Babcock needs to choose wisely

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

Rob Babcock's next draft pick may be his last one, so the Raptors GM plans to leave no stone unturned in his search for a quality NBA-calibre player, someone who will fit into the league better than his 2004 first-round choice, centre Rafael Araujo.

The Raptors have two first-round and two second-round picks when the NBA holds its draft on June 28 at Madison Square Garden in New York and Babcock is under tremendous pressure to select wisely in the wake of the Araujo pick and the disastrous Vince Carter trade on Dec. 17.

The Raps are guaranteed a top-10 pick in the first round and could be as high as No.1, depending on how the lottery balls bounce, although that's a longshot. The second pick stands at 16th overall.

And while most of the projected first-round selections this year are American college and high school players, there is quite a bit of talent in the European Leagues, and that's why Babcock headed overseas yesterday for two weeks, along with Scott Howard, the team's director of International Player Personnel. They'll touch down for games in Italy, Serbia and Spain, before heading to Moscow for the Euro Cup Final Four, May 6-8.

"The talent in Europe this year is not has strong as it has been in past years, but there are certainly players that can impact the draft," Babcock said.

At least four European players are projected to go in the top 10 in the NBA draft this season, including 7-foot-2 Lithuanian centre Martynas Andriuskevicius, 6-foot-11 power forward Tiago Splitter of Spain, Fran Vazquez, a 6-foot-10 power forward from Spain, and 7-foot centre/forward Johan Petro of France.

The first pick overall this year is expected to be Andrew Bogut, a 7-foot centre from Utah, while a pair of North Carolina stars, small forward Marvin Williams and point guard Raymond Felton, are also expected to go in the top 10.

Babcock said that he always gets excited prior to the NBA draft, and admitted that he is even more so this season having four picks.


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