NBA Draft 2012: 5 Players Toronto Raptors Should Target

Gianluca NesciContributor IIIApril 6, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: 5 Players Toronto Raptors Should Target

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    For the first time since the departure of star man Chris Bosh, the Toronto Raptors will go into the NBA draft with a strong foundation of young, talented players to build around.

    Under president and general manager Bryan Colangelo, this team seems to be in a constant state of rebuilding. But with some good pieces already in place, the Raptors can look ahead to the draft knowing that a solid pick could potentially be enough to get them very close to the Eastern Conference playoffs, if not comfortably in.

    Over the last few years, Canada’s lone representative has made some impressive picks, thanks to a string of terrible seasons. In the last three years, the Raptors have drafted high-flyer DeMar DeRozan, power forward Ed Davis and Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas, who may just be the best of the bunch one day.

    Going into next season, the team may be looking at a starting lineup that consists of Jose Calderon or Jerryd Bayless at the point, DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani and Valanciunas.

    The one issue with that group is the lack of a small forward.

    The upcoming draft is being touted as the place where Colangelo can fill that need, with a number of very exciting wing players coming out of college this year.

    With that, here are five players that the Raptors should target in the upcoming 2012 NBA draft.

    Who do you think the Raptors should pick? Have your say in the comment section below.

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Harrison Barnes

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    Stat Line: SF, 6’8”, 223 lbs., Sophomore, North Carolina

    Harrison Barnes fills the Raptors' most glaring need better than any other player in the draft.

    The current roster is desperately lacking a legitimate scoring option on the wing, and Barnes would be the perfect player to fill that role. While James Johnson has been somewhat of a revelation this season, there is no reason to believe that he would not be relegated to the bench should a stud small forward like Barnes be drafted.

    On the offensive end, Barnes has the talent to be a legitimate No. 1 scoring option, something the Raptors need despite the improved play of Andrea Bargnani this season. Even though he struggled at the end of North Carolina's NCAA tournament run, Barnes had already proved that he can put up serious points.

    He shoots the ball well, and has also shown an ability to drive to the basket and finish. Combined with the shooting ability of Bargnani and the slashing qualities of DeRozan, Barnes could be a star  in Toronto.

    With good athleticism and a huge 7' wingspan, the former Tar Heel could certainly flourish on the defensive side of the ball under head coach Dwane Casey. By all accounts, Barnes is a hard worker, which would endear him to the Raptors bench boss even more.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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    Stat Line: SF, 6’6”, 216 lbs., Freshman, Kentucky

    While Barnes should be a stud on the offensive end, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is projected to be a shutdown defender at the small forward position. Few players have a better motor than the former Kentucky freshman, who will be a coach’s dream in the NBA due to his strong character and team-first mentality.

    As with Barnes, his massive 7' wingspan makes him an asset to any team’s defense, as does his rebounding ability. His relentless play means he will often be given the toughest defensive assignment on the floor.

    But don’t let that overshadow his scoring ability.

    Despite not being the best shooter in the draft, Kidd-Gilchrist has proven that he can get to the rim at will, and has a great desire to do so. He will no doubt work on his ability to create and hit jump shots once he is drafted, and that will only enhance his talent for getting to the rim.

Terrence Jones

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    Stat Line: SF, 6’9”, 244 lbs., Sophomore, Kentucky

    Terrence Jones is projected by most to be taken just outside of the top 10, making him a solid choice for the Raptors should they somehow win enough games to fall into that area of the draft.

    Don't look now, but they have won three in a row.

    Jones was more of a power forward during his time with Kentucky, but in all likelihood, he will drop down to the small forward position once he's in the NBA. He is not a natural fit at either position, but has the versatility to switch between the two if necessary, a quality that is always an asset.

    A lefty with top 10 talent, Jones has struggled at times with his consistency (as many young players do). His athletic ability and aggressive rebounding are his strengths, while he has also proven to be a very good scorer on a Wildcats team loaded with offensive talent.

Perry Jones III

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    Stat Line: SF/PF, 6’11”, 235 lbs., Sophomore, Baylor

    The fourth and final small forward on our list.

    Perry Jones III has the raw talent to be one of the best players to come out of the upcoming draft. At 6’11”, his physical attributes are jaw dropping, with excellent speed, lateral movement and athleticism all part of his repertoire.

    He has the tendency to stay outside and shoot jumpers too often, but when he wants to, he can definitely attack the basket. His level of explosiveness is not something you will find in many other players in the draft. Together, those skills give him the potential to be a legitimate scorer in the NBA.

    The concern with Jones is his work ethic. His talent is undeniable, but his lack of intensity at certain times means the teams at the top of the draft will most likely take a pass on him. As with Terrence Jones, that could lead him right into the Raptors’ arms, if they fall far enough in the lottery.

Andre Drummond

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    Stat Line: PF/C, 6’11”, 270 lbs., Freshman, Connecticut

    To close things off, here are a few words from Colangelo that could throw everything we've discussed right out the window.

    It’s a stacking principle. You want to have guys that are there at various positions, and even if there is duplication, you can decide which one fits best and move on and possibly move a piece and convert that to something else. Talent acquisition is what this is all about. As much as this is about, ‘Let’s get the perfect piece,’ we always say, ‘Let’s get the best player’…We’ll make due with what we get [in the draft]. I think you worry less about position and more about what those players can actually do. Then we’ll decide how to maximize the value of our current roster if there is more duplication.

    That was Colangelo before the abbreviated NBA season tipped off.

    All logic says the Raptors are in dire need of a small forward to complement the well-stocked front court of Bargnani, Davis, Amir Johnson and Valanciunas.

    But on the basis of that quote, don’t be too surprised if he decides to pick the former Connecticut big man—if he is still available.

    The 6’11” freshman has incredible potential, capable of making him a dominant player in the NBA. After consensus No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, many consider Drummond to have the highest ceiling of any player in the draft.

    But concern has been raised about his lack of development during the NCAA season with Jim Calhoun and the Huskies. The questions surrounding Drummond are based on his motor, which wasn't always in full gear. That has led some to believe that he lacks the desire to become a great player.

    Regardless, his physical talent alone will make him a much sought after commodity come draft night.

    If Drummond becomes a Raptor, Colangelo would certainly have pieces in place to use in a trade, with the aforementioned forwards all under the age of 27. A trade seems all the more likely when you consider the salary-cap flexibility the Raptors will have in the offseason, which is in the $10 million range.

    Throw in the fact that Colangelo has only one more year remaining on his current deal, and he may be looking to shake things up with a big trade in an attempt to get his team back into the playoffs before his contract expires.