If former Kansas standout Cole Aldrich falls to the Raptors at No. 13 in June 24th’s NBA Draft, it is hard to foresee him not becoming an instant fan favourite.
The affable 6-foot-11 centre says all the right things, is committed to being a force as a defender and on the boards and is a winner, as evidenced by his NCAA title win as a freshman with the Jayhawks.
Aldrich was the main man in town Thursday along with Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh, Kentucky’s Daniel Orton and Virgina Commonwealth’s Larry Sanders. Guards Eric Hayes (Maryland) and Jeremy Wise (NBADL) also worked out, but are considered second-rounders, at best.
Aldrich, a likely top five pick in 2009, returned to Kansas for his junior season and his stock suffered when his stats slipped and the top-overall seed flamed out of the NCAA tournament.
The odds of Aldrich still being around at 13 aren’t huge, but he measured in a bit smaller than expected and will likely never be a star, which could cause teams to pass.
The Raptors, expected to lose superstar Chris Bosh and possibly Amir Johnson to free agency, almost have no choice but to select a big man.
Aldrich, who chose Toronto for his first NBA workout, was aware of that likelihood.
“One thing that really helps me and the other guys in the room is (the Raptors) really need a big,” Aldrich said.
“I think a lot of teams need a true big that can defend, rebound, score around the basket ... knock down the 15-footer, I think I’m one of those guys.”
Aldrich said he is often asked about his highly unorthodox shot (he pulls the ball back behind his head almost to his shoulders before releasing) which developed from his days as a soccer player (throw-ins), but said he is making it less mechanical.
Raptors director of player personnel Jim Kelly did not seem to agree that Aldrich should be any less in demand than he was a season ago.
“His team changed a little bit and I think some of the emphasis on the offence was taken away from him and given to other people,” he said.
Kelly liked what he saw from all four bigs in town who he said were “right in our range if there is such a thing as range in our draft.”
He said Orton, who barely played as a freshman at Kentucky but could be a solid centre due to his huge frame and nice shooting touch, will take some time to develop.
Sanders impressed with his work ethic, hustle and ability to run the floor, while Udoh was tired but showed off his impressive athletic ability and is considered NBA-ready.