Even though most Raptor fans, including myself, would have liked to see the team make the playoffs this year, that would have meant a first-round matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers because of their late-season struggles. Since Chris Bosh’s status for the series would have been "questionable," the likely result would have been a sweep by the Cavs, or at best, elimination in five games.
Making the playoffs would have shown that the Raptors were moving in the right direction. However, because of the Jermaine O’Neal/Shawn Marion trade from last season, the first time Toronto makes the playoffs, in the next five seasons, their first-round draft pick will be sent to the Miami Heat.
The 2010 NBA Draft isn’t projected to be loaded with All-Star or Hall of Fame-level talent. Outside of the top four picks, likely John Wall, Evan Turner, DeMarcus Cousins, and Derrick Favors, there is no consensus on where players will be drafted. However, there are a number of prospects who could turn out to be solid NBA players.
Regardless of whether the Toronto Raptors re-sign Chris Bosh or work out a sign-and-trade, for example New York with David Lee or Miami with Michael Beasley, the Raptors need to add front-court depth.
Andrea Bargnani has improved his points per game and rebounding numbers every year. While he hasn’t become the dominant player that most people would expect from a No.1 overall draft pick, he has turned into a solid pro.
In my last article, I argued that Toronto should re-sign Amir Johnson, who has the potential to turn into a solid player and really showed improvement in the final few games of the season when Bosh went down with an injury.
Outside of those two players, the Raptors have Reggie Evans, Rasho Nesterovic, Joey Dorsey, and Patrick O’Bryant in their front-court. Evans is in the final year of his contract and could be used as trade-bait this summer. Nesterovic’s contract is up and it is unclear whether Bryan Colangelo will resign him simply to have a veteran centre on the bench in case of injuries.
Dorsey was signed for the remainder of the season after being waived by the Sacramento Kings. He never played a game for the Raptors and was likely signed so that Toronto can have him play on its summer-league team and invite him to training camp.
Finally, O’Bryant has been a disappointment after being selected 9th overall in the 2006 draft. After two seasons with the Raptors, he hasn’t shown any reason to re-sign him and is unlikely to return.
The Raptors finished the 2009-2010 Season with a 40-42 record and only have a 0.6 percent of landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. In all likelihood, Toronto will end up with the 13th pick in the draft, since Memphis won a tiebreaker with the Raptors. There are a number of players the Raptors should look at.
Whiteside, a 7’0” centre, is projected to be drafted anywhere between 9th and 15th depending on the Mock Draft.* He has declared for the draft after only his freshman season at Marshall. Whiteside lead the NCAA in blocked shots (5.4 a game). He was also named Conference USA’s top freshman and defensive player of the year.
Whiteside is a raw big man, but because of his size, athleticism, and long arms, could develop into a defensive force in the NBA. He doesn’t have much of an offensive game and could benefit from staying in college another year or two, but he has already declared for the NBA draft.
Scouts have compared him to Marcus Camby and since Toronto does not have much in the way of shot-blocking, Whiteside could be a great addition to the Raptors.
Udoh, a 6’10” forward/centre, is projected to go between 11th and 18th in current Mock Drafts.* He has declared for the draft after his junior season at Baylor. Udoh transferred from Michigan after his sophomore season and had a solid year. He averaged 9.8 rebounds per game and 3.7 blocks per game (133 blocks for the season, a Big 12 record).
Udoh is not a finished product despite being 22 years old. However, his offensive game improved dramatically after transferring from Michigan. He has a 7’4 ½ wingspan and a solid work ethic. Udoh needs to get stronger and tougher but would fit nicely in Toronto’s front-court rotation.
Monroe, a 6’11” power forward, projected to be drafted between 6th and 10th in most Mock Drafts.* He is set to enter the NBA after just his sophomore season at Georgetown. Monroe’s stock has been rising on draft boards over the last few months and might not be available when the Raptors draft.
He is a lefty big man with a lot of talent. He has the ability to face up and take defenders off the dribble. Monroe is also a great passer. However, in the post he does not have the ability to finish with his right hand. He also is not the most athletic or explosive player. Monroe rarely looks to dominant and takes what the defenders give to him, but he could be very effective in the right offensive system.
Patterson, a 6’8” power forward, is projected to go between 9th and 12th.* He has not declared for the draft yet, but is expected to hold a press conference this week and announce his decision. Patterson was forced to take a backseat this year to freshmen Wall and Cousins, but responded very well to his new role.
He is an undersized power forward but he has an NBA-ready body and outstanding physical abilities. Patterson is very aggressive in the paint and never one to shy away from contact. He also is good at attacking the rim. Patterson is not a very good rebounder and because of his size won’t be as effective in the NBA. However, he will likely turn into a productive role-playing power forward.
There are a number of other players the Toronto Raptors could look to draft, including Donatas Motiejunas and Jan Vesely. However, with Hedo Turkoglu and Andrea Bargnani already on the roster, I don’t think it would be wise to add another European player. The Raptors need to draft someone who can block shots and rebound the basketball.
It is also possible that Colangelo could look to move the pick in a draft-day trade, but if Toronto keeps the pick hopefully the team will look to add a player who can fill out the front-court rotation.
* Mock Drafts referenced for this article were ESPN, HoopsHype.com, DraftExpress.com and NBADraft.net