NBA Draft 2011: Top 6 Players on the Toronto Raptors' Radar

Justin BoninAnalyst IMay 20, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: Top 6 Players on the Toronto Raptors' Radar

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 24:  Ed Davis stands with NBA Commisioner David Stern after being drafted thirteenth by The Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden on June 24, 2010 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by download
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    With the NBA Lottery having come and gone, the Raptors forced to settle with the fifth overall pick.  This means no Kyrie Irving, no Derrick Williams and no Enes Kanter.  Right when things were looking up for the Raps, Dan Gilbert and his son Nick had to mess things up… right?

    No, wrong!

    Despite the Raptors getting the short end of the stick in this year’s draft (surprise, surprise, David Stern failed to come to the rescue for the lone Canadian team… only the LeBron stricken Cleveland Cavaliers) there remains several reason why Raptors management—and fans—should stay positive. 

    Here are the top six reasons Raptors fans should stay positive, in the form of the top six prospects that should still be available when the Raptors pick fifth overall.

6. Jan Vesely, PF/SF, 6’11

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    Strengths:  Jan Vesely is a big, athletic forward with a great jump shot and range beyond the three point line, as well as the ability to ability to slash to the basket thanks in large part to his mix of size, athleticism and above average ball handling skills for a forward his size.

    Weaknesses: If Vesely is to play power forward at the NBA level, he will have to get stronger and improve his post game.

    How he helps the Raptors: The Raptors need a SF and Jan Vesely could help them out.  His athleticism and scoring ability at the three spot would be something the Raptors have not had at that position for quite a while.

    That being said, he will likely be a late bloomer and it will be a couple years before we get to see what Jan Vesely is truly capable of and whether or not he really is the answer for the Raptors.

5. Chris Singleton, SF, 6’9

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 25:  Chris Singleton #31 of the Florida State Seminoles dunks against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the southwest regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Alamodome on March 25, 2011 in San Antonio, Texa
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Strengths:  Chris Singleton is one of—if not—the best perimeter defenders in the draft.  He is long and athletic and possesses a good mid range jumper as well as some three-point range, though he is inconsistent from beyond the arc.

    Weaknesses:  As mentioned above, he is a streaky shooter from long range and he must develop a post game in order to take advantage of his length and height.

    How Chris Singleton helps the Raptors: As I have been stressing for a long time, the Raptors will never win if they do not improve their defense.  They are a horrible team defensively and they lack overall toughness (especially if they do not re-sign Reggie Evans). 

    Chris Singleton would be a huge help for the Raptors—in both the toughness and rebounding departments—and should fit in very nicely with the current core of DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis.  

4. Kawhi Leonard, SF/SG, 6’7

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24:  Kawhi Leonard #15 of the San Diego State Aztecs dunks the ball against the Connecticut Huskies during the west regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 24, 2011 in Anaheim, Calif
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Strengths:  Kawhi Leonard is a very athletic wing player and an excellent rebounder with great leaping ability and a big body with a ton of length.  His offensive game is still developing, but the size and athleticism are there for him and his offense—as well as improved defense—should come easily as he matures.    

    Weaknesses: As mentioned earlier, his offensive game has yet to fully develop. 

    How Kawhi Leonard helps the Raptors: Kawhi Leonard would fill Toronto’s gaping hole at small forward and help them in two of their weakest areas—toughness and rebounding. 

    Leonard’s toughness and rebounding would not be lost on the Raptors who are desperate for a player with these qualities and, as he matures, his offense and defense will improve as he becomes a key player for the Raptors as they look to complete the current rebuild two or three years from now.

3. Jonas Valanciunas, PF/C, 6’10

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    Strengths: Jonas Valenciunas is another player who is breaking the typcial mould of the European big man.  He lives down low where he has a very soft touch.  On the defensive end, he is a good shot blocker and rebounder.

    Weaknesses: Unlike many European big men Valenciunas has a great inside game but must improve on his mid range shooting. Other than that, he is a great big man prospect and if he can add strength and toughness as he matures he will be just fine.

    How Jonas Valenciunas helps the Raptors: Jonas Valenciunas would help the Raptors by doing just about everything Andrea Bargnani cannot/will not do for the Raptors.  He gives Toronto a dominant presence down low on offense as well as rebounding and shot blocking ability.


2. Kemba Walker, PG, 6’1

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    HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies handles the ball against the Butler Bulldogs during the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Houston,
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Strengths: Kemba Walker is very athletic.  He is incredibly quick and is just plain explosive when he is driving to the rim to either finish at the hoop or kick it out to a teammate. 

    I would not necessarily call him a lock down defender, but he still averages many steals.  His jump shot has improved a lot and should only get better as he matures.  Finally, his heart and tenacity are rivaled by few others in this year’s draft.

    Weaknesses: The biggest knock on Kemba Walker would have to be that he is undersized, which may or may not hurt his chances of being successful in the NBA.  Aside from that, he is more of a scorer than a passer, which hurts him since he is far too small to play SG.


    How he helps the Raptors: Kemba Walker would fill Toronto’s hole at point guard and give the Raptors a legitimate No. 1 option on offense.  Despite the fact that Walker is not much of a playmaker, I have no problem drafting him for his scoring and his ability to lead a team, but I would only take Walker if the next player was no longer available…

1. Brandon Knight, PG, 6’3

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    HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 02:  Brandon Knight #12 of the Kentucky Wildcats moves the ball while taking on the Connecticut Huskies during the National Semifinal game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Reliant Stadium on April 2, 2011 in
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Strengths: Brandon Knight does just about everything well.  He can score, pass and he is a good defender.  Combine that with his athleticism, high basketball I.Q and the fact that he can play either guard position, and you have a very good pick at the point guard position that would help any team.

    Weaknesses:  He will need to improve his consistency from behind the arc but other than that, it is hard to go wrong with Brandon Knight.

    How Brandon Knight helps the Raptors: Jose Calderon is no longer a part of the future of the Toronto Raptors and Jerryd Bayless is far better suited to play SG. 

    By drafting Brandon Knight, the Raptors will be able to trade Jose Calderon and make Jerryd Bayless their sixth man once Barbosa is gone (either this year if he declines the player option or next year once he becomes an unrestricted free agent) as a backup to both DeMar DeRozan and Brandon Knight. 

    Brandon Knight would be the Answer for the Raptors at the point guard position and he along with DeMar DeRozan would be the leaders of this young Raptors team moving forward.