The Toronto Raptors kick off their series of pre-draft workouts today with two sessions; a group one that includes UNC point guard Kendall Marshall, and an afternoon individual look at Damian Lillard of Weber State. Here's the full breakdown of the morning's session...
Last year's first workout session was conducted on June 7th, later than usual for us here at the HQ.
This year though the Raps have done one better and thanks to a variety of reasons, are only kicking off the pre-draft group workout sessions today. With only 16 days to go before the actual draft, TO is looking to squeeze in workouts almost every day this week, making for some interesting scheduling here at the HQ as we attempt to get down to cover the sessions as usual.
Based on the email we received from the Raptors there will be two sessions in fact today; the first a true group workout while the second, an individual one. We'll tackle the morning session here, and touch on Lillard a bit later today:
Afternoon Session Participants - Damian Lillard.
Kendall Marshall - 6-4, G - UNC: In my books, Marshall represents one of the 10 or so players the Raptors would love to ensure they see up close before they make their 8th overall pick at the June 28 draft. Marshall of course is coming off an excellent season at North Carolina where he averaged a shade under 10 assists a game, and won the Bob Cousy Award for the NCAA's top point guard.
In terms of pros, obviously it's his ability to run a team. Without out him in the Dance, the Tar Heels faltered and he's really your consummate pass-first floor general. On the other side, Marshall isn't a great shooter (35 per cent from long-range, 70 per cent from the line, a true-shooting percentage of 56 per cent) and he's certainly not the Rajon Rondo/Derrick Rose type of point guard that's currently dominating the league. His upside has been compared to Andre Miller and his worst-case scenario has viewed as a player the Raptors are already quite familiar with; Jose Calderon.
Verdict: The last sentence is what gives me pause about choosing Marshall 8th overall. Not that I think he'll be a bust of a pro, but the Raptors already have a fully developed version of him with the same strengths and weaknesses (albeit Jose is a much better shooter currently.) The only scenario I see that has Toronto grabbing Marshall is via a trade where Jose is dealt and the Raps end up with a lower pick in the transaction, which they then use on the UNC alum. Right now, between game-tape and advanced stats (his PER of 17.1 isn't blowing anyone out of the water) I simply think there are much better options if the Raps keep this pick.
Devoe Joseph - 6-4, G - Oregon: Joseph gets the call for this workout for two main reasons as I see it. One, he's a Canadian kid that could be a legitimate second-round pick, Two, he'll provide a solid match-up for Marshall.
Joseph finished off his college career by nearly getting Oregon into the NCAA tourney, a feat that would have been one of the best Cinderella stories of the NCAA season. A scoring guard, he only averaged about 3 assists a game last year, but did put up an average of 17 per contest, including a 33 point outing against Cal back in February. His career pre-Oregon at Minnesota was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, but Joseph isn't simply getting this invite as Cory's older brother. Devoe was a member of the All-Pac 10 team last season and is one of the best scorers in the draft at his position.
Verdict: With a late second-round pick Joseph may be in play for TO. He gets to the basket, can hit the three with ease (shot 42 per cent from downtown last season) and is one of the quicker players in this draft. He's also in many ways the opposite player to Kendall Marshall, thus representing a great match-up for the Raptors in terms of evaluating both prospects. With the depth of this draft though, he's got a lot of work to do before he solidifies himself as a legit draft option in the eyes of most teams, but workouts like today's could go a long way in helping his cause.
Terrence Ross - 6-7, F - Washington: This is my favourite player of the morning session in terms of fit with the Raptors, and one of the most underrated prospects in this draft in my books. This breakdown from a recent ESPN.com piece says it all:
It's hard to imagine that a guy who will end up in the lottery is being undervalued, but the Huskies' Terrence Ross has been for much of the spring. The focus at shooting guard in this draft has been on bigger names from more high-profile programs -- no offense, Pac-12 -- like Bradley Beal, Jeremy Lamb and Austin Rivers. But Ross, who's 6-foot-7, has sneaked into the discussion since the end of the season.
That's a good thing, because although Ross, in my mind, will end up being more Robin than Batman -- a solid starter but not a star -- he has attributes that translate to getting on the court early in his NBA career. Like Lamb, Ross has prototypical NBA size and athleticism for a shooting guard. He can knock down shots in catch-and-shoot situations -- he shot 37 percent behind the college arc -- and can create a good shot on his own. He also uses his athleticism to rebound very well for a guard.
Where Ross' potential really excites me is on defense. The Washington coaching staff described him to me as a playmaking defender who had a knack for blocks, steals and stops at key points in games. His physical attributes combined with a good defensive IQ give him some advantages over others at his position. He could guard the best NBA perimeter scorers in time, and that should endear him to his future team.
Verdict: Completely agree with the above take from Coach Thorpe. Eight might be a bit high for Ross currently, but this is a player I'd be thrilled to see on the Raps, especially with comparisons like Wilson Chandler, Eddie Jones and Jason Richardson being tossed around as "best case scenarios." Ross is a bit of a do-it-all type, as backed up by a very solid PER of 22.4 last season, and if Toronto could find a way to snatch him up he could be one of the steals of the draft.
Hollis Thompson - 6-8, F - Georgetown: Again, hats off to Colangelo and his recruiting team as like Marshall and Joseph, the addition of Thompson to match up with Terrence Ross should make for an illuminating workout session. Thompson is a bit bigger than Ross but possesses similar skills in terms of being able to score, rebound, and defend his position. He averaged just under 13 points and six rebounds for the Hoyas last year, but his 19.2 PER is largely a reflection of his excellent shooting ability, an area where he currently outclasses Ross.
Verdict: He doesn't have the athleticism or overall upside of Ross, but if I've got a late second-round pick, as do the Toronto Raptors currently, this is the type of player I'm targeting. Besides having legit NBA size, he's got a true NBA attribute in his ability to shoot the basketball, especially from long range. He hit 46 per cent of his field goal attempts last year, including a stellar 43 per cent from downtown, and along with his ability to rebound the ball, could be a nice James Jones or Daequan Cook type off the pine for a club.
Kyle O'Quinn - 6-10, PF/C - Norfolk State: O'Quinn burst onto the radars of most draftniks likely via March Madness where his Norfolk State club pulled off one of the greatest upsets in recent tourney memory, knocking off number two seed Missouri. O'Quinn was huge not only in that match, but all season for his team averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds. A big, bruising presence down low, O'Quinn can get it done with some surprisingly effective offensive moves, but more importantly, can be a true defensive factor at the next level.
Verdict: O'Quinn would be one of the players I'd prefer the Raptors to go after with one of their second-round picks, so I'm thrilled he got the invite to today's sessions. His upside could be like that of an Ekpe Udoh or Kenneth Faried considering his rebounding ability and tenacious energy, and I truly believe he'll be one of those players that we look back on and say "why wasn't he drafted sooner?" Even though he played against inferior competition, players with PER's of 28.6 don't grow on trees so here' s hoping the Raps find a way to snatch him up.
Henry Sims - 6-11, PF/C - Georgetown: And continuing the match-up trend for this session, the Raps are bringing in another bruiser to match up with O'Quinn, the Hoyas' Sims, a player who measured out a shade under seven feet at the recent NBA Draft combine and who averaged over a block a game last year for G-Town. His averages of 12 points and six rebounds don't jump out at you, but his unique passing ability for a big man (he averaged five assists a game last season!) coupled with his size and athletic ability, should get him plenty of late second-round looks.
Verdict: Comparisons to Josh McRoberts and Jason Smith makes sense due to athleticism and ability to see the floor, and the bottom line is that Sims will likely have a role in the league off a team's bench for years. I'm not sure if that will be with the Toronto Raptors considering their already crowded front-court, but there are certainly worse options out there if the Dinos do end up picking 56th overall.