While the Miami Heat were preparing to win another NBA title, the Toronto Raptors had four big bodies in for workouts yesterday. The HQ breaks down the session...
I guess I have to start this by saying congratulations to the NBA Champion Miami Heat.
In all seriousness, they put on a dominant performance and this wasn't even all about LeBron in the end. How about Mike Miller moving around like a zombie but knocking down 18 three-pointers? Or Shane Battier coming through with some huge defensive plays, as well as key buckets? Or Juwan Howard actually seeing the court?
Yep, the NBA season has now concluded (although for us Raptors' fans, that happened a while ago) and we can really get into the off-season and well, the NBA draft.
The Toronto Raptors had their biggest workout to date yesterday morning in more ways than one. Not only did the sextet they saw up close include four potential lottery picks, but it also included four of the drafts' premier power forwards; John Henson, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones III and Terence Jones.
Instead of seeing each of these guys a day at a time, it was a real treat to see all four going head-to-head, and we even got to see them matched up against each other for some three-on-three fun. (Something we'll have video of this afternoon.
As usual, it's hard to come to any huge conclusions in these types of settings but a few things did stand out for me:
Sullinger is in shape. I know he didn't measure out well athletically at the combine but I feel like he's going to be one of these deceptively quick guys. On one play in the three-on-three drills Henson rose up for a perimeter jump shot and Sullinger quickly closed out for the block, something that caught me off guard. He's really slimmed down from his freshman season at Ohio State, and he noted it's something he's been working on.
In addition, his back looked fine, something he reiterated to the media when questions concerning it were addressed. I think the "red flag" concerns are similar to those of DeJuan Blair and Danny Granger in that a future issue could manifest itself, but for now, he looks a-ok. In the drills as noted, he was his usual smooth self, attempting to punish guys down low, and able to stroke the face-up jumper with solid range.
While I'm not a big John Henson fan, he was the most personable of the bunch in terms of the media scrums. He also noted that it was nice to have a face he recognized watching the workout, referring to former UNC big man Ed Davis, who was there along with current Raptor Jerryd Bayless. (Rocking a Jays hat!) The idea though that Henson could be another Andrei Kirilenko seems to be a huge stretch at this point. In one series of drills where the Raptors had the big men bringing the ball up under pressure, Henson struggled, and got his pocket picked a few times.
Terrence Jones might have been the most pleasant surprise for me. He's just such a bull down low, yet extremely active and athletic. He was also not the player I expected in terms of interviews, being quite forthcoming one-on-one and extremely humble. We've got video of our talk with him coming later today I believe, although there were some technical difficulties with that shoot so it might not be the best of the bunch.
Our talk with Perry Jones was quite entertaining as you'll see on the site in a few hours. Jones III off the court talked to us about everything ranging from his time at Baylor to expectations coming into the league while on the court, you could see why he was supposed to be a top five pick. It's just incredibly rare to see someone his size (6-11) get up and down the court and handle the ball the way he does.
Of course those characteristics alone don't make an All-Star basketball player, but there's certainly lots to like about his game.
Post-workout, Raptors' VP of Basketball Operations Ed Stefanski spoke of the workout "muddying the waters" and while this could simply be lip service, I got the feeling that a few of these guys were going to make the Raptors do some more thinking. Stefanski even added that this was a session that the Dino braintrust would be mulling over the weekend, making me think that even if none of these guys are options at eight, perhaps a previous offer that involved trading down, now suddenly seemed more attractive knowing one or more of yesterday's quartet would be available.
In fact overall, I get the sense that the Raptors are still in the 'discovery" phase with less than a week to go before the draft. Not that they don't have their homework done, but I think they've yet to say "this is our guy" and are weighing all options. This would be in contrast to previous years where the club identified say a DeMar DeRozan early on, and then weighed him against other options in case he wasn't available.
Also, there may be one more workout session on Monday so that could give us clues as to what direction the club is leaning. The team may want to try and get Jeremy Lamb back in (he hasn't worked out for any team since spraining his ankle last week in TO) and may still want a close look at prospects such as Moe Harkless and Tyler Zeller.
Another option is a second look at some of the players they've already seen, something the team has done in the past with the likes of JJ Hickson and Roy Hibbert.