How do you decide who to pick if half your roster might be different next season?
That’s the dilemma the Raptor braintrust is facing as it prepares for the NBA draft on June 24th.
With franchise forward Chris Bosh all but gone, high-priced 2009 acquisition Hedo Turkoglu trying mightily to talk himself out the door and with president/general manager Bryan Colangelo strongly hinting that one of Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon will be collecting pay cheques in America next season, the Raptors could have seven or eight new faces next season.
Teams should never draft for need, that’s how Rafael Araujo-sized blunders occur, but it certainly helps narrow down the field when you have an idea of what holes need to be filled.
Colangelo ducked the media as if it was carriers of the plague after the team worked out four NCAA players Monday, saying only through his staff he is still “gathering information” about Turkoglu’s ill-advised calling out of the franchise on Turkish television Friday.
So, while most of the recent standout NBA teams — the Lakers, the Spurs, the Pistons, the Celtics, to name a few examples — got that way largely as a result of keeping together and melding a core for a number of years, the Raptors are once again in a familiar position. Fifteen years later, this franchise is still blowing up its roster every couple of years and maybe that helps explain its lack of overall success?
It certainly doesn’t make this time of year any easier as senior director of player personnel and day-oner Jim Kelly was saying Monday.
“It’s challenging, clearly we have some things ahead of us that we need to clean up and straighten out,” Kelly said, obviously referring to the Bosh and Turkoglu questions that hang like a black cloud over the franchise.
“That will have an influence on where we go in the draft (the Raptors hold the 13th selection), as well as looking for the best possible player for our team.”
Kelly called the draft a very deep one, but conceded that after the top two picks there is “maybe not a lot of star potential, but a lot of good players who will be (in the) NBA for a lot of years.”
The Raptors brought in an interesting group to get the workout process started. There was forward Gordon Hayward, who nearly led the Butler Bulldogs to a miracle NCAA tournament win, jumping jack swingman Stanley Robinson of UCONN, Oklahoma combo guard Willie Warren — considered a potential top five pick just a season ago before slumping through an injury-marred ’09/10 campaign — and Texas guard Avery Bradley.
Of the four, Bradley’s name has been the one most connected to the Raptors, who coveted a similar player, UCLA’s Jrue Holiday, before last year’s draft.
The lanky, 6-foot-2 Bradley was a consensus top three talent coming out of high school, but struggled offensively in his only season at Texas. Considered the best perimeter defender in the draft and compared often to Oklahoma City lead guard Russell Westbrook, Bradley lacks the playmaking abilities of a true point guard.
Bradley said chatter like that doesn’t bother him because he played the point growing up and because he believes he is more suited to the wide open NBA style as opposed to more stifling college systems.
“It’s a whole different game, there’s more open space (and) I’m so much faster than a lot of guys,” Bradley said.
Kelly also didn’t seem worried that Bradley is caught somewhere between the shooting and point guard positions.
“He’s a very good all-around guard,” Kelly said.
“(His position will depend) on what team he goes with, he shows some point skills (and is) very strong defensively. He has long arms, good lateral quickness and has the mentality that he likes to play defence.”
Perhaps that last part will make coming to a consensus a little easier for Toronto’s decision-makers.
After all, tough defender and Raptor have historically not been things that go together.