The past week or so on the site I’ve been discussing Toronto’s lack of bench depth.
In particular, I’ve been talking about the Raptors’ inability to stock said bench with players who bring the necessary grit, toughness, and competitive spirit each and every game. We’ve seen the addition of Pops Mensah-Bonsu which has been a big help in this regard however going into next season, it’s obvious Toronto needs much more help in these departments.
They might not be the first options off the bench, or even the third options, but it’s these pieces to the puzzle that every good team needs. We’ve discussed ad nauseam the need for more "starter quality" talent on this club (see our latest top 5 draft options on our home page), but if that can’t be had in this upcoming draft, what about grabbing some of these bench types; the dirty work guys who you know are going to give you 110% each and every time they step on the court?
In today’s draft piece we look at five such players; from the more heralded college stars to the sleeper options.
1) Tyler Hansbrough – Center/PF, North Carolina:
It may be surprising to see Hansbrough’s name on this list. He’s again a favourite for player of the year honours, and in last night’s win over Duke to clinch the ACC regular season crown, Hansbrough inched to within points of JJ Redick’s scoring record. He’s scored in double figures 65 times out of his past 67 games, most in Carolina history, and is an unstoppable force in the paint at the college level.
However Hansbrough is no draft darling. (Something that makes me happy as a Duke fan.) He’s not as strong and physical as prospects like Pitt’s DeJuan Blair, he’s not as long and athletic as the likes of Hasheem Thabeet, and he doesn’t have the all-around skill-set and upside of a Greg Monroe.
That being said, after years of having his game dissected by scouts and thrown under the bus, I think it’s at the point now where Hansbrough is actually underrated. I mean, he’s barely making it into the first round of most mock drafts! Hansbrough might not be an idea NBA 4 or 5, but he’s no Hoffa. I expect Hansbrough in fact to be a huge asset for a team off the bench; a tough, extremely competitive and well-rounded option down low. His lack of explosiveness and length will prevent him from being a nightly double-double threat in the NBA, but Hansbrough is a winner and I can see him being a steal for a club like Orlando.
If Colangelo can grab a late first-round pick, even the Blue Devil junkie in me wouldn’t mind seeing "Psycho T" in Raptor Red.
2) Sam Young – SF/PF, PITT
The great thing about this upcoming draft is that because there aren’t a ton of studs, the second round could be stocked with very solid players.
Take Pitt’s Sam Young. Young is a tough-as-nails forward for the Panthers who has turned in a sensational senior season. He’s averaging 18.8 points and 6 rebounds, can score from inside and out, and is one of the better athletes in the nation.
However due to the parity in prospects this year, Young currently finds himself in the second round of some mock drafts, making him another potential steal for teams. He’s still learning the small forward position after a 4 most of his early college career, but has expanded his ball handling skills and slashing abilities ten-fold from when he first began his career with the Panthers.
Sound familiar Raptor fans?
Yep, Young has drawn comparisons to none other than Joey Graham so if Toronto can’t hold onto Graham in free-agency, Young could be a cheap replacement if BC can nab a late first-round or early second-round pick.
3) Lester Hudson – PG/SG, UT Martin
For those who don’t remember Hudson as an early entrant in last year’s draft (before returning to school last minute), Hudson is a Rodney Stuckey type combo guard; undersized at 6-3 to play the 2, but more of a lethal and physical scorer than your typical point guard.
Hudson isn’t as tall as Stuckey of course (Stuckey is 6-5) but the comparisons extend beyond the physical attributes. Both dominated weaker conferences and scouts wondered how they would fare at the next level. Both also played in relative obscurity compared to their peers but were simply unstoppable at the college level.
Stuckey however had a higher upside from the get-go because he looked more able to transition to the 1. At present, it’s not certain that the same can be said for Hudson. He was only mediocre at last year’s Orlando pre-draft camp and while he’s tearing it up again for Tennessee-Martin (he’s averaging 27 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and nearly 3 steals a game), he looks like a second-round pick again.
Again, Toronto is absent one second-round pick but if Hudson is available, he’d be worth a look as a tough, aggressive, change-of-pace option behind Jose.
4) Jack McClinton – SG, Miami
Every year a player falls through the cracks in the NBA draft because of his size or "lack of upside." Perhaps falling through the cracks means being a second round pick (Michael Redd, and more recently Paul Millsap) or maybe not being drafted at all (JJ Barea.)
McClinton, perhaps the best shooter in all of college ball could be Exhibit A this year.
He’s not a point guard, and is undersized at the shooting guard position, but if you’ve seen him play for Miami this year, you know just how deadly he can be no matter who the opponent.
He’s averaging nearly 20 points a game for the Hurricanes and shooting a ridiculous 46.4% from 3. He’s also another fierce competitor who simply knows how to score and another player that bears keeping an eye on should Miami sneak into the field of 65 this Sunday.
5) Toney Douglas – PG/SG, Florida State
Talk about flying under the radar, Douglas isn’t even on Chad Ford’s top 100 prospect list. Which is strange considering the 6-1 senior has his surprising Florida State Seminoles back in March Madness and looking like the team that no one wants to face.
In fact, last night on ESPN the crew of commentators declared Douglas, not Hansbrough, Teague or Henderson, the best player in the ACC.
So why the lack of exposre?
Well, for starters it’s really been this year that Douglas has really broken out and at 24 years of age, doesn’t appear to have the upside of others. He’s also more of a scoring 1, and an undersized one at that.
However I challenge you to find a much-tougher match-up in all of college ball. At just under 200 pounds he’s extremely strong and physical and likes to draw contact, finishing around the rim. He averages over 20 points a game and gets to the line almost seven times a match. He can score inside and out and along with McClinton, is the most prolific pure scorer in the ACC.
Right now he looks to be a second round pick but this is another player who could raise his stock with an impressive tourney run. Sleepers like Douglas seem to end up falling to clubs like the Spurs where they find their niche. Here’s hoping that Toronto can start grabbing a few of these guys as well.