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2017 Toronto Raptors NBA predraft workout prospect T.J. Leaf

T.J. Leaf Could Be The Raptors Next Stretch Four Prospect

A likely NBA first round draft pick in the twenties, UCLA freshman T.J. Leaf was in Toronto for a predraft workout and he showed why he could be the Raptors next stretch four prospect.

The 6’10 forward shot 46.6 percent from three-point range in college and had some big time numbers in a successful program averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Not surprisingly the Raptors wanted to see if he could do more than just score.

“Playmaking, being able to rebound the ball and just attack the rim,” were the things he was being asked to do said Leaf. “Not just score, but be able to make my teammate better.

“I am not the best defender right now so if they want to put me in defensive drills to help me get better, it’s great.”

The Raptors are likely in the market for a stretch four coming off the bench next season with forward Patrick Patterson about to become an unrestricted free agent and president Masai Ujiri expected to blow the budget re-signing Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker.

Last year’s rookie big men aren’t known for their shooting and someone like Leaf could earn a spot in the Raptors rotation early on next season.

“He plays the right way,” Director, player personnel Dan Tolzman said. “Decision-making and team-oriented basketball, he’s elite at that. Always seems to make the right passes. Finds himself in the right spot whether it’s opportunity rebounds or that sort of thing.

“He doesn’t need to be dominating the ball to have an impact on the game.”

Assuming the ULCA forward is still on the board when the Raptors draft at 23rd, he seems like a logical pick for a team like Toronto that is need of more three-point shooting.

 

 

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

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo and DeMar DeRozan

Biyombo Who? Raptors Rookies Wipe Out Any Rebounding Concerns

The Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri magic touch has been showing itself off early on again this season as rookies Pascal Siakam and Jacob Poeltl are quickly making everyone forget all about the departure of their best rebounder last season Bismack Biyombo.

With injuries to Jared Sullinger and Lucas Nogueira, the rookies were thrust into the rotation ahead of schedule and at this point, it would be hard to conclude anything but they deserve to be there.

Casey was forced to start Siakam in order to keep the veteran Patrick Patterson in his comfort zone coming off the bench and the energetic forward has filled in nicely averaging 4 points on 66.7 percent shooting, 6 rebounds and a steal in 18.5 minutes over his first two games. It’s starting to look like Ujiri isn’t going to be forced into any rush to bring back Sullinger or something else more desperate. When Nogueira went down,  Poeltl was the next man up at backup center and he’s averaged 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 12 minutes and is starting to look like he just belongs out there. Nogueira has been the odd man out in each of his two previous seasons and if he doesn’t get back soon, he’ll be the odd man out again this year.

“We (Siakam and Poeltl) got our roles and we know our roles and what we are supposed to do,” Siakam told Pro Bball Report. “I think the team knows what I can give them and that’s what I am going to try to give every night.

“I think that I am a pretty good rebounder. Whenever I get an opportunity I will try to go for the ball and with me playing, I will have more opportunity to rebound the basketball, that is always one of my assets.”

Biyombo was a big time contributor off the bench last season averaging 5.5 points, 8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 22 minutes as he pulled in an impressive 20.8 percent of the available boards while he was on the court. However, the rookie Poeltl is absorbing 19.8 percent of the available rebounds so far and his first two games were against solid playoff teams and Siakam has been dramatically upping the rebounding impact from the power forward spot at 17.1 percent. It’s a small sample size, but Toronto doesn’t look like a team that is going to lose the battle of the boards very often because they are relying on a couple of rookies.

“(Siakam) is a good rebounder and he played well,” a frustrated Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said after the season opener.

So far this season Toronto has outrebounded their opposition by  an NBA 4th best 11 boards each game and that included the home opening win over Detroit and last season’s top rebounder Andre Drummond. It’s worth pointing out the Raptors two rookies are averaging 10.5 boards between them. Last year Toronto finished the season a solid 7th best +2.6 boards.

The next big test for the Raptors rebounding prowess is going to come on Halloween night when they face off against the glass cleaning Nuggets at the Air Canada Center. Denver has been crushing opponents on the boards by a +20.5 rebound margin to start the season.  Big men Nikola Jokic (12 rebounds), Kenneth Faried (11.5 rebounds) and Jusif Nurkic (9 rebounds) doing most of the heavy lifting.  Toronto’s rookies are in for another real challenge.

Now if only someone could block a shot for the Raptors? Although, the blocked shot differential is currently zero.

 

 

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

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


 

 

Wiggins and Bennett

Why Wiggins Matters To Canada

By Frank McLean

The much awaited visit of this season’s top pick from June’s NBA Draft, Canadian Andrew Wiggins, finally occurred Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. There was a buzz in the building as the local boy came home to play his childhood heroes, the Raptors, for the first time in a regular season game.

The anticipation from waiting to see the next generation’s superstar was palatable as many Canadians view Wiggins as “The Next One”, a player who will ascend to the throne currently occupied by King  James.

Wiggins leads all rookies in scoring averaging 15.7 points per game. He is fourth in steals with 1.08 per game and fifth in rebounding at 4.3 per game. His stats line has given him the top rookie award for the months of November, December, January, February and chances are he is the morning line favourite to cop the award in March too.

Wiggins was one of only eight players the Timberwolves dressed in Toronto as his young team has been ravaged by injuries. Once again, he showed flashes of the pure athletic ability that the basketball gods gave him, but you can see he is starting to hit the rookie wall. It’s something all first year NBA players must work through.

When you play in the NCAA and you are lucky enough to make to the final game of the NCAA Tournament, you play 40-games tops and game number 40 in the NBA is often the magic number that the back-to-back nights and the four games in five nights hits you, but you have to hand it to the kid, he wants to play in all 82 games.

“He wants to play all 82 games,” Wolves coach Sam Mitchell said. “He’s a rookie and he is learning to get mentally tough. Learning how to push through this is part of the process, I’m proud of him, of his effort”.

That’s high praise from Mitchell who does not hand out compliments to rookies easily. Afterwards in the post game media scrum, you could not wipe the smile off Wiggins face.

Before the game he and fellow Canadian teammate and 2013 first overall draft pick Anthony Bennett met Prime Minister Stephen Harper who had made the trip from Ottawa to see Wiggins play live.

“It was great,” Wiggins said. “It’s like meeting the President.”

That’s what made this such a special night for Canadian basketball. Twenty years ago when I started covering the NBA if someone told me that Canadians would be first overall draft picks in the NBA I would have thought they were crazy. Now Canadian Prime Minister Harper has just met with two Canadians chosen first overall in the NBA Draft playing for the same team.

There are 28 Canadians playing in this year’s NCAA basketball tournament. So, there are many more basketball playing Canucks coming and that means there are going to be more nights of Canadian superstars coming to Toronto very soon.

 

 
Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

Sim Bhullar interview

Sacramento Kings Sign Undrafted Canadian Sim Bhullar

The Sacramento Kings announced they have signed undrafted Canadian Sim Bhullar to a deal that will bring him to training camp at the end of September.

 

A Toronto native, Bhullar is the first player of Indian descent to sign an NBA contract, however, the eventuality of the 7’5 center getting a chance to make an NBA roster this fall was not completely unexpected.

“I think (Bhullar) is probably on every team’s radar,” Raptors Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman told Pro Bball Report earlier this summer. “A guy that big in Division 1 basketball, you hear about it, you read stuff on-line and if someone like that has a big game, you are drawn to that and you watch him a little bit more.”

The knock on the Bhullar has been his conditioning, but that is something the exceptionally big man can work on by himself during the summer and now with the Kings coaches and trainers heading into training camp and preseason games. However, the challenge of making it to the NBA will fall largely on Bhullar’s own shoulders.

“Honestly, the key thing is their will to get taught,” Tolzman explained. “If a player (Bhullar’s) size is interested in becoming better and wants to be an NBA player and really wants to get better, then absolutely coaching is – I don’t want to say that it is easy, but it helps – if they want to be in the gym, then we’ve got coaches and we’ve got development people that will work with him constantly to get better.”

After all, there aren’t many – any – players with Bhullar’s height and length. This giant finishes layups with both feet on the ground and his hands well above the bottom of the backboard.
 

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It seems likely that Bhullar will be only the first of many players from India or of Indian descent to make their way to the NBA as the league’s first Indian-born majority owner Vivek Ranadive was quoted in NBA News.

“I’ve long believed that India is the next great frontier for the NBA, and adding a talented player like Sim only underscores the exponential growth basketball has experienced in that nation,” said the Kings owner Ranadive.

“While Sim is the first player of Indian descent to sign with an NBA franchise, he represents one of many that will emerge from that region as the game continues to garner more attention and generate ever-increasing passion among a new generation of Indian fans.”

This giant of a man will have two Countries rooting for him to earn a spot on the Kings roster this season.

 

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

 

 

Elijah Millsap interview

Can Elijah Millsap be the Next P.J. Tucker?

Elijah Millsap is having a very good summer league with the 76ers and this isn’t his first trip to play in the NBA’s summer showcase. The 26-year-old younger brother of Paul Millsap has been getting looks from NBA teams since he went undrafted in 2010 and hopes to be following a similar track to P.J. Tucker who made multiple trips to Vegas in the summer before finally landing a job with the Suns.

“P.J. Tucker was 27 when he made pro,” Millsap said. “I am trying to do the same route as P.J. Tucker. Guys like that are very inspirational and give you hope.”

Millsap was first invited to Summer League in 2010 and it earned him a training camp invite from the Thunder, however he spent that season in Tulsa of the D-League and parts of the next three seasons with the L.A. Defenders. Millsap was signed by the Lakers for about 2 weeks in December 2011 and he has played in China, the Philippines and Israel, so the forward has never given up on his goal of playing professional basketball in the NBA.

“I just had a son,” Millsap said. “I want to be an inspiration to my son and my younger brother. I want to be the guy that inspires other guys. I want to maximize my ability and continue to get better and try to get to the NBA.”

However, the road to the NBA after reaching your mid-twenties isn’t an easy one as his agent Daniel Hazan explains.

“You simply have to outwork and out do everyone else,” Hazan said. “You got kids who were drafted and obviously they are younger and a lot more attractive to GMs and owners and you simply have to prove that you are better than all of them. Outplay and outwork them and you have to show that you belong. At an age like that (mid-twenties), GMs already think they know you, so they are already starting to write you off and you really have to come in there and show them otherwise, but it definitely a challenge and it is not a simple thing.”

Elijah Millsap game shotMillsap came to Summer League ready to prove he was better. In his first three games in Vegas, Millsap has averaged 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and just 1.7 personal fouls in 23.3 minutes and his play has been worthy of notice.

“He had 19 points last night and 7 steals,” Hazan said. “He has really been putting in the necessary work in Summer League to really earn himself a spot in training camp.

“There are GMs out there that have told me ‘I don’t know why you are sending this kid back to Summer League?’ and there are guys who are right on the cusp. At the end of the day, I believe in him and he believes in himself and that is all that really matters. Hopefully teams see his attitude, his focus and his determination to succeed. Hopefully they see a guy that is a defensive stopper, his 7 steals that is tying an NBA Summer League record is not a fluke. Leading all Vegas in steals per game at 4. So we hope he gets an invite to training camp and we’ll see what happens. I think we are in a great situation with Philly, a team that is wide open and we hope for the best.”

Philly Hoops Talk also took notice of Millsap’s performance:

“Elijah Millsap was incredible! His offense and defense were a big factor to the Sixers blowout, 85-63 win over Julius Randle and the Lakers. Mr. Millsap had 19pts on 5/7 from the field, went 9/12 from the line, and had a whopping 7 steals on defense (Summer league record). A truly great performance and may just earn him a roster spot.”

Hazan believes Millsap has the determination to win an NBA job and has the character NBA GMs look for in the players they need to fill out the back end of a roster.

“He is a leader out there,” Hazan said. “He is quiet, does his job, he is a good kid, very easy to work with, very easy to deal with, very respectful.

“When you are the 13, 14 15 guy, the number one thing is you don’t want a knucklehead. 1) He is the most humble respectful and quietest guy you are going to see out there. 2) He can play. He has the experience to be an NBA player. He has been in NBA training camps in the past, he has that experience. He just needs that opportunity from somebody to take him under their wing. He could come in and be an instant stopper on the defensive end. He can take it to the hole. He has it all. It’s just a matter of who wants to take that risk.”

Millsap has been showing in Summer League that his college defensive promise is worth another look now that he is a few years older and more experienced and in an NBA that puts a premium on players that can hit the long bomb, his D-League resume also proves he has NBA range on his three-point shot. 3-and-D is a valuable NBA skill-set these days.

Hazan may have found the NBA’s next “P.J. Tucker” in Millsap. He just needs someone to give him a chance to prove it.

 

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

 

 

Bruno Caboclo close-up

Raptors Summer League Team Will Be Fun To Watch

This year’s Toronto Raptors NBA Summer League team is going to be fun to watch. The 15-man squad consisting of Lucas Nogueira, Bruno Caboclo, DeAndre Daniels, Dwight Buycks, Myck Kabongo, Chris Daniels, Sam Dower, Scott Machado, T.J. Bray, John Shurna, Darington Hobson, Eli Holman, Malcolm Lee, Doron Lamb and Hassan Whiteside kicks off with a 10 am practice on July 8 at Del Sol High School and plays their first game against the Lakers on Friday, July 11th 6 pm ET at the COX Pavilion.

The 7’ Nogueira tore up Summer League with the Hawks last year blocking everything in sight and with another year under his belt in Spain’s ACB league where he was named the top defensive player, he’s poised to be even more imposing to those unfortunate want-to-bes in Las Vegas this time.

Caboclo shooting

Bruno Caboclo

The 18-year-old Caboclo 7’6 wingspan is just as long as Nogueira and this very young talent will have his moments in Summer League. His inexperience will undoubtedly show, but so will his length to grab unexpected steals and block shots. As an unknown quantity, it will probably take a while before the other teams figure out this kid really does have NBA three-point range as well.

DeAndre Daniels

DeAndre Daniels

DeAndre Daniels is fighting for an NBA job and this is really his only shot to convince Raptors GM Masai Ujiri to keep him in Toronto next season. An NCAA champion, this small forward taken in the second round of the draft isn’t going away without a fight.

TOR Dwight Buycks web

Dwight Buycks

After last summer Buycks knows he is auditioning for all 30 NBA teams in Summer League and the 2013 French Pro A League MVP point guard is showcasing his skills for more than just the Raptors and the rest of the NBA. He wowed them last summer and a decent payday for Buycks could come from anywhere in the world next season.

The Canadian point guard Kabongo came out a year too early, went undrafted and needed to do a lot of work on his game. He had a good season in the NBA D-League with Austin averaging 9.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists while proving he can make the NBA three-point shot with some consistency. His college freshman promise may be starting to show through.

The 30-year-old 6’9 Chris Daniels has spent the last three years in the NBA D-League where he has averaged about 2 blocks per game. The Raptors Summer League is setup to swat shots.

Undrafted Gonzaga Senior Dower is an undersized center that can score and potentially stretch the floor.

Machado broke out as a double-double point guard in the up-tempo Iona offense as a Senior, however, he only got a cup of coffee with the Rockets and has spent most of the past two seasons in the D-League. The Raptors want their third string point guard to be able to run an up-tempo system, so he’s worth a look.

The Princeton Senior Bray has his fans, unfortunately, they weren’t at the draft. The first team Ivy leaguer was a productive scorer, rebounder and facilitator and had some of his best games against big name opponents. The 6’6 guard averaged 18.1 points and 40.8 percent from three last season, just assume he’s smart with a solid basketball I.Q.

The 6’10 Shurna averaged 11.7 points and 37.9 percent from deep for Joventut in Spain last season.

Hobson had a cup of coffee with the Bucks a couple of years ago and spent last season in the NBA D-League.

Undersized big man Holman is bringing his 7’ 4.5” wingspan in for another look after going undrafted in 2012.

The 43rd overall draft pick by the Bulls in 2011, Lee played in 35 games for the Timberwolves over two seasons between 2011 and 2013.

Lamb was recently waived by the Orlando Magic. The second year guard shot over 40 percent from three-point range in 77 games with the Magic over the past two seasons.

Whiteside averaged over 5 blocks per game with Marshall and was drafted 33rd overall by the Kings in 2010. He played a total of 19 games with the Kings in the NBA. Whiteside did average 3 blocks and 18.9 minutes with Reno in the NBA D-League in 2011-2012. In 2012-2013, he averaged 2 blocks and 10.5 minutes with Rio Grande Valley over 29 games.

This Raptors Summer League team is going to feature lots of shot blocking and three-point shots. It will be fun to watch.

 

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

 

 

NBA TV Canada logo

Orlando NBA Summer League Starts On Saturday

The NBA’s annual Summer League showcase of young talent kicks off in Orlando on Saturday with 10 teams going head-to-head for a week of games that ends on Championship Day Friday.

The Magic, Celtics, Nets, Pistons, Rockets, Pacers, Grizzlies, HEAT, Thunder, and 76ers are participating in this closed to the public event that will be aired on NBA TV. Nets vs. Pacers kicks things off at 9 am Saturday with 5 games starting every 2 hours.

Nets v. Pacers 9am

Mason Plumlee returns from last year to lead the Nets three second round draft picks the team purchased for cash. How Markel Brown, Xavier Thomas and Cory Jefferson perform could be very important to a Nets team that is deep into luxury tax territory and could use a few low cost additions.

The Pacers have no draft picks to showcase this year and returning players Donald Sloan and Solomon Hill will lead this group.

HEAT v. Celtics 11am

It’s the Shabazz Napier show for the HEAT as the rookie has been saddled with burden of being the guy LeBron James wanted the team to draft. Now that’s a lot to live up to. Hopefully he has a good week.

The Celtics are a team to watch and will feature the sixth overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft Marcus Smart and returning 2013 Summer League MVP Kelly Olynyk. The number 17 overall pick James Young is day-to-day with a strained neck and may not play.

Magic v. 76ers 1pm – Game of the Day!

The Magic are led by returnee Victor Oladipo, but the players to watch are the number four overall draft pick Aaron Gordon and the number 10 pick Elfrid Payton. The Magic traded the number 12 pick Dario Saric on draft night for Payton and will feature a very strong backcourt that should give defensive fits to their opposition at this level. Seth Curry, Golden State’s Stephen Curry’s brother is also on the team.

The 76ers are loaded with young talent, a lot of which could be playing in the NBA next season. Last year’s first round pick Nerlens Noel headlines after missing all of what should have been his rookie NBA season. This year’s number three overall draft pick Joel Embiid is at risk of following in Noel’s footsteps and will not play in Orlando. Look for K.J. McDaniels (32nd), Jeremi Grant (39th), Vasilije Micic (52nd) and Jordan McRae (58th) to try and leave an impression. Undrafted Aaron Craft and Canadian Melvin Ejim should look good in this setting. NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams is unavailable while he recovers from surgery.

Pistons v. Rockets 3pm

The Pistons will be led by sophomores Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell. The Magic’s 2011 second round draft pick and NBA D-League Defensive Player of the Year DeAndre Liggins is getting a look.

The player everyone wanted to see was Clint Capela, but he will not suit up for the Rockets. Second round selection Nick Johnson will be there. Rockets sophomores Isaiah Canaan and Robert Covington return and their 2008 second round draft pick, three-point shooter Maarty Leunen, will play after three seasons in Italy.

Grizzlies v. Thunder 5pm

The Grizzlies feature a pair a good rookie prospects in Jordan Adams (22nd pick) and Jarnell Stokes (35th pick). Stokes is a beast and should bully around his competition at Summer League and Adams should be hard to stop from scoring.

The Thunder are fielding a very good Summer League team. NBA playoff tested Steven Adams, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones and Andre Roberson should have no trouble shining this week. This year’s first round picks Mitch McGary (21) and Josh Huestis (29) will have their hands full to stand out in this group.

There are five games per day for seven days in Orlando, more than enough round ball for even the most hardcore basketball junkie.

The Las Vegas NBA Summer League starts on Friday July 11. A full list of all the teams in both Summer League venues can be found here.

 

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

Caboclo & Ujiri shake hands

First Impressions Of Bruno Caboclo With Akil Augustine

The Raptors surprise first round draft pick Bruno Caboclo was at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Saturday and Pro Ball Report caught up with NBA TV Canada’s ‘The Hangout’ Host Akil Augustine to get his first impressions of the Raptors newest rookie after watching Caboclo workout and answer questions from the media.

Akil Augustine audio:

 

“Long, young and honestly I judge everything kind of like I judge human beings – his smile speaks a lot to me,” Augustine said. “Despite all the negative things being said about him, the pressure, the situation, the new environment, he was even keeled, he had a smile and enjoyed the moment. He stayed present. As a basketball guy, you are looking for a basketball player and what I saw was a really young kid who is really, really long and we saw him shoot some jump shots – his jump shot looks all right. He has to get it a little quicker for the NBA and you never really know what someone’s jump shot will look like when you have a defender running up – a defender of equal size, strength and so on, but from the sample size I’ve been given to look at, I haven’t seen anything glaringly atrocious or would send me running the other direction saying we made the wrong choice, so Bruno Caboclo looks like a very talented young basketball player who is light on experience.

“I think the big difference here is the United States media allows you to find out so much about these kids where it’s thru Hoopshype, Slam Magazine, ESPN, all the mock drafts, the New York Times High School 100, those (high school) kids are on the radar from very early. The trick with Bruno was if he was a Brazilian soccer player, we’d have known about him 17 years ago if he’s 18, but being a Brazilian basketball player is a bit of a different animal. A kid like (Caboclo), If he was in the United States, he would be in the lines of the Michael Beaselys, the Shabazz Muhammads, the Bill Walkers, the kids that you talk about through their high school career, but simply being Brazilian and coming from Sao Paolo, a place that there aren’t a lot of cameras – he didn’t have a TV in his house until he was 17 – you are not going to find out a lot about kids like that. Ten years ago or even in this day and age, if Bruno Caboclo was an American player and Americans were aware of him, he would probably not have been at 20.

“He is freakish long. His hands are Kawhi Leonard type – obviously without the strength, but just looking at the framework, the bone whatever it is – I’m being an doctor here, but the kid looks long, he looks athletic and he can move. A lot of times when you get a young guy – I’m not sure what his growth spurts have been like, but young guys that grow quickly kind of have awkward movement – he is a pretty fluid guy, his gait is good and that should tell you a lot about what he can physically do on a basketball court.”

You can follow Akil Augustine on Twitter @AkilAugustine

 

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

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey

Bruno Caboclo: Raptors Draft Potential Over Mediocrity

Only Bruno Caboclo (cuh-BO-clo) and one other prospect with potential got Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri excited after wading through nine long pre-draft sessions at the Air Canada Centre with future potential role players destined for useful but otherwise uneventful careers and Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman was assigned the task of lowering expectations.

“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.”

While there were a few guys that Ujiri and Tolzman were enthusiastic about, other than Canadian point guard Tyler Ennis, they were all players the Raptors were hoping would fall to them in the second round. All except the player no one was talking about, Bruno Caboclo of Sao Paolo Brazil. The Raptors were working hard to acquire an additional first round draft pick in order to nab both Ennis and Caboclo, but when Ennis went to the Suns at 18, Ujiri didn’t hesitate to shock the basketball world and secure the almost unknown player he wanted.

“(We were) looking at a couple of guys at that point and one of the guys we wanted was taken,” Ujiri said. “Bruno (Caboclo) was one of our next guys and we decided, we lost one, we are not going to lose the second one. We jumped on it. You try to get picks and you try to trade up and down and it is a difficult thing to do on draft day, so when it happened, we decided to go with our second guy.”

“Bruno is an athletic phenomenon,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “At 20, you are not going to get a perfect player, but this young man has a chance to hit it big. He is raw, but he going to be a guy that is going to develop in our program and grow and do a lot of things for us. Defensively, he is long, covers a lot of ground, gets down in a stance, block shots with his length. We all went down to see him workout and I was truly impressed with his workout. We are excited about getting him.”

Caboclo is really young, he will not be 19 until September 21. As youth and potential are often at a premium, Ujiri was concerned that the guy he had second on his draft board wasn’t going to make it out of the first round so he could select him at 37 and it quickly became apparent Ujiri’s concerns were justified.

“When you start to hear different things, it’s so hard to trade to get picks, so when you start to hear that the guy could be gone at certain places – we started to hear in the late first round, sometimes it gets frustrating when you don’t get the picks that you want and you lose a guy and that happened to us earlier,” Ujiri said. “We felt if he is second on our board, let’s get aggressive. He is a few years away, but he’s a talent that I think at the end of the day we will be happy that we picked.”

Caboclo wasn’t some frivolous long shot draft pick by an inexperienced general manager. Ujiri has a good draft reputation and Caboclo was discovered through the usual method of solid international scouting. It was just the 18-year-old was not on many teams’ radars and hadn’t been seen by scouts focused primarily on North America and Europe.

“Our scouts have done a great job and we try to look for talent around the world,” Ujiri said. “Basketball Without Borders first, (Caboclo) was MVP of that camp (2013) and we just kept tracking. There was a tournament in Brazil in December and a couple of our scouts went and they thought he was intriguing enough and they came back and they told us and I went down to see him and that’s how it started.”

“We went down to meet him in Houston,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “Masai had been down three times in a stealth move. It’s one of those players with a tremendous amount of potential. Athletic, wingspan, same wingspan as JaVale McGee (7’6), so he is one of those guys that we had to move to get him at 20 once we didn’t have a chance to get Tyler Ennis. We had a program in place where we were going to try to get Tyler and Bruno, once we tried to move up to get Tyler and that didn’t happen, Bruno was the guy.”

“I did our due diligence,” Ujiri said. “I went to Brazil three times to see him. Jeff (Weltman, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations) went a couple of times. Our scouts went a few times (Thank you to Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman for keeping us media types in the dark during the pre-draft process) to see him. We felt comfortable. A few days ago we took Coach Casey and we worked him out and (they) felt comfortable too.”

This draft pick was all about future potential, going for the homerun player rather than the role player that is usually drafted after the lottery. Ujiri and Casey saw the raw potential in a young athlete with some obvious physical advantages and a few skills they could mold once he is in Toronto and under the tutelage of the Raptors training staff and coaches.

“Maybe in the 20s you can get a guy that he knows you are going to develop him and it is going to take time and it’s a learning curve,” Ujiri said. “So we’ll take that time and wait for him to develop rather than sometimes these guys are picked too high and it’s expectation (piled on) expectation.

“It is going to take Bruno a little while, I’m sure when you see him you’ll feel the excitement that we feel having a young player like that – that loves to work, is a basketball junkie, just loves to play basketball all day. I think that will be fun for our team, another young player like that. A 6’9 wing with a 7’ 6.5” wingspan, shoots the ball with good confidence. (He) needs to gain weight (no kidding, he’s only 18-years-old), there is some good upside there. In the 20s, he is a good risk to take.

“I am not trying to be popular that’s not the way it is. I am trying to look out for the organization long term and I think long term we will look at Bruno and say at least he has a chance as a young player to develop.”

Ujiri has made it clear that Caboclo is not a draft-and-stash prospect, this guy will be with the Raptors this summer, at training camp this fall and signed and in a Raptors uniform for next season. Coach Casey and his staff want to get a hold of this kid early and try to mold him into the player they believe he can become and so far, everything Ujiri has touched has come up roses for Toronto.
 

Post draft Masai Ujiri audio:

 
Post draft Dwane Casey audio:

 
 

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

 

Check out:

Raptors Plan On Sending DeAndre Daniels To The D-League
“With this kid we see a little bit of upside where he can develop and a National Champion knows how to win and we’ll see how it goes,” Ujiri said. “He is going to be in L.A. working out, play with us in Summer League and we’ll see, make a decision there. There is a good chance he’ll be playing overseas or maybe in the NBA D-League.”

 

NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 DeAndre Daniels

Raptors Plan On Sending DeAndre Daniels To The D-League

The Toronto Raptors looked at a lot of big wings and college power forwards they hoped could be converted to small forwards during this year’s pre-draft workouts. This was one of the priorities President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri had identified as a position of need after the season ended. Unfortunately, by the time Toronto picked at 37 in the second round, many of the prospects that had stood out at the Air Canada Centre had already been taken and Ujiri believes DeAndre Daniels likely needs a little more time to develop before he’ll be able to grab a spot on the Raptors roster.

Masai Ujiri audio:

 

“We are looking at big wings,” Ujiri said. “We tried to – obviously we tried to get a couple of others but they were gone before we picked. With this kid we see a little bit of upside where he can develop and a National Champion knows how to win and we’ll see how it goes. We are excited about him too. He is going to be in L.A. working out, play with us in Summer League and we’ll see, make a decision there. There is a good chance he’ll be playing overseas or maybe in the NBA D-League.”

Daniels was a National Champion with UConn as a Junior last season averaging 13.1 points, 6 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.4 blocks while hitting on 41.7 percent of his three-point attempts. However, he was primarily a power forward in college and he’ll need to be able to play both forward positions in the NBA. At 6’ 8.5” in shoes and 196 lbs he is undersized at the four, but his 7’2 wingspan should help him defensively to guard either forward spot. He had some huge games in UConn’s run to the Championship including a 20 point 10 rebound effort against Florida in a Final Four matchup.

DeAndre Daniels audio:

 

“At the end of the day, everyone wants a winner on their team who knows what it takes to win,” Daniels said. “I played the four in college and I am just a guy that can do everything, but (I need to) show them that I have more aspects to my game – can handle the ball and shoot the ball – rebounding and playing defense.”

If Daniels can show enough to Head Coach Dwane Casey this summer, then there’s a chance he’ll be in Toronto when the preseason starts, but it sounds like the Raptors have him slotted for development elsewhere next season as he learns to play the three position in the pros.

 

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

 

 

Ujiri talking

Raptors Couldn’t Find Value At 59, Nets Benefit

The Raptors had said all along that they were considering keeping all three of their draft picks unless they made a trade, but at the end of the second round, apparently Toronto didn’t find anyone they wanted to keep control of and sold the 59th pick to the Nets.

After the draft, Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri confirmed they had moved the pick and the details were provided in a subsequent media release.

The Raptors traded the 59th pick, Xavier Thames of San Diego State, to the Brooklyn Nets for cash considerations.

The Nets had traded away their draft picks last year and bought their way back into the game on Thursday night acquiring three second round selections for cash. The details were provided in an announcement on the Nets website. Brooklyn Nets Acquire Draft Rights to Markel Brown, Xavier Thames and Cory Jefferson.

The Brooklyn Nets have acquired the draft rights to guard Markel Brown (#44 pick) from the Minnesota Timberwolves, guard Xavier Thames (#59 pick) from the Toronto Raptors and forward Cory Jefferson (#60 pick) from the Philadelphia 76ers in separate draft night trades, each in exchange for cash considerations, General Manager Billy King announced.

 
The Nets remain deep in Luxury Tax territory for the 2014-2015 season and second round draft picks provide an inexpensive and potentially disposable method of filling out a roster.

 

NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 DeAndre Daniels

Raptors Select UConn Forward DeAndre Daniels At 37

The Toronto Raptors select NCAA Champion DeAndre Daniels with the 37th pick overall. The UConn junior has great size and length for the small forward position and hit on 41.7 percent of his three-point attempts last season.

“His athletic ability, his length, his activity. (Daniels) is a good athlete,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey. “He is a guy who is going to go through our summer league program and we’ll see where he is. I was impressed with him in his workouts.”

The 22-year-old impressed as a mature player ready to move from college during his recent workouts in Toronto.

Raptors Logo photo

Raptors Draft Brazil Forward Bruno Caboclo At 20

The Toronto Raptors shocked everyone following the draft by taking a virtual unknown from Brazil 18-year-old forward Bruno Caboclo.

The 6’9 Caboclo has an immense 7’7 wingspan, great hops and can shoot out to the three-point line.   He doesn’t have a lot of high level experience, however, playing for Pinheiros Sky Sao Paulo.  Caboclo was the Nike Camp MVP at the 2013 Basketball Without Borders in 2013.

More to come…..

 

NBA Minnesota Timberwolves Andrew Wiggins

Cavaliers Go Canadian And Take Andrew Wiggins

The Cleveland Cavaliers made history on Thursday night by taking Canadian Andrew Wiggins first overall at the NBA Draft in Brooklyn.  Last year the Cavs took Canadian big man Anthony Bennett first overall.  That makes two players from Toronto, Canada going first overall in successive drafts to the same team.

Despite some controversy, Wiggins was the logical player for Cleveland to take.  The Cavaliers have needed a big wing who is unselfish and will defend to complement scoring point guard Kyrie Irving.  The best athlete in the draft by far, Wiggins was an easy choice.

The Cavs can now claim to be Canada’s team with Wiggins, Bennett and Tristan Thompson on their roster.

TOR Leiweke & Ujiri

Will The Toronto Raptors Draft A Canadian Tonight?

Finally, in 2014, the stars may be aligned so Toronto can draft a Canadian basketball player. The Raptors hold draft picks at 20, 37 and 59 this year and President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has shown a lot of skill at the art of the deal, so if there is a player to be drafted he wants that doesn’t fit with his available selections, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he can pull off a deal to make it happen. When MLSE President and CEO Tim Leiweke arrived last spring, he made no secret of the fact he would like to see a Canadian playing for the Raptors.

Wiggins presser2
Canadians to keep an eye on at the NBA Draft include Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Ennis, Nik Stauskas, Dwight Powell, Khem Birch, Jordan Bachynski, Melvin Ejim, Sim Bhullar and Stefan Nastic.

The Likely Lottery Picks

1) Wiggins is expected to be drafted in the top three, possibly first overall and in general, those picks just don’t get traded. Usually teams had to tank pretty hard to secure that pick and there isn’t anything they want more.

Wiggins is a potential franchise player and Ujiri has to try and do a deal, but the chances of landing Wiggins is closer to fantasy than possibility – not that there hasn’t been a constant stream of rumors suggesting the Cavaliers pick is available.

2) Stauskas showed why going to the Draft Combine can be a good thing. He measured 6’6.5” in shoes and had a maximum vertical of 35.5”. The above average body fat measurement of 12.1 percent is a concern, but something a good NBA trainer can help him turn into muscle.  The shooting guard has an NBA ready skill, he averaged 44.2 percent from three-point range on 5.8 attempts per game last season. He is a wing that can score, however, Stauskas has been moving up the draft boards and is likely out of Ujiri’s reach now.

3) Ennis is expected to be a late lottery to mid first round pick depending on team needs which makes trading up to land the sure-handed point guard a possibility – there are even scenarios where he could fall past 20.  However, if the plan is to bring back Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez, – and that is the stated plan – then it would not make much sense to pursue Ennis.

Likely Second Round Draft Picks

4) Powell is expected to be a mid-second round draft pick and attending the NBA Draft Combine likely helped this Stanford senior. Powell measured out very well at 6’11” in shoes with a 7’0.5” wingspan and a maximum 35” vertical which helps his case at either the power forward or center spots and the solid three-point range he displayed as a junior suggests the possibly of becoming a stretch-four or stretch-five if his jump shot continues to improve.

5) The 6’9 Birch is a hustle big man expected to end up at the back end of the second round. His Combine measured 7’1” wingspan and 35.5” maximum vertical should make up for his height when playing power forward and possibly even center. Birch has limited offensive skills, but he was an excellent rebounder and one of the best shot blockers in college at 3.8 per game. The 21-year-old might just have the rim protecting potential that Ujiri has said he is looking for if he is still available at 59.

On The Bubble

6) At 7’2” in shoes, Bachynski was the tallest player measured at the NBA Draft Combine and at 24 years-old (25 before next season starts), he is likely the oldest player who could be drafted as well. The senior from Arizona State got markedly better in each of his four seasons. He has a 7’4” wingspan and decent speed and leaping ability for a big man and he used those attributes to average 4 blocks per game last year. He can rebound, defend and score at the college level, but the concern revolves around how much upside is left in him? His size and shot blocking ability should get him a hard look around the league.

Possible Undrafted Rookies

7) Ejim was the Big 12 Player of the year as he led Iowa State to the Big 12 Championship and the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. A 6’7” forward, Ejim has the size to play small forward in the NBA and over his four college seasons, he developed three-point range although his shooting remains a work-in-progress. As a 23-year-old that still has a lot of work to do on his skills, he probably doesn’t get drafted, but he is definitely worth a look. The tools are there and he is known as a hard worker.

8) If Bhullar wasn’t 7’5” tall with a linebacker body, he probably wouldn’t even get a mention, but you can’t teach height and this 21-year-old kid is a giant. As a sophomore at New Mexico State, he averaged 10.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks in 26.3 minutes. He might be too slow to play at the next level, but a GM would have to be crazy to not see for himself. A 59th pick in the draft wouldn’t be wasted on tying this kid up just to find out.

9) Nastic went to high school in Thornhill and could be considered either Serbian or Canadian, however, he is likely to be overshadowed by follow Stanford senior Powell during the draft process.

Based on the players available this year, it should be very easy for the Raptors to draft a Canadian if they want to. However, what Ujiri does at this draft is still very much up in the air.

 
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.

 

 

 

 

Masai Ujiri

Raptors Active In Draft Day Trade Talks

ESPN NBA reporter Mark Stein confirms Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is very active in trade talks leading up to the NBA Draft and could be on the verge of landing the Grizzlies 22nd overall pick.

Tayshaun Prince played in 76 games for the Grizzlies and is in the final year of a deal that will pay him $7.7 million this season. Prince averaged 6 points and 3.1 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per game in 2013-2014 – his worst year since his rookie season in 2002-2003.

John Salmons is owed $7 million next season, but he can be bought out for $1 million up until June 30th.

The Raptors could actually want a second first round draft pick for themselves as they looked at a lot of interesting prospects that should be available in that range or this could be just the first step in a larger deal.

Whether or not this deal gets done, the indication provided by Stein is confirmation that Ujiri is actively trying to improve his team at the draft.

Wild NBA Draft Night Has Already Started

With Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James testing free agency, NBA teams have already started going into panic mode to free up salary cap space for even a small glimmer of hope that a major star could be on their roster next season.  This draft was going to be active enough without anything extra and the rumors and actual deals are already coming fast and furious.

 


 

 

Everyone’s favorite NBA twitter news breaker, Yahoo Sports Adrian Wojnarowski can barely keep up with the action.

 

 

 

 

The activity heading into this draft has been so intense even draft guru Jonathan Givony of Draft Express continues to update his predictions for Thursday night.

 

 

 

It is going to be a wild ride tonight.

Casey & Ujiri at Raptors workout Day 5

Raptors Pre-Draft Preparations In Pictures

Through nine days of pre-draft workouts, these were the players the Raptors chose to parade in front of the media:

The Raptors management, scouts and coaches paid close attention:

Pre-draft workout shots:

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.