The NCAA early entry deadline passed, and there are no major surprises. We now know who decided to stay in the draft or return for one more collegiate seasoning. Some names attached to the Raptors via mock drafts or interviews include Jared Butler and Sandro Mamukelashvili, who both opted to withdraw. Simultaneously, Jared Butler, Xavier Tillman, and Robert Woodard II liked their chances to pursue a professional career.
A good majority of prospect withdrawals projected from mid-late second round to the outside of the top 60 of most boards. Some of the names could have been of interest for the Raptors’ late second round pick, or even the undrafted pool, such as Isaiah Joe, Ayo Dosunmu, and Derrick Alston Jr, to name a few.
Some mock drafts have updated their board, with Bleacher Report now with the Raptors potentially tabbing Grant Riller for their 28th pick, NbaDraft.Net liking Devon Dotson at the same spot, and The Athletic now projecting Desmond Bane as a Raptors first-round pick. Tankathon, Sports Illustrated, and The Ringer haven’t updated their boards as of this writing.
Are these mock drafts telling us something? The projections are shifting from a “big” to a guard, with Dotson, Riller, and Bane projected to be at least a combo guard, if not a backup point guard. The projection most likely is based on Fred VanVleet’s upcoming free agency, so it’s hard to blame analysts for thinking that way. Besides, the Raptors don’t have anyone in the pipeline at the point for future planning, which is a little weird because a few years ago, the Raptors had five point guards at one point.
Potential First Round Prospects
We’re back this week looking at a couple of prospects: an athletic wing prospect in Robert Woodard II and a professional bucket-getter in Grant Riller. Woodard fits the mould of the long, athletic, defensive-minded wings that the Raptors like to collect, while Riller gives them the natural-born scorer they haven’t had since Lou Williams.
Robert Woodard II
Much like with our coverage with Tyler Bey, Robert Woodard II could add to a growing roster of 3+D wings the Raptors are stocking up. He is an athletic 6’7” with giant wingspan (7’1”) that is used well on the defensive end. Woodard uses his quick hops and wingspan to block shots around the rim, and his ambidexterity adds to his perceived quickness. Similarly, Woodard’s comfortable using his offhand getting a shot off around even in traffic.
Woodard’s got an league-ready body, and his defense will require little work to get acquainted with the NBA level. He has already shown his ability to switch 1-4 and projects even to go 1-5 in small-ball situations similar to OG Anunoby.
Woodard projects to be a 3+D rotational piece, and his ceiling can be unlocked if his perimeter shot sticks and if he develops a handle decent enough for him to face up offensively.
Areas of Concern
Offensively, Woodard doesn’t offer anything above average. Picking him late in the first round (or even second round) makes him a short term project, with his defense potentially being ahead of his offensive game. He is a safe pick as you can get at this range, but the ceiling is a big question mark. On the flip side, he could be one of the biggest sleepers in this draft.
Woodard needs to land with a good development team to take his game to the next level. He’s limited offensively right now but will be relying on his athleticism to cut and finish around the basket if he’s not spotting up for a perimeter shot. Asking Woodard to create his own shot would almost always end up in a post-up situation, which is why some evaluators see him as an undersized power forward.
Woodard would need a decent handle to make a face-up move now and then, as he might not be big and/or strong enough to battle bigger players in the NBA (or multiple defenders). We’ve seen these sorts of growing pains from OG Anunoby this season.
At this point, Woodard doesn’t look comfortable being a triple threat with the ball. Passing is one of his issues right now, and looking at his tapes, a lot of those passes were either sloppy or made without taking the opportunity of reassessing and adjusting to the situation. In Woodard’s case, his vision and awareness are decent, but his execution could definitely be improved.
Woodard’s age, athleticism, and 3+D potential — especially rim protection — makes him a better long term investment than some of the team’s aging projects.
If the Raptors can help him develop his perimeter shooting, Woodard’s size and defensive ability could (occasionally) allow the Raptors to play a small but long/athletic frontcourt in Pascal Siakam/OG Anunoby/Woodard.
Woodard’s ability to find open spots/passing lanes created by his teammates and his ability to use his athleticism to finish the play makes him an ideal target for the Raptors’ motion offense.
We often hear the phrase “can shoot from anywhere” nowadays, and it’s attributed to long-range snipers who extend their range to the half-court area. In Grant Riller’s case, watching his tapes would make one think that he can score whenever, wherever, and however. I mean, this guy can really score.
Riller’s offense is so unpredictable, especially when he’s dancing with the ball. His excellent handle and vision allow him to identify the gap he needs quickly. Riller does not have the quickest first step, but his rip-through gives him a similar advantage, and he’s explosive in-and-out and side-stepping with the ball.
Riller’s excellent stats finishing in the paint overshadows his excellence in getting to that point: his anticipation, body control, and ability to change his shot mid-air, even if the shot is unorthodox, all the while making everything look so easy. It really does feel like he’s got more than a couple of counter-moves for in the air and on the move.
Riller can also shoot anywhere, whether it’s catch-and-shoot or a pull-up off the dribble. His rip-through and/or killer step-back (or side-step) creates so much separation for him to get a shot clean. It’s hard to find a comparison for Riller, but someone like Mike James (not The Amityville Horror) reminds me of his game.
Areas of Concern
The first thing that jumps out when you watch Riller’s tapes is his physical profile. He’s undersized (I doubt he’s 6’3”, which he’s listed at) and with below-average athleticism. His skills and his drive outperforms what his body can give him.
Another issue for Riller is, well, we could very well be watching what his peak capabilities are right now. He’s elite at the NCAA level, but given his limitations, there are doubters whether Riller’s skill set can translate at the NBA level. If Riller was doing all of this damage at 20 or 21 years old, he could be a late lottery prospect.
Riller has shown he would struggle against stronger/longer defenders and even against traps; however, I think this part of his game is also fixable.
Some evaluators also have “defense” as one of his weaknesses, but not in this corner. Riller’s team relies heavily on him offensively, so we can’t expect him to do it all. We profiled a similar combo-guard in Skylar Mays a few weeks ago with a similar knock to his game. While Riller is not expected to be a defensive stopper, he should be decent enough defensively.
Ever since Fred VanVleet’s full-time move to the starting lineup, the Raptors’ bench is devoid of natural scoring. Norman Powell will get his buckets, but he’s much more effective as the play finisher. Lou Williams was probably the only other natural bucket-getter that the Raptors have had in their recent history.
Riller will provide the Raptors with a combo guard that can potentially create his own shots, and attract gravity that can open things up for his teammates. He’s got the potential to play with VanVleet, as their games can complement each other. However, their lack of athleticism and size would probably limit such situations against the other team’s bench players.
The issue about Riller’s age won’t be a big deal for the Raptors, as his age fits the current Raptors’ timeline — assuning he can come in and contribute almost immediately. In this, Riller’s defense, as mentioned above, could be a question mark. Can he play with passable defense according to Nick Nurse’s standard? Toronto already has Matt Thomas, who struggles to earn minutes due to his issues on the defensive end.