As mentioned in yesterday’s post by Howland, the move to trade for Reggie Evans helped to address the need for a rebounder/enforcer on a historically soft team.
With the draft now only two weeks away, yesterday’s Pre-Draft workout had some players on display who may represent another step in that direction should they be selected by Toronto.
In addition, yesterday represented the first time Alvin Williams officially began his assistant coaching duties with the club, and both he, and Jay Triano spoke with the media post-workout.
In terms of the workout itself, who impressed most?
Earl Clark was probably the most heralded of the forwards coming into the workout and he did indeed stand out. He showed well when he went through the team drills, no doubt a byproduct of his preparation under Rick Pitino. Clark displayed his prowess as a help defender often aiding off the weak side leading to transition chances. He was rebounding well above the rim, and was either leading the break with an outlet pass or finishing the break with a strong move the hole. He also showed well in the individual defense drills stopping both the guards and forwards alike. His length was definitely an asset, and he knows how to use it well on the defensive end.
Now in the shooting drills, Clark was hot and cold. One of the knocks on him is that he is a little streaky on the shot and that was definitely the case yesterday. He would make three only to miss five or vice versa. He may indeed be a great shooter, but I didn’t see it at the workout. He was unstoppable when going one-on-one, or one-on-two for that matter, but shooting drills showed him as the streaky Earl from college and didn’t impress at all on that end.
Another knock on Clark coming out of Louisville was that he seemed to coast in games, possibly lacking intensity…and unfortunately that Earl Clark seemed to show up during portions of the workout as well. I’m not sure if it’s just that Earl has a very calm demeanor but he looked a little too at ease during some drills to the point of appearing disinterested. One of our peers at The Score made a similar observation and it came out in his body language and on his face.
Could he have the T-Mac condition? Didn’t people say he also the same thing about him?
Coincidentally McGrady is Clark’s fav player and even in this setting, one has to wonder if Clark can truly take advantage of his vast array of talents at the next level.
Who would be a sleeper pick?
Xavier’s Derrick Brown is a player and showed extremely well in the workout. Listed at 6’7", 227 lbs, he looks like he could play 3 or 4 at the next level despite describing himself purely as a 3 to media. There is no doubt that he is an excellent athlete and this more than his basketball acumen may be pushing him up higher on GM’s draft boards.
In the shooting drills he displayed a great touch from the outside and great form, which surprised me for someone his size. In the team drills, he looked like a gazelle running the floor and was always finishing above the rim. He did look like he had some trouble in the one-on-one offensive drills when he played against equal sized defenders, occasionally taking what looked like forced shots. In addition, it should be noted is that he didn’t show much post-up game during the workout, at least none which was memorable. However he’s a long, rugged looking player and could have definitely benefitted from throwing more of his body around. That may still be a work in progress.
Brown looked good on defense both in the one-on-one and team settings but could use some work more work in this area as well. He looked like he had trouble when it got physical in the low post, but mind you I only saw the extremely athletic Clark take it to him in that area. Most others seemed to be settling for outside jumpers against him one-on-one so that may not have given a clear picture.
The other standout yesterday was Ty Lawson. Easily the most publicized of the players in the ACC he was everything he was billed to be. He looks every bit the 6’0", 195 lbs he measured at and is a bulldog with the ball going full steam into the paint. He has a strong upper body, and if there was a parallel universe out there where Charles Oakley was a six foot point guard, Lawson would be the body. He took it to everyone guarding him be it one-on-one or in the team drills, and was able to finish through contact. This was especially impressive since the next shortest person on the floor yesterday in terms of prospects, was half a foot taller than him. Yet Lawson showed he was able to take it straight into the defenders, doing a great job of using his body to finish in traffic.
We all know his handle is very good, he did run the point for the Tar Heels, but he displayed his basketball IQ as well in this environment making tough baskets look easy. He worked well with Clark and Johnson in the team drills and led his teammates to the rim with pinpoint passes.
Though undersized on the defensive end, he was able to hold his own getting his hands on the ball when the bigs tried to take him low, which was basically everyone. With the body of a running back, his strength definitely was an asset. In his only post-up situation he was able to keep Vasquez from backing him down. Vasquez is about six inches taller than Lawson, but is in about the same weight class. I don’t recall anyone scoring on Lawson trying to take it to hole, which should impress since everyone had a reach advantage.
What most impressed me was Lawson’s shooting. He didn’t take many shots during the team portions but he was money from wherever he shot, particularly in the drill that had the players running from half court to the assigned spots on the arc. Lawson’s form was picture perfect the entire time. This may have more to do with his conditioning but regardless, even the best conditioned players have their forms waver unless they are elite level shooters which surprisingly Ty seems to be at this point.
And what about the other three participants?
Vasquez showed exactly what I expected from him; hit shots from anywhere on the floor. He didn’t do anything else that really stood out outside of that. He was billed as a great shooter and he brought his guns loaded to Toronto. He looked like he had a little trouble keeping up with the quicker Lawson on "D" which may be an indication that he may have solidified himself as a two guard, possibly in the Kapono mold.
Wake Forest’s James Johnson was an anomaly to me. I didn’t get to see much of him during the college season, and honestly I didn’t hear much of him either. He looked like he had the least impressive day of the six. He didn’t make many shots in the shooting drills and didn’t show well in either the one-on-one "O" or "D" drills either. I’m sure he’s a better player than he showed, and perhaps has had an intense travel or MMA practice schedule of late, but for a player many are projecting as late lottery pick, team workouts are not the time to look like you’re throwing up bricks or moving with heavy feet.
Last but not least we have Gonzaga’s Austin Daye. Now Daye is probably the one player that most confuses so-called talent evaluators and scouting gurus. It’s a good thing he’s only testing the Draft waters because he didn’t impress at all, similar to some of the other reports that have been circulating from these sessions. As a legit 6’10", he has the height and quickness to take post guys off the dribble, but I didn’t see much of that. He has length to be good defender on the low block, but I didn’t see much of that either. In fact I didn’t see much of the skill set that had Daye pegged as a lottery pick when he declared for the Draft. Daye looked like he forced shots particularly to avoid contact of any kind, even fading out near the arc against Lawson at one point. His shooting drills looked decent but he looked a little run down.
Many are saying that Daye would be better off going back to school for another year to not only work on his game, but also to bulk up a little even at the wing. He looked routinely overpowered in the one-on-one drills against the bigs, and he looked like he was exerting too much energy just to get his shot off. Daye, who in this interview with Hoopsaddict's Ryan McNeill compared himself to Rashard Lewis, gave the impression of being a sixth man in a stickman ball game and he looks to have some major work to do if he expects to play in the D-League let alone the Big League.
With the next incoming round of players, it will be interesting to see who Toronto brings in. While rumours of Evanses and DeRozans are swirling, there’s nothing set in stone for next week according to the Raptors’ media team.
As for options in the draft from today’s workout, Lawson would undoubtedly be a solid addition if Colangelo looks to grab another pick later in the first round should he be available. And again as a sleeper, Derrick Brown is very interesting.
However if a perimeter tweener forward is indeed on the Raptors’ menu, there’s no question that a versatile player like Clark could fit into BC’s plans.
All that to say that despite newly updated mock drafts from both Draftexpress.com, CNNSI.com and ESPN.com, most of which state that the Raptors are taking Demar DeRozan, looking at the variety of permutations above and below the team, it’s quite clear that despite anyone’s "insider" information, things are still very much up in the air.
PS - Sticking on the draft subject, check out this great piece on Jonny Flynn done by Slam correspondent and Score blogger, Holly MacKenzie. You can follow along with her as she does a great job blogging and twittering through the NBA playoffs at http://twitter.com/stackmack