There was a bona fide giant working out for the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday when Canadian Sim Bhullar returned home to take the court wearing the practice uniform of the team he grew up watching. At 7’5 Bhullar dwarfed everyone in the building included the 7’ Alex Kirk in his workout group and the Raptors Jamaal Magloire who ran him through the drills.
All the buzz was about Bhullar, however, Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III and Syracuse forward Jerami Grant headlined a second group of players the Raptors were looking at as possible first round draft picks. Forwards Murphy Burnatowski – Colgate, Shawn Glover – Oral Roberts, Will Sheehey – Indiana, Josh Huestis – Stanford and De’Mon Brooks – Davidson rounded out an intriguing group of players at the Air Canada Centre on this day.
Bhullar is – at the same time – on every draft board and no one’s draft board. The fact that he is a giant – the tallest player in the NCAA – makes him almost impossible to ignore, however, whether or not an NBA team will take him on as a project for next season is all on him. Bhullar has to get in a lot better shape and show a willingness to accept some rather tough coaching if he wants to be in the NBA next season.
“Honestly, the key thing is their will to get taught,” Dan 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 and it’s players like that sometimes they are forced to play basketball when they are so big and it will be interesting to see what kind of makeup he has. It’s another reason to get him in here to see him up close and get to meet him as a person.”
Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman audio:
“I think (Bhullar) is probably on every team’s radar,” Tolzman said. “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.
“I am sure that there will be teams that show interest in (Bhullar for NBA Summer League if he isn’t drafted) for sure.”
After getting out from under Bhullar’s very big shadow, the focus was on the Raptors search for a big wing in the first and/or possibly in the second round of the draft. In addition to being a good defender, Toronto is looking for a small forward with the ability to knock down an NBA three pointer or at least have the shooting mechanics and work ethic to develop a solid outside jump shot.
“Today we had in a lot of guys that were more four/three type players in college and a big thing on making that transition to the three position (small forward) is being able to hit the NBA three (point shot),” Tolzman said. “I think the main part of the wing position in the NBA right now is to space the floor and open up the lanes for your guards to get into the lane as well as your bigs to work on the low blocks. A key part of that position is to be able to knock down those shots.
“When you see guys that have shooting form that is not broken, it’s got a lot of the right principles and they’ve got the right mentality towards working at it, (their three-point shot) can change in a year.”
Wichita State senior Cleanthony Early
Early is 6’7 209 lbs and has a 40” maximum vertical jump. One of the top scorers per 40 minutes in the NCAA, Early already has already demonstrated decent three-point college range and a willingness to take a lot of them.
The 23-year-old exudes energy. Even just standing there talking to the media, his eyes are wide open, he’s paying attention, he can’t wait to answer the next question and he wants more. Early is full of confidence and a desire to win – he even gave the impression he wanted to win the media scrum and that was kind of fun to see.
“(Early) is extremely competitive,” Tolzman said. “That is the biggest thing. He comes in and he tries to just dominate everybody. He uses his athleticism and his strength. He is another guy that played the four mostly. He really looks to pound on guys.”
Cleanthony Early audio:
“I am just a basketball player,” Early said. “You know what I mean. I can compete. I can make shots. I can put the ball in the basket. I can defend. I am long and athletic. Everything that god has blessed me with that I have worked hard for to be a really good basketball player and most of the time, really good basketball players end up going professional.”
Michigan sophomore Glenn Robinson III
The son of two-time NBA All-Star Glenn Robinson, the 6’6.75” Michigan sophomore can almost jump out of the gym with a 41.5” max vertical. However, the extent of his talents may have been overshadowed playing with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway as a freshman and with Nik Stauskas last year. Robinson has a jump shot that will probably improve with some NBA coaching and all the physical tools to play in the NBA. It will be up to him to impress in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Glenn Robinson III audio:
“I have a pretty good basketball I.Q.,” Robinson said. “I’m using that to help out teammates whether that’s offense or defense, so what I come here and try to do is lead a little bit. Talk, try to help out whoever might be my teammates compete.”
Syracuse sophomore Jerami Grant
The 6’7.75” 214 lb Grant has an impressive 7’2.75” wingspan that backs up his assertion he can be a great defender at the next level. An outstanding athlete, Grant did nearly all of his damage offensively near the rim where he had more than his share of highlights, however, Draft Express has concerns about his jump shot, “Grant has questionable mechanics and is not an intimidating threat away from the basket at this point in his career.”
Jerami Grant audio:
“Definitely my shooting consistency, being able to hit shots that I can hit on a consistent basis,” said Grant about what he needs to show. “If I can do that, then I think I will be fine at the next level.
“My defense (and) being able to adjust to different situations I think will get me on the court at first and then I can show everybody what I can do after I get on the court. I feel most comfortable guarding small forwards right now. I think I can guard shooting guards or guard power forwards which makes me an asset for whatever team I play on. Being able to guard different positions is definitely going to be a positive.”
The Raptors have explained that most of their player evaluation was done during the college season and more weight is given to what they have seen during actual games over workouts, however, there are some things Toronto is looking for when the prospects are here. Fit, work ethic, response to being put under pressure in certain situations on and off the court and interestingly, their desire to win.
“One thing we do in these workouts is we track wins,” Tolzman said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a drill, if it’s an individual drill, a team, a shooting contest or anything (else), we just track the wins because it’s guys like that – it seem like the hard working guys, the competitive guys, they figure out ways to get wins. It might be a three-on-three drill, but if their team is always winning, I think that tells us about the guy.”
The Raptors got a lot to look at and consider on Wednesday.