The NBA Draft is still almost five months away.
But considering the NCAA schedule has only about six weeks left, now is as good a time as any to highlight some college kids that Raptors' fans may want to keep an eye on for said draft.
To that end, as we've done the past few seasons, the first Saturday in Feb kicks off our "Saturday Scouting" series where Canball Ray and I highlight a match-up each that's worth a closer look...
Auburn @ Missouri - 1:30pm
With Raptors having traded their only pick in the Rudy Gay acquisition a couple of days back (their first-rounder went in exchange for Kyle Lowry), this means that this will be yet another lean draft year for the Dinos. The pick, even though it was a second-rounder, could have yielded a diamond in the rough, or at the very least a cheap, serviceable player until a better one could be found.
And that is why this game is a good one to watch.
Currently ranked at #17, the Missouri Tigers have a few players that I think could be worth taking a look at if you're in the Raps front office that could potentially be available in the 2nd round or even as free agent invites to Summer League or training camp.
A glaring need for the team is a point guard and Phil Pressey could fill that role well. I don't think he'll be a star by any means and he is no taller than the current duo of Kyle Lowry and John Lucas III, but he is definitely one thing that these two are not - a pass first guard. He's currently averaging 7.1 assists, good for seventh in Division I, and he can run an offense. He's not shooting very well from the floor (36.6 FG% and 29.8 3-PT FG%) but he does play tough D, averages 1.9 steals and is likely to slip through the cracks. He could fill the role that both the other two PGs can't seem to.
The other Tigers to watch are big men Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi. You may remember Oriakhi from his days at UConn before he jumped ship after the post-season ban the school got last year. He could be the same role player that Emeka Okafor is now (they both did go to UConn) for a much smaller price as he plays interior D, uses his body well down low, blocks shots but is more likely more mobile. Bowers is more the inside/outside player and if he can learn to play on the block a la Ed Davis, then he could be worth a look too.
For Auburn, you can keep an eye on Rob Chubb and Frankie Sullivan. Chubb is a 6'10", 250 lbs. big body that can rebound while Sullivan is a guard that can get buckets and get to the line. Both can likely slip into the free agent pool and may be worth camp invites.
Bradley @ Creighton - 3:-05pm
Bradley and Creighton, Franchise? Yep, for one simple reason: Doug McDermott.
McDermott is a 6-8 junior who's on pace to be the NCAA's player of the year. He's averaging 23.9 points per game, 7.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and is third in PER in the entire NCAA with a mark of 34.32.
He's by no means an athletic marvel, but he simply gets the job done, using a deadly stroke and a solid interior game to be a match-up nightmare every time he steps on the court.
As far as NBA potential goes, he's a second-round pick at best due to his lack of elite size, strength or athletic ability, but his skill set is such that I fully expect him to find a way to be a contributor off an NBA team's bench down the road. For a team like the Raptors, that will likely need to improve their perimeter shooting in the off-season, especially if Andrea Bargnani is dealt, McDermott might be a very nice option either via the acquisition of a second-round pick, or a Summer League invite.