Anything goes for Raptors at draft

Instead of playing against the Raptors, the Rockets' Kyle Lowry might one day be playing with them....

Instead of playing against the Raptors, the Rockets' Kyle Lowry might one day be playing with them. Rumours suggest the Rockets are looking to add picks in order to make a run at Dwight Howard. (AFP)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:04 PM ET

Three days until the NBA draft is upon us and the Raptors are saying they are more likely to keep the pick than trade it.

That was the word from Raptors Executive Vice-president of Basketball Operations Ed Stefanski on Monday after the team conducted a workout with six possible second-round picks for the upcoming draft.

“Today (Monday) but Thursday is a long ways away, we will be holding on to that eighth pick,” Stefanski said. “But we’re exploring every option.”

Which is to say everything remains very much up in the air, which means anything and everything could change by Thursday night.

Stefanski was asked whether it was the talent the team has seen come through Toronto in workouts or seen elsewhere in workouts that has them leaning towards keeping the pick or the lack of offers that have been made for it.

“I think it’s the talent right now,” he said. “There are offers out there right now for the eighth pick, but it’s more the talent right now. I think (the value of the pick) is right around where I thought people would value the eighth pick.”

ESPN’s Chad Ford and Mark Stein had the blogs and chat sites buzzing on Monday when they suggested the Raps and Golden State Warriors were both involved in trade discussions with the Houston Rockets for the Toronto pick (No. 8) and Golden State pick at No. 7.

According to ESPN the Rockets would like to obtain the two picks and then package them with assets in a bid to obtain Dwight Howard from Orlando or perhaps move up high enough in the draft to secure the talents of UConn big man Andre Drummond.

The Raptors payoff could be something like point guard Kyle Lowry according to the report.

Whether there’s any merit to the report won’t be known until draft day. Stefanski indicated he had not even heard the report, but then this is hardly the time for any team’s management to be totally forthcoming with the media and by extension the public at large.

Anything heard at this stage in the game with the draft so close has to be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism, whether it’s rumours from so-called plugged in media members or comments from team officials whose best interests lie in keeping their plans a secret from the competition.

All that said, the Raptors options are plentiful:

If they keep the pick they can:

1. draft a point guard like Damian Lillard or Kendall Marshall and get a jump on the Toronto introduction for Jose Calderon’s heir apparent

2. draft a shooting guard in the mode of Colorado’s Jeremy Lamb, Duke’s Austin Rivers or Syracuse’s Dion Waiters and address the lack of a body on the roster who can create his own shot.

3. draft a small forward and address the biggest hole in the Raptors roster, a true scoring wing player.

4. draft the best possible player (in this draft likely a power forward) and use that plethora of talent at the four to orchestrate a trade to address the teams other needs.

If they trade the pick they can:

1. package the pick with an existing asset (say a Johnson, Amir or James) and get a bona fide veteran small forward with a scoring knack and no aversion to defence

2. deal the pick for a point guard (hello Kyle Lowry)

3. deal the pick for two first-round picks (hello again Houston) and address both the shooting guard and the heir apparent to Calderon in the draft (Kendall Marshall and Dion Waiters perhaps).

But that is only the first round taken care of.

The Raptors also have two second-round picks to consider.

The first, No. 37 is a pick the Raptors expect to use.

“I think at 37 we will get a player and I think we will get a player that will fit a need and hopefully be something that can help us down the road,” Stefanski said.

“The second round, and I’m not making excuse, but it’s somewhere in that 30% chance (for success). If there are 30 players picked, seven to eight can help a team that following year. It’s a small margin but I really believe that at 37 there are enough names there for us to get a guy that can help us and develop. Maybe he’s a D-League guy for a while but there’s enough talent at 37.”

As for that 56th pick, the chances of it producing a player that will be around any time soon are slim.

Assuming the Raps hold on to both the No. 8 and No. 37 picks, that’s already asking next year’s team to bring along three true rookies with Jonas Valanciunas coming over for his NBA debut after fulfilling his contractual duties in Lithuania with his club team.

To ask a head coach to develop a fourth is probably asking too much.

The Raptors have already openly put forward the idea of making the selection and then stashing it overseas for some extra seasoning.

It’s a much easier process if you are drafting a European or overseas player to being with, but it can also work with a North American if you can get an agent to agree that he goes over.

“The one thing you have to make sure of if you take an American to go over, is that the kid has the background and the wherewithal to be able to handle going to a foreign country and adapting for that year or two you want to put him over there.”

The other option is take a flyer on a kid with a lot of talent but still very raw and put him in the development league for seasoning.

Again, plenty of options and a plan of attack for today that may change by Wednesday and could change again by draft time on Thursday.


Videos

Photos