2011 NBA Draft: Toronto Raptors
Those are the words that David Stern will utter on Thursday night, and the question still remains: Who will become the newest member of the Toronto Raptors?
A number of mock drafts, including Chad Ford's on ESPN, have the Raptors selecting Jan Vesely, a 6’11” combo forward from the Czech Republic.
Vesely isn’t your prototypical European player—he is a slasher who likes to go to the rim. He is also one of the better athletes in the draft and has terrific size for the small forward position.
Vesely is most commonly compared to Utah's Andrei Kirilenko.
Why do NBA analysts have the Raptors selecting Vesely? Is it because of Bryan Colangelo’s perceived love of European players?
In reality, he isn’t a great fit for the team.
Last season, Toronto was dead last in three-point shooting. The team shot a terrible 31.6 percent from downtown. The team needs shooters, but Vesely won't provide any help in that department.
Vesely also would create a logjam at small forward. He replicates a lot of what DeMar DeRozan does well, and to a lesser extent, James Johnson.
Now I’m not suggesting that Toronto should draft based on the assumption that Johnson is the small forward of the future.
However, DeRozan is quickly becoming the team’s best player, and it would be prudent to find players that compliment him.
Another player often linked to the Raptors is Kemba Walker, who led Connecticut to the 2011 NCAA Championship.
He is rated as the third best point guard prospect in the draft, behind Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight, and is almost guaranteed to be a top 10 pick in this year’s draft.
However, does he fit with the Raptors?
There are questions about whether Walker can make the transition to play point guard full time. He is viewed as more of an undersized scoring guard.
This again replicates what Toronto already has on the roster in Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa.
Barbosa's presence wouldn't pose too much of a problem for Walker. In fact, I would not be surprised to see Colangelo move Barbosa in the offseason. He has one year and $7.6 million left on his contract, and there are limited minutes in the backcourt with the emergence of Bayless.
Who should the Toronto Raptors select?
Any contender would love to have Barbosa's scoring punch coming off the bench.
Bayless, on the other hand, averaged 22.5 points and 5.6 assists per game during the month of April last season.
Drafting Walker, who has such a similar game and would take away minutes, doesn't make sense.
A player the Raptors are rumored to love is Brandon Knight.
He is the latest of the John Calipari guards, and while he doesn’t have the talent of a Derrick Rose, John Wall or Tyreke Evans, he has the potential to develop into a very good point guard in this league.
At 6’3”, Knight has great size for a point guard. He also has a 6’7” wingspan, giving him the potential to develop into a very good defender.
The only problem here is that the Utah Jazz are very high on Knight, and it is unlikely he slides all the way to Toronto at five.
The last player to consider is Enes Kanter.
Kanter is a man of mystery in this year’s draft. He played professional basketball in Turkey for a year and had an amazing game at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit, scoring 34 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
He is also a legitimate 6’11”, with a 7’1” wingspan. He has the size to play centre at the NBA level and already has a pro body.
However, despite enrolling at the University of Kentucky for this past season, he was ruled ineligible to play because of benefits he received during his time abroad. He spent the year as a player/coach at Kentucky, but did not see one minute of floor time.
The problem that has been talked about for months is whether one great game at the Nike Hoop Summit is enough to draft him.
Kanter hasn’t played competitive basketball in over a year, and if there is a lockout in the NBA this season, how will that impact his development?
Kanter wowed scouts at the Chicago pre-draft camp. He finished 21 minutes on the treadmill test, which is almost unheard of for a big man.
However, most of his team workouts have been against a chair.
This isn’t his fault—agents want to protect their clients and generally restrict what their clients will do during a workout—but it certainly makes him a question mark.
No one knows where Kanter will go in this year’s draft.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Kanter’s agent, Max Ergul, believes his client could go No. 1 to the Cavs. He has a second workout with them scheduled on Monday.
Chad Ford reports that the Cavs are cooling on Kanter and looking towards Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas would likely be taken at No. 4—I can’t imagine there is any scenario where he becomes the first overall pick.
Kanter also recently worked out for the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team that could desperately use his services.
Despite David Kahn’s comments that Darko Milicic has passing skills comparable to Vlade Divac's and has a career "indicative" to Chris Webber's, I’m not sold on the idea that a team can win with Darko as its starting centre.
If Kanter is still available when Toronto is on the board, the Raptors need to seriously consider taking him.
It is no secret that the Andrea Bargnani experiment at centre doesn’t work. He is a power forward, no ifs ands or buts. Therefore, Toronto needs a legitimate centre to put next to him.
There are a number of centres available in free agency this offseason, but I can’t picture any of them coming to Toronto.
Mark Cuban will more than likely lock Tyson Chandler up long term after the Mavericks won the title. Memphis isn’t going to let Marc Gasol leave. The Clippers just extended a qualifying offer to DeAndre Jordan, allowing them to match any offer he receives. The Nuggets are attempting to work out a new contract with Nene. Finally, Miami, New York and Boston are all rumoured to have interest in Samuel Dalembert.
Since this is a weak draft with so much uncertainty beyond the first two picks, why not swing for the fences? If Kanter is available, Toronto should take him, not select someone who’s a clone of one of Toronto’s existing players.
Only time will tell, but Raptor fans everywhere will be holding their breath on June 23, waiting to hear what name David Stern calls out.
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