Aldridge impresses Raps as draft approaches

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

Chris Bosh may no longer be the lone star from the Lone Star state next season when the Raptors gather for training camp.

There has been a lot of talk about Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo leaning towards drafting Italian forward Andrea Bargnani with the No.1 overall pick on July 28. But after yesterday's workout by LaMarcus Aldridge at the Air Canada Centre, that sentiment could change.

Aldridge, a 6-foot-11 forward who averaged 15 points and 9.2 rebounds for Texas last season, reportedly impressed the Toronto braintrust in an individual workout.

"He's making us think awfully long and hard," Jim Kelly, the Raptors director of player personnel, said. "The young man came in excellent condition. He's a skilled athlete with good footwork around the basket."

Aldridge also is good friends with Bosh, and Kelly admitted that could factor in the team's decision-making.

Three players have been consistently mentioned as favoured to be the top pick in the draft -- Bargnani, Adam Morrison of Gonzaga and Aldridge.

Aldridge, 20, is an athletic forward and solid rebounder and shot-blocker. Aldridge has often been compared to Bosh.

There have been suggestions that the Dallas native, despite his friendship with Bosh, did not want to be picked by Toronto -- suggestions he brushed aside yesterday.

"I would like to come play here," he said. "It's a great team, a great organization on the rise, they have a great group of young guys who are getting better with every game.

"I would love it."

A few weeks ago, Bosh, whom the Raptors will attempt to sign to a long-term extension this summer, spoke favourably about his team drafting Aldridge.

But a Raptors insider yesterday shot down reports the front office is feeling any undue pressure from their young star to draft Aldridge.

As for whether two players of similar skill and size can play together on the frontcourt at the same time, without a so-called "true" centre, Kelly said it wouldn't be a problem.

"The game seems to be getting more wide open," he said.

"I think Phoenix did it very successfully this year and I think other teams have started to go to that style (in the frontcourt), especially with the lack of height there seems to be in the draft (this year). You're finding shorter players moving out away from the basket and there's probably not that many true back-to-the-basket players coming out of college right now."

Some insiders have said that if the 240-pound Aldridge bulks up, he could play as much centre as power forward.

That would give the Raptors one of the better frontcourts in the game, with Bosh at the four and Charlie Villanueva at the three.

The Raptors obviously are not playing their hand in terms of what they may do on draft day, but Kelly said they now have a short list of 5-6 players they would select with the No.1 pick.


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