Title: An early look at draft prospects available around No. 20
Date: May 21, 2015
Original Source: Raptors Republic
Synopsis: My role as the draft lead at theScore precludes me from a lot of Raptors-specific draft writing, but this article looked briefly at some possible targets where the Raptors were set to select.
I love draft season. Chalk it up to being a fan of a team that has spent far more time in the lottery than the playoffs, or baseball fandom that’s heavily rooted in prospect watching, or just a general preference for speculating on the hypothetical over analyzing the actual. Whatever the reasons, I love draft season.
By some combination of good fortune and good timing, my day job around this time last year turned into primarily preparation for the NBA Draft. I’m an NBA news editor at theScore, and last year saw me tasked with writing scouting reports on likely first-round picks and, to pull the curtain back some, pre-writing posts for draft night that would allow us to get news and alerts out in a timely manner. It was a blast, and by the time the draft rolled around, I could have told you more than you wanted to know about most prospects.
I did not even have a draft night post – let alone a scouting report – prepared for Bruno Cabcolo.
That is to say, as much as we may prepare and speculate and read Chad Ford and DraftExpress and so on, there’s never any telling what’s going on behind closed doors at the Air Canada Centre or in the mind of Masai Ujiri.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speculate, hypothesize, and make our own cases for players the Toronto Raptors should take at No. 20 this year. Draft time is a ton of fun, and even if the horse you pick is the wrong one (shameful admission: I liked Jerryd Bayless better than Russell Westbrook back in the day despite being a UCLA fan), occasionally having a correct evaluation or opinion feels great (shameless plug: I was extreme;y high on Kevin Love in that same draft, hated Jonny Flynn, loved K.J. McDaniels last year, and so on).
The purpose of this article is to lay out who you can realistically be looking at and discussing with the Raptors set to pick at No. 20.
There’s always the possibility they move up (though your scenarios of using Terrence Ross or Jonas Valanciunas just to move up in this draft are incredible examples of poor asset management and misevaluation of the value of draft picks), they move down (not sure I see the point with this class), or move the pick entirely (a poor cap-management decision because of the table below but a justifiable competitive one with Bruno Caboclo and Bebe Nogueira set to be de facto rookies next season).
The most likely scenario, as always, is that the Raptors hold steady and pick 20th. That’s not a terrible place to be in this draft. While it’s not the greatest class in recent memory, it appears to be good-to-great at the top and run about 20-25 players deep. There’s a pretty steep drop-off not long after where the Raptors will pick, making reaching somewhat tenuous and the likelihood of a precipitous fall from a top name somewhat unlikely.
I’ll be heading up our draft coverage at theScore again this season, and I spent the whole of March on the college basketball beat rather than the NBA beat. I think I’ve got a solid handle on the top-30 or -40 prospects in the class, and I’ve even tried my hand at a mock draft for the first time (it has the Raptors getting Montrezl Harrell). The nature of the coverage is such that I probably won’t be able to drop a ton of draft stuff here at Raptors Republic, but allow me to set the table for our discussions to come.
Forget about it
The following players are all consensus top-15 picks, in that ESPN’s Chad Ford,DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony, and CBS Sports’ Sam Vecenie all have them going in the top-15 in their most recent mocks. A five-pick slide isn’t unheard of, but each of these names should securely be off the board by the time Toronto picks.
The fact that 13 names are near-consensus top-15 picks kind of speaks to the tiers in the draft. The first four names there are a clear first tier, the next four are a second, and from there things start to jump around a little more, getting into team needs and skill preference and upside-versus-floor debates.
Unlikely to be around
The following players are off the board by No. 20 in most mocks but could conceivable slide during the pre-draft process. You can hope they fall if you really like them, but don’t start building free agency plans around the team having secured one of these names.
Kelly Oubre – At this point, the best potential combination of shooting and defense available, though he hasn’t always shown it consistently. He could be a better Terrence Ross, or Terrence Ross, or a worse Terrence Ross.
Sam Dekker – A versatile, high-motor, high-character ball of energy, he’d be in the group above if teams had faith he can hit the NBA triple. Not sure where, exactly, he’d fit, but these are the type of guys you can put on most rosters and find a role for them.
Kevon Looney – Was once as high as No. 6 in Ford’s mock and could be a quality defender who can space the floor a bit. The upside here would be too good to pass up if he slides.
Tyus Jones – The analytics crowd seems to like the mistake-free, high-IQ guard, especially if his 3-point shot carries over to the next level. He wouldn’t be a swing for the fences but he seems a safe bet to at least be a quality PG2.
Bobby Portis – Were he to slip, I think he’s a nice fit. He’s a power forward who does everything well, nothing poorly, and nothing at an elite level, save for his reportedly obscene motor. He’s believed to be the most sure thing to be a rotation player in the NBA, even if he may not ever sniff an All-Star Game. At No. 20, that’d be a major win.
The core group to argue about
Occasionally these players are mocked to be going higher or lower, but they’re generally falling in the 15-25 range and are worth discussing.
Cameron Payne – If you want Lou Williams back, skip over the guards here. If Williams walks and/or the team can find a home for Greivis Vasquez, drafting a PG2 or potentially a combo-guard for the bench makes sense. Payne wouldn’t fit the combo-guard role, as he’s somewhat undersized at the one, but he’d be a solid backup point guard. He can really score, has the makings of an outside shot, and he gets the “crafty” and “pure” tags from Ford. He’s the least likely of these three to be around, it seems.
Jerian Grant – Grant would fit the combo-guard role off the bench well, but his penchant for ignoring his own shot in favor of over-passing would make him a nice remedy to the sometimes-frustraing Williams role. He’s a better defender and passer than Williams and a capable penetrator, but his outside shot is still shaky enough that he’s not a sure-fire lottery pick. Notre Dame’s offense was not dissimilar to the basic pick-and-roll schemes the Raptors run, and at 23, he’ll hit the NBA ready to contribute.
Delon Wright – If fans want a different look from a backup combo-guard, Wright is it. He can capable guard both spots and isn’t a great outside shooter, basically the opposite of the Williams-Vasquez duo. He rebounds well, gets to the line, and piles up steals. Like Grant, he’s 23, and the consensus seems to be that Grant’s got a slightly higher upside, but Wright seems a good bet to carve out a backup role.
Montrezl Harrell – Were I to guess who Raptors’ fans would choose from these nine games, given a poll, Harrell’s the guy. He measured well enough and is strong enough that he could see some time as a backup center, brings defense and rebounding to replace what the team will likely lose from Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough, plays above the rim, and is the type of hard-nosed, all-out player Raptors fans love. Like I said, I had him going to Toronto in my mock, and I think getting a clear rotation player who can help on defense this late would be a win.
Robert Upshaw – The Raptors have Bebe and Bruno, and opted for Greg Stiemsma over Hassan Whiteside (and others) in large part because developing three players on a 15-man roster seems impossible. Maybe a D-League franchise will change that thinking, but if it doesn’t, it’s hard to see Upshaw fitting. He measures incredibly well and has an obvious upside at centre, but he got kicked out of two programs and seems like he’ll need to be brought along slowly.
Christian Wood – A bit of a project at 19, Wood shot up boards somewhat late in the season after making huge statistical jumps as a sophomore. He apparently didn’t interview all that well and there are questions about his commitment and conditioning, but he’s a fantastic athlete and could be a quality two-way player with some effective player development.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – Were the team not somewhat starved for shooting as is, this would be my guy. He may still be by the time June 25 rolls around. Short of Cauley-Stein, Hollis-Jefferson is the most clear defensive addition I think a team could make. He can guard every position except for center, tested as an incredible athlete, and is great in the open floor. He can’t shoot a lick, but this late, I think getting a clear one-way asset is still a positive, and he’s going to be very, very good as a defender.
Justin Anderson – Can he shoot? Anderson’s numbers were all over the place from outside because of a torrid streak and then a wrist injury, but it sounds as if most teams are non-believers in his outside game. Without that, he’s kind of an RHJ-light, not quite as good or as versatile defender and someone who will need to eat on offense off of put backs, back cuts, and broken plays.
R.J. Hunter – Can he do anything but shoot? Hunter’s length portends some defensive potential but right now his one clear skill is the ability to put the ball in the basket. I’m not sure that’s a need the Raptors have, even if he would be one of the team’s best shooters. I’m less high on Hunter than most, though, it seems.
Might be a reach
I could understand fans talking themselves into Jordan Mickey (shot-blocking), Chris McCullough (upside, if patient), Michael Frazier (shooting), Terry Rozier (Kyle Lowry Lite), George Lucas de Paula (Kawhi Leonard-like length at point guard), or a couple of other names, especially since the Raptors don’t have a second-round pick and we know Ujiri will go off-board. That’s totally fair, but this group is generally considered to be roughly where the drop-off happens, so don’t fall too in love.