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ESPN Draft Express

ESPN Acquires Draft Express

And another top flight site bites the dust. Jonathan Givony has provided 14 years of reliable independent information about the NBA Draft and draft prospects from North America and around the world. However, he’s moving to ESPN and the site, DraftExpress.com will no longer be updated

We’re proud to announce that Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz will be joining ESPN as NBA Draft analysts. DraftExpress.com will remain on the web with all of our existing archive, but will not be publishing any new content moving forward. All articles, rankings, mock drafts and event recaps moving forward will be published on ESPN.com. Thanks to everyone that has contributed to DraftExpress, and the millions of readers who have visited our website diligently over the past 14 years.

Hopefully ESPN allows Givony the freedom to keep doing what he’s been doing and not drown him in corporate politics.




NBA Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri

Raptors Looking To Trade Down In The Draft?

Basketball Insiders Michael Scotto says the Toronto Raptors are trying to trade down in the NBA Draft tonight possibly to save salary cap space.

There are several teams without a first round draft pick that could be interested. The Raptors may be interested in trading for second round draft picks as unsigned players taken in the second round do not count against the cap.




NBA Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri

Eight Is More Than Enough Raptors On Rookie Deals

I get young players are gold under the current CBA and Raptors president Masai Ujiri wants to develop his own guys, but if he drafts and keeps his pick at 23 tonight, that will make eight players on their rookie deals taking up roster spots and eight is more than enough. It’s way too many for a playoff team.

“With the way the new CBA is constructed, I feel that player development is something that we have to pay attention to,” Ujiri said. “So whatever young players or draft picks we have, we just have to pay attention to it and you never know when you hit with that or something pans out that can help your team in any kind of way.

“We are really open-minded when it comes to this pick. It’s not very often when you see in the 20s where guys come up and contribute right away.”

The Raptors have been a 50-plus win team in each of the last two seasons and expectations are a lot higher than they were in the past. However, a team loaded with guys on their rookie deals isn’t winning 50 games, so how many of these guys can Ujiri squeeze into a 15-man roster?

“17, I think now with the (new) two-way contracts, we can squeeze in 17,” Ujiri responded to Pro Ball Reports query. “It’s where our team is. I think the most important question is how many of these guys are contributing to your team and we feel that even the rookies we had had points in time in the season (where) they contributed. They are getting better, so we can have as many, it doesn’t bother me as long as we are making progress and they are getting better.”

Well, you got to give Ujiri props for being consistent. It’s frustrating to watch a raw rookie like Pascal Siakam start at power forward for half a season because an injury took out the team’s only viable option while a veteran like James Johnson was let escape to Miami on a cheap deal to make room – in reality to make room to add three rookies.

But that is one way to build a team and as long as the team is winning 50-plus games, it’s hard to argue that in the long term it isn’t going to produce better results. Unfortunately, in the NBA, the long term is usually three years or less under the current CBA and over the next three years, James Johnson would have been the better player to have.

The Toronto Raptors are one of only a handful of NBA teams that doesn’t leak everything that’s going on to the media. Ujiri has a plan for his team and when he has executed in the past, those deals have looked pretty good all the way to downright thievery.

This draft is loaded with high profile trade targets and teams actively looking to deal. What Ujiri is up to won’t come out until it’s nearly or completely done, but hopefully his plan includes turning some of those young assets on rookie deals and/or his draft pick into a veteran player that can advance the Raptors a step closer to the ultimate goal – escaping the East and competing at the NBA Finals.

Eight guys on rookie deals is more than enough and there could be 10 if Ujiri doesn’t trade somebody. Could someone ask Ujiri to walk back that statement about 17.



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 president Masai Ujiri

Don’t Look For A Savior For The Raptors In The Draft

By Frank McLean

In case you missed it, and it’s been in all the newspapers, Thursday night is draft night in the NBA, but the Toronto Raptors aren’t looking for a savior when it’s finally their turn.

The Toronto Raptors are picking 23rd and I look back at a conversation I had with team president Masai Ujiri at this time last season. He said to me that when you are picking in the 20’s you probably are not going to get a player that will be an impact player for you. Now if you are in the top five or ten spots in the draft, in other words you are a dreaded lottery pick, then you are going to get the guy.

In the case of last year’s picks, Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam, they did play a small part when needed this past season, but they were not anywhere near the main reason for the team’s success or failure.

So if you are looking for the next great Larry Bird three point shooter the team desperately needs, or an impact player that can put them past Cleveland and give them a chance to compete with Golden State for a title, forget it. It won’t be coming through the draft tonight.

Two days after the Raptors were eliminated by Cleveland, Ujiri sat down with the media and told us quite clearly that he didn’t know why he was talking to us because he had nothing to say, but give him a month and he would.

On Tuesday at a pre-draft get together he had a lot to say, but really said nothing.

He and his staff have evaluated the team, but like those big time poker players you watch on afternoon sports television, he kept his cards secret because he has plans, however, deep down until Thursday night arrives, he’s not sure what they will be.

“I think this is why you wait and go through the process of evaluating your team,” Ujiri said on Tuesday.

“One day it’s quiet, the next day it’s noisy. That’s just how the NBA works. With all these things going around, you make calls you listen to calls an you see what fits your team. Leading up to the draft and on draft day, that’s another deadline that we work with on our side. Things will shake up a little bit and we’ll see how it affects the Raptors.”

Any changes that the team will make all hinges on what Kyle Lowry decides on, staying with the Raptors or moving on in free agency.

Stories came out this week that Lowry doesn’t want to stay in Toronto. Ujiri says that’s not so, but he and his staff have come up with five different ways they can go as an organization should the veteran guard leave.

“I think we are comfortable,” Ujiri said. “Any direction we are going, I think we are prepared, that’s what I should say. We are very well prepared after studying it for a couple of months after the season has been over.

“I think it’s a good time for us. Looking at the league, looking at where everybody is and all the action, hey, we are in this thing to compete and to get better so we’ll see where it takes us.”

So in a nutshell don’t expect any miracles Thursday night. The draft will not solve any of their problems. It will hinge on Kyle Lowry’s decision.

There is a plan, but no one will know what it is until Ujiri implements it.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran 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.





Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Raptors Draft Double-Double Machine Pascal Siakam 27th Overall

By Frank McLean

With all the hype of the Raptors having the ninth pick overall as a result of a deal with New York that saw GM Masai Ujiri dump Andrea Bargnani on the Knicks, it’s easy to forget still they had a first round draft pick of their own this year.

At 27th overall, Toronto took sophomore forward Pascal Siakam from New Mexico State University.

Siakam is a double-double machine and this past season he led all Division One schools with 27 and ranked in the top ten in rebounds. The native of Cameroon averaged 20.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks last season. He also received Honorable Mention All-American from Associated Press and was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the year.

His scouting report says he is very long, athletic and quick off the floor. He is a great rebounder and shot blocker with a range of 15-feet. Draft Express describes him as,

A 6’10” power forward with an imposing 7’3” wingspan, Siakam has several physical tools that give him a solid foundation as a draft prospect. In addition to his measurables, he has a motor that rarely stops along with great speed and agility to boot that allows him to move around the court with ease.

Siakim had a bit of a Canadian connection at New Mexico State. His coach Paul Wier was a point guard at York University in Toronto and was also head basketball coach at Don Bosco High School in Toronto.

The Raptors worked out Siakam in Buffalo, New York the same day they worked out Poeltl. Just like Poeltl, his visa could let enter Canada with no problems, but he would not be able to get back into the United States.

Siakam and Poeltl both have two years NCAA experience which gives them a chance to get minutes with the Raptors, but don’t be surprised if they end up with the Raptors 905 in Mississauga. However, as we saw with Norman Powell this past season, if you show you can play, Dwane Casey will give you a shot with the big club.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran 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.






NBA Toronto Raptors Jakob Poetl

Raptors Get Their Man In Jakob Poeltl

By Frank McLean

The Toronto Raptors got the guy they wanted in the NBA draft Thursday night. With the ninth pick in the first round they took a seven foot Austrian named Jakob Poeltl.

Pronounced (Ya-hib Pert-l) his name is going be a nightmare for radio and television sports casters, but at forward, he is what the team is looking for.

He has spent the last two years playing at the University of Utah, and in 2014-15 he was a teammate of current Raptors guard Delon Wright.

He is a power forward and center. In his two years playing in the Pac-12 Conference he averaged 13.3 points a game, eight rebounds and one assist.

This past season he was the winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award given to the top center in the NCAA.

In a conference call with the Toronto media, Wright gave Poeltl a glowing job reference and said he is a player.

“He was legit before he came to Utah,” Wright said. “When he came to Utah he could pick and roll. A lot of big guys can’t pick and roll hard, but he can hard and he’s got great hands.

“When he came to Utah he was learning English, but he could speak a little. He’s a guy that jokes around, a great teammate and a very hard worker.”

The hard work part is what you have to do stay on a Dwane Casey team. What impresses Casey is that he is schooled in the fundamentals.

When asked in Brooklyn at the draft about getting to play with Wright, Poeltl was excited to have a friend in already in the 416.

“I’m super stoked about that”, Poeltl said. “It’s so great to know that I’m already going to have somebody there that I know that’s my friend, and I talked to him a lot throughout this process and he’s told me only good things about Toronto. It’s like an unbelievable feeling right now.”

About being a Raptor Poeltl told Casey that he knew about the team and that he watched them in the playoffs. That was something that impressed Casey as well as his knowledge of the entire NBA.

“I’m so excited that the Toronto Raptors put their trust in me,” Poeltl added. “I think I can be a guy who’s out there always fighting, always trying to get better. I think I’m far from done being a player like I can improve a lot I feel like, and I hope I can help out this organization these next couple years. ”

“He is an excellent basketball player,” Casey said. “Fundamentally sound, he needs to get used to the NBA game, speed and quickness. His foot speed is quicker than JV’s (Jonas Valanciunas) was at his age.”

Casey and the Raptors front office saw that speed first hand on June 17th when they traveled down to Buffalo, New York to work him out.

Poeltl is in the United States on a student visa. There was no problem with him entering Canada, but he could not re-enter the United States, thus forcing the trip to the Chicken Wing capital of the USA.

In a year where there wasn’t one player that came out of college and jumps out at you as the first pick, the Raptors got a player at position, power forward, that they need.

It’s safe pick and he has the best chance of not failing at the NBA level where some scouts fear that Ben Simmons and Buddy Hield could end up as big time flops.

Casey did confirm that GM Masai Ujiri was working the phones all day trying to move up in the draft, but as it worked out, they got their guy when the it came time to make their choice at number nine.

Poeltl also plays center, so with the possible departure of Bismack Biyombo, he could fill a void there as well.

This pick could turn out to be a quiet steal and another feather in the cap of GM Masai Ujiri.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran 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.





NBA Toronto Raptors Domantas Sabonis

No Consensus For Raptors 9th Overall NBA Draft Pick

The Toronto Raptors director of scouting Dan Tolzman wasn’t kidding when he said everyone on their team was pushing for a different player with the ninth pick of the NBA Draft. There is no consensus anywhere.

“Each member of our staff has one guy they are pushing,” Tolzman said. “It’s going to be tough because there are a lot of similarities between the players.”

No wonder president and general manager Masai Ujiri is trying to trade it.

Basketball Insiders has published their 2016 Final Mock Draft and their 2016 Outsiders Mock Draft and basically there is no agreement on the ninth pick here either.

The Basketball Insiders panel consists of: Steve Kyler Editor and Publisher who has covered the NBA for the last 17 seasons; Moke Hamilton Senior Writer and Columnist; Joel Brigham senior writer; and, Alex Kennedy Managing Editor who is in his 10th season covering the NBA.

Basketball Insiders Panel 9th pick

Steve Kyler – Domantas Sabonis

Moke Hamilton – Jakob Poelti

Joel Brigham – Dragan Bender

Alex Kennedy – Skal Labissiere

The Outsiders: Jessica Camerato covers the Philadelphia 76ers and NBA for Comcast; Sherrod Blakely covers the Boston Celtics and NBA for Comcast; Vincent Ellis covers the Detroit Pistons and the NBA for the Detroit Free Press; and, Brett Pollakoff covers the NBA for Fox Sports.

Outsiders Panel 9th Pick

Brett Pollakoff – Domantas Sabonis

Jessica Camerato – Jakob Poelti

Sherrod Blakey – Skal Labissiere

Vince Ellis – Henry Ellenson

These choices shouldn’t even be considered a complete list of everyone the Raptors might select if they still have the ninth pick on Thursday night. Although Domantas Sabonis should probably be considered a slight favorite – if favorite is actually the right word. The Raptors really don’t want to be stuck picking at nine when they could likely get someone they’d consider to be just as acceptable in the mid-teens.



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

Six Things The Toronto Raptors Should Do This Summer 2016

The Toronto Raptors stated goal three years ago was to become relevant this past season. Mission accomplished. Now the goal is to build on their Eastern Conference Finals appearance and president and general manager Masai Ujiri has his work cut out for him. There are things he should do and things he must do if his team is to be better than the 56-win 2015-16 version.

Ujiri has already completed one of his top priorities by getting head coach Dwane Casey’s name inked to an extension, but as both parties were anxious to get something done, this didn’t come as a surprise.

“I think that’s very easy for us to figure out, that’ll be done in our sleep, I think,” Ujiri said shortly before the contract extension was announced.

When it comes to adding players, however, the summer of 2016 will not be like last year. This time Ujiri isn’t working with an abundance of salary cap room, counting first round draft picks and salary cap holds, he is basically working with no space at all. It’ll take every trick in the book to get what should be done accomplished this time.

1. Continuity

Ujiri signed up for the first stage in continuity by re-upping Casey, but there is more to it than that.

Continuity has played a big part in the Raptors success. Giving Casey the reins with a consistent message of defense first helps to keep this team focused beyond the court – in the draft, in free agency and with trades. Ujiri believes in acquiring players that fit with his head coach, players who will go with the program and accept the roles assigned to them. This team should – nay must – continue down the same path this summer.

Whomever Ujiri decides to add to this roster, they need to be a fit with Casey’s program.

2. The Draft – Up or Out

The Raptors hold the 9th and 27th picks in the 2016 NBA Draft and as Ujiri said at the end of the season, this team doesn’t need to add any more players that aren’t ready to help the team right away. He needs to make a move.

“I don’t know if it’s a draft where we can get somebody that will come and impact our team right away,” Ujiri said two days before the draft.

He’s right of course and Ujiri’s admitted they are talking to other teams about trading one or both of their draft picks. While it might not be possible to fully complete a trade at the draft if players under contract are involved, the Raptors should be looking to trade up or out of this draft.

It’s been reported that the Celtics, Suns, Timberwolves, Pelicans and Kings are all trying to trade their (better) lottery picks, so trading up and getting a player Casey could use in his rotation off the bench is a real possibility.

The Raptors need a high potential forward that Casey can develop in the NBA (as opposed to the D-League). Ujiri should be trying to move up to get Washington power forward Marquese Chriss or California forward Jaylen Brown.

3. Bring Back Bismack Biyombo

Bismack Biyombo was a free agent steal last summer, but like all good things, eventually you got to pay up to keep them. Biyombo, backing up Jonas Valanciunas, gave the Raptors two players who were dominant on the glass and made it possible for Toronto to win the battle of the boards most nights. Biyombo also covered for Valanciunas when the Raptors starting center was injured and the team just kept on winning.

There have been some crazy numbers thrown around about how much Biyombo will be able to command in free agency, as high as $17-20 million, but for a player with very limited offensive skills, that’s too high even this summer. However, he will command a salary north of $10 million per season even with the promised hometown discount to stay with his mentor – the Raptors GM Ujiri.

Biyombo says Ujiri told him he’d find a way to bring him back and anyone who follows the team should know if Ujiri says he’ll do something, it happens. The price will be a player or players that will have to be traded to create the salary cap space necessary.

4. Bring Back DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan says he’s coming back and the salary cap math says Ujiri has little choice but to make it happen as Toronto won’t have the room to go after anyone better. It may cause some fans to gag on paying DeRozan as much as $26.6 million per season, but his salary cap hold is just over $15 million, so with the right timing, Ujiri can do what he needs to elsewhere as long as DeRozan is last to ink a contract.

The longest serving Raptor in the organization, DeRozan is a huge part of the continuity that has created the current run of success and as the second leading scorer in the Eastern Conference, it isn’t a stretch to say DeRozan has earned a max deal. Besides, no one should be even slightly surprised if DeRozan leaves a little money on the table to re-sign with Toronto. He wants to be there and that’s important in a city that has struggled to hang onto it’s All-Stars in the past.

5. Be Willing To Let Go

Ujiri is loath to let any young player he’s developing escape, but with salary cap restrictions and an NBA roster size capped at 15 players, eventually push comes to shove and decisions have to be made.

Between Bruno Caboclo, Lucas Nogueira, Delon Wright and Norman Powell, only Powell cracked Casey’s rotation last season and he earned it. Powell’s style of play and skill-set fits with his head coach. The other guys may develop, but on a team looking to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals, that’s too many guys you really don’t know if they’ll be ready to help if needed.

If the Raptors end up drafting a player, then one of Caboclo, Nogueira or Wright need to be moved out. It wouldn’t be such a bad idea to move out one just to create room to add another veteran.

It’s time to re-evaluate Terrence Ross’ future with the Raptors. Ujiri signed him to a modest (under a $94 million salary cap) extension last summer starting at $10 million per season in July, so in a league looking for long range shooting, this career 38 percent three-point threat isn’t overpaid. However, he may have just lost most of his minutes to Powell next season.

Ross is an obvious trade candidate to create the salary cap space needed to retain Biyombo or as an attractive chip in a bigger deal. If only Ujiri can let him go.

6. Bring Back James Johnson

James Johnson has his supporters in the Raptors fanbase and when DeMarre Carroll was injured (twice), Johnson filled in and helped keep the 56-win season on track.

The 29-year-old combo forward has never been as good as he thinks he is and as a result, he brought a history of conflict with coaches past and present, but he’s matured and accepted his role in his latest (second) stint in Toronto.

Ujiri will likely have to rescind his rights early in the process as the Raptors work at completing more important deals, but bringing back Johnson with one of the minor exceptions or even a veteran’s minimum contract would likely pay dividends for the Raptors next season.

Guys get hurt, Johnson is versatile and stays ready to play. Every good team that goes deep in the playoffs needs guys like him on their bench and Johnson is a known quantity.

This summer is not like the summer of 2015. The Raptors are coming off a successful playoff run that didn’t include all of their best players firing on all cylinders. A healthy version of last year’s team should be noticeably better in 2016-17.

Continuity is the key, so retaining Biyombo and DeRozan should be the top priority. This team was second in the Eastern Conference and lost in six games in the Conference Finals with a banged up Carroll, Valanciunas and Lowry. Imagine what they could accomplish if they can get to next April with everyone back and healthy?



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.




Cory Joseph scrum 2015Six Things The Toronto Raptors Should Do This Summer 2015

The NBA All-Star Game is coming to Toronto in February and the Raptors want to be taken seriously – perhaps for the first time in franchise history.



NBA Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri

Raptors Lottery Draft Pick Is Readily Available

Toronto Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri confirmed his earlier comments that his team doesn’t have room for two more raw players in need of development. His lottery pick and late first round draft pick are both available ahead of Thursday’s NBA Draft.

“I don’t know if it’s a draft where we can get somebody that will come and impact our team right away,” Ujiri told the media on Tuesday. “(Trading the pick) is something I’m entertaining. We are talking to a few teams and we’ll see how that part plays.”

The more Ujiri talked, the more obvious it became that discussions involving the Raptors draft picks have been detailed and in-depth leading to multiple options that could be in play on draft night.

Ujiri laid out his options as:

“You can look at trading the pick,
You can look at drafting a guy that doesn’t come right away,
You can look at a player you can draft and develop slowly.”

Drafting a guy who doesn’t come right away is relatively easy at 27 with so many European players slotted at the back of the first round, not so much with a lottery pick. Drafting and developing slowly means one or more of Delon Wright, Lucas Nogueira, or Bruno Caboclo needs to be traded to make room. As Ujiri himself indicated at the end of the season, as a defending Eastern Conference Finals team, the Raptors really don’t have any more roster spots for guys that might not be ready to put in the rotation.

There will be talent available with the ninth pick in the draft, but the most coveted players and players most likely to crack the Raptors rotation are expected to be gone in the top eight.

“As of right now (we are drafting),” Raptors director of scouting Dan Tolzman said earlier in the process. “Things can change.”

As per usual, the NBA draft is somewhat unpredictable and Ujiri can hope a player he actually wants does fall to him at nine, but the Raptors would most likely be best served by moving up, back or all the way out of this draft. Players the Raptors saw earlier in the draft process like forward Jaylen Brown who has been slipping closer to ninth might fall to them, but you can’t count on it.

“It’s going to come down to eyes of the beholder,” Tolzman said recently. “Each member of our staff has one guy they are pushing. It’s going to be tough because there are a lot of similarities between the players and positionally there’s a lot of overlap.

“It does seem like the more and more people talk about the top eight picks, there seems to be a pretty firm group of who those are, so we’ve kind of been joking that we’ve got the first pick of the draft because apparently at nine there’s everyone else.

“That’s what we are planning for (our top eight to be gone). It seems all the calls we’ve been making around the league to agents and everything, it does seem the same eight names come up and we’re sitting at nine, so it’s the first pick of the draft.”

Or to put it another way, it’s the first pick of the draft after the players everyone wants are gone.

Fortunately, there are a lot of teams that should be coveting a first round draft pick. Nine teams don’t have a first round pick in this draft and six teams don’t have any picks, so Ujiri has willing partners to talk to. However, he’s not alone. The Suns, Timberwolves, Pelicans and Kings are all rumored to be actively shopping their (better) lottery picks, so fireworks on Draft Night are virtually guaranteed.



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 Denver Nuggets, Team Canada and Kentucky Wildcats Jamal Murray

Canadian Guard Jamal Murray Sets A Celtics 3-Point Record

Kentucky Wildcats freshman Canadian guard Jamal Murray set a Celtics three-point shooting record by hitting on 79 of 100 attempts today as he showed off his skills during a predraft workout in Boston. Masslive’s Jay King was there to catch up with the future Team Canada star.



Check out the full post workout interview here:


The 6’4 Murray was a big time offensive weapon with the Wildcats this past season averaging 20 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 36 games often playing in three guard lineups at what could be loosely called the small forward spot. He took 277 three-point attempts and made 40.8 percent of them to establish himself as one of the best and most prolific shooters in college basketball last season. He was the number one scorer in college under 20-years-old.

A strong spot-up shooter, Murray was able to get his shot coming off screens and found ways to get open playing off the ball. While there remains plenty of room for improvement playing with the ball in hands, he does have a solid leaping ability with a 39.5″ maximum vertical and at just 19-years-old, NBA coaches should be able to show him how to use his natural aggressiveness more effectively.

Murray only plans on working out for the Celtics (3rd), Suns (4th), Timberwolves (5th) and Pelicans (6th), but there have already been noises out of Philadelphia (1st) about their potential interest and the Toronto Raptors would have to be overjoyed if this local product were to slip past the Kings with the 8th pick to them.



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.





Marquette freshman Henry Ellenson

Top Stretch-Four 2016 NBA Draft Prospects

Small ball success is driving NBA teams to find more shooting in the NBA draft and a prime area of focus is finding a power forward who can stretch the floor, in the current vernacular, a stretch-four. Ideally, teams would like a player that can guard a traditional big man in the post, cover the perimeter and then drag their opponent out to the three-point line at the other end of the court.

The top stretch-four prospects in the 2016 NBA draft are:

Brandon Ingram, Duke, 18 years old

Expected to be drafted second overall, the 6’9.5 freshman is projected as a small forward because the teenager is still under 200 lbs, but in today’s small ball NBA, it isn’t hard to envision him playing both forward positions, especially as he fills out that long lanky frame.

Ingram averaged 41 percent from three on over 5 three-point attempts per game with Duke. His athleticism means he should be so much more than just a shooter in the pros when he grows into his body and figures out the NBA game, but his shooting should let him stretch the floor from day one.

Marquese Chriss, Washington, 18 years old

A projected top 10 pick who is rocketing up draft boards everywhere, this freak athlete is blessed with the ability to shoot beyond the three-point line. In other words, he’s just the prospect your team needs.

Good hands, quick, plays above the rim on offense, defends the rim on defense and hit on 35 percent of his three-point attempts as a college freshman. The 6’10 233 lb Chriss is the current version of an ideal power forward prospect.

Henry Ellenson, Marquette, 19 years old

A true mismatch in terms of size, the 6’11.5 Henry Ellenson has a mature 240 lb body for his age and he was a big-time efficient scorer in college. Physical tools, skills and a ability to play thru contact, he showed enough on his 3.2 three-point attempts per game to believe he can develop into a stretch-four at the NBA level. His downside may come on the defensive end of the court where he might not be quick enough to keep up with other big men that can play on the perimeter.

Thought to be a lottery pick early in the draft process, he may fall to the middle of the first round unless he can impress a team like the Toronto Raptors who are specifically looking to add a stretch-four with the 9th pick.

“I’ve always grown up playing on the perimeter,” Ellenson said after his predraft workout in Toronto. “I played point guard all the way up to 8th grade. Being 6’11 and being able to shoot out on the perimeter, it helps me at this position. The way the game is going having a versatile four is huge.”

Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga, 20 years old

Sabonis pretty much didn’t even attempt a three-point shot when playing for Malaga in Spain or as a freshman with Gonzaga and the 6’10 230 lb power forward was a double-double machine for Lithuania at U20 Eurobasket last summer and for Gonzaga as a sophomore. The aggressive big man can play in the paint.

As with all college players falling outside of the draft lottery there are concerns about his ability to translate college and international success to the next level, but he showed nice strides as a perimeter shooter last year and that’s a skill every NBA coach is looking for in their next big man. Sabonis hit 5 of 14 three-point attempts as a sophomore, if he can wow NBA teams in the predraft workouts with his shooting stroke, he’ll move up the draft boards.

Juan Hernangomez, Estudiantis, Spain, 20 years old

Hernangomez played almost 24 minutes per game in the highly competitive Spanish league last season as a face-up power forward that knocked down 35.8 percent of his three-point attempts. Considered a versatile, skilled athlete and solid spot-up shooter, he could prove to be a real find at the back end of the first round in the draft.

Petr Cornelie, Le Mans, France, 20 years old

Cornelie played 49 games between the French League and EuroCup play and knocked down about 40 percent of his two three-point attempts per game last year. The 220 lb 7-footer has in the words of Draft Express, “a beautiful jump shot.”

Another very interesting international prospect.


The NBA has long been focused on size, strength and athleticism in the draft, but with the success of small ball, shooting is coming at a premium. If your bigs can’t stretch the floor, they are probably clogging up the driving lanes for your guards and wings and just aren’t as effective if they can’t be used both in the post and on the perimeter.



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.





Adam Silver

2016 NBA Lottery Mock Draft Selections – Version 1

By Danny Thompson

With Kris Jenkins hitting his buzzer beater to lead the Villanova Wildcats to a victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA National Championship game, the NBA Draft countdown for teams not in the playoffs have just begun. With players declaring their intentions, lets take a look at my first preview of what could be to come in June’s NBA Draft. Now I have based teams on their records, what their current roster looks like and potential needs that could arise before the NBA Draft. Remember we still have a couple of days left in the season and the order could always change.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers- Brandon Ingram- SF- Duke
    • In speaking to my fair share of scouts the opinions on him and Ben Simmons are about equal. It’s the age old question of potential over now. We all know that Ben Simmons is ready to go right now and will be a can’t miss rookie in the 2016-2017 season, but the potential behind Ingram is too much to pass up. He’s a much better shooter and has no problem getting to the basket. Could be a Kevin Durant type of player.
  2. Los Angeles Lakers- Ben Simmons- SF- LSU
    • Simmons is what the Lakers need, an game changing player that would be the perfect compliment to his former HS teammate D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. He’s more Lamar Odom than LeBron James at this point and that’s not really a bad thing if your a Lakers fan. If he had a constant jump shot that extends past 10 feet this wouldn’t even be a discussion on who’s the number 1 overall pick.
  3. Boston Celtics- Dragon Bender- PF- Croatia
    • This is an interesting spot for the Celtics. Bender has the potential to be extremely good and at 7 foot tall he has a nice all around game. Not the most athletic player in the world, but Danny Ainge isn’t really trying to keep this pick. He’s hoping someone wants to take it off his hands. Can you say Sacramento?
  4. Phoenix Suns- Ivan Rabb- PF- California
    • The Suns would love to pair Rabb with Alex Len and your 4/5 combo is set for the next 5 years at least. Throw in the fact that Rabb’s offensive game is growing to match his outstanding rebounding skill. He has a lot of LaMarcus Aldridge to his game.
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves- Jamal Murray- PG/SG- Kentucky
    • The Wolves are one of the worst 3 point shooting teams in the NBA. I know that they could use another post player to go with Karl-Anthony Towns, but you can plug Murray into the starting 5 right now and figure out the post later. His game is similar to Eric Gordon, before all of the injuries.
  6. New Orleans Pelicans- Kris Dunn- PG/SG- Providence
    • With Eric Gordon going into free agency and the Pelicans haven’t had a great history of health in the back court, you can turn Dunn loose at either guard position and give Anthony Davis a nice building block in the Crescent City. Dunn could be a lot like Eric Bledsoe if given the chance.
  7. Sacramento Kings- Jaylen Brown- SF- California
    • Brown is the best player left on the board. Brown could possibly play the 2 guard but it does free up the option to potenially trade Rudy Gay. Brown could easily pass Ben McLemore as the starter sooner rather than later.
  8. Denver Nuggets- Buddy Hield- SG- Oklahoma
    • Hield was the most popular player in college basketball this season. A Big Time scorer who can shoot it with the best of them. Hield would give them another scoring threat to go with Danilo Gallinari. Hield is another version of Michael Redd.
  9. Milwaukee Bucks- Demetrious Jackson- PG- Notre Dame
    • We all know that Michael Carter-Williams experiment has been an epic fail in Milwaukee and as much as I love Giannis’s game, he can’t be a full-time NBA point guard. Jackson can step right away and he can make an impact as distributor with the scoring options in Milwaukee. If you have never seen him play Reggie Jackson of the Pistons comes to mind.
  10. Toronto Raptors- Henry Ellenson- PF- Marquette
    • Ellenson and the Raptors are a perfect match. He’s already a very good rebounder and all he needs to do is develop a constant 3 point shot and is an upgrade over Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson. Has a 7’2 wingspan as well.  Game similar to Ryan Anderson.
  11. Orlando Magic- Tyler Ulis- PG- Kentucky
    • A name that is sky rocketing up boards is the Kentucky point guard.  Remember Brandon Jennings is a free agent and Elfrid Payton hasn’t shown that leap that was expected out of him this season. Ulis has proven to be worthy of a high draft pick. Size should would be a concern, but remember Issiah Thomas is only 5’9 as well and he was an All-Star this past season.
  12. Houston Rockets- Jakob Poeltl- C- Utah
    • The Rockets and Dwight Howard will part ways this summer and outside of Clint Capela, there isn’t much depth at the big man position. Poetli will give the Rockets a low post scorer and a very solid rebounder. Not much of rim protector though. Reminds me a lot of Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets.
  13. Phoenix Suns- Timothe Luwawu- SG/SF- Mega Leks
    • The Suns have already addressed their Power Forward need with the 3rd overall pick in Bender so why not choose another athletic wing player who could give the Suns a standout at the Small Forward spot. He could be a nice 3 and D player and upgrade over PJ Tucker and TJ Warren. At 6’7 he looks like a better offensive version of Thabo Sefolosha.
  14. Chicago Bulls- Skal Labissiere-PF/C-Kentucky
    • A guy that was considered one of the best high school players in America last year, had a terrible year at Kentucky, but at 6’11 it’s kind of hard to not take a flyer on him if your the Bulls. He has a world of potential and would be a nice replacement for a team that could lose Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah in the post in the off season.



Danny Thompson Full Court Press Radio hostDanny Thompson is an On-Air Personality at Sports Talk Florida  and host at Full Court Press Radio




Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield, The NBA Draft Prospect Everyone Has Been Watching

By Frank McLean

Every year when the NCAA basketball tournament rolls around NBA fans are looking for that player, you know, that one player whom their team can draft in June and turn things around for them.

In this year’s tournament there is actually has been a player who has stood out and it’s not some freshman that is only going to spend one year in college and then bolt to the big riches of the NBA, but a senior.

That name is Buddy Hield of the University of Oklahoma.

He is a shooter for sure. Scouts at first, especially at the start of his senior year, had him as a chucker and were comparing him to a Jimmer Fredette who was player of the year in Division One college basketball with Brigham Young University, but turned into a flop in the NBA because he’s not a defender and now is languishing in the NBDL.

But a funny thing happened to Hield’s draft ranking as the season progressed, he went up. Scouts were impressed because he is playing defense and they no longer think he is another Jimmer.

Now they compare him to the likes of Reggie Miller or for you younger folks who know him as the guy that sits with Marv Albert on the TNT Thursday night game of the week, how about that Steph Curry kid with the Golden State Warriors.

Hield, like Miller and Curry, is a game changer. A shooter who gets hot no matter what defense opposing coaches throw at him, he still makes his shots.

“He just makes shots” says his coach Lon Kruger.

“He’s just unbelievable in getting the ball up on top of the rim. He shoots with great confidence. Doesn’t force many. That’s the thing that’s been most amazing on the year: He shoots it for such a good percentage. He’s not a high-volume shot-taker, he just makes a lot of shots.”

Let’s look at Heild’s numbers this year and like the old saying “numbers don’t lie”.

He has averaged 25.3 points per game taking 16.4 shots a game and making 50 per cent of them. Behind the three point line, he hit on 46.2 percent of those shots.

He was the reason Oklahoma made Saturday’s semi-final date with Villanova, scoring 37 points in their elite eight win last weekend over number one seed Oregon.

In his first four games of the tournament, he scored 117 points, that’s an average of 29.3 points per game. All he needed to do was score another 67 points in the semi-final and final games to tie Michigan’s Glenn Rice record of 184 points scored in one NCAA tournament.

“It’s special, to be honest with you, as a kid you dream of having games like this,” Hield said after last week’s win over Oregon. “Just knowing when the defense slips up and I’ve got a chance to put it up, I just put it up because my confidence level is so high. Just taking shots in rhythm and taking shots I know I’m capable of making.”

Unfortunately for Hield, Villanova wasn’t having any part of helping him or Oklahoma get to the Finals as they crushed their Final Four opponent 95-51 before an NRG Stadium crowd of over 75,000 people. Hield scoring just 9 points on 4-12 shooting.

However, the results of one game in a stadium setting where many shooters have struggled to find the basket against a challenging and unusual background won’t change the scouts perception. The numbers show why Hield has risen up the NBA mock draft boards everywhere.

Game changers just don’t come around every year. Plus he is a senior. Four years playing in the NCAA means he is more developed than a freshman or a sophomore. He is certain to be a top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran 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.




NBA Denver Nuggets, Team Canada and Kentucky Wildcats Jamal Murray

Canadian Guard Jamal Murray Named To All-SEC First Team

Canadian guard Jamal Murray has been tearing up the college ranks in his freshman season and has a shot a passing the Warriors Stephen Curry’s college mark of 122 made three-point shots by the time the NCAA tournament wraps up. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that UK news reports Kentucky Wildcats Murray has been named to the All-SEC First Team.

Freshman sharpshooter Jamal Murray joined Ulis on the All-SEC First Team, while also earning All-SEC Freshman Team honors.

Kentucky’s dynamic backcourt led the country in scoring within league play among the major conferences (Power 5 plus the American and the Big East). Together, they combined for 40.8 points per game for UK.

Murray has been one of the nation’s best scorers all season long and led the league with five SEC Weekly award honors. He currently leads the Wildcats in scoring at 20.0 points per game, which, if the season ended today, would be the highest scoring average at Kentucky in the Calipari era.

The Kitchener, Ontario, native hit an average of 3.72 3-pointers in SEC games … 3-point field-goal percentage (.421).

He’s posted three 30-point games this season … the most by a freshman in school history.

Having hit a 3-pointer in every game this season, Murray owns the UK freshman record for most 3-point field goals in a single season with 99, … and he has a shot at breaking Stephen Curry’s NCAA freshman record for 3-point field goals in a season (122).

TOR DeRozan Lowry Valanciunas

Is Raptors GM Masai Ujiri Ruthless Enough To Become Great?

Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has admitted several times now to being too complacent at the trade deadline and has suggested the Raptors are open for business now. The timing couldn’t be better. This is anticipated to be as wild an NBA Draft night as anyone can remember, but is Ujiri ruthless enough to risk change and give his team a chance to become great?

Big trades have already started to happen and trade rumors with apparent substance are rampant as teams debate the value of draft prospects and scramble to prepare ahead of a huge attractive free agent class. The only thing that is certain in the NBA this summer is uncertainty.

More than three-quarters of the rumors are pure smoke and all leaks should be taken with a grain of salt until they’re confirmed. GMs really do discuss lots of possibilities, it doesn’t mean they were ever interested in following through. At the trade deadline there were rumors that both Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas were available – albeit at a very high price and Ujiri admits he really wasn’t looking all that hard.

However, new rumors have Ujiri expanding the pool of players he’d consider trading to even include his All-Stars. It sounds more like the typical bait-and-switch tactic used in opening up trade discussions, but the rumor being spread by Sheridan Hoops Joe Kotoch likely means there is some serious trade fishing going on in Toronto.

According to several executives I spoke with, the Toronto Raptors are actively exploring trades for All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, former All-Star DeMar DeRozan and even Jonas Valanciunas, who is up for an extension this summer. According to these sources, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri wants to blow up this roster because he believes it has reached its ceiling, even in the weak East.

Anyone who has been paying attention to what Ujiri has been saying and doing in Toronto over the past year-and-a-half knows the blow up phase ended after the unexpectedly successful trade with Sacramento, however, it’s equally obvious the rebuilding phase isn’t over yet either.

Ujiri’s dilemma is the Raptors can likely win the Atlantic Division for the third time in a row by sticking with the guys he’s got and bringing back last year’s Sixth-Man award winner Lou Williams and the very popular Amir Johnson. However, that hasn’t been a formula for getting out of the first round of the playoffs. If Ujiri wants his Raptors to take another step, he’ll have to be a lot more ruthless than that.

Being ruthless on draft night means being willing to trade his precious 20th overall draft pick and in his own words “packaged with something else” in order to get something back of real value. The biggest value Ujiri can offer will get back to the trade deadline rumor of Valanciunas and Ross, either of those young players together with a first round draft pick should return a difference-maker. It takes nerve to trade a young player who could blossom somewhere else to get the player or draft pick you believe can elevate your franchise, but that’s what a GM is supposed to be able to handle.

NBA free agency opens up in July and Ujiri’s ability to be ruthless will once again become obvious. Last summer he took the obvious and appropriate steps of focusing on his own free agents and made sure Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson were re-signed. This summer, if he’s ruthless enough, Williams, Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough will have to be left hanging while Ujiri tries to land a free agent or two that can elevate the Raptors prospects for the future. It doesn’t mean none of them will be back, it just means there are better prospects available in free agency this time and Ujiri needs to be ruthless enough to pursue the better prospects first.

What doesn’t get done at the draft or in free agency can sometimes be accomplished with a summer-time trade and Ujiri has proven to be very adept at the art of the deal. This time, however, to get a player or players that can help, he isn’t going to be able to move an asset he doesn’t want. This time, he’ll have to move a player he likes.

It wasn’t that long ago that winning 48 games looked like a pipe dream in Toronto, but now a team with no chance of contending in the East is almost as unacceptable as returning to the lottery. Expectations have grown and if Ujiri is going to fulfill those expectations, complacency isn’t going to cut it. Only a willingness to be a little ruthless is going to get the job done now.



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 Terrence Ross

Should The Magic Trade Down To Get a Shooter From Toronto?

When the Orlando Magic hired Scott Skiles as their head coach they were signaling the losing has to end and unless general manager Rob Hennigan believes he can get the help his team needs with the fifth overall draft pick, his call to trade down becomes very real indeed as reported by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

“I would say we’ve talked to at least a half-dozen teams about it,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan told the Orlando Sentinel. “So it’s something we’re definitely considering and weighing sincerely: potentially moving back.”

What wasn’t made clear is who Hennigan believes might be worth investing the fifth pick on or what type of player in trade would get his attention, however, winning is something that is definitely on his mind.

Skiles is a hard-nosed veteran coach with some success at developing young players and having winning seasons. He may wear out his welcome over time like he did in Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee, but he’ll demand his young players win without making excuses as reported by ESPN immediately after his hire.

“We’re young and inexperienced,” Skiles said. “That can’t be an excuse anymore. That has to be turned into a strength.”

“We feel Scott [Skiles] brings a balanced approach in all those qualities and we look forward, with great confidence, to him leading our young men in helping us reach our collective goal of sustainable success,” said CEO Alex Martins.

The Magic have become deep in slashers and light on players who can space the floor to keep driving lanes open and in today’s NBA that becomes an invitation for opposing defenses to pack the paint. Last year Orlando was 22nd in three-point attempts, 16th in three-point field goal percentage and 25th in points scored. In a league where three-point shooters are going at a premium, Skiles needs more shooting if he is to get the best out of his very young roster.

In Toronto, the fans are (unfortunately) ready to run their three-point shooter Terrence Ross out of town on a rail, but this 24-year-old wing who can play both shooting guard and small forward would have led the Magic in three-point attempts last season at 4.8 per game playing only 25.5 minutes. His 1.8 makes would have tied Channing Frye.

Ross was drafted eighth overall in 2012 because of his shooting and unlike the young players on the Magic, Ross has been to the postseason in each of the past two years and had his nose rubbed in just how much tougher things get after the middle of April. It might not have been a pleasant experience, but its experience he can relate to those young players that haven’t been there.

Also, Ross gets accolades from his head coach for his defense, accolades that aren’t always deserved, but the potential is obvious and the results have been there at times. Ross is the type of player that could blossom under Skiles thumb and that three-point shot isn’t going away.

Flipping the fifth pick in the draft for Ross and the 20th pick may or may not be the best deal Hennigan can pull off on draft night, but it would solve an immediate need for a team that hasn’t been able to spread the floor and needs to boost its scoring. There would be no rookie adjustment period with Ross, Skiles would know what he had from day one and with a fresh start and a kick in pants, Ross could prove to be better than what Hennigan could get in the draft. The kid, after all, has scored 51 points in game and is still on his rookie contact.

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.

 photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com



pensive Masai UjiriRaptors GM Ujiri Suggests Draft Night Trade Coming

Ujiri wasn’t happy with how his team’s season ended and he’s ready to blame himself for not doing anything at the trade deadline. However, draft night can be just as conducive to deal-making as mid-season and Ujiri will have his opportunities to make up for what he didn’t do in February.




Masai Ujiri scrum 2

What Will The Raptors GM Masai Ujiri Do On Draft Night?

By Frank McLean

We are down to less than 48 hours before the NBA draft and the big 64-thousand dollar question is what will the Toronto Raptors do?

Will they keep the pick? Will they trade the pick for a player that can help now and not be, with apologies to ESPN’s Fran Franchesa, “2 years away from being 2 years away”. Will they look for a rotation player? Or the other option – find a dance partner and trade down?

These are questions being asked in Raptorland.

On Tuesday President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri was asked those questions after he and his scouting staff worked out three more potential draft picks.

“This year there is good depth in the draft,” Ujiri said. “We feel comfortable we will get a player but also we might move the pick or we might move up or down. There’s lots of flexibility this year. We are confident we will get a young player. The strategy now is to pick the best available pending what deals come to us or what deals we make.”

One thing Ujiri smiled at and assured the media that they are not hiding their draft pick like they did last year with Bruno Caboclo. He was kept in the Raptors version of a witness protection program in Texas and not made available to workout for other NBA teams.

Well about that rotation player Masai?

“That one is hard to say quite honestly,” Ujiri said. “It also depends on our coach (Dwane Casey). Sometimes guys come in and they make an impression. Sometimes guys take a longer time. My impression of a rotation player may not translate on the court. But I think all the rookies will all take a bit of time.”

The one thing the Raptors don’t need in my opinion is any more players who are not ready to give some minutes on the floor. The examples of Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira come to mind right away. Two players who were up and down from the development league all year and only played in games if the Raptors were down by 40 or up by 40.

Ujiri hinted that he made a mistake with the makeup of his roster last year.

“We didn’t do so well,” he said. “I messed up a little bit, not a little bit but a lot, maybe even with the composition of the team and how we played and the types of players we had playing around each other. We have evaluated a lot of stuff and maybe we will make a couple of changes here and there but I think our core still remains the same and we will still give these guys an opportunity to grow.”

So after all that we didn’t get any answers. But really no one expected any. Tuesday’s scrum was typical GM talk at its best… say a lot but don’t say anything.

The one thing about Ujiri that I like is that he does say a lot more than other general managers I have had to cover in all four major sports in North America. If you listen carefully he will let slip a little what he has up sleeve.

“We are open-minded and open for business,” Ujiri said. “That’s the nature of the NBA. While trying to get better we got swept in the playoffs and that means we can only get better.”

So come Thursday night look for any of the possibilities discussed happening. This year’s draft night will be a heck of lot more interesting than in the past few seasons.

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.




NBA Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri

Raptors GM Ujiri Suggests Draft Night Trade Coming

Toronto Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri talked about the upcoming Thursday night NBA Draft and would be pretty easy to come away believing a big draft night trade is in the works.

Ujiri wasn’t happy with how his team’s season ended and he’s ready to blame himself for not doing anything at the trade deadline. However, draft night can be just as conducive to deal-making as mid-season and Ujiri will have his opportunities to make up for what he didn’t do in February.

“The team did so well I think we got complacent a little bit. I think I messed up a little bit,” Ujiri lamented. “We have evaluated a lot of stuff and maybe (we’ll) make a couple of changes here and there. We are open-minded and open for business. That’s the nature of the NBA. We are trying to get better. We got swept in the playoffs and that means we can only get better.”

Not a lot has really changed since February. The Raptors had solid trade assets then and they have solid trade assets now. They have the 20th pick in the draft this year, plus the Knicks first round pick next year as well as their own. The enigma that is Terrence Ross is in the final year of his rookie deal and should be available at the right price. Greivis Vasquez and James Johnson are on attractive expiring contracts. Toronto also has returning rookies Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo and the rights to last year’s second round draft pick DeAndre Daniels, although those players don’t seem to be in play.

“We believe we have assets,” Ujiri said. “We believe our young players are growing. I don’t like to see them as assets, but when I say that we have picks. We are open with the 20th pick and also we are comfortable with it. (There are) teams trying to get in (to the draft) and trying to move up. There are also teams trying to move back, but in the big picture (the 20th pick) is packaged with something else.”

Ujiri is loath to give up on the players he is trying to develop, however, with the focus still on winning games, he can’t afford to add another project player that isn’t ready to contribute virtually right away. No matter how hard Ujiri sells the potential of another rookie, even he admits they are not likely to be ready to play on a winning team.

“If a player is being picked at 20, you know then I hate to say this, but there is something that they lack,” Ujiri admitted. “If they didn’t lack that, then they would be in the top three or four. A lot of them are very talented, but there is always something missing, maybe size, maybe foot speed, maybe shooting ability.”

Toronto has looked at a number of promising draft prospects that could/should be available on Thursday night. These are players currently slotted in the 17-30 range on the Draft Express mock draft board, they all had impressive college seasons and have a good chance of sticking in the NBA. However, as Ujiri described, they also all have something missing from their game that is going to take time to develop – if it develops. What a hopeful Ujiri was enthusiastic about was a trend of bigs falling in the draft as teams appear to be scrambling to copy Golden State’s small ball success. If some players fall far enough, Ujiri might change his mind about just how ready one of these kids is.

“If all those big guys at the top fall to 20, we’ll be right there waiting and we’ll jump on one of them,” Ujiri said. “We have teams that are going to go small, so you adjust to that, but I feel it brings up the value of a big man even more.”

However, it seems unlikely that any of the quality big men who didn’t come to Toronto for a workout will drop to 20, but one shouldn’t blame a GM for hoping.

“This year there is good depth in the draft,” Ujiri said. “We feel comfortable that we will get a player, but we might also move the pick or we might move up (or) down.

“We are trying to do both, trying to develop and win which is a tough thing to do. We want to grow and we want to win, (but) our main goal is to try to win.”

With a main goal of trying to win, Ujiri will be looking to correct last season’s complacency and do something to make his team better. Packaging the 20th pick with a player (or two) could bring back a talent who would help the Raptors immediately and that thought is definitely on Ujiri’s mind.



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.





Kevon Looney 3

Raptors Could Have A Shot At Kevon Looney In The Draft

With the 20th pick in the NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors are just looking to scoop up the best talent available and as draft boards go through their predraft workout gyrations, sometimes high profile young prospects like UCLA’s 19-year-old forward Kevon Looney start to slip through the cracks.

“We got the same pick we did last year, so the same type of thing, we are just looking for the best players at that spot we can regardless of position,” Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman said.

By the time Toronto could arrange a workout, Looney had already been to see eight teams that will pick ahead of the Raptors on draft night.

“We actually feel pretty lucky to have gotten him here too for a workout,” Tolzman said. “The production he put up as a freshman in one of the best conferences in America, it’s pretty impressive and then you add the raw intangibles he brings to the table. He’s the type of guy that played on the perimeter a lot in high school and now he’s rebounding with the best of anybody in the NCAA and he shows a nice little step-out shot with stretch four potential. There is a lot there with the way the NBA is trending where the four men aren’t as low post driven anymore and he fits in a lot of the direction that’s going.”

Kevon Looney & Coach Casey“This is my eighth workout,” Looney said. “I’ve been to Milwaukee (17th), Utah (12th), Phoenix (13th), Oklahoma City (14th), Detroit (8th), Atlanta (15th) and Miami (10th).”

The word on Looney is versatility. The 6’9 forward was a top ranked high school prospect that stepped into a big role as a freshman in college. While he gets some criticism for slowing down as the college season progressed, he averaged 30.9 minutes, 11.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.9 blocks and shot 41.5 percent from three-point range.

“I am trying to show all my versatility,” Looney said. “Show my rebounding, my down low stuff, some of my wing stuff and show everything that I can do. I am more of a stretch four, but as I get stronger, I think I can do both (3/4) positions real well.”

Looney will not be 20 until February and the young man continues to fill out his frame nicely, putting on 40 lbs since a LeBron James Camp appearance in 2012. However, like most college freshman, there remain questions about his readiness for the physicality in the NBA. The Draft Express Scouting Report by Jonathan Givony describes Looney as:

Looney has a great knack for crashing the offensive glass, showing terrific instincts and timing going out of his area and pursuing loose balls using his superior wingspan, often without even jumping. He shows a very nice competitive spirit here, boxing out well and not being afraid to mix things up with older and stronger players than him.

Defensively, Looney shows nice versatility, often playing at the top of UCLA’s zone and covering ground nicely on the perimeter, contesting shots impressively with his long reach. His lateral quickness is solid, and he’s able to get in a low stance, which aids him in keeping smaller players in front of him.

While he’s clearly a competitive player, he can get pushed around relatively easily at this stage, which may be an issue for him in the NBA early on in his career.

The Raptors may be better served by selecting a more NBA ready talent like Justin Anderson or Montrezl Harrell, especially with Bruno Caboclo already on the roster, but Looney is the type of young talent that could develop into a much better player than teams typically hope for with a 20th pick.



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.




Harrell & CaseyCould Montrezl Harrell Be The Raptors Kenneth Faried?

“Pure intensity,” Tolzman described. “(Harrell) brings so much to the table. Instantly just walking into the gym he raises the level of the competition – just the physicality – just the pure intensity. He is a lot like a Kenneth Faried type guy that just runs the floor, bangs on the boards, he is always applying pressure to whoever is defending him. In an environment like this it just really raises the competition level and makes for a good workout.”
Casey & Justin AndersonIs Justin Anderson A Better Version Of The Raptors Ross?

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Junior from Virginia was in the first group of NBA draft prospects to work out for the Toronto Raptors this year, Justin Anderson has been a superior defender on a top-ranked NCAA defensive team. An athlete with defensive credentials and a deadly jump shot, Anderson, just like Terrence Ross in 2012, fits the mold Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is looking for.



Montrezl Harrell

Could Montrezl Harrell Be The Raptors Kenneth Faried?

It isn’t every NBA draft that a playoff team can have a big time player from an NCAA Championship program on their draft board with a reasonable expectation he’ll still be there when their turn arrives. Like the Denver Nuggets Kenneth Faried, Louisville power forward Montrezl Harrell has been considered undersized at his position, but that hasn’t stopped him from dominating the AAC leader boards across a broad range of statistical categories. The Toronto Raptors brought in Harrell because acquiring him is a real possibility on draft night and the reviews from Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman were positively glowing.

Dan Tolzman 2015“Pure intensity,” Tolzman described. “(Harrell) brings so much to the table. Instantly just walking into the gym he raises the level of the competition – just the physicality – just the pure intensity. He is a lot like a Kenneth Faried type guy that just runs the floor, bangs on the boards, he is always applying pressure to whoever is defending him. In an environment like this it just really raises the competition level and makes for a good workout.”

Harrell averaged 15.7 points (7th AAC), 9.2 rebounds (2nd AAC), 1.4 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.2 blocks (9th AAC) in 35.1 minutes (7th AAC) as a junior. His field goal percentage dropped from an AAC best 60.9 percent as a sophomore to third best 56.7 percent as a junior because Harrell added a three-point shot to his game but only hit on 9 of his 37 attempts.

What seems to have been lost in the noise of this 2014 projected top-20 NBA draft prospect who stayed back for another college season with similar stats is Harrell grew an 1.25” and added 11 lbs last season and was measured at 6’7 without shoes and 253 lbs at the NBA predraft camp. His wingspan expanded another 1.25” as well to 7’4.25”. Unlike the undersized Faried who was 6’6 without shoes and 225 lbs as a senior, Harrell is not someone easily dislodged under the basket and has significant strength and bulk to go with his ability to run the floor and be an energizer bunny under the rim.

“I don’t think he is a tweener at all,” Tolzman explained. “I think he is a straight four/ power forward. He is undersized for that position, but he is so long. He is 6’7, but he’s got a 7’4 wingspan. It makes up for it so much, he probably plays like he’s 6’9. I think with his level of intensity and his hunger to rebound and apply pressure on the opposing team, he’s a straight four-man for sure.”

Add in a developing jump shot and taking into account his free throw shooting improved from 46.4 percent as a sophomore to 59.7 percent as a junior and Harrell is becoming a player that can do a lot more than just dunk, put-back rebounds and finish off alley-oop opportunities.

While Harrell added size and skills in college, he also brings something to the table Toronto covets – winning. Harrell won a National Championship with Louisville as a freshman. In 2013, he won a Gold Medal at the U19 Men’s World Championships and in 2012, he won Gold at the U18 FIBA Americas tournament.

“It’s a pretty big part of it,” Tolzman said. “The guys that come from successful programs, there’s usually a reason it’s successful (and) it’s because the players are a high caliber. I think (Harrell) is the type of player where playing at Louisville he played for one of the absolute best coaches in the world and we know he is going to be ready for the NBA. Most players that come from those successful winning programs, they have all been coached well – it’s easier to fit them into our culture.”

Harrell, in his own words, confirms Tolzman’s expectations of a player from a successful winning program. He’s been well coached and knows what’s expected from him.

Harrell & Casey“(Show) my hard work and effort,” Harrell explained. “(I am) relentless on both ends going to the backboards. Just get up and down the floor. My communication with my teammates. Just show coaches that I am ready. Show that they are going to get a guy coming in looking to work, looking to learn every time (I’m) on the court.”

This year’s predraft process feels nothing like last summer when the Raptors reached for Bruno Caboclo at 20 because they didn’t believe there was a potential difference maker left to be had in the first round. The number of prospects Toronto has brought in is way down from last June, but the quality this time is way up.



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.