I know that this is the time of year where mock drafts pop up all over the interweb, but I simply wouldn’t have much to offer against league-connected scribes like Ian Thomsen. Sure, I can look at a team’s strengths and weaknesses and speculate based on their draft slot, but why bother when other reporters can tap into whom team executives are talking about?
That being said, I do know the Raptors and can provide some insight into who they could turn to (assuming they keep their pick) once their turn comes up at No. 13. Clearly a big man is the top priority for the team, and there are plenty of intriguing lottery prospects who could fall to them.
Here is an early list of draft prospects who fit the Raps’ needs and could be available in time for the team’s No. 13 pick.
*Note: this list does not include guys like Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe, who are expected to be off the board once the Raptors’ selection comes up.
Because every draft prospect can only be validated through comparisons with established NBA’ers, 7’0” centre Hassan Whiteside has drawn parallels to Marcus Camby. You think the Raptors couldn’t use a shot blocker and defence-oriented anchor in the middle? Whiteside will need to bulk up in order to successfully mix it up with NBA big men, but his aggressive approach on both sides of the ball would make him tough to handle when he does add muscle to his thin frame.
If Whiteside, who is coming out of Marshall after being named C-USA Defensive Player of the Year in his freshman season, is still on the board when Toronto picks (an iffy proposition), look for Bryan Colangelo to jump on him.
A versatile power forward, Ekpe Udoh could grow into a solid replacement for Chris Bosh should he fly the coop in free agency. Udoh can score in the post, has a decent mid-range game and has developed his ability to pass out of the post in two seasons at Baylor.
Udoh’s weakness? Defence. He looked capable enough in buying into Baylor’s team concept that helped them to the Elite Eight of this year’s NCAA tournament, but will he be as motivated alongside a group of guys not known for stellar play on the other side of the ball? Udoh would not be expected to play a major role right away, but it’s hard to envision how a front court of him and Andrea Bargnani doesn’t get decimated in the paint.
UNC’s Ed Davis was largely considered a disappointment this season, a player widely expected to step up after finally emerging from the shadow of Tyler Hansbrough. However, while he played well, he didn’t dominate as expected and remains raw offensively. But he’s also a guy with tremendous upside who may be worth the wait of a year or two.
Of course, Raptors’ fans aren’t going to be thrilled with a wait-and-see prospect after witnessing a late season collapse that left Toronto out of the play-off picture by the slimmest of margins. That said, Davis could reward a team’s patience as a competent player on both ends of the floor with plenty of room for improvement.
In many ways, Cole Aldrich is the anti-Davis: a player who is ready to contribute immediately but isn’t likely to develop much beyond his current game. That’s not to say the Kansas product, who offers size, defence and rebounding, would not be a strong candidate for the No. 13 pick.
Too often teams are lured in by the high-ceiling types and ultimately wind up with a bust. Aldrich isn’t explosive and won’t be vying for a scoring title anytime soon, but he knows how to use his 6’11”, 245lb frame and has tremendous basketball instincts. He will also benefit from plenty of big game experience as a member of the Jayhawks.
Other possibilities at No. 13:
Larry Sanders, PF (VCU) – A solid athlete who can play in transition, but may get swallowed up in the paint.
Daniel Orton, C (Kentucky) – Would’ve benefitted from another year of seasoning, but can play the low post.
Patrick Patterson, PF (Kentucky) – Post-up game? Check. Scoring ability? Check. Defence? Nope!
Donatas Motiejunas, PF (Italy) – A seven-footer coming over from Italy who can stretch defences with his three-point range, but struggles on the defensive end. Sound familiar?