One last look at tonight's options for the Dinos, using three different strategies...
The Raptors have to get this one right.
I mean, it looks like they did last year with Jonas Valanciunas, but we're talking about a team that's won an average of 30 games the past four seasons.
DeRozan and Davis haven't been the breakthrough studs that many imagined, we're all still waiting on Bargs to display any sort of consistency, and minor swings at "upside" players like Alexis Ajinca, Solomon Alabi, Patrick O'Bryant and Joey Dorsey have been busts.
Jonas is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for the club, with smaller wisps of flickering candle light emanating from players like James Johnson, Jared Bayless, and Amir Johnson.
Bottom line is there's not a lot of sure-fire talent to work with right now on the Raptors, and that's why again, Colangelo needs to come out of this draft with a few more weapons in his arsenal.
You know, ones that consistently fire.
So based on this, what players should he be targeting in hopes of hitting a home run, or at least a solid double or triple? Here are three different approaches he may want to consider.
Analytical: In this approach, we look at the top five options based purely on a summary of the various statistical analyses that have been conducted on prospects. These include those done by Wages of Wins, Basketball Prospectus, John Hollinger's "Draft Player Rater," Draftexpress' Advanced Stats, and a summation done by ESPN.com's Chad Ford, essentially surveying NBA GM's and their team analytics results. Let's dig in.
1. Jared Sullinger. Are we going to rue the day Sully drops into the 20's, only to be snatched up by a club like Boston? Quite possibly. No matter what advanced measure you used, Sullinger, back or no back, measured out quite high.
2. Dion Waiters. Waiters' analytical results from Wages of Wins were mediocre, but he measured out quite well under every other scheme. Even Kevin Pelton's NBA compare, Iman Shumpert, was one of the better comps in this draft class.
3. Damian Lillard. Lillard was the opposite of Waiters; strong based on Wages of Wins calculations, and poor on Hollinger's draft rater system. Hollinger's system seems to weigh the age of the prospect and strength of NCAA schedule more, which explain Lillard's performance, but outside of that knock, the Weber State product looks pretty good, particularly in terms of efficiency metrics.
4. Draymond Green. After these three (and obviously players like Anthony Davis etc) we get into some of the more surprising options; players more likely to go in the second round. Among them, Green stands out like a sore thumb. He's an undersized 4 but can do it all and never takes a play off.
5. Jae Crowder. Another player like Green who does a bit of everything well, Crowder will end up being one of those second-round picks that on re-draft, would have gone mid first-round.
Upside: If the Raptors are faced with a situation where most of their top guys are off the board, what direction do they go? Maybe upside, especially in terms of future trade value. If that's the case, the list would look something like...
1. Andre Drummond. It's not even close. If you can get a guy at this size with this sort of athleticism and defensive abilities, especially later in the draft, you pull the trigger don't you? His advanced stats aren't even that poor and really, if he gets the right coach who can light a fire under him, we could be talking about an Amar'e Stoudemire/DeAndre Jordan down the road.
2. Perry Jones III. Jones has slid in most mocks but it's not because he doesn't have the talent to be an All-Star at the next level. Like Drummond, it's all about the intangibles and how hard he'll work to build on his immense physical skills.
3. Harrison Barnes. Barnes didn't have the collegiate career many expected, but we're still talking about an uber-competitive 20 year old with an NBA body and various NBA-ready skillsets. He's got plenty of room to develop into the player NBA execs originally imagined.
4. Jeremy Lamb. Same goes for Mr. Lamb here. He doesn't have the all-around upside of Barnes but it's hard not to build a more prototypical NBA "2" physically than Lamb. After only two years at UCONN, he's definitely not a finished product and if he puts his mind to it, could be one of the steals of this draft for a club.
5. Quincy Miller. Miller's the real darkhorse here. Minus the ACL issues, Miller was looking like the next T-Mac coming into Baylor. He had a so-so season though, and now may wind up as a late first-round option. However there's not a lot of other players that possess the same amount of upside as the 19-year old.
Others:Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Austin Rivers.
Need: Finally we have the old "drafting for need" category. Under this one, the Raps would be looking to address positional gaps or even ones regarding skillset. Let's go.
1. Harrison Barnes. Barnes again! The fact is the Raps have a gaping hole at the 3, need perimeter shooting (thanks DeMar) and well, Barnes can do both. He's big, long and athletic, and has the defensive skills that could make him very good in this area down the road.
2. Damian Lillard. There will be arguments that Lillard isn't a real "1," but the fact is that in a weak field of PG's, Lillard is the top gun currently, and already looks to be at least a serviceable back-up to Jose. However his strength regarding the pick-and-roll, not to mention his out of this world shooting efficiency marks, make him a nice plug for a Raptors' club needing help in those areas.
3. Dion Waiters. Too close to Jerryd Bayless? Maybe. But as a much cheaper option Waiters could come in and play two positions for Toronto. His biggest strength is his ability to get to the hoop, something a club ranking near the bottom of free-throw differential could really use.
4. Royce White. James Johnson 2.0? Quite possibly. The Raps have James, but he's yet to solidify a starting spot and Royce could be a major upgrade. The flying and anxiety issues are a concern but we're talking about a player who averaged 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists for his NCAA club, leading them in almost every cat and looking much like a less athletic version of LeBron James in the process. Sign me up.
5. Jared Sullinger. Yep, the Raps have 18 power forwards. But do any of them have a true back-to-the basket game? Can any of them offer as sweet and inside-outside shooting touch as Sully? And do any of them possess the size and strength to really bang down low? Sullinger might not be a starter for Toronto but it's hard to think that he wouldn't have a huge impact off the bench.
Other: Kendall Marshall, Marquis Teague and Tyler Zeller.
Avoid: John Henson, Austin Rivers, Myers Leonard.
Consensus: So taking all of the above into account, who should the Raptors take? I think players like Waiters, Lillard and Sullinger balance need and analytics, and aren't an upside gamble, something that could be a key draft factor for the experience seeking Raptors. They've already got one rookie that has to learn the NBA ropes so bringing on a number of projects seems unlikely.
That being said, if the top options like Waiters and Lillard are gone, maybe swinging for the fences on an Andre Drummond, especially in terms of his trade value, isn't such a bad idea.
For me, my big board continues to be Lillard, Waiters and Sullinger, with Marshall and White bringing up the rear. I could stomach the Drummond selection provided the Raptors looked to get great value in the second round (ahem...Crowder), and it's admittedly hard not to get excited about the potential of a Big Val-Drummond frontcourt.
The real takeaway for me is that above pin-pointing who to draft, I think it's pretty clear that there are a few players the Raps should not draft at all costs. That lists starts with Austin Rivers, but I won't be exactly pumped to hear names like John Henson (despite great advanced stats) and Harrison Barnes called either. It's Rivers though that I'm praying the team can avoid and one quote from a recent ESPN.com piece sums my view of his time at Duke up pretty well:
"...He thinks he's Kobe. He's not. He doesn't have the length, the height, nor the athletic ability. Take those things away from Kobe, and he's Ricky Davis -- an irritating ball hog no one wants to play with and who isn't good enough to warrant the diva act."
At one point I was a Cavs fan so I know of the Ricky Davis they speak of.
It's not good folks, it's not good.