The Raptors have been looking at a lot of very athletic and dynamic (would be?) point guards in their pre-draft workouts in Toronto. Prospects that are expected to go late in the second round or could be even available as free agent NBA Summer League invites. Some of the guards the Raptors have been looking at had already started taking on point guard responsibilities in college, but not all of them and on Thursday the athletic freak known as Markel Brown showed off his talents at the Air Canada Centre.
The Oklahoma State Senior demonstrated his otherworldly hops in a drill that is typically a dunk drill for forwards and a layup drill for guards. A ball is placed on the edge of the key beside the basket and the player runs out and lays it in as another ball is placed on the other side for him to repeat the process. This goes on for about 10 trips as fast as the player can go. The 6’3.5” Brown dunked every ball like a big-time athletic forward. Brown has a 36.5” no-step vertical and a 43.5” maximum vertical – which is just a little better than Vince Carter tested out at. He didn’t just pick the basketball up off the court and somehow get it over the rim, he threw that sphere through the hoop with authority and moved side to side like a blur. It was fun to watch.
Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman explained why the Raptors have been looking at so many of these athletic combo guards during the pre-draft process.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a focus,” Tolzman said. “I think it is more of the these are a lot of what the guards nowadays look like in college. They’re kids that have grown up playing the shooting guard position and some of them are just too small to do it in the NBA and so they are transitioning to the point and they have either made the transition in college already or they are kind of in the process right now and so a lot of the point guards that we look at kind of fall in that category and that’s not to say they are going to be point guards in the NBA either, it’s just you want to take a look at them to see if they can handle the ball enough on offense to be a good defender on defense against a point guard because they are athletic and they are big or the other way around are they so athletic and so dynamic offensively that you can maybe you can figure out a way to work them in on defense too. It is kind of just a trend on these mid combo type guards where there are just a lot of them out there these days.”
On a Dwane Casey coached team, it shouldn’t come as surprise that the Raptors are looking at these guards who were often big time scorers in college because of their athleticism as potential defenders. There are a lot of dynamic scoring point guards in the NBA now and just about every team struggles to slow these guys down. If these prospects can show the potential to defend an athletic guard, that can be their ticket to the NBA.
“It is a big part to know that if these guys can defend the really athletic dynamic point guards that are in the NBA,” Tolzman said. “They have a chance because there are so many nowadays – so many scoring point guards and ball handling wings, there is a lot of grey area between positions nowadays that I think if you can get an undersized dynamic defender that can maybe guard multiple positions that allows you to use other positions with guys that are maybe more of a combo-type guys, guys that can play multiple positions – wings that can bring the ball up for you or you can run your offense just a little differently through someone else because you got a smaller type guy that can defend a point guard.”
This isn’t the first time Toronto has taken a shot on a non-traditional point guard. Last year they brought in Dwight Buycks after seeing him play in Summer League.
“A good example of that is Dwight Buycks,” Tolzman said. “He didn’t play the point much at all in college and then when he did, he was a strictly scoring point guard and it took him a couple of years in the D-League, a couple of years overseas – he played in the French league before we picked him up last year. For a lot of these types of players it takes a few years of playing at a really high level/ professional level to realize the responsibilities of the point guard position. It comes eventually for the guys that pick it up and I think definitely nowadays you are watching smaller two guards, guys that show some good ball handling and you see maybe that guy can be a point guard. You kind of approach him a little differently than you used to just say he’s too undersized.”
Brown has been getting a lot of looks around the league. His natural gifts attract a certain amount of interest in and of themselves and the senior already has a decent jump shot with range out to the three-point line and he is a very good rebounder for a guard. However, he seems to know that’s its defense that will get him on an NBA roster.
“A complete player,” Brown said. “Someone that can get on the court and play two positions, point guard and shooting guard. Someone that is going to get out there and play defense and work hard.
“I just want to go out there and show toughness, show grit going out there playing hard, working the other defender trying to wear him down and get him tired, just going out there and being a smart defender, (not) reaching for the ball and trying to steal the ball everytime, basically keeping the guy in front and not letting him create for his other teammates.
“Going up against smaller guards I try to use my length, I have a 6’8 wingspan. Against bigger guards, I try to get down and bang with them and be physical with them. I just going out there and trying to do whatever I can to get some playing time.”
Brown knows what to say and if he can do it, at the very least he will find himself on an NBA Summer League team even if he doesn’t get picked up in the draft. He seems to be exactly the type of player the Raptors would look to add as a prospect to develop on the back end of their roster next season.
Raptors Could Use High Flying Big Man Clint Capela
“(Capela) is a big time vertical spacer which is guys that can catch alley-oops – it is like a different kind of spacing on the floor,” Tolzman said. “You have the corner three shooters who space it out for the bigs and you got guys like him that kind of drop into the short corner area and because they are so deadly with catching alley-oops it makes the defense worry about them more than worry about penetration.”