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Adreian Payne interview

Raptors Search For Role Players In The Draft Nears An End

The Toronto Raptors brought in six more prospects for workouts at the Air Canada Centre including Adreian Payne, Jarnell Stokes, Jordan Adams, C.J. Wilcox, Sean Kilpatrick and Roy Devyn Marble and Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman says the Raptors are pretty happy where they are in the process with just one more workout scheduled for later this week.  The players are starting starting to look like they are ready for the process to end too.

“We definitely like where we are at in the draft right now,” Tolzman said. “We have a good feeling of the type of players we are going to be looking at each of our picks and it is kind of nice where we are at where we are at 20, 37, and 59, they are spaced out enough to where we are looking at different groups of people at each one and at this point we have done so much of our homework and we are doing a lot of discussions and watching film sessions together and narrowing down the guys we are really zeroing in on.”

Dan Tolzman audio:

Although there has been lots of talk about Toronto trying to move up in the draft, all of the players the team has brought in so far are ones the Raptors were expected to take a look at without making any deals. The team has cautioned about the difficulty in making a trade to acquire a lottery pick and has set realistic expectations as they prepared for the draft.

“A big thing is you have to be realistic on expectations of the players,” Tolzman said. “Everyone wants to find those diamonds and those guys that will be All-Stars and MVPs and those guys are pretty hard to find outside of the lottery – the Top 5 even. If you can find guys at 20 and 37 that have careers that are eight year players that are role players on your team doing good things to help you win, that’s a successful draft pick. You might get lucky and hit a guy that’s going to be a big time contributor and pushing for All-Stars and that kind of thing, but that’s not really what you are looking for when you are outside of the Top 5 or Top 10. You are just looking for guys that will come into your team and do well and not mess up the chemistry and give it their all. If you can narrow in on guys like that – find the guys that will be the right fit – then you did well in the draft.”

The only disappointment for the Raptors was not getting those 3, 4 or 5 guys that might slip on draft night to come in for a workout or at least a chat with the trainers and coaching staff and that reluctance could become a huge mistake. When you aren’t expecting to draft a future All-Star, it is a lot easier to select a player you have vetted internally as a good fit when the difference in talent is not likely to be overwhelming.

“There are always the handful of guys that we tried our best to get them in, but for whatever reason the agent didn’t feel like it was in their client’s best interest to send him here,” Tolzman said. “It’s a part of the business. It’s understandable when there are a handful of guys that we’re high on, that we think if they are there on draft night we would like to see them beforehand so that if they are there on draft night we’ll be comfortable with them. There are guys that they didn’t see it as a wise move on their part to come workout here, they are working for all of the teams in front of us – you deal with it. There are 3, 4, 5 guys we really tried and it didn’t work out.

“It definitely plays into (our decision). Workouts aren’t such the final say where you don’t want to (make it) a black or white type thing where we didn’t get him in, cross him off the list, but you definitely want to get guys in so our training staff gets a look at him, our coaches get a look at him, that way more than just the scouts have a good feel on the guy. It is more difficult to sell players that we didn’t get in here to the rest of the staff.

“It’s a huge part getting to see them and getting to know them as people and to get to see how they interact with our staff is huge because it’s little things that – if they are respectful, approaching it properly, you know they are the right kind of people we are looking for in our chemistry. If they come in and do the opposite then it’s – I don’t want to say it’s a red flag, but – it’s okay, we got to start paying attention a little more.”

The interview process is the most important part of the NBA Draft Combine that kicks off this process and teams really do want to talk to players at some point and preferably more than once.

“The interviews are – in my opinion – the best part of the Combine because the drill work and everything they do on the court, it’s the same stuff that they do here, but the one-on-one opportunity with them and the chance to get the kid in front of our small group and we get just really get to know them for half an hour,” Tolzman said. “That’s invaluable really.”

The 6’8 260 lb Stokes was a key member of the USA U19 team that won the gold medal in the World Championships this past summer and was a double-double bruiser with this year’s Sweet Sixteen Tennessee Volunteers. He impressed during the workout. Stokes says he’s really a perimeter player that had to play inside because of his size, but he’s seen a paint player that has a perimeter game. The Raptors also interviewed Stokes at the Combine.

“(Stokes) has shown that he can face up and hit jumpers,” Tolzman said. “We didn’t expect him to shoot the three as well as he did today. I think he has been working on that a lot to prove he can do that, but his 15-18 foot range even during the season is pretty good. It’s something to where he is trying to show people that he is more than just a banger and a bruiser and a rebounder and it just helps his case even more.”

Jarnell Stokes audio:

Michigan State Senior Payne is a stretch four with the size and the smarts to be a productive NBA player. It will be hit-or-miss for the Raptors to actually have a shot at him with the 20th pick.

“Adreian (Payne), he is a pretty good kid,” Tolzman said. “He is really competitive. He is coming from such a high-level program, I think he has been coached extremely well. He knows exactly what to expect in the NBA and there is nothing going to surprise this guy at all. He knows basketball. He knows rotations. He knows where to get himself in the proper spots to get his own shot that is best for him and I think he is going to be a pretty good player – with his size and his athleticism and shoots the way he does, it’s pretty impressive.”

Adreian Payne audio:


UCLA Sophomore shooting guard Adams is not the typical player expected at a Raptors workout. He isn’t the high-flying athlete usually seen trying out for Toronto, this kid uses strength, smarts and basketball I.Q to get the job done at both ends of the court. Expected to be drafted in the first round, he would be an intriguing if unexpected selection.

“(Adams) is an interesting guy because he is so crafty,” Tolzman said. “He is not a high level athlete. He is kind of like a throwback player where he gets everywhere he wants to go even when they are trying to keep him from doing it and he is really, really smart at picking his points, at using his hands on defense when he needs to and then trying to stay in front of guys. I think in the NBA, he is going to be a – it’s an interesting comparison just because he is a crafty player who can shoot it, who can score it, who can – I think he has the highest steal rate – he did some pretty incredible things when you put it all together and guys like that always seem to find a way to figure it out. At what level he does, that’s so hard to project, but he is a good enough all-around player to where he’ll probably figure it out for sure.”

Jordan Adams audio:


Washington Senior Wilcox is an athletic shooting guard who filled it up from the three-point line last season and has some serious hops. His former teammate Terrence Ross has been selling him on the joys of playing in Toronto.

C.J. Wilcox audio:


“Me and Terrence (Ross) are pretty close so we keep in contact a lot,” Wilcox said. “He let me know about the city, about the workout. He loves it here, so I came in with a good mentality.”

So far the Raptors have looked at point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards that they could make an excellent case for drafting with the 20th pick assuming they are available. Sometimes it’s seeing every possibility and sometimes it’s just making sure no one else knows what you are really thinking.



Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.