With tomorrow being the big day for the Toronto Raptors, the HQ asks five key questions about the probable 7 players targeted by Toronto, at that 13th spot...
Sometimes in life you gotta play the hand you're dealt.
For me, this suddenly means not being able to head to New York again this year for the NBA Draft thanks to some developments with my real 9 to 5 job.
Am I disappointed?
End of the world?
Nope. Both Howland and I will be in Vegas for Summer League again, and sticking around Toronto means we'll still have access to whichever player(s) Toronto ends up drafting.
As well, my compatriot in the scrums, the Score and NBA.com's Holly MacKenzie, will be firing us any Raptors-related updates she hears about from NYC.
Continuing on with the "playing the hand you're dealt" analogy, the Toronto Raptors may be echoing these sentiments tomorrow evening.
As the National Post's Eric Koreen noted last night, the Raptors are essentially "buying a coffee table before a house" regarding this draft as there are still so many questions around this team, questions involving personnel that likely won't be resolved before July 1st. With the 13th pick and several players on their "wish list," the Dinos to a certain extent are going to be victims of circumstance tomorrow evening, hoping that teams above them don't grab all of the players they covet.
Who are those players?
Well, as we've been speculating for a while, the top five would seem to include:
...in some order. As well, players like Eric Bledsoe and Xavier Henry would seem to be in the mix too depending on what happens with their top five options.
To this extent, I thought this morning we'd look at these final options and discuss one key question about each.
Let's start with our main man King George...
1) Is Paul George too similar to DeMar DeRozan?
Last night one of our readers made a really good point about Paul George. Many of the attributes that we're drooling over, are the same ones fans were drooling over last year in regards to DeMar DeRozan, a player that now, many are trashing as a prospect after one lone season. Indeed, what gives?
Admittedly, I've found myself thinking about this issue.
Yes, George is much more of a 3 than DeRozan thanks to his length, but neither are great ball-handlers or slashers (George had the fourth worst turnover rate per 40 of this year's small forward crop), and both have similar athletic abilities.
I'll argue though that that's where the similarities end.
Unlike DeMar, who shot only 65% from the free-throw line in college, George shot 91% last season, and was an excellent long-range gunner in his first year. He cooled off a bit from 3-point land last season, but he's simply a much better shooter already at this point in time.
As well, in a diminished role with the Raptors, I'm a lot less worried about his turnovers, as opposed to Fresno State, where he was essentially their only option on offence.
My issue with drafting DeMar last season was that statistically, there was nothing he did really well, even with the Trojans. George on the other hand was a major defensive presence, averaging 2 steals a game last season, shot the ball quite well, and was a better per-minute rebounder than DeMar too, all traits that should transfer immediately to the league.
I know some have compared George to Danny Granger, but I think Rudy Gay's earlier years at UCONN are more appropriate. George is more athletic than Granger, and while a similar mismatch due to his size, spent almost no time in the post for Fresno State, unlike Granger in college. Like Gay, George made his living on the perimeter and mid-range, as well as using his athleticism to glide to the rim and for easy put-backs.
2) Is Patrick Patterson the next David West or Corliss Williamson?
Patterson is one of the toughest players to grade in my books. Statistically he's decent in almost every regard, but doesn't jump out at you in any one area. He was one of the best players in college during his career, yet doesn't have the proverbial "upside" of some of his peers.
Are we talking about a player then like Corliss (or even better, Kris Humphries) who despite a dominant NCAA career had to be a niche player on a good team to be effective? Or are we talking about a player like David West, who everyone is overlooking because they've been able to tear apart his game for longer than most of the other top prospects in this draft?
I was leaning towards the former until recently, with the caveat that Patterson isn't the rebounder that Corliss was. However seeing him dominate his work-out here in Toronto reminded me of all the footage I'd seen of Patterson over his years at Kentucky. He's got a nice back-to-the basket game (unlike Hump), can face-up, rebounds the ball well thanks to his length, and is a tough customer down low. Is he the next Elton Brand or David West?
I think that's a bit of a reach but could he not be a Carl Landry type?
I certainly don't see why not.
Most mock drafts have him slotted as Toronto's pick at 13 right now, and if that were to happen tomorrow night, I'd be fine with it. My one concern with drafting him of course is fit, because while he'd be at least an option to help replace Bosh, he's still not the match next to Andrea that I would prefer. Not to mention it would mean keeping Andrea at the 5 when both are on the court together.
3) Are Avery Bradley and Eric Bledsoe in the lineage of Russell Westbrook or Kyle Lowry?
I'm going with Lowry on this one.
I know some folks love these two, especially Bradley, but to me they've got "buyer beware" written all over them.
For starters, neither are true point guards, and yet are undersized as shooting guards. Compounding this, both are hardly great shooters.
Avery in particular worries me. Yes, he's athletic, long, etc, etc. However can he run a team? Can he bring some tangible skill immediately to a club? I'm not sure.
Unlike Rajon Rondo, a player of similar ilk coming out of college in many ways, Avery is not a good rebounder statistically (only 3.5 per 40 minutes, one of the worst ratings in this year's class), was not much of a thief despite his length and athletic ability (1.6 steals per 40) and only his low turnover rate saved his "pure point rating." He averaged only 2.6 assists per 40 minutes.
Yes, stats don't tell the whole story, but look at his team. Texas was hands down one of the top 5 most talented teams on paper, yet crumbled under his leadership late in the season. That's not to say I'm screaming bust, but we're talking two major projects in my opinion. I could see them finding roles akin to Lowry (both are bulldogs devensively) or perhaps Keyon Dooling in the league, but if I'm Toronto, I'm looking elsewhere Thursday night.
4) Cole Aldrich - The next in the line of "Big, White Busts?"
I'm going to say no on this one.
Sure his shot looks like a World Cup throw-in attempt, but this is a player I'm confident can make an impact from Day 1 with a team. He's one of the best rebounders in the draft (the most transferable skill from college to the NBA), blocks shots, and is fairly efficient offensively despite the wonky looking mechanics.
I'm not saying a star is born here, but similar to Joel Przybilla, we're talking about a long and fairly athletic big man who works hard and understands the game.
At 13, you could do a lot worse.
5) Are Udoh and Henry overrated?
I can see why a lot of people are asking this question.
Starting with Udoh, we're talking about a player who really didn't have much of an impact until last season, when he was surrounded at Baylor by superior talent.
As for Henry, he was a good player on a stocked Kansas club, but someone who could be viewed as fairly one-dimensional.
So what's the deal?
I see these two at opposite ends; Udoh being overvalued and Henry being overlooked to a certain extent. People forget that Ray Allen was hardly a great one-on-one player out of UCONN, neither was RIP Hamilton. Yet like Henry, both were solid defensively, could shoot the lights out, and knew how to play the game. I think Henry can come in and make a big impact right away, especially on certain clubs (look out if he falls to the Bucks for instance) and has a long NBA career ahead of him.
I think Udoh can come in and have an impact right away as well, but I don't think he's worth a lottery pick. He's simply too raw offensively. Despite his size and athletic ability (which I believe has been overhyped a bit as well), he isn't a great isolation player, something I think you crave from a power forward taken this high.
Yes, he projects to be a solid shot-blocker and rebounder, but I can't help but watch him and see Pops Mensah-Bonsu with a jump shot. (He's actually one of the better jump shooters for his position in this draft.)
And not that that's a terrible thing...but I don't want that if I'm Toronto at 13.
On a final and unrelated note, I can't explain how frustrating it was last night to see that Chris Douglas-Roberts was dealt to the Milwaukee for a second-round pick in 2053...or 12, whatever.
Are you telling me that Toronto couldn't have given up a future second-rounder for him?
Yes I'm biased towards CDR, but with reason. We're not talking D-Wade here, but when he got minutes last year Douglas-Roberts was one of the most efficient players in the league offensively, and an excellent rebounder. He also gets to the free-throw line at an incredible clip and to me he's Corey Maggette light...albeit a better defender, longer, and with a much better contract.
Why would you not try and snatch him up?
We're talking about a second-round pick here as the price tag, the likes of which usually end up in the D-League or plying their trades in Europe a few years after the fact.
This team needs help at the 3, especially if Hedo is out, needs players who can create off the bounce, needs rebounding and most of all, with Bosh gone, needs someone who can get to the line. I mean, Andrea was the next most proficient free-throw attempt player last year essentially and wasn't even close to Bosh in this regard.
That's not good.
Who knows, maybe Colangelo did make an attempt (something I intend to ask on Friday if possible) but right now, this looks like a big win for the Bucks even though the transaction itself was relatively small.