averaged 11.2 points, 4.9 assists, 6.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game for the Wildcats. Was named to the 2005 USA Men’s U-21 World Championship Team and was named to SEC's All-Freshman team in 2004-05.

What Can He Do? Rondo is one of the best athletes in the draft. Because of this he can get to the rim at will and his rebounding numbers for a 6-1 point guard approach absurdity. While he won't be mistaken for Steve Nash anytime soon, Rondo does have great court vision and is quite effective in a full court setting using his speed to beat his defender time and time again. He's apparently being dubbed "ET" in workouts so far as his freakishly long fingers give him superior ball handling control. Unfortunately these same "magic digits" also present Rondo's biggest flaw - his shooting. His mechanics are anything but pretty and while he's improved his shooting, 57 percent from the free throw line and 27 percent from beyond the arc last year in college is going to scare teams off...especially considering how much a player like him will be getting fouled on drives to the basket.

The Bottom Line: Most of our readers know that Rondo has been one of my favourite prospects all season. He's one of the few point guards in this draft who could be a game-changer due to his quickness and court vision and defensively there aren't many better coming out this year. Rondo was actually more highly regarded as a prospect coming out of high school than teammate Josh Smith and in an up-tempo system Rondo could have an immediate impact using his agility and speed on both ends of the court. I think he would be a great shift in style to Calderon and would be a good fit for the Raptors...if he could shoot a bit better. For this reason I don't think I'll see Rondo in a Raptors' uniform anytime soon based on where Toronto is currently picking. He's been compared to both Brevin Knight and Mookie Blaylock and I can see the logic in both. While I'll be a big supporter of his NBA career, I don't see it being with the Raptors after this draft has concluded.

Who is he?
6-6 Senior guard from UCONN.

Last Year: Averaged 10.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game for the Huskies. Competed as a member of the Canadian Senior National team.

What Can He Do? Brown is one of Division I's best scoring guards although his averages don't necessarily reflect this. UConn's incredible depth has much to do with this (he's only averaged about 24 minutes a game through his college career) but make no mistake, Brown, along with point guard Marcus Williams, saved the Huskies time and time again in last spring's NCAA tournament. A great shooter, Brown has NBA range and uses his upper body strength to finish around the rim. While a scorer by trade he's also developed into one of college's premier on-the-ball defenders and this may actually be a ticket to having a long NBA career. The biggest knock on Brown is simply that he's average in many of the key facets of the game for his position however and in workouts he'll be attempting to show what he can do outside of the UCONN system.

The Bottom Line: Brown of course has been somewhat of a local legend in Toronto since his high school days when he scored 111 points in a game. He's had a solid college career at UConn but as mentioned, due to his team's depth, many wonder if he's ever been able to show his true talents. Denham's been working with Tim Grover to prepare for the draft and from reports it sounds like it's paid off and he finally has been able to show teams what he can really do, especially on the defensive end. From a Raptors' standpoint, I really feel that Denham makes sense as a second-round pick. While 35 might be a bit high considering who else might be available there, if he's still around at 56, I see no reason why not to pick him. With Eric Williams and Mike James', inevitable departures at some point, the team needs depth at the 2 spot and the local kid could be a nice fit. He's been compared to Kirk Snyder and before any readers yell "next," having a Snyder-type as an 8th or 9th man off the bench, wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Who is he?
6-2 Senior guard from Pittsburgh.

Last Year and Previously: Averaged 15.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game for the Panthers. Voted team MVP by teammates and was a John Wooden Award, Naismith All-America candidate and Bob Cousy Award finalist (nation's top point guard) in 2004-05.

What Can He Do? Krauser was one of Division I's most well-rounded point guards last season. Known as bulldog like player for his competitiveness and aggressive play, Krauser has a good first step and excellent quickness which he uses to get to the rim. A creative finisher and solid ball-handler, he has an excellent mid-range game and loves going to the basket looking for contact. A hard- nosed defender, Krauser uses his quickness and court awareness to collect a lot of steals and he's a very good rebounder for someone his size. Unfortunately Krauser has never been quite able to get over the hump as a prospect and after withdrawing from the draft last year he'll be 25 this year when a team drafts him. Not really a pure-point, Krauser also looks to score more first than get his teammates involved.

The Bottom Line: There is a lot of Mike James in Krauser (and not because he provides interesting radio interviews) from similar styles of play to strength, quickness and finishing abilities around the rim. Krauser was also a boxer prior to playing basketball full-time, a sport that Mike James is apparently pursuing to train this off-season. But at this point Krauser is not as good a shooter as James and scouts worry about drafting a player of his age who is simply not as good as some of the other younger guard prospects. If Krauser is around near the end of the second round and impresses against Brown and Rondo in this workout, the Raps may give him a long hard look however at this point I don't think that will be the case.

Who is he?
6-4 Senior guard from Northwestern.

Last Year: Averaged 11.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game for the Wildcats. Named to the 2006 All-Big Ten Defensive Team.

What Can He Do? A crafty scoring guard, Hachad enjoyed four solid seasons at Northwestern. His strengths lie mainly in his great shooting touch (Finished fourth in the Big Ten with a .580 shooting clip in Big Ten games) and his tough defense. For an undersized 2 who sometimes plays the 3 spot, he's a terrific rebounder, able to anticipate where the ball will end up and he led his team in that department. His size and lack of athleticism will be liabilities at the next level but this is the type of player due to his shooting touch who could have a great career overseas.

The Bottom Line: While I don't see Hachad being penciled into the Raptors' roster after this year's draft, brining him in for this workout does make sense on many levels. First of course, being Canadian (born in Montreal) and one of Canada's top players it's a nice courtesy to extend. However don't mistake this audition as being simply a courtesy call as secondly, Hachad can play and has done so with and against workout-mate Denham Brown in the past. He's also played under Raptor assistant coach Jay Triano and will be looking to show how much his game has grown. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Brown and against the quicker Rondo and Krauser.

Workout Summary:

Kudos to Colangelo and co. for putting together this workout. While I would have liked to have heard the results of Dockery playing against Rondo and Brown, it seems like he'll get his shot tomorrow. Today's workout will still showcase two players (in Rondo and Brown) who underachieved to a certain extent due to the systems they played in and will be a good gauge perhaps of each's true abilities. Krauser will be a good test for both players as well with his speed and defense and even Hachad should make things interesting with his size and rebounding.

Overall I still feel Rondo is by far the best prospect of the bunch but if Brown can show the ability to handle the ball under duress it may raise his stock in scouts' eyes. As mentioned, unless Rondo falls into the top of the second round or the Raptors deal down to acquire him, he'll probably end up with another squad. Brown however has a real chance in this workout to show that the Raptors should consider choosing him in the second round for reasons other than local PR.