I recently switched jobs and one of my first lines of business was a trip to Seattle and San Fran to meet prospective clients and do some networking. It sure sounded great when I first was informed of it about a month ago...that was until late last week when I saw the batch of workouts I’d be missing while I was away.
Oh to be a Raptors fan right?
As much as missing yesterday’s workout was a tough pill to swallow because of Lopez and Thompson, today’s is really going to cut deep. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail about my affection for three of today’s prospects, Walker and CDR in particular so let’s get right down to business for workout batch number three.
Who is he? 7-1 Power Forward/Center from France.
Last Year: Played for Hyeres-Toulon in France.
What Can He Do? Ajinca has been on scouts’ radars for a while however I personally have never seen him play. He’s been compared to LaMarcus Aldridge because of his size, length, athletic ability and soft touch, and is an excellent shot blocker. He’s very raw however and is rail thin for the projected positions he’ll play at the next level.
Ajinca has also had little professional basketball experience to this point and has earned few minutes in Europe’s top leagues. This probably has more to do with his age (20) than his skill-set however and might be worth a pick hoping he develops down the road. Big men with his raw abilities and quickness just don’t grow on trees.
The Bottom Line: While Toronto could use some shot-blocking help, I’m not sure Ajinca is the answer at this stage of the game, and certainly not at 17. He’s much too raw and is probably a good two years away from even being able to contribute at the NBA level if at all. However I’m really glad the Raps have brought him in for a look as down the road, he might be a nice piece of the puzzle, and perhaps another option to stash overseas if he falls into the second round.
Who is he? 6-6 Junior guard/forward from Memphis.
Last Year: Averaged 18.1 points and 4.1 rebounds for the Tigers while hitting over 50 per cent of his shots from the field.
What Can He Do? I’m not sure how much more I can drone on about my affinity for CDR. He was one of the smoothest players in all of college ball last year, can score with the best of them, can create his own shot, and can get to the rim with an uncanny series of jukes and head fakes.
Yep...just what the doctor ordered for the Raptors right? Well, I won’t let my fondness for his game cloud my judgement as there is a reason he hasn’t been ranked much higher on mock drafts than the early 20’s. He’s not an elite athlete, has a Shawn Marionesque looking shot, and as a rail-thin slasher, may have trouble at the next level finishing and absorbing contact.
The Bottom Line: That being said, if you watched CDR this season you saw a player who is probably underrated in the eyes of most scouts and GM’s. He’s not going to blow you away with his first step or ability to shoot the rock. And he’s definitely not much of a creator for his teammates. However he just gets the job done and with his excellent ball-handling skills, should translate nicely as a scoring wing at the next level. The NBA still features a tremendous amount of one-on-one play and CDR, while no Kobe, can take just about anyone off the bounce. Add in the fact that his length and lateral quickness makes him a tough defender (he averaged over a steal a game last year) and in my opinion you have a winning combination at 17. We’ll just have to see however if the Raptors agree come June 26.
Who is he? 6-11 Senior power forward/center from California.
Last Year: Averaged 9.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for the Bears.
What Can He Do? Hardin is an anomaly for myself, and apparently for most scouts according to reports out of the recent pre-draft camp in Orlando. Here we have a player that has all the physical tools of a Darryl Dawkins (his combine numbers in Orlando were some of the best of this draft class) yet just doesn’t always seem to "get it."
It’s not that he has a poor attitude or work ethic (Hardin’s body fat measured out under six per cent at the pre-draft camp and he benched 185 pounds 20 times), but at times he seems to float on the court without any purpose.
It’s these same "getting it" issues that make scouts shake their heads over his disappointing numbers in his senior year at Cal, all down from his previous season with the exception of his field goal percentage. For a player who could have been drafted last year but opted to up his stock by returning for his senior year, things just didn’t quite work as planned.
The Bottom Line: Nevertheless, Hardin still makes a very interesting prospect. Like Ajinca, there just isn’t a surplus of big-men with his abilities, not to mention length (he has over a nine foot standing reach.) I’d love to see Toronto take a flyer on him if he falls into the second round. He has all the upside of a Nene with none of the weight, passion or health issues. However there’s a reason Hardin has also drawn a lot of comparisons to a slightly more nimble Erick Dampier; a player can have all the physical tools in the world but if they don’t get it, then it really doesn’t matter does it? Besides, Toronto has a living example of this on their bench right now in Joey Graham.
Who is he? 6-6 Senior guard from Alabama.
Last Year: Averaged 14.9 points, and 5.2 rebounds for the Crimson Tide.
What Can He Do? Riley is a player I know very little about. He sat out his first few years at Alabama but turned in solid junior and senior seasons for the Tide. He’s not a player on many scouts’ radars but did show some NBA skill last year in the SEC.
The problem is that Riley is only 185 pounds at 6-6 and will need to put on some serious size and strength to compete at the NBA level.
The Bottom Line: Riley was a member of a talented but underperforming Crimson Tide team that also featured 2008 draft prospects Richard Hendrix and Alonzo Gee. Both Hendrix and Gee have kept their profiles up however while Riley has flown a lot closer to the ground. He’s a fantastic shooter however (he made 43 per cent from 3) and could find himself a nice niche as a gunner with a team. I just can’t see right now it being with the Raptors.
Who is he? 6-6 Junior guard from Kansas.
Last Year: Averaged 13.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Jayhawks.
What Can He Do? Rush is a jack of all trades guard who helped lead his Jayhawks to last year’s National Title in D1. Rush almost declared a year ago but after hurting his ACL in pre-draft preparations he decided to return to school. It seemed like a wise choice but it’s only his recent play in workouts and his Final Four run that really solidified this viewpoint. From a statistical standpoint he actually played fewer minutes than in his sophomore season, scored slightly less and shot a poorer percentage from the field and beyond the arc.
However Rush looks like another David West type in this year’s draft. Not so much in terms of position or skill-set, but a player with an excellent college resume who gets overlooked because he lacks "upside" in many people’s minds. I think that Rush will be a solid addition to any team and while not a star, and important contributor.
The Bottom Line: Having said all of that, the player Rush reminds me of the most is still Morris Peterson. Both won national titles and were overlooked in the draft. Both were good but not great athletes and suffered at times with their aggressiveness attacking the rim. Both were exceptional defenders in college and great long range shooters. And both I think will have similar career paths in the league. So does Toronto grab Rush at 17? I’d personally rather have Douglas-Roberts because of his scoring or Bill Walker (our next prospect) because of his athleticism and grit. But Toronto could do far worse and it will be very interesting to hear how Rush performs against these other two. After all, Rush may not even be on the board at 17 when Toronto selects. Rumour has it that Phoenix is a big fan and they pick two spots before the Raptors.
Who is he? 6-6 Freshman forward from Kansas State.
Last Year: Averaged 16.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and shot 46.5 per cent from the field for the Wildcats.
What Can He Do? At one point in time, Walker could do anything. He was in fact compared to (gasp) Vince Carter due to his incredible ups and ability to get to the rim. However as most now know, Walker ruptured his ACL in January 2007 and his draft stock fell like his last name was Chiriaev.
However Walker bounced back quite nicely this past year. He and freshman phenom Michael Beasley rejuvinated Kansas State’s basketball program and Walker developed other parts of his game to compensate for his lack of explosion. Instead of playing the 2-3, Walker played the 3-4 and added a great amount of muscle to help him bang in the post with taller 4’s. He still possessed great moves off the bounce so therefore could be deadly from both outside and now in, using his newly minted post-game.
However even after a solid season and successful rehab process, scouts were still mixed about Billy. This was mainly because of concerns regarding his level of maturity. Numerous times last year Walker would get himself into foul trouble thereby hurting his team because of stupid retaliatory fouls. And at other times when he wasn’t getting the ball or his shots weren’t falling, Walker would get moody and sulk, thereby costing his team at the defensive end.
The Bottom Line: I’d like to see Toronto take Walker at 17, but I’m just not sure yet that the fit would be the best for all parties. Walker looks great by all accounts in offseason workouts (he’s dropped an amazing 25 pounds since the end of the season) and probably has the most upside of any swingman at this point in the draft...but I worry about his attitude. If he rarely plays in his first season, will he sulk? Will he be a distraction off the court? In many ways he’s a bit like TJ Ford, uber competitive and a player who plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. The Raptors could use a bit of a chip at times, but we’ve seen first-hand how if not given the proper outlets, that chip can quickly turn into an anvil.
Conclusion: From a selfish standpoint, I hope tomorrow’s workout, especially between the wing players, is a wash. Therefore at some point in the next few weeks, perhaps BC will need to bring all three back in for another go round, this time with me back in Toronto. We’ve seen the Raptors do that in the past so perhaps if they have their eye on one of these three, we’ll see repeat visits.
I still have CDR at the top of my list, slightly ahead of Walker and Rush, but I’m not fooling myself into thinking any of these three are the immediate answer for Toronto at the 3-spot. What I am thinking though is that if I were BC and all three of these wings were available at 17, I’d have some long deliberations.