Raptors take world view

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:33 PM ET

If the Raptors elect to draft an international prospect on June 23 it will not be a blind gamble.

Quietly, president/general manager Bryan Colangelo and his staff have been doing quite a bit of homework on a group of big men that includes Turkey's Enes Kanter, Lithuania's Jonas Valanciunas, Czech native Jan Vesely and Congolese athletic marvel Bismack Biyombo.

Those four have been bandied about as likely options for the Raptors, who have the fifth pick in the draft, along with Americans Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker and Kawhi Leonard and Brampton's Tristan Thompson.

The team put Kanter -- who many believe will be off the board by the time the Raptors step to the podium -- through an individual workout in Chicago on Monday, saw Biyombo work out in Spain on Thursday and have watched Valanciunas in game action during the season.

They will also get some face time with Vesely and Biyombo at the Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy, which runs from Saturday to Monday.

The debate about who is the best international prospect has been raging all season and ESPN's Chad Ford recently polled NBA general managers for their choice.

Vesely earned five votes, Kanter four and Valanciunas three.

Ford and fellow draft pundit Jon Givony of DraftExpress.com have said the Jazz (3rd pick), Cavaliers (4th), Raptors and Wizards (6th) all are high on Vesely.

All but Cleveland watched Vesely help lead Partizan Belgrade to the Serbian League championship with an 18 point, five rebound performance on Wednesday.

Colangelo would not comment on what he saw but told the Toronto Sun: "I've seen Vesely play live at least three times now. This was just one more follow up to be complete."

The Eurocamp will give Colangelo a chance to get to know Vesely a bit off the court as well.

Vesely, 21, first attended the camp as a 16-year-old.

Vesely, a 6-foot-11 small forward has been called the most athletic European player ever, drawing comparisons to Utah free agent Andrei Kirilenko, though he is nowhere near as advanced and effective as Kirilenko was at the same age, particularly offensively.

He is a devastating finisher at the rim, plays hard, has great size for his position and has been competing against men in Serbia since he was a teenager.

The word is that Vesely is the international prospect most ready to step in and contribute to a team right away -- particularly defensively and on the break -- probably a key since Colangelo got a shorter extension than he would have liked and needs results now. But he is not a good ball-handler, might have suspect hands and is a terrible shooter (31% from three, 49% from the line this season).

Given shooting guard DeMar DeRozan's limitations from deep and in creating his own shot, Vesely doesn't seem like a good fit in Toronto even though he has been connected to the team.

Though Vesely probably can help right away, he will not contribute much on the offensive end other than easy buckets.

In order to reach his potential, his skills will have to catch up to his immense natural gifts, which doesn't always happen. Vesely is a worker though and will definitely put in the time to try to get better.

After seeing Vesely in Italy, the Raptors are expected to bring in San Diego State's Leonard next week for a workout. That should help them decide between the two should they opt for a small forward in the draft.

Kanter, Valanciunas and Biyombo are expected to either play centre or power forward in the NBA.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca

Jan Vesely:

21 years old

From Ostrava, Czech Republic

6-11, 240 pound small forward

2010 FIBA European Young Player of the year

Led Partizan Belgrade to Serbian Cup last three years

2010/11 stats: 9.8 points, 25.2 minutes, .560 FG%, .490 FT%, 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.75 blocks per game.


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