This is a weird offseason for us here at the HQ in many ways.
Usually at this time of the year we're pumping out daily draft pieces as the Toronto Raptors are almost certainly annual participants in the NBA's draft process.
That means not only rumours, mock drafts and scouting reports, but my favourite features of the year, our in-depth looks at prospect workouts live from the Air Canada Center, and one-on-one interviews with many of these players.
This year, nada.
The Raps of course are lottery-bound in the statistical sense, but having dealt away both their first and second-round picks in trades prior to the draft period, they "pickless" at present.
So not only does that mean no players to discuss, it means no opportunities to create videos like this:
However we'll push past this and focus on the big event tomorrow night as hey, maybe the Raps WILL be involved.
And hey, why not?
Whether the team intends to tank or not, I'd argue that grabbing a pick in this draft makes a lot of sense for a few reasons. For starters, the team likely will have a tough time moving the bulk of their big contracts right now, but will need to add new talent, preferably of the young variety. The draft could be a relatively cheap means of acquiring said talent, even if the price is a monetary sum of upwards of $3M. That's still likely less than the cost of moving say an Andrea Bargnani.
Second, considering the dearth of superstar talent in this draft, it's quite likely that teams will be able to pluck useful rotation players from the later stages of the process, and therefore while the draft may be a good one for the Raps to miss out on in terms of lottery picks, it's equally a good one to hop onto in the late first or second-round.
How they do it? Well I won't jump into that as Blake Murphy from Raptors Republic does a great job breaking this piece all down.
So with that in mind, and taking team needs into consideration (shooting, passing, wing defense, back-up big men), we present to you 10 options far outside of the lottery that we wouldn't mind seeing Masai Ujiri take a shot at:
1. Reggie Bullock - 6-7 SF, UNC: We'll start with Bullock, although by no means is he necessarily our top rated player on this list. But he does stand out for one sole reason: his ability to knock down three-point shots. Bullock shot 43 per cent from downtown last year for North Carolina, and his 1.29 points per-shot on catch and shoot jumpers ranked first in Draft Express' look at this year's Small Forward class. Also from this DX analysis, he ranked ahead of the pack in overall scoring efficiency with his 1.11 PPP overall and scored a top five ranked 1.37 points per-possession in transition, a testament to his athletic ability, shooting and ball-handling skills in the open court.
He's also got the size and athleticism to man the 2 or 3 spots and via ESPN.com's recent WARP Draft-article, he ranked as the 19th best prospect in the draft.
2. Seth Curry - 6-2, SG, DUKE: Again, the theme if you're drafting Curry is shooting. Much like Bullock, Curry is a lights-out shooter hitting on 44 per cent of his three-point shots last year at Duke, hitting nearly 50 per cent of his shots overall, and from Draft Express statistical look at this year's Shooting Guards, Curry ranked first in efficiency at 1.142 points per possession.
However unlike Bullock, Curry's size at only 6-2 could potentially be an issue as he's not exactly an option at the 1, unlike his older brother. He averaged only 1.9 assists per game per 40 minutes, and sported a negative pure-point rating (an attempt to measure the efficiency of point guards.)
Curry's not on most mock drafts at present so this may be a case where Masai Ujiri reaches out to Curry's agent as soon as possible to try and grab him for Summer League and potentially take the "undrafted free-agent" route in terms of signing him. His size could be an issue but it's a good bet that someone with his shooting ability, efficiency (he sported one of the lowest turnover rates in the NCAA considering his usage) and lineage will find a spot in the L.
3. DJ Stephens - 6-5, F, Memphis: Stephens might be one of the most intriguing players to me in this draft. DX currently has him slated to go undrafted so like Curry, Toronto could look to bring him in post-draft to see if he would be a fit for the team.
And there are a myriad of reasons as to why he could indeed be. For starters, he's one of those under-sized but athletic marvels who we've seen surprise in the NBA. He's not Kenneth Faried per se, but he certainly opened a few eyes at this year's combine based on his athletic testing, specifically, his combine-record 46 inch vertical-leap.
But is this another case of Joey Graham?
Right now it's hard to say but he's been stellar at various workouts so far in the draft process, showcasing lock-down defensive abilities at multiple positions, and a motor that doesn't quit, both attributes the Raps could use heavy doses of. His ridiculous wingspan, speed and athleticism is a boost to both points and while he's got a ways to go on offense, he's one of the best finishers on the break in this draft, and ranked at or near the top in blocks, rebounds and steals in Draft Express' look at this year's Small Forward draft options.
4. Trevor Mbakwe - 6-8, F, Minnesota: Mbakwe is on this list despite his age (24), rumoured off-court baggage, and history of knee issues as he's got enough upside as a monster in the paint in the NBA. He led or was at the top the Draft Express Power Forward study in categories like offensive rebounding, overall rebounding and shot-blocking, and like Stephens has stood out in various workouts thanks to his energy and explosiveness.
He's a bit undersized but if the doctors give his knees the green light, and he's shown to have matured over the past season, he could be a more offensively skilled version of Joey Dorsey at the next level, someone the Raptors, could use in spurts off the bench at the 4.
5. Ryan Kelly - 6-11, F, DUKE
6. Erik Murphy - 6-10, F, Florida
A couple more options at the 4 come up next but not in the form of defensive players. Ryan Kelly and Erik Murphy both possess skill-sets that could see them be "stretch-four" types at the next level.
Kelly was unfortunately injured for the bulk of his senior season at Duke but nevertheless showed a continued ability to spread the floor, hitting 42 per cent of his three-point attempts, not bad for a near 7-footer.
Murphy was a slight tick better in this area hitting 45 per cent, and was second to only Kelly Olynyk in True Shooting percentage in Draft Express' look at this year's power fowards.
Neither are tremdendous athletes or shot creators, but both could be Matt Bonner types at the next level, smart shot-makers found on the benches of winning teams. Kelly in particular shows some advanced attributes as in the previous Draft Express study, he was the only power forward with a positive pure-point rating, a testament to his ability to pass the ball and limit turnovers, again, a need for the Raps.
7. Pierre Jackson - 5-10, PG, BAYLOR: Obviously the size is an issue but as we've seen of late in the NBA, "going small" can be used to a team's advantage in certain situations and Jackson, despite his diminutive size, figures to find a role in the league somewhere. He's blistering fast, an incredible athlete and has pretty solid advanced stats. In the ESPN WARP study, Jackson found himself in the "second-round steal" category thanks to elite steal rate (often a great NBA indicator) and ability to knock down the outside shot and score efficiently.
He's more of a scorer than passer as a 1, but wasn't awful in the shot-creating area either, posting solid numbers in Draft Express' look at the point guard class.
8. Erick Green - 6-3, G, Virginia Tech: Green is another interesting option as a point guard draftee. Much like Jackson, he's certainly more of a scoring guard than a pass-first option, but he's such a good scorer, that it might be worth taking a flyer on him. In the previous Draft Express study mentioned, Green posted a True Shooting percentage of 60% last year despite very high usage marks at V Tech, and being the team's lone offensive option.
This translated to a stellar PER of 31.7, and potentially a look in the second-round from NBA teams.
9. Mike Muscala - 6-11, C, Bucknell: Muscala's combination of size and touch are interesting to me in this draft. In a league that values big men who can play the "pick-and-pop" game, Muscala could be a Rasho Nesterovic type option down the road.
He's got good size, can play with his back to the basket, and excelled at drawing fouls at a high rate and getting to the line. He also averaged 3.1 assists per 40 minutes, tops in Draft Express look at the Center crop in this draft, and potentially then a nice fit in Toronto to help activate what was at times a fairly motionless offence last season.
All of this of course was against Patriot League competition so there will be questions about his ability to do the same at the next level.
But if he hasn't heard his name called as the second-round starts to slip away, this is a player I'd take a hard look at.
10. Archie Goodwin - 6-5, G, Kentucky: Finally, we go all upside. There wasn't a single study I could find that looked at Goodwin as an enticing prospect but sometimes, you swing for the fences on the youngest players with the most room to grow.
Goodwin, a top high school star who played only one season at Kentucky, fits that bill.
He can't shoot the 3, doesn't have amazing size for his position, hasn't shown much defensive ability, and actually posted a negative WARP score in the ESPN.com draft study we've been referencing.
But you know who else posted similar awful advanced metrics at one point?
Louis Williams. And Monta Ellis. And Eric Bledsoe.
Sometimes poor marks are simply are indication of lack of playing time or experience, not ability and so if you're going to swing and miss on a second-round pick, you might as well do it on a one-time blue-chipper like Goodwin.